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Good Reads, Part II

>> Friday, September 30, 2011

My second installment of books I enjoyed.  I read a good bit, so it takes alot to make it on my "favorites" list.


I read this book when I was part of a book club a couple of years ago.  Probably not normally something I'd pick, but I was so glad I read it.  It is the true story of one woman's life within, and escape from, the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints), along with her children.  The FLDS has been in the news alot the past 3-4 years.  I was fascinated and appalled by the details of the life within the FLDS she provides.  I can't even imagine living that kind of life.

Another book that I'm not sure I would have picked up on my own.  A friend brought this one to me.  It is a memoir describing the author's dysfunctional upbringing.  With an alcoholic father and mentally ill  mother, the author and her two siblings had an unbelievably difficult childhood.  They experienced tremendous hardship and were neglected in an extreme way by their parents.  I couldn't even fathom some of the stories she tells, yet the tone of the book is forgiving and never "pity me".  Great read.

This book is really different.  In a nutshell, the author wrote a book called "Blue Like Jazz", which was a huge bestseller and led 2 movie producers to approach him about turning his life into a movie.  He quickly realized that his life was not a movie, not even much of a story.  So he sets out to improve his "story" by dealing with issues he'd never dealt with (an absentee father), tackle new challenges, and become the kind of person he wants to be.  The style is very conversational, and he muses alot about God.  There were several points/quotes/thoughts in the book that really resonated with me:  "What I'm saying is I think life is staggering and we're just used to it.  We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we're given - it's just another sunset, another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral....If I have a hope, it's that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story, and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in my story.  The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you."  "There is no conflict man can endure that will not produce a blessing.  And I smiled.  I'm not saying I was happy, but for some reason I smiled.  It hurts now, but I'll love this memory, I thought to myself.  And I do."


Another true story.  This book follows Louie Zamperini, an Olympian runner, from childhood to his 90s.  The largest part of the book details his experiences as a POW during WWII.  I was hooked from the beginning; as a mom of 2 ornery boys I found the stories of Louie as a boy irresistable.  I loved his mother -- a quiet woman of faith.  It would be impossible not to be inspired by Louie's character and his triumph over such incredible circumstances.  The book is very real, in that it also talks about Louie's struggle with alcoholism after the war and his conversion to Christianity which ended the alcoholism.  The book is very well-written (this is the author of Seabiscuit) and one of the best I've read in the past couple of years.

I really like this book for mothering inspiration/encouragement!


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Cinnamon Roll Muffins

>> Thursday, September 29, 2011


I've come to the conclusion that Beth and I like cinnamon.  The day she posted her "Muffins that Taste like Donuts" I had actually planned to post this muffin recipe.  In addition to these two, we have Beth's Easy No-Rise Cinnamon Rolls, her Mini Doughnut Cupcakes, (which I have made a few times and my sons LOVE), my Cinnamon Roll Waffles, and Beth's homemade churros.  Out of 35 recipes we've posted, 5 are cinnamony.  Due to that fact, I hesitated to post these, but decided that because they are a little different (not to mention really, really good), I'd go ahead.  I'm generous like that.  Unlike those people that you ask for a recipe and they give you the old "it's a family secret" line.  What's up with that?  Probably comes from a mix or something and they're too embarrassed to say.  And while I am on random thoughts, why is it ok to eat a muffin for breakfast, but not cake?  A muffin is basically cake, right?  So why is that ok?

Ok, moving on to the recipe! :)  This one comes from King Arthur.  There's a pocket of cinnamon filling inside the muffin, and the oats provide a great texture.  The only change I would make to the recipe is maybe making 13 muffins instead of 12 because if they are filled too full they overflow and become  a mess.  And I also baked these at 350, because I've learned that anything over 375 in my little apartment oven creates smoke and sets the detector off and results in great fun for my neighbors.  (And a nice little note from management).

Topping
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup diced pecans
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons soft butter
Filling
3 tablespoons butter (melted), 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Batter
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup cinnamon chips or butterscotch chips (could leave these out)

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake papers, or grease it lightly.

Prepare the topping by mixing the ingredients together until crumbly. Set aside.

Prepare the filling by mixing the cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar together.  Add a small amount of water to make a very thick paste (maybe a tablespoon or so -- not too much!) Set it aside.

To make the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, milk, and eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, including the chips. Add the dry mixture to the liquid, stirring just until combined.

