Wednesday, April 30, 2008

light at the end of the tunnel.

Brent met with our builder on Monday, and we have set a move-in date for May 19! The house should be ready the week before, but between meetings and my sister's graduation from college, we decided to wait...what's a couple more days, anyway? So we're busy making last minute decisions and stuff and really glad to see the house coming together.

I am really looking forward to setting up my kitchen and cooking again! (Until then, I think I'll be taking a break from recipe sharing...I need some inspiration!) It's fun to hear the kiddos talk about what they're looking forward to playing with--Nathanael is excited about his legos and Hadleigh can't wait for her books and her pink camera! And Madeleine...oh, sweet Madeleine will finally get to sleep in her crib. Brent is looking forward to setting up his workshop (and tackling that long list of furniture projects!) and I am eager to pull out my scrapbook stuff and create again. It's been a long time. Most of all, it will be good to "nest"...I kind of had to reverse nest preceeding Madeleine's birth since the house was on the market, and we were slowly packing up. So it will be so nice to make our new house into our home! I promise to share pictures!!!

I have found that this time in the TLF and the apartment have been a good reminder of what we really "need". We have had more than enough room to live comfortably, and I am so thankful that the kiddos really haven't seemed phased by being uprooted for so many (going on five now) months.

Having said that, I have to share something funny. The brochure for our apartment complex says "Luxury Apartment Living". If this is luxury living, then my roommates and I lived in Buckingham Palace during our college days! Seriously, two days ago, the toilet started overflowing...and not just a little bit. Water gurgling over. Thankfully I got it to stop quickly but the bathroom floor was covered in water. And the lineoleum in the bathroom...buckled...methinks this was not the first time the toilet has overflowed. And the toilet. It is embarrasingly dirty...and I have tried to clean it. Let's just say I'm glad none of us had the flu here. Yuck. And then there's the dishwasher that leaves little black pieces of sediment in crevices like sippy cup lids. I have to rinse out everything after it has attempted to dry in the dishwasher. And the dryer takes ages to dry anything if it's not on high heat. And there's a wrinkle in the carpet that Nathanael trips on at least every other day.

I'm not trying to complain here...these are little things that we're just living with for a couple months...but luxury living? A little misleading advertising for sure! :) :) :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Birthday Cakes

My sweet Brent isn't a huge fan of the traditional cake. So I always make him more of a dessert for his birthday (which is tomorrow). I love making him a birthday dessert. And it's always a fun challenge to come up with something new to surprise him with! He does like cheesecakes (a lot!) so this is what I would make for him if I had a kitchen and all the necessary things to bake with. Alas, we celebrated with an ice cream cake last night (he has to have surgery tomorrow) and while it was wasn't quite homemade.

So I promised him something nice and homemade when we move in to the house.

Warm Fudge-Filled Cheesecake

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp. vanilla, divided
2/3 cup pistachios, chopped
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings for garnish

1. Beat butter at medium speed with mixer ntil creamy; add 1/3 cup sugar, beating well. Gradually add flour, beating at low speed until blended. Stir in 1 tsp. vanilla and pistachios. Press into bottom and 1 1/2 inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.
2. Bake crust at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes until golden. Cool.
3. Beat cream cheese at medium speed until light and fluffy; add 1 1/2 cups sugar gradually, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until yellow disappears. Stir in remaining 2 tsp. of vanilla.
4. Pour half of the batter over crust; sprinkle with chocolate chips to within 3/4 inch of the edge of the pan. Pour remaining batter over chocolate, starting at outer edge and working toward the center. Place ona baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Cool on rack one hour. Garnish and serve.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Frustrated. Very frustrated.

Before you read this you should know two things:
1. I needed to vent. I feel better now.
2. I really like Ethan Allen. They have beautiful furniture and almost always* outstanding service. **I guess I'm like my children; I don't like being told "No."

When Hadleigh was a few months shy of turning two and Nathanael was a few months away from making his entrance to our family, we went "big girl bed hunting".

We decided we would get a twin bed, since we knew that it was possible that we would one day have another girl (good thinking, huh?) We looked and looked and looked. This was not an easy decision for us. Brent loves to build things. (He built our changing table, office bookcase, as well as many other smaller items...and my honey-do building list only continues to grow!) I love this hobby of his. He is so very talented. He therefore has an appreciation of quality furniture. So, our furniture search was challenging because SO many "good" beds and "reasonably priced" beds had some not-so-quality features about their construction. We would find a design that we liked only to find that very little of the bed was genuine hardwood or would withstand multiple military moves...and yet these would still cost over $500. (Brent sometimes has a hard time paying for something that he could build for less money...even though time is definitely a factor.)

