Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Angry, Angry...Birds!

So I am obviously a little behind with this post about Halloween, which seems like ages ago now, but life happens and things have been a bit crazy around here lately. It has become hard sharing our time between the house here in Georgia, the apartment in Tennessee, and several trips to Ohio thrown in there too! Unfortunately, we have not yet found a house in Tennessee yet, however, we did find a nice apartment that Josh will be moving in to next week - The Haven at Knob Creek. Luckily, we were able to secure a 3 bedroom unit on the first floor - the only one they had available! With two kids and a dog, I wasn't looking to do multiple flights of stairs all day long while trying to juggle a baby, hold a toddler's hand and a dog's leash. Whew! The rest of us have decided to join him after Christmas. By the time the moving company would be able to get us packed up and moved in, it would be getting very close to Christmas. So, we figured we might as well stay here and enjoy one last holiday here in Georgia, especially with it being Noah's first Christmas and all! We will be staying in the apartment until we either a) find a house we like or b) find a piece of property on which to build a house. Right now it is looking like option b will probably be the way we go. It makes more sense to us to build a house exactly the way we want it for the same price (or less) as buying a house that would need updated! Seeing as how we have done this now twice before, building wouldn't be so bad.

Ok, back to the original topic...Halloween. This year I hadn't given much thought to costumes and it was closing in on just a couple weeks until the big day. I started browsing the websites of the major stores late one night for ideas and came across the popular Angry Birds costumes. Ethan is obsessed with Angry Birds. Thanks Daddy. ;) The little addict starts chanting, "angry, angry," as he sneaks up to my iPad, covering the screen with one arm (does he think I don't realize what he is doing??) as he navigates with his other hand to the game. Yeah, I think he has a problem. haha! They had costumes for infants and adults online, but I couldn't find any that would fit Ethan. I also noted the outrageous price tag on them and decided there was no way I would pay that much for something they would wear just once! So, I started doing some more internet searching and brainstorming, and decided I would attempt to make the costumes myself. Yep, that's right. I hadn't touched a sewing machine in about 20 years, but you don't forget how to sew, right? ;) I found a few other blog posts (this one at Twin Dragonfly Designs was really good) describing how others had made their own costumes and went from there. I decided fleece and felt would be the easiest materials to work with and would be comfortable for the kids to wear too. We lucked out that it was a very chilly Halloween here in GA, instead of a hot one where fleece costumes would have been miserable!

In order to make the costumes, I needed to find a sewing machine first. I found a Singer that looked nice, at Target. Mom helped me get it all set up and I was ready to go. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that the machine wasn't as great as I would have hoped. I had bought it on a whim without reading reviews first. Shame on me. The tension was way too tight and I ended up breaking 3 needles while trying to backstitch! Yikes! I ended up taking the machine back once I was all done because it was definitely not one I wanted to use again. Please avoid this machine if you are in the market for one!

Now to the costumes...following the instructions from Heather at Twin Dragonfly Designs, I started by cutting out two red circles for Ethan's red bird costume. I then cut out another circle on plain white broadcloth. I sewed this piece to one of the red pieces. This would be the front of the costume, which would get stuffed to make the bird nice and puffy. :) Then I sewed the right sides of the red together and turned it inside out. I was going to leave holes for his head and arms to go through, but decided it was easier to leave the entire top open, then sew two small pieces of velcro on either side of his neck, to fasten together to hold the costume up. This worked well for putting the costume on and taking it back off. After that was complete, I cut out the pieces for the face from felt, outlined them with a fabric marker and hot glued them on to the costume. Viola!

Unfortunately, I didn't get a lot of pictures of the entire process in order to make this a good tutorial, but here is the one shot I have of me sewing part of Ethan's costume. Yes, I am sitting at Ethan's kiddie-sized table to do this. I am hoping to have room at our new house to set-up a properly sized table for a sewing machine! ;)

For Noah's yellow bird costume, I followed the lead from the department store costumes to make it a full body bunting costume with a hole for his head. The yellow bird shape worked best for this concept, so that is why I went with that one. I cut out two big yellow triangles from the fleece. Then I cut one of the triangles in half, lengthwise. I thought the easiest way to do trick or treating with Noah would be to carry him in the Baby Bjorn, so I decided to drape the costume around the carrier, then fasten it in the back. I sewed the front to the back pieces and then attached velcro to the edges of the back so that it could be closed. After that was done, I cut out the pieces for the face from felt, outlined them with the fabric marker and hot glued them on to the costume. Another one done! Woo hoo!

Daisy loves dressing up for Halloween too. Ok, so the verdict is still out on that one, but she does love the attention she gets when she is out with us in costume! ;) Of course I needed to make her a costume too! I thought she would make a wonderful green pig. Fitting since the little birds (aka my crazy boys) are always "attacking" her! So, I cut out a green circle from the fleece for the pig's face. I added a couple ears and the facial features, from felt. To keep it secured to her, I made 3 sets of velcro straps (one around her neck, one for the chest and one for her tiny waist) to fasten it to her. Again, another pretty simple costume to make and I was done!! Yay!!

