Saturday, March 31, 2012

More Faces

I absolutely love this girl's faces. This was last week when she was 7 weeks old.

On a totally unrelated note, we got to hear Gianna Jessen speak this week. She is a Christian woman who lived through an abortion. What an amazing testimony and story. The woman touched on many controversial topics, and closed by singing "You Are My Sunshine." The new movie October Baby, which was released in theaters last weekend, was inspired by Gianna's story.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Girls

I didn't expect them to be playing games and having so much fun together.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

I kept trying to call them "Guinness Jameson Baileys Cupcakes," but it just didn't have much of a ring to it.

These cupcakes are delectable. They have Guinness in the cake, Jameson whiskey in the ganache center, and Irish cream in the frosting. The Guinness is a very subtle flavor, but the Whiskey and Irish Cream are definitely palatable. They were delicious. And I was finally able to put my new KitchenAid to good use.

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:
1 cup Guinness stout
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

For the Ganache Filling:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbs butter, room temperature
2 1/2 tsp Irish whiskey

For the Frosting:
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbs Baileys Irish Cream

To make the cupcakes:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners.
-Bring the Guinness and butter to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
-Stir the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to combine.
-In separate bowl, beat eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined. Add the Guinness and chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat briefly.
-Divide the batter among the cupcake liners. Bake until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on a rack.

To make the ganache filling:
-In microwave safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips for 2 minutes (stirring every 30 seconds) or until melted. Slowly add the cream, and stir until combined and smooth.
-Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool until thick.
-Cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes, going about half way down.
-Spoon ganache into the holes.

To make the frosting:
-Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.
-Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar until all of it is incorporated.
-Add the Irish Cream, increase the speed to medium-high and whip for another 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
-Using your favorite decorating tip, or an offset spatula, frost the cupcakes.

Enjoy! Store the cupcakes in an airtight container.

Recipe adapted from BrownEyedBaker.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Homemade Samoas

Y'know... like the Girl Scout cookie. These are amazing. I'm not gonna lie, they were a lot of work. But they were so worth it. The coconut caramel topping is the right amount of chewy, the shortbread base has great crunch, and the chocolate just makes them that much more amazing.

Homemade Samoas

For the shortbread:
1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbs milk

For the toppings:
3 cups shredded coconut, toasted
15 oz soft caramels (I used a 14 oz. bag of Kraft caramels)
1/4 tsp salt
3 to 4 tbs milk
8 oz semisweet chocolate (I used 1 cup chocolate chips)
8 oz milk chocolate (I broke up a chocolate bar)

To make the shortbread:
-Cream together butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy.
-In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add to the butter mixture.
-At low speed, add in the milk and vanilla.
-Separate the dough into halves (or thirds) and wrap in plastic or store in tupperware. Refrigerate until the dough is as firm as a stick of butter. (I wrapped my dough in saran wrap and refrigerated overnight.)
-When your dough is firm enough to roll out, preheat the oven to 350. Roll dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8" thickness, and use cookie cutter or biscuit cutter to cut dough into circles.
-Place cookies on cookie sheet, and bake for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on cookie size and thickness. They should be barely golden around the edges. Cool on cooling rack.

To make the Coconut Caramel Topping:
-Place caramels, milk and salt in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until melted; about three minutes, stirring every 45 seconds.
-Stir the toasted coconut into the caramel mixture.
-Using a knife or offset spatula, spread the caramel mixture on top of your cookies. (This is when I realized I needed closer to 4 tablespoons of milk in my mixture.) You may need to reheat the mixture every 10 minutes since it gets difficult to spread as it cools.

Base coat and drizzle with chocolate:
-Place all the chocolate in microwave safe bowl and microwave until melted; about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.
-Dip the bottoms of the cookies in the chocolate. Or use a spoon or knife and spread the chocolate on. Or put a little dollop of chocolate on the bottom center of the cookie, and slowly squish and turn the cookie on waxed paper until you can see the chocolate peeking under the edges. Whatever your method, place in rows on wax paper.
-Spoon remaining chocolate into piping bag (or a ziplock baggie, and then snip off a tiny corner), and pipe chocolate in rows across the cookies.
-Let chocolate cool completely, then remove from wax paper.

Recipe adapted from Instructables.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

21 Months

Maybe it's because she's the big sister now, but Chloë seems to be a little more dramatic these days. Maybe it's that subconscious need for more attention, but there are days when everything needs my help or attention. And sometimes, there are big ol' alligator tears that accompany the drama.

I do try to give her as much attention as possible, and lots of special cuddle time. I'll wipe her tears, and we'll snuggle for a while, and that usually makes everything all better.

She absolutely loves Elaina. When she wakes up in the morning or from her nap, she wants to know where Baby is. She loves rubbing Baby's head, and covers her with kisses, and often asks to hold her.

If Elaina is upset, Chloë will often try to help calm her by offering her her binkie or bouncing her in her bouncy chair.

Chloë is a wonderful big sister, so sweet and affectionate towards Elaina.

We've been having snow off and on throughout the winter, and Chloë loves it. She likes watching the snow fall. A couple of weeks ago we had a fresh covering, and I left the door open a crack while I quickly shoveled the front steps. Chloë made her way outside, and was happily munching on the cold snow when I found her. "Good vintage!" she exclaimed, nodding, as if to convince me. I do believe her daddy taught her that one.

She loves to get all bundled up in her snow gear and play outside. I can actually let her outside by herself in our tiny enclosed side yard, checking on her every minute or two, of course.

My parents were in town last weekend, and the first thing Chloë said to her Mimi was "Cookies?!" The last time they were here, Mimi made a batch of cookies, and let Chloë help with all of the important scooping and measuring and pouring and stirring. So of course, my mom was more than willing to make more cookies again this time.

She loves being in the kitchen, but also loves to pretend to cook.

Last weekend I decided she needed something other than the floor for her cooking endeavors, so I covered a cardboard diaper box with paper bags, and made her a little stove top and oven. I think she likes it.

She loves shoes just as much as ever, and will try on all sorts of shoes. Here she is walking around in her purple plastic high heels we got her for Christmas.

In the last couple of weeks, she has really come to understand her colors. She likes to sit at the big table and "draw." I always make sure to collect all of the crayons and put them away when we're done.

Chloë is now tall enough to grab on to a door knob and pull a door closed. She also likes to lock doors. Our bedroom has a twist lock, and for some reason, the door to the basement has a push lock. I was downstairs doing laundry yesterday, and came up the stairs to a closed door that would not open. I called to her, and she came to the door, and I told her to turn the handle to open it. There was lots of doorknob wiggling, but the lock did not disengage. Despite the fact that I was still in my pajamas and bath robe, I went out the basement door and around to the front and let myself in. Good thing the front door was unlocked.

Some of our door knobs are an oval shape, and she has mastered the art of turning them. I can no longer close a door to keep her out of a room. So, I keep an eye on her, and listen for the sound of doors opening or closing. She like to explore the pantry.

Chloë still loves her binkie. She knows it is only for sleeping. She'll pop it into her mouth, and crawl up on the couch or on to her little bed to sleep. Sometimes it's only or a little rest, but it works pretty well to establish that the binkie is only for sleeping.

We let her cuddle with us sometimes in our bed. Sometimes she falls asleep.
We do compromise the binkie rule for church. When it's time for the sermon, we pull out a little snack, which she happily consumes, and then we give her her binkie and she snuggles with one of us for a while. Between that and her four crayons and coloring pad, she usually does really well during church.

She's a really sweet, happy girl. And if we ask her to smile, this is what we get:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It Feels Busy

I feel like I'm so busy these days. But when thinking back on my day's accomplishments, it usually looks something like this:
Get up, change and clothe baby, change and clothe toddler, feed toddler breakfast, make coffee, feed myself, nurse baby (repeat every two hours), take a shower (when baby is napping and toddler is watching a 10 1/2 minute episode of Charlie and Lola), put on normal clothes and makeup, Bryan home for lunch, feed everyone, change more diapers, toddler naps (if the baby is napping too, this is my window of opportunity to get something done; start dinner, sweep the floors, maybe even do some laundry or finish up a blog post), then Bryan home, eat dinner, clean up, change diapers, and suddenly, it is time for bed. At the end of the day, I'm exhausted. Last night I was in bed at 9:30, which is really early for a night owl such as myself.