Divide half the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Dollop 2 teaspoons cinnamon filling onto each muffin, then top with the remaining batter. Sprinkle with topping, pressing it in lightly.

Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and wait 5 minutes before transferring them from the pan to a rack to cool. Yield: 12 muffins.


And as a follow-up to my apple cake post, I forgot to mention that I'd made the cake for Johnny Appleseed Day at my son's school.  Each student was to bring in something made with apples.  My son said the kids loved the cake, and there were a few pieces left over which the teacher announced she was taking home so his mom would have to make another cake.  If you are considering making it, do it!!! 


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Milestones!

>> Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We have had a fun past few days celebrating a couple milestones.  First, Tyler turned 4 on Saturday!  I can't believe that just 4 years ago, Steve and I went from being a "couple" to a family!  Time has flown by and it's hard to believe that Tyler has gotten so big already.  I was teasing him and telling him that I didn't want him to grow up and I asked if he could stay 3.  He started to cry and say, "But I wanna be 4".  Love this kid!

Here's a photo of him with his cake.  I kept asking him what he wanted for his birthday and he kept saying, "A cake with fire on it."  We finally figured out he meant candles (not icing flames!) so I decided to do a baseball.  Not my best cake ever, but have you ever tried to put icing on a ball?  It's hard!


Sunday night we had a fire in the firepit in our back yard because Tyler has been begging for one all summer.  The boys LOVED it!  I had a difficult time getting the fire started, so I used some lighter fluid.  Here is a photo of the boys reaction when I would add more lighter fluid to the pit.


Then they thought they would be cool and try to blow it out instead of helping me try to light it.  Obviously they didn't realize that we couldn't eat the hot dogs until after we got the fire going.


Steve finally came to the rescue and got the fire going without the aid of lighter fluid.  Good thing, 'cause there was no way I was eating hot dogs with a fire that had the lighter fluid.  Yuck.


Molly and I hung out in the chair watching the boys make the dinner.  The way it should be.  Of course, then that meant we were on cleanup duty, though.  Which doesn't mean much until you see the photo of Ryan below after s'mores :)


Cutie watching the fire!


Ryan was all about roasting the marshmallows.  He actually did a good job and got his nice and brown.  He only caught one of the marshmallows on fire and we caught it soon enough that it wasn't burnt to a crisp.


Ok, so you knew it was coming.  Here is a photo of Ryan actually eating the marshmallows.  For some reason, he decided his s'more would taste better without the chocolate and graham cracker, but rather smooshed up in his hand.


And yes, I got stuck with bath time for the kids after he was finished.


Here's a photo of Tyler's s'more.  Yummy!


Great ending to a great weekend celebrating my Big Boy!

So the other milestone we celebrated was that Molly turned 2 months yesterday (Tuesday).  I can't believe that she is 2 months old already!  She has been such a joy and a great addition to our family.  The boys absolutely adore her.  In fact, we were all sick this past week and the hardest thing about it was trying to keep the boys from kissing her so she wouldn't get their germs!


Her shirt says it all...her daddy does love her!  She is such a good baby, so it would be hard not to love her :) In the past couple of weeks, she has started to smile when she sees me or when I make faces at her.  Molly has a cute smile and I just love toothless grins :)


This next photo isn't the greatest because of the light right above her head, but I just love her expression!


This past week, Molly slept 12 hours two different nights last week and then 13 hours another night. Now that I say that, she will probably want to eat 3 or 4 times the next few nights!  But, needless to say, I think she is the worlds' best sleeper at 2 moths old!  The boys were always good sleepers, but they didn't consistently sleep through the night until after around 12 weeks or so.  Yesterday morning, we needed to go to an appointment, but Molly was still sleeping so the boys volunteered to go snuggle with her to wake her up.


Can you tell they ADORE her?  I feel sorry for any of her future boyfriends...they will definitely have to make it past the "brother test" before taking her out :)




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The BEST Apple Cake

>> Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Normally, I would hesitate to call something "the best", especially a recipe.  I've seen in my family that one person can think something is amazing and the next can find it so-so (or sometimes even repulsive).  So to claim this is the best apple cake is a pretty strong statement, but I really think it is.  If you make this (as you should) and you don't like it, then get yourself to a doctor. :) 

And because I am a focus-on-the-positive kind of girl, it has lots of apples so it's healthy.  Period.  (We're going to ignore the sugar and butter right now).

The source for the recipe is Taste of Home magazine.  I've made it for years, but always thought it was so good plain that I'd never made the icing before.  Now I will never leave it off.  It takes the cake from really, really good to the best!

Chunky Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting:
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
6 cups peeled tart apples (I used granny smith)

In large mixing bowl, cream the sugar, butter and vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking soda; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well.  Stir in apples until well combined.  Spread into a greased 9x13 inch pan and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until top is slightly brown and springs back when touched. 

Icing:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Cook over medium heat in saucepan, stirring often.  Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Pour over the cake while it is still hot from the oven.  Let cool before serving.

A couple of notes-  the batter is very thick.  I use my kitchen-aid stand mixer to make it easier to mix.  The cake is very moist and it does not cut even because of all the apple chunks.  So you just have to abandon the idea of it looking perfect. 



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I made Calzones!!

>> Monday, September 26, 2011

So, Cincinnati has a wonderful hometown pizza place called LaRosa's pizza.  It's Steve's favorite pizza place ever.  Probably because he grew up on the West side of Cincinnati, which is also where this pizza place originated.  And if you are from Cincinnati, you know that people from the West side are very proud of the fact that they are from the West side.  And people from the East side are very proud that they aren't from the West side :)

Anyway, when I was a "working woman" aka before kids, we would go out to lunch once a week or so as a group.  Sometimes we would go to LaRosa's and for the most part I would always order a Calzone with spinach, pineapple and ham.  Yum!

For some reason, I had never attempted to make Calzones at home from scratch.  They just seemed difficult to keep all the fillings in.  Plus, I haven't found the perfect pizza crust recipe yet.  As in, every time I make a pizza at home, my husband always says he doesn't care for the crust.  Every. Single. Time.  Probably because it isn't a LaRosa's crust.

Anyway, I found this Calzone recipe on Pinterest.com.  The title of the blog post that was linked to the picture intrigued me.  "How to Make Calzones (And Freeze Them for Later!)"  Um, yes please!  So I followed the directions.  And they turned out great!  I didn't have any Ricotta or spinach on hand, so I used my own fillings.  But the crust was perfect for the calzones and I will definitely be making these again.

A couple notes...The crust recipe didn't make much dough.  If you want a LaRosa's size calzone, the crust recipe will probably only make 3 calzones.  I make it into 6 like the recipe said, but Steve and I both ended up eating 2 and the boys each had a smaller calzone.  Also, do whatever toppings you want, but I spread a little sauce on the dough and then added cheese and pepperoni for the boys' Calzones.  For ours, I made a mixture of browned sausage and onion mixed with some cheese and some cottage cheese (weird, I know, but it gives it a creamier texture just like the ricotta).  I didn't measure anything, just eyeball it.  Mine didn't look quite as pretty as hers, but they didn't look that far off!

2011-07-14-Calzones13.jpg
http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/how-to/how-to-make-calzones-and-freeze-them-for-later-151276

For the dough:
3/4 cups (6 ounces) of water
1/2 teaspoon of active-dry yeast (if using instant yeast, you don't need to dissolve it during the first step)
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

Making the Dough:
In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, heat the water until it feels barely lukewarm. Add the yeast to the water and stir. Set this aside to dissolve. It's ok if the yeast doesn't bubble, but it should be entirely dissolved.

Measure out the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and combine. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the water-yeast mixture. Use your fingers or a wooden spoon to combine everything together.  When it comes together into a cohesive ball, turn it out onto the counter along with any extra flour in the bowl that hasn't yet gotten worked in.

Knead the dough until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic to the touch--about five minutes.The dough should still feel moist and slightly tacky. If it's sticking to your hands and counter-top like bubble gum, work in more flour one tablespoon at a time until it's smooth and silky.


Assembling the Calzone:
Preheat the Oven to 450°F

Divide the Dough: Divide the dough into equal pieces. Six pieces make good dinner-sized calzones. Eight pieces make nice smaller calzones for lighter meals and lunches.