So we were so very pleased when we found the Emma bed at Ethan Allen. Completely hardwood. Beautiful finish. Gorgeous details. And only a little bit more than the cheapo-construction beds had cost.

We ordered it. In a chocolate-stained finish. (We love dark wood furniture.) No one could show me pictures of it...because the popular finish was the white...which is what all the stores carried in their showrooms. But we were confident we would love it.

We loved it. Still do. Fast forward two years. Madeleine arrives on the scene. Our crib coordinates beautifully with Hadleigh's bed. So we move to Oklahoma, and I am spending some naptime surfing the web for a few pieces of furniture for the new house. And while I'm looking for a secretary desk at Ethan Allen, I decide to check to make sure that the Emma bed is still available.

It is.

But not the chocolate finish. What? It must be a computer error. I immediately call the store we bought it from and ask for Janet, the lady who sold it to us. She doesn't work there anymore, but I can talk to another design specialist. Okay.

So the lady...let's call her Kay. This is our conversation:

Me: Umm...I really need to order the Emma bed in chocolate for my second daughter (who is only currently four months old) and the website doesn't have that stain as an option.
Kay: Well, that's odd. Because I am looking at my NEWEST style catalog that I JUST received and the chocolate is still available.
Me: Oh. Well, do you think you could check because if they are about to discontinue it, I would like to order one right this minute.
Kay: I'll get right back to you.

(fifteen minutes pass)

Kay: Well, I don't have good news. They have discontinued that stain for that bed.
Me: But they still have the bed. And the stain. Just not together.
Kay: Correct.
Me: I need that bed.
Kay: We can put you on a wishlist that will be emailed to all the Ethan Allen stores and warehouses and if a bed is in stock somewhere, you will be required to purchase it.
Me: That's fine.
Kay: Okay, I'll do that and hopefully I'll talk with you soon with some good news.
Me: Thanks so much.

(about two months pass by.) (still no word from Kay. wouldn't you call your client one way or another?)


Me: Hi Kay. I spoke with you about the Emma bed on a wish list a few months ago. I was wondering if you had heard anything?
Kay: Oh, I'm so sorry. Nothing turned up.
Me: And there is no way I can get this bed?
Kay: No, I'm really sorry.
Me: There's no one I can talk to convince them to make one tiny exception and make me this bed.
Kay: No. I spoke with the owner of the company and she told me that the only way was through the wish list. Would you want to get the white bed instead?
Me: No. I really need the chocolate bed. (If I wanted the white bed, we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we? Sometimes I have to tell the thoughts in my head to be more polite.)

The conversation continued for a little while. But you've probably heard enough.

So here's why I am frustrated. When I was first interested in this bed, no one could show me a picture of it in the finish I wanted. Why? Because I was told that they were made as they were ordered. That would mean that they take the pieces of the bed and finish them in the ORDERED finish; then ship them to be assembled in your home.

Now, they still manufacture the Emma bed. They still finish other beds in the chocolate finish. Why can't they make one more Emma bed in chocolate? Would it really be so difficult? I would be willing to pay a little more for whatever inconvenience it might be. Because now I have one bed that I love that won't match whatever new bed that I find. And my vision for my daughters' room has these matching beds.

What are the chances that two months after Ethan Allen makes this decision is when I think to "check" up on the bed for Madeleine? Seriously. I guess I should have called the day she was born.

You should see the vision I have for this room. It's really beautiful. I would really love to show you a picture. But I can't. Now, if you or anyone you know has this bed...and for some crazy reason no longer wants it...well, make sure to get in touch with me! And if anyone knows the owner of Ethan Allen and could put in a good word or two about just one more chocolate Emma bed...I would be deeply grateful.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In the mood for fresh fruit

It seems like I always have a craving for fresh fruit right around this time of year. The casseroles and soups that I love in the cooler months seem a bit heavy; I am ready for crisp, light, refreshing spring and summer food. Fruit, especially.
I'm looking forward to my new kitchen. Every day, Hadleigh seems to say, "Let's make strawberry oatmeal our new kitchen. I can't wait to eat chicken our new kitchen. Let's make lemonade tea our new kitchen." (She's also very into creating new (and interesting) food items...because I have never actually made lemonade tea muffins, nor do I have a recipe for it. But I love hearing her creativity!)