I really don't know how moms with more than two kids ever get anything done. Or leave the house with everyone clothed, clean, and fed.

My beautiful chubby baby.

My restless toddler. This is how I found her this morning.

I do love my life. Although there are moments of frustration when both girls are screaming or crying for my attention, the moments of harmony and joy are abundant. Elaina is such a curious bright-eyed baby, studying my face with much intensity when she's awake. Chloë is helpful and (usually) cheerful, and learning something new every day. And Bryan is wonderful. He does the dishes, changes diapers, and gets up with Elaina in the middle of the night.

This is how Elaina dreams. Yes, she really is asleep, despite how much her eyes are open.

The only picture I have managed to get of her smiling. I love it so much. She even smiled at me while she was awake a few days ago.

We went to Seattle a couple of weeks ago to watch my brother Samuel play Rugby. (Getting out of town was an ordeal. We made it 8 miles to Pullman in our Honda Pilot, then decided the brakes seemed a little funny, stopped at Les Schwab and waited over an hour for them to tell us there were major problems and it would take all day to fix. So we came home, crammed into the much smaller Nissan Sentra sans stroller, took the Pilot to our local Les Schwab, and finally hit the road three hours later than we initially set out.) I brought my little camera, but didn't use it. My sister got a few pictures, and wrote a post about our weekend. We met up with my parents, brother Isaiah, sister Katie and her boyfriend Louis, and all stayed in a retro hotel. Samuel stayed with us both nights he was there, and he got to meet Elaina for the first time! And of course Chloë was thrilled to see Uncle Samuel. We enjoyed watching Samuel play with the Glendale Raptors for the first time, and has some great, low-key family time back at the hotel. We got to spend some time with our friends the Dowers, and went to a great little pub for lunch with our friends the Rusts.

Yesterday I went to Spokane with my mother-in-law Deb and my sister-in-law Laura. We had to go to David's Bridal so Laura and I could try on Bridesmaid dresses for Jessie's wedding. Have I mentioned that Bryan's baby sister is getting married in May? She is. To Kaleb. And Bryan and I are both in the wedding. We're honored, and we know it's going to be a great celebration.

I'm off to start dinner! I'm making fish tacos, and am very excited.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

One Month

My baby Elaina is a month old. What a month it's been. I had forgotten how quickly babies change in the first weeks, and she certainly has.

(Poor little acne face. It's better than it was a couple of days ago.)

Here's the difference, side by side:

Yup, she's changed alright.

Everything Elaina does, she has to do wholeheartedly. If she wants to cry, well then, the whole world will know. If she wants to spit up, then you'd better have some clean clothes near by. And as far as her diapers go... well, I am very grateful for the convenience (and capacity) of disposables.

She certainly has her fussy spells, and for a few days there we thought we might have a screaming, colicy baby on our hands. We read some of The Happiest Baby on the Block, and were impressed with the theory of some babies needing a "fourth trimester." A lot of it is pretty intuitive, but we've found that Elaina really does love environments that mimic a womb-like atmosphere; warm, tight, rhythmic, moving, and loud. We have had some nights interrupted by lots of crying, but then we have some where she sleeps like a champ, and only wakes up to eat every 3 hours.

Elaina is a great sport at tolerating all of her big sister's attention.

She is great at communicating her discomfort or displeasure. She can be loud. In the last week or so, she's started to find the softer side of her vocal cords, with a few sweet little coos now and then. Her eyes work now (although sometimes cross-eyed), focusing on faces, watching ceiling fans, or tracking her big sister's excited movements.

(Well, writing this post was interrupted a couple dozen times. Funny how that happens. Now I'm off to see if I can throw something together for dinner.)