I didn't think that making the costumes would be too time consuming and I was right. I went shopping for all of the materials on the Monday before Halloween. I started cutting things out that Tuesday evening after the boys were in bed and worked on it during naptime and when they were sleeping at night that week. I had them finished up by Friday and ready for Trick or Treat on Saturday! :) Total time for the three costumes was under 10 hours for sure, maybe under 8? It was totally worth every dime and every minute when I saw these cuties all dressed up!!

We took everyone downtown the Saturday before Halloween for the Trick or Treat with the local businesses. It was fun hearing lots of the other kids excited about the Angry Birds costumes! haha! Surprisingly, we were the only birds there!

Here are the boys in their skeleton outfits later that evening. Too cute! :)

And finally, Happy Halloween from the tiny one! :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

While on my previously mentioned pumpkin kick around Halloween, I decided that pumpkin pancakes would be a tasty treat for breakfast that weekend. I didn't have a recipe to follow, but decided I could wing it. I started by preparing my usual weekend pancake recipe and altering the add-ins a bit to come up with this:


  • 2 cups Bisquick mix (I use the Heart Healthy mix)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • Sugar (to taste, I don't measure this, but it's probably ~1/4 cup)
  • Pumpkin puree (I didn't measure this either, but I think ~1/4 to 1/2 cup)
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, melted
  • Heavy cream (I used just a dash - less than 1/4 cup)
  • Powdered sugar (I didn't measure this either, but maybe 1/4 cup?)

Preheat griddle to 250-275 degrees. Mix all ingredients for pancakes together until well blended.  Pour batter onto griddle and cook until bubbles surface, then flip and cook for another few minutes until cooked through completely. While pancakes are cooking, prepare the topping. Melt the cream cheese in the microwave (I nuked it for one minute at 50%) and stir in some heavy cream and powdered sugar until a nice consistency and taste is achieved. To serve, spread the cream cheese mixture onto the pancakes and top with whipped topping if desired.

These were absolutely heavenly. It was almost like eating dessert for breakfast! Maybe not a "healthy" food, but the pumpkin and cinnamon are nice nutritious add-ins. :) I thought I would post this before Thanksgiving in case you wanted to prepare this super yummy breakfast item for your family on Thanksgiving morning. It's a perfect way to wake up and start the holiday! :) Let me know what you think!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Cake Pops

I love any excuse to make cake pops. Sure, it's easier to just order a couple while I am driving through Starbucks (yep, Ethan loves when I do and often urges me to do just that! haha!), but it's so much more affordable to make a big batch myself. They keep well in the refrigerator, so I can enjoy them for a couple weeks! I decided I wanted to try making a batch for Halloween to pass out to the adults during our neighborhood Trick or Treat. I thought that combining pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing would be fantastic and festive. So, I decided to experiment with the cake first. I came up with the following recipe:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice


Preheat the oven to the temperature recommended on the cake mix box. Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl and add the cake mix. Stir in the water and pumpkin puree. Add in the pumpkin pie spice and stir until well blended. Prepare two round cake pans and pour the batter evenly between the pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Once the cakes have cooled, crumble them into pieces. Normally at this point, you would add the frosting to the cake to moisten it, then roll into balls. This cake, however, was already super, super moist and adding frosting would make it too moist to form the cake balls. So, I (with Ethan's 'help") just formed balls from the cake and popped them into the freezer to help them firm up. 

Later that day I prepared to coat the balls. It was then that I realized I had left them in the freezer too long - they were completely frozen! :( This had not happened the last time I made them - they never completely froze or else maybe I didn't leave them in long enough to do that? So, I had to let them defrost a bit on the counter, then I was able to begin. I still wanted that cream cheese flavor, so I tried melting some cream cheese to add to the melted candies. As I expected it might, it made the chocolate seize up immediately. That wasn't going to work. :( I had to settle for coating the cake balls with melted candies and no cream cheese. I had decided I wanted to make them look like pumpkins, as I had seen on another blog. So, first I dipped the sticks into melted dark chocolate, then inserted the stick into the ball. This would represent the stump of the pumpkin. I then used yellow and red candies to make an orange coating for the ball. Unfortunately, this was also a learning process. I thought more red would make a brighter orange color, but sadly it made an awful reddish-peach color instead. I ended up using mostly yellow with a just a few red candies to make a semi-decent orange color. I was still never able to achieve the color I really wanted, but it worked. I was then going to pipe melted green candy leaves to top them off, but I ran out of time, so I didn't.

I packaged the finished product up to pass out. I ended up having quite a bit leftover (I had made 3 batches of cake), so I was able to share some with family in Ohio the following week too!

I was pretty happy with how they turned out. Not quite the appearance I was going after, but the taste was delicious!! Still on a pumpkin kick, I made pumpkin pancakes the next day with a sweet cream cheese spread. Delicious! Next up I will be trying out a chocolate mint recipe for Christmas. :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Noah's Four-Month Check-Up

I took Noah for his four-month check-up today. I know that I said in his two-month check-up post that that was our last visit to their pediatrician here in Georgia, but it turns out I was wrong. I haven't found a doctor for the boys yet in Tennessee. After weeks of trying to procure their medical records from their doctor's office here, including numerous calls to the medical records staff and clinic manager, I was finally told that their charts couldn't be found anywhere. They had simply vanished into thin air. Sigh. Supposedly the records had been copied too and they were also nowhere to be found. Really? Just my luck. Poor Noah has zero records aside from the shