Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Favorite Sugar Cookies

R is finally getting over his cold. Thank you, Lord. We haven't been getting much sleep around here. Well, actually one of us has been. That would be Gus. My dog doesn't let much get in the way of his day-long snooze fests. At least someone is sleeping.
Some of our Halloween week plans got a little botched due to R's cold, but I wasn't about to let it stop me from making Halloween-themed sugar cookies. There's nothing like baking at midnight. I know, I know....I am absolutely incapable of "sleeping when the baby sleeps." After all, when am I supposed to shower, work, eat, and have the elusive me time? And bake cookies? Sigh. Oh well, that's what coffee is for! My coffee intake has increased greatly since little R's arrival.

This is by far my favorite sugar cookie recipe. I got it from Jenny Steffens Hobick. She has some great recipes and entertaining tips on her blog.

My Favorite Sugar Cookies

2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg

  • In your Kitchen Aid mixer (with paddle attachment), whip together butter and powdered sugar.
  • Add flour, vanilla, cream of tartar, baking soda, and egg.
  • On slow speed, stir ingredients together until just combined.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured board or surface and wrap in plastic wrap. Let dough rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
  • Unwrap dough and roll it out on a floured surface until it is around 1/4 inch thick. *Make sure you use plenty of flour on your rolling pin and on the surface you are working on or things will get very sticky.
  • Cut out your shapes and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes. If you are using a convection oven, lower your temp to 325 degrees and bake about 10-12 minutes. *Bake time can vary from oven to oven so take them out when the edges are just slightly starting to brown.
  • Let cookies cool before icing.
Royal Icing
*This is an icing recipe I found on the internet years ago so I am not sure where it came from!

3/4 cup warm water
5 Tablespoons meringue powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2.25 pounds powdered sugar

  • In mixer bowl, pour in warm water and meringue powder. Mix with a whisk by hand until frothy, about 30 seconds.
  • Add cream of tartar and mix 30 seconds more.
  • Pour in powdered sugar and place bowl on the mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on the lowest speed for a full 8 minutes. Icing will thicken.
  • For decorating, tint with food coloring. You will need to thin the icing with warm water to your desired consistency.
Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Gift Labels

I love baking for any occasion, but especially for holidays! Little R has made it a bit of a challenge to get in the kitchen as much as I used to, but I have still managed to carve out a little time each week. Naptime helps but unfortunately R's cold is really cramping my his style of good, long naps. Ugh. Robby has a cold. Babies with colds are the worst because they can't take any of the good drugs. #thegermsgotpastmysanitizerwipes Oh, the horror. We need another dose of Benadryl over here. Disclaimer: I don't condone giving extra Benadryl to a baby. Just saying...

Baking Halloween cookies got me thinking about how I needed some Halloween-themed gift labels. When I give treats away, I like adding a label to the treat bag or box. My favorite way to give cookies away is to put them in clear cellophane bags and stick on a cute label.

If you are in charge of Halloween gift bags this year or are giving treats to the neighbors, here are some Halloween-themed labels for your bags or boxes. They are meant to be printed onto Avery 5163 label paper or any other corresponding label paper. You could also print onto cardstock and cut to size, then use a hole punch and tie them to your treat bags.

Click the image below to access a PDF of the labels. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Baby Must Haves: Months Six and Seven

Robby will turn eight months old on November 9. We are well past our swaddling days and on to new things! Here are our baby must haves for months six and seven.
  • Baby Einstein Musical Motion Activity Jumper - Robby LOVES this jumper! We started putting him in it for short amounts of time when he was about five months old, but he didn't become a huge fan until six months. I can leave him in here for up to an hour. On a good day, of course. "HELLO, freedom! Remember me? It's been awhile." Want to take a shower? Put baby in the jumper. Want to make dinner? Put baby in the jumper. Want to search the internet aimlessly and online shop? Put baby in the jumper. You get the idea. This thing saves my sanity.
  • 1,000,000 Bibs - I have mentioned Robby's drooling problems before. These days, I keep a bib on him almost 24 hours a day. Holy teething mess. Bibs keep his clothes from getting soaking wet which can lead to a rash. And who wants a baby with a rash? So get 1,000,000 bibs. I'm not kidding. I think we probably have close to 30 and somehow they are all always in the laundry. Or on the floor of my car.
  • Chewbeads Teething Necklace - I got these as a gift before Robby was born and honestly wasn't really sure if they would be useful. A necklace for a boy? Oh, you bet. R will gnaw on these things till the cows come home. Hello, more freedom! I can sit him in his pack and play with these and actually get a few things done around here. They seem to soothe his teething pain and as a bonus are non-toxic. Hooray! Ain't nobody got time for the teething pain monster. These help.
  • BabyGanics Hand Sanitizing Wipes - As a self-diagnosed sufferer of germaphobia, these are my best friend. Robby loves to put his hands in his mouth after touching shopping carts, the floor, doors, the list goes on. I carry these little individually-wrapped wipes in my diaper bag. They are alcohol free, i.e. safe for wiping tiny hands. I know it's unrealistic to think I can prevent him from being exposed to all germs but I do what I can. No thank you, colds and flu. You're not welcome stomach bug. Oy! I am dreading the day R gets a stomach bug... #NOTokwithvomitatall
  • Plum Organics Food Pouches - These are great and so easy when you don't have time to make your own baby food. Insert sarcasm here. Actually, making your own baby food can be a lot of fun and really save you $ but let's get realistic, there's not always enough hours in the day. These food pouches are especially nice for when you are away from the house or have to send food to child care. They taste pretty good too!
  • Johnson's Baby Bedtime Bath - We made bath time a part of our bedtime routine when R was teeny tiny. I always add a little of this to his bath and it smells divine. It leaves him smelling like an angel even through the next day. I could just inhale it all day long. I can't believe I hadn't though of this until now but maybe I'll put some in my bath too.
There's a plethora of other cool baby items out there but these are what have really stood out for us during months six and seven. That's a wrap for baby must haves!

I'll leave you with this shot of R during nap time today. He is really starting to see his crib as a prison. This can't be good.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Our October Weekend Recap

What a whirlwind of a weekend! Andy's grandparents and aunt came in town from New York and met Robby for the first time. It was so neat to see four generations all together. I have no living grandparents on my side of the family so it is really special that Andy has both sets of grandparents around. My Mimi was so dear to me and was a huge part of my life. I hope Robby will have this same special bond with his grandparents. I have lots of family pics to share but not on my own camera so I will update with those pics later!

We kicked Friday off with a trip to the grocery store. Robby loves coming with me and he rode in the cart like a champ. He managed to touch all the surfaces of the cart though which makes me want to throw up...I am a total germaphobe and his need to touch everything followed by putting his fingers in his mouth bothers me immensely. I need a support group. I'm the kind of germaphobe that doesn't even like eating things with my hands. What if I touched a doorknob covered in the germs of some serious illness and then I ate a pretzel? I'd probably end up dead. See what I mean. Sanitizer wipes are my best friend. #whoelsehastouchedthiscart #itscoldandfluseason OCD is hard sometimes. ;)

I did get some pretty yellow roses at the store to add some color to our entry table décor. Flowers make me smile, which helped me recover from my germaphobia episode. After our grocery trip, Robby napped, we played, and I did a little real work followed by some fun drawing a new chalkboard message. Andy's family came over for drinks and then we stayed in to gear up for a busy day on Saturday.
Good thing we rested Friday night because Saturday morning started bright and early. Like 5:15 early. For the first time in MONTHS, R woke up at 3:15 and 5:15...AM that is. Ugh. I'm an eight hour kind of girl and no sleep doesn't really work for me. I'm not actually sure how I managed during my child's first 8 weeks of life. Hey, miracles happen, and I'm so glad I have some amnesia about how terrible that sleep deprivation was. I'm hoping to get full blown amnesia soon so Robby will eventually have siblings.

Actually, we have been spoiled by Robby sleeping from about 7 PM to 7 AM, give or take, since he was 11 weeks old. I like to think it's because I was a Babywise and Baby Whisperer stickler but I'm sure his temperament had something to do with it. I still want credit for his sleep habits though. That baby schedule stuff is no joke. NO joke I tell you. But it's worth it when you get a blissful eight hours every night.

Where are your teeth child? I think his night awakening could be teething. Who knows. I've blamed everything on teething since three months of age. After our lousy night of sleep, we downed coffee and headed over to a friend's breakfast tailgate gathering. We ate delicious food and had fun catching some of the TCU game on TV. My friend Brie served some awesome breakfast pizzas, which has me looking for a breakfast pizza recipe now. #iatefivepieces
The rest of our Saturday consisted of napping and gearing up for an 80's 30th birthday bash that night. We had a fab time. We love little R but the value of nights out cannot be underestimated. I always come back feeling renewed and like I can do this whole mom/work/try to be awesome at life thing. We put our costumes together last minute and I think we looked super 80's!
Sunday consisted of a long walk in the beautiful weather, blueberry pancakes, and dinner with Andy's family before they left to go back to New York. It was a great end to a super busy but fun weekend.

Hope your weekend was great too!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Comfort Food Friday: Carne Guisada

Well, it's below 65 degrees outside. Scarf and boots on - check. Autumn Harvest candle lit - check. Mug of coffee (sans Bailey's at the moment - I'm a workin' girl at this hour) - check. Ahhhh, feels like Fall. Actually, I'd say more like Texas winter. I'll take it!

Cool weather = Comfort Food. Meals that sit on the stove (or in the crock pot) and fill the house with deliciousness all day make me happy. And this is a great one. Don't judge it by its name. Carne Guisada......I know it sounds strange. Let's just call it a shredded beef situation. It's basically beef that is slow-cooked with tomatoes. And wine. We must not forget the most important ingredient.

Carne Guisada (Shredded Beef Situation)

  • One 3-pound chuck roast
  • A few tablespoons of flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • One large onion, chopped
  • One 15-ounce can stewed tomatoes *I use Mexican style
  • One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
  • Two 4-ounce cans diced green chiles
  • 1/2 cup red wine for the pot, rest of the bottle for you (to share with someone else, of course).
  • Tortillas and toppings *I like shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, jalapenos, cilantro, avocado and lettuce/tomato if I'm feeling guilty about not eating veggies. Then you get to call it a "salad."
  • Heat the vegetable oil in your Dutch oven on medium heat.
  • Cut roast into four or five large pieces. Coat pieces with flour, salt, and pepper. You don't have to be perfect, just sprinkle it on. Be generous with the salt and pepper.
  • Brown meat in the oil, and remove to a plate when pieces are browned on all sides.
  • Add the chopped onion to the drippings in the pot and sauté until tender.
  • Return the meat to the pot, and add in the tomatoes, kidney beans, green chiles, and wine. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce heat. Cook for at least two hours (up to five hours), until meat is tender and shreds easily.
  • Shred the meat - I use two forks and just go to town while it's in the pot. Then leave the lid removed and let the beef mixture thicken for about 15 minutes or so.
  • Serve on tortillas with all your favorite toppings!
  • There are lots of ways you could eat this - we are going to make shredded beef nachos with the leftovers but I think you could also eat it on rice.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mommy Must Haves: October Favorites

I did a post a while ago on Baby Must Haves for the first 6 months. Lately I've been thinking about Mommy (or Anybody!) Must Haves. Here are a few things that made my Mommy Must Have List for October!

  • Pretty stationery. In this digital age, there is nothing better than receiving a hand-written note. Ok, that's a bold statement. We know wine and Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes are better, but it's nice to see someone make the actual effort of writing you a note. When I was little, I hated how my mom made me write hundreds of thank you notes for even the smallest of things. But now, I am so glad she did. Being thoughtful is something lots of kids these days aren't taught. Thanks Marmi! My latest favorite place to order stationery is They are having a 40% off sale right now. Check it out!
  • Sally Hansen Insta-Dri nail polish in Gone Grey. I've tried lots of colors lately and this is a new fave. My last post mentioned this brand of polish and I can't say enough good things about it. Sally is my girl for nail polish. LOVE this stuff! It dries SUPER fast so it's great for those of us with limited time. The brush is wide too so it just takes a few strokes per nail. When I need to paint my nails, I line up my supplies at the kitchen table and the very second that R goes down for a nap, I paint my nails. Not one second later. Or they won't be dry when he wakes up. Usually I'm sweating bullets praying that this is not the nap where he fakes me out for 10 minutes then is screaming to get up again. "Have you heard of wet nails little baby? Oh, you still want me to pick you up?...."
  • Dr. Teal's Lavender Foaming Bath. I found this at Target last week. I love taking a scalding hot bath after Robby goes to bed. This bubble bath gets nice and foamy and smells like heaven. Lavender lovers, you will dig this. If you just close your eyes and inhale, you might be able to trick yourself into thinking that you are at a far away spa resort without your husband and kids. Open your eyes....and ugh, you're just in your own bathroom. #sometimesrealitybites. What am I saying? I LOVE being home to clean someone else's butt and wipe drool all day. I really do! Having a kid has been the most fun ever. After the first eight weeks.
  • Land's End monogrammed button-up shirts. These are so, so, so great. The last thing I want to do in the morning is spend a bazillion minutes picking out what to wear. I got these in three different colors/patterns and wear them all the time. They go with just about anything - jeans, colored denim, or even black leggings/pants. These awesome shirts make me look more pulled together than I really am. #appearancesaredeceiving. And monograms are fun.
That completes my October mommy must haves (for this week anyway). Anyone have a great new product I should know about? Do share!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Halloween Decorating and My October Bucket List

I love Halloween decorating. Really, decorating for any holiday makes me smile. So far I've kept it pretty simple for October but I'm sure I'll find something to add before Halloween arrives. Most of this can carry into November too, so that's a plus.

Here's my house in photos during October, followed by my October Bucket List. Happy mid-October!

Door wreath: Target
Metal pumpkin: First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas *If you haven't been to Canton you must go. They have the BEST holiday décor.
Owl in flower pot: Michael's
Pumpkin in flower pot: Michael's

Black lantern: Garden Ridge
Mini Pumpkins: Target
Glass containers: Marshall's
Succulent plants: Central Market

Glitter pumpkins on mantle: Michael's

Kitchen towels: Marshall's

Witch Sign: Target Dollar Section

Robby's outfit: Carter's

Gus is not amused by the fact that Robby has become more vocal and very busy....anyone want a dog with lots of...."personality".....? I kid....kind of.

October Bucket List
  • Bake Fall-themed sugar cookies. My inner Martha Stewart is ready to make her Fall appearance. I'm looking to settle on the perfect sugar cookie recipe and of course, the perfect icing. It's a real pickle. There are so many versions of a sugar cookie, and with Christmas coming, this must be resolved ASAP! Christmas isn't Christmas without the perfect sugar cookie. Or hot chocolate (with Bailey's, duh). And let's not forget about rum cake.
  • Visit a pumpkin patch. I have refused to make a plan to go if the high is over 80ish, so we haven't gone. Ugh. I think we are going to get our chance this weekend though! Shout out to the weather makers: Let's keep it real this Saturday with a high of 72. Word.
  • Robby's first Halloween costume photo shoot. Get excited! His costume is so, so, so adorable. Oh God, I just sounded like one of "those" moms!
  • Find a new favorite Fall nail polish. I'm tired of my typical Fall burgundies and maroons. By the way, I almost always paint my own nails. Sally Hansen Insta-Dri polish is where it's at. WHO has time for the slow stuff? I barely have time to eat, so not me.
  • Get a new car seat for R. Actually, I can check this off because we accomplished it last week. My little Robby's thunder thighs were having a difficult time fitting in the good ol' bucket seat. I don't care though. I love big babies and I cannot lie. He is absolutely squeezable. It's just not good on the ol' back though. Sometimes being 30 years old feels a little more like 75 after I carry him around. Let's hope he's an early walker. But then he's mobile. Ohhh. Kaaayyy. Another pickle.
I think we can manage to knock most of these out before November 1st. I'll keep you updated.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Attention Pumpkin Lovers: My Favorite Fall Coffee Cake

Pumpkin + Me = LOVE 4 EVA

I love pumpkin. Every year, I count down the days until pumpkin is in season. I really don't cook with it unless it is fall/winter. Pumpkin flavored things just don't sound as good in July. July is for watermelon and margaritas. That's a whole other post.

If you don't like pumpkin, you will not like this. Just FYI.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake


1/2 cup water
1 can pumpkin (15 ounces)
2 whole eggs
1 T vanilla extract (Yes, a whole Tablespoon. I know it seems like a lot).
2 t pumpkin pie spice
1 box yellow cake mix
1 t baking soda

4 T butter, melted
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c flour
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream


  • Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix together water, pumpkin, eggs, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice until combined. Add cake mix and baking soda and mix until just combined. *I use my KitchenAid mixer for this.
  • Grease a 9x13 pan and pour batter into the pan. *If I'm not cooking for a lot of people, I like to divide the batter into two square pans and freeze one or give it to someone who needs a little pumpkin in their life.
  • In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, walnuts, and melted butter. Sprinkle over the top of the cake. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • For the glaze, combine the other 1/2 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. When cake is finished baking, poke holes in the top with a toothpick (or a fork), and pour glaze over the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature. *You can make the glaze while the cake is cooking to speed things up.
This looks like lots of steps and harder than it really is. It actually comes together so fast. I think even the hubs could do this one. ;) It's not as fun as my favorite chili recipe I posted yesterday (there's no wine in this.....) but give it a try anyway.

If you bake this while also burning your Autumn Harvest candle from Target, you may never leave your house again. Please tell me someone else has tried my favorite fall candle!
Happy Pumpkin-ing!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fall Food: My Favorite Chili Recipe (and some 7-month photos of my little BIG guy)

The weather has finally cooled down. Hallelujah! Highs in the 70's call for comfort food (in Texas anyway.....or at least at my house). I'm just so glad it's not 100 degrees anymore!

Over the weekend, when I saw that the forecast for Sunday had a low somewhere around 60, I brought out my jackets, followed by my chili pot. I had planned to bring dinner over to some sweet friends who just had their second baby girl, and I thought chili would be the perfect thing. By the way, I always try to remember people when they are having their second, third, etc. baby. Lots of people remember you on the first, but not always the next time around (so I hear), so there's a little tip if you like doing things for others.

This is my favorite chili recipe! The best part is it can be so easily adapted to fit your tastes. Use any kind of meat, add more spice with additional jalapenos or peppers, and if you don't like a hint of sweetness, omit the brown sugar. Obviously, my favorite thing is it calls for red wine, so you know what that means: some for the pot, some for the chef. Duh!

My Favorite Chili

  • 1 pound spicy sausage
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped (I use a yellow onion)
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (I use the kind already minced in the jar)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 T cumin
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/4 cups Merlot or other fruity red wine (Use something you would drink! If you don't have any, you could substitute beef broth).
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped (How I do this: Open the cans, take some scissors and just cut through the tomatoes while still in the can. It's rocket science and I bet you couldn't have figured that out without me telling you).
  • 2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained
  • Toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, and jalapenos
  • Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage, beef, onion, bell pepper, garlic and jalapeno. Cook about 8 minutes or until meat is browned, stirring to crumble.
  • Add chili powder, brown sugar, cumin, tomato paste, oregano, pepper, salt, and bay leaves, and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in wine, tomatoes with juice, and kidney beans. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer one hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Uncover and cook for 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves.
  • Serve with your favorite toppings! We use cheese, sour cream, and jalapenos.
My FAVORITE jalapenos ever have to be Crybabies. I could not get enough of them when I was pregnant. If you haven't tried them, you should. They are pickled jalapenos with a tangy, sweet kick. And they are made in Waco, my hometown. There are some good things coming out of the 'Co. Crybabies, and also LaDainian Tomlinson. Ok, so two things. Wait - Pat Green too. So that's three. Ok, Waco is cooler than I thought. To be honest, I would totally go back. Good little town.

After stuffing ourselves with chili this weekend, I decided I had just enough room left in my stomach to fit a big ol' piece of Pumpkin Coffee Cake. That recipe is up next! I'll try to post it tomorrow. Before I go, here's a few photos of Robby. He is officially 7 months old today. Whyyyyyy is it going SO fast? Tear. I see why people have more babies. Because they are only tiny for such a short amount of time. And you have to have more to fill your "cuddle a tiny baby" void. And also because you need more people to help you around the house down the road. I think the Duggar family could share with us about that. Just kidding. But really, is anyone else kind of obsessed with them? I don't want to be but I just can't.stop.watching. It's probably just me.

Can you resist a 7-month old in Halloween pajamas? I sure can't.
Gus and Robby are still BFFs. If only I loved him the way Robby does. Sigh. #baddogproblems

He is rarely still anymore. And he weighs 20 pounds. It's a great exercise program.