Roll Out the Calzone: Press the dough into a flat disk, then use a rolling pin to roll it into an 8"-9" circle for larger calzones or 6"-7" for smaller calzones. Roll from the middle of the dough outwards, as you do for pie dough. If the dough starts to shrink back on you, let it rest for five minutes and try again. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Fill the Calzones: Spread a generous 1/3 cup of filling in the bottom third of the calzone (slightly less for smaller calzones), leaving a a clear border around the edge. Fold the top of the dough over the filling and press to seal. If you have enough dough, you can roll that edge up (simply fold it over on itself) to form a more secure seal. Transfer calzones to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake the Calzones: Brush calzones with olive oil or butter, if desired. This gives the calzones a nice golden color, but is not necessary. Slice steam vents in the top of the calzones with a sharp knife. Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the tray and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the calzones are golden, browned on the edges, and the filling is bubbly.

Eat or Freeze Calzones: Allow to cool a few minutes before eating. Let leftover calzones cool completely, then wrap each individual calzone tightly in plastic wrap. Transfer to a plastic freezer bag and freeze.

Reheat Calzones: Thaw the calzone for a few hours in the fridge, or extend the cooking time to re-heat from frozen. If you put one in your lunchbag in the morning, it will be thawed enough by lunchtime. Unwrap from the plastic before reheating.

Reheat them in the microwave in one-minute bursts on HIGH until heated through (2-3 minutes total), or in the oven or a toaster oven at 300° until heated through.




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Muffins that taste like donuts

>> Saturday, September 24, 2011

If that isn't an attention grabbing title, I don't know what is!  Yummmm.....these are so good.



I found this recipe on The Pioneer Woman's website over a year ago.  I have made them 4 or 5 times since and they have turned out wonderful each time.  I tried a different recipe once and just wasn't satisfied with it.  These are just a perfect texture and taste.  They taste like one of the cinnamon and sugar donuts!  They aren't healthy, but they are baked so I'm assuming they are a little better for you than a regular donut :)

So, most recipes I tweak just a little.  Whether adding more or less of something or adding/omitting something all together.  But these, I make just as written.  The only variation I do on it is sometimes I dip the whole muffin in the butter and cinnamon sugar, but most of the time I just do the tops to save a few calories.  Either way is good!



Muffins That Taste Like Donuts



Ingredients

  • 1-¾ cup Flour
  • 1-½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • ½ teaspoons Nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoons Cinnamon
  • ⅓ cups Oil
  • ¾ cups White Sugar
  • 1 whole Egg
  • ¾ cups Milk
  • _____
  • FOR THE TOPPING:
  • ¼ cups Butter
  • ⅓ cups White Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon


Preparation Instructions

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Combine oil, sugar, egg and milk. Add dry ingredients and stir only to combine.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a bowl. Combine the white sugar with the cinnamon in another bowl.
Shake muffins out while still hot. Dip muffins in butter, then into the sugar/cinnamon mix. Let cool.



You can find a printable version of this recipe here...since I know once you make this recipe it will become one that you want to refer back to :)

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Crazy life with 3 kids!

>> Thursday, September 22, 2011

The last couple of weeks has been really crazy!  I haven't taken the time to blog, but I thought I would post some of the highlights for you since I know you all missed me :)

- We rejoined the Cincinnati Zoo!  Our membership expired at the end of May and I didn't renew it since I was 8 months pregnant.  Our zoo is really hilly and every time I would go, I would end up having Braxton-Hicks contractions.  With the way my family is, I would NEVER hear the end of it if my child was born at the zoo, so I had to stop going.  Just in case.  But Ryan literally begged every day to go back, so I ended up getting another membership at the beginning of September. Here are some photos from our trip (and Molly's first trip ever) on Tyler's favorite thing...the train.

    


- 2 weeks ago, Tyler started "Cubbies" at Urbancrest Baptist Church here in Lebanon.  Cubbies is part of the Awana program, which is a Wednesday evening program for kids.  They have cute little vests, a cool workbook, scripture to memorize for each week, crafts, singing, playtime, bible stories, etc.  Tyler absolutely loves it and thinks it is so cool that he can go and Ryan isn't old enough.  Since we decided not to do preschool this year, I decided to have him in Cubbies as one of his activities to keep him around other kids in a classroom setting.  We are doing other things as well, but this has been good so far!

- Thomas the train came to town.  It's part of his "Day Out With Thomas" tour.  I'll post more on this later, but let's just say the boys had a BLAST!

- Steve started teaching.  Most of you know that my husband is an electrician.  He is working for a great company (Carr Electric) and his boss is his childhood friend and his father (who is also a deacon at his parents' church).  This past spring, he completed a 4-year long training program with the IEC.  Upon graduation, they asked him to teach!  It's a huge time commitment but I think he's enjoying the challenge.  Here's a photo from graduation with his proud papa sitting beside him.



- My awesome dad found a guy at work that was junking a Buick Rendezvous.  Apparently it was his kids' vehicle and he is a mechanic and was going to try and fix it.  Long story short, repairs would cost more than the vehicle was worth.  Since Dad knew we needed a couple of parts for our vehicle, we were able to go over and get everything we needed to make our vehicle better.  We ended up getting a sweet deal on a side mirror, key fob (clicker), spare tire, roof rack rails, owner's manual, center console and a tiny vent cover that was missing on ours and driving me crazy.  Yay for dads and his co-worker!

- Molly was sick this past Friday and Saturday.  She was puking up pretty much everything that she was eating, but acting normally except for that (no fever, pee/poop diapers like normal, not fussy, etc).  I didn't take her to the doctor because I wasn't that concerned, but Tyler had a hard time with it because he hated seeing "baby sister" throwing up.

- Tuesday I took Tyler to the doctor because he had a high temp overnight and was coughing.  I'm not one to rush to the doctor for every little thing, but I was supposed to start working (babysitting for a local MOPS  group) and felt like I needed to go see if he was contagious.  Turns out he has croup.  He has had it before, so he is one of the unfortunate ones that is prone to it.  The doctor gave us some steroids to help his lungs and told me to do ibuprofen for his temperature.  Unfortunately he is contagious until his fever breaks on its own, so we spent a couple days quarantined at home.  One funny thing that happened though, was I gave the boys some sprite and Ryan said his mouth was sparkling :)

- Molly is now 8 weeks!  Geesh, time has flown by!  She has now grown out of all of her newborn clothes.  I haven't weighed her as much as I should, but I'm pretty sure she is now over 11 lbs.  We have her 2-month doctor appointment next week.  I have already tried to convince Steve to go for one more, but he says no every time.  I really won't mind one more, but my body is definitely done.  I'm still trying to recover from the c-section....it's taking a lot longer this time than the 2 previous times.  The actual surgery was the same, but everything afterwards has taken almost double to heal.  I'm still having pain radiate in my abdomen...it's weird to describe, but it's not the actual scar that hurts, it's the inside stuff right below my belly button.  As a result, I'm still wearing maternity pants (boo!) and haven't been able to work out yet :(


- I made a day-trip to the Amish in Adams County.  With all 3 kids.  And Survived.  And bought everything that was on my list.  Amazing!  For those of you in Southern Ohio, I go to Miller's Furniture, Bakery and Bulk Food and Keim Family Market.  This is where I buy some of my supplies for my cake business, but I also love to buy things for our personal use.  This trip was successful and I bought some spices, whole wheat flour, steel cut oats, lunch meat and cheese and my favorite bread ever - Dill Rye bread. Then we made a quick stop at Blake's Pharmacy in West Union (they are in the list here, but they don't have an actual website.  Check out the photo in their listing to see their soda fountain!)  They have a cool soda fountain setup and their prices are cheap!  I got a cookie dough shake, large diet coke and 2 kids ice cream cones (birthday cake flavor) for $2.20!  Here is what the kids looked like when we pulled into the driveway.  You can't see Molly's eyes, but she is asleep as well.  Score!


I've been trying a few recipes and have a few DIY projects in progress, so stay tuned!

*Update....Tyler was feeling better this afternoon, so I decided to brave it and go to Target to get a few things and get out of the house.  We literally haven't been in the car since Tuesday morning to go to the doctor (and it's not Thursday afternoon).  Anyway, we were in the sporting goods aisle checking out the end of summer clearance and Ryan said, "Mommy, I'm going to throw up." and the look on his face told me that was true.  So I quickly looked for something he could puke in, but no luck.  He puked all over the floor, my hands, Tyler, the cart.  Yuck.  Fortunately, he missed Molly, the stuff I was buying and  the stuff on the shelves.  Back to quarantine for us :(

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All About Me Albums

>> Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beth's white chicken lasagna looks so good!!  I can't wait to try that one.

Today I want to share one of the ways I try to record some special things about my kids at each age.  I have mentioned here before that I am a huge fan of Photoshop Elements and digital scrapbooking.  I abandoned paper scrapbooking some time ago, because it just wasn't for me.  I used Photoshop Elements to create this project, but I really want to focus more on the concept because it could be done with paper scrapbooking or using a service like Shutterfly or Picaboo to create a book.

Starting about 18 months ago I decided to create a photo book each year for each of my kids.  I began a yearly family book with pictures from our trips and adventures when my son was born 7 years ago.  I used to dedicate a page for each kid in the yearly book to talk about their personalities, but I decided that I wanted to do a better job of recording more about them at each age. They change so much from year to year.

This was the first one I made, and I have since made one for my older son.  I am behind, of course, and need to finish up two more.

First gather your pictures.  I like to use the same "photo session" for the book since I have random snapshots galore in our family books.  But you could use whatever you wanted.

Then, I gather a list of questions to ask them.  Those will vary according to age, and I'll give you some ideas below.  They may not answer all the questions, so I choose from those I've asked when I'm putting the book together.

Next, I try to think of other things I want to add.  In this book, I took some washable paint, coated my son's hand and foot, and pressed each on a blank sheet of paper.  Then I scanned the prints to include them in the book.  Other examples would be art work, writing samples,  etc.  As they get older, have them answer some of the questions in their own hand writing and scan those in.

Finally, I assemble the book and print it.  The whole project really doesn't take that long, and it's such an amazing keepsake. 


Obviously, at two the ability of a child to answer "interview" questions is limited.  Between 3 and 5, kids give some really cute answers to questions.  And at my older son's age, 7, the answers are very thoughtful.  For this book, I had a couple pages I left out that contained more of his favorites -- songs, shows, books, etc.

I printed my book through a company called WHCC; the print quality is very high and the paper I chose was very thick.  Other options are shutterfly, picaboo, mixbook, and blurb to name a few.  I only have experience with a couple of those, so read some online reviews before choosing and wait for the sales.

And here are some questions to start with:
Favorites -- food, movie, song, tv show, book, toy, game, color, animal, smell, place to visit, etc
What job do you want to have when you grow up?
What is something your mom always says to you?  dad?
What makes you happy?  sad?
What is your favorite school memory this year?
What is your favorite class at school?
Who is your best friend?
What are you good at?
What does your dad do at work?  your mom?
What do you like to do the most?
What is the best gift you've ever gotten?  given someone else?
What do you worry about?
What makes you special?  What makes your family special?
What are the things you can't live without?
If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
What is the hardest thing about being a kid?  The best thing?
What 5 words describe you best?
If you were in charge of the world, what rule would you make everyone follow?  (the answers to this question are sometimes amazing and usually really sweet)


Add any questions you can think of!  Ask your child if there is anything else they want to add about themselves.

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White Chicken Lasagna

>> Monday, September 12, 2011

So, I'm not sure if I've ever had chicken lasagna before, but when I found this recipe on Pinterest.com, I knew I wanted to try it.  It was fairly easy and definitely worth the wait!

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Recipe:  White Chicken Lasagna


lasagna noodles (I used 9, but you could use 12 )
1/2 c. butter
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
ground black pepper, to taste

2 c. chicken broth

2 c. nonfat milk

4 c. mozzarella cheese, divided

1 c. shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 tsp. basil

1 tsp. oregano

1 c. part-skim ricotta cheese or Cottage Cheese

1 1/2 c. cooked and shredded chicken

1 small box frozen spinach, thawed and drained; liquid squeezed out; or about 2 cups of fresh spinach

1 small box frozen butternut squash puree, thawed; or about 1.5 cups cooked pumpkin, pureed
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms (optional)


Cook lasagna noodles as directed on package.
Melt butter in a large saucepot.  Add onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until translucent.  Add flour, salt, and pepper.  Cook flour mixture 1-2 minutes.  Add chicken broth and milk.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir 1 minute.  Turn off heat and add 2 cups mozzarella cheese and 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese.  Stir in dried spices.
Lightly spray a 9×13″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Ladle some cheese sauce onto the bottom to thinly cover.  Add a layer of lasagna noodles.  Layer with more cheese sauce, the chicken, and the ricotta/cottage cheese.  Add another layer of pasta.  Top with cheese sauce.  Using a spoon, spread the butternut squash puree on top of the. Add spinach and mushrooms (optional).  Add final layer of lasagna.  Top with remaining cheese sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to cook until bubbly, about 15 minutes.  If cheese doesn’t brown on top, turn on the broiler for the last couple minutes.  Allow lasagna to sit about 15 minutes before serving for easier slicing.


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