As I was saying, I am very eager to cook once we get moved in...and these following recipes sound perfect for inviting new friends over for a "thank you for making my life easier these last few months" lunch and play date. Sounds like I've got a plan and a menu! Yay! (Wish I could invite all of you who are far away that have been SO very encouraging to me also. You know who you are...I appreciate you so much!) The recipes below are ones that I have not tried yet (with the exception of the chicken salad--yum!)...but come from some of my favorite recipe sources...Southern Living and Cooking Light.

So here's my menu, so far...

Blackberry Spritzer

fresh blackberries (or other berries of choice)
sparkling water (my favorites are Perrier and San Pellegrino)
corn syrup
grated lime rind
fresh mint
wooden skewers

1. Thread fresh blackberries on a 6-inch wooden skewer. Freeze one hour.
2. Pour a few tablespoons of corn syrup in a shallow dish and dip the rims of glasses in the syrup. Then roll the edge of each glass in the lime rind. Place one frozen skewers in each glass. Pour sparkling water over skewer and garnish with mint.

Fresh Fruit Salad with Nutmeg-Cinnamon Syrup
2 cups thinly sliced Granny Smith apples (about one large apple)
2 cups thinly sliced ripe pear (about one large pear)
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup orange sections (about one orange)
1/2 cup sliced banana (about one medium-sized banana)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; drizzle with lemon juice and toss gently.
2. Combine syrup, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon over fruit, and toss gently. Serve immediately.

Yields: 8 1/2 cup servings

Served on a bed of lettuce rather than sandwiches.
Ricotta Cheesecake with Fresh Berries


4 cups (2 pounds) Homemade Ricotta Cheese (recipe below)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon powdered sugar


2 cups quartered strawberries
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 pint fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Mint sprigs (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. To prepare cheesecake, place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Pour batter into a 10-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until cheesecake center barely moves when pan is touched. Remove cheesecake from oven; run a knife around the outside edge of cheesecake. Cool slightly; remove outer ring from pan. Sprinkle cheesecake evenly with powdered sugar.
4. To prepare topping, combine berries, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and juice; toss gently to combine. Let stand 5 minutes.
5. Serve berry mixture with cheesecake. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

1 gallon 2% reduced-fat milk
5 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1. Line a large colander or sieve with 5 layers of dampened cheesecloth, allowing the cheesecloth to extend over outside edges of colander; place colander in a large bowl.
2. Combine milk and buttermilk in a large, heavy stockpot. Attach a candy thermometer to edge of pan so that thermometer extends at least 2 inches into milk mixture. Cook over medium-high heat until candy thermometer registers 170° (about 20 minutes), gently stirring occasionally. As soon as milk mixture reaches 170°, stop stirring (whey and curds will begin separating at this point). Continue to cook, without stirring, until the thermometer registers 190°. (Be sure not to stir, or curds that have formed will break apart.) Immediately remove pan from heat. (Bottom of pan may be slightly scorched.)
3. Using a slotted spoon, gently spoon curds into cheesecloth-lined colander; discard whey, or reserve it for another use. Drain over bowl for 5 minutes. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; tie securely. Hang cheesecloth bundle from kitchen faucet; drain 15 minutes or until whey stops dripping. Scrape ricotta into a bowl. Sprinkle with salt; toss gently with a fork to combine. Cool to room temperature.
Note: Store in refrigerator up to 4 days.
Yields about 3 cups.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Where does the time go?

Tomorrow, this precious little girl will be six months old. These months have passed so quickly.
Too quickly.

This is such a fun age that I enjoy so much...but I love every stage that I have experienced with my children, and it is hard to believe that we are done with the "little baby" stage already. I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet. But time goes by and they grow so quickly...and bring such delight with every new day.
  • Madeleine sucks her thumb and I just love how cozy she looks when she does it...she'll take either one but seems to prefer her right one.
  • she pulls on her ear when she's sleepy.
  • she's working on getting her two bottom teeth right now (she seems to be bothered by them more than I remember either of her siblings being...but she still is so so pleasant and mild-mannered!)
  • she loves sitting in her bumbo seat on the table during lunch.
  • her face lights up when either Hadleigh or Nathanael give her the least bit of attention--she grins and talks right back at them.
  • she can say "da da da" and yesterday said "ma" for the first time.
  • we love kissing those precious cheeks and her pudgy little tummy.
  • she loves blowing bubbles
  • she is delighted with the sounds she can make (especially during church).
She bring such joy to our family. She is a delight...our angel baby.

© 2011. All Rights Reserved. | Prefab Blog Design By Penny Lane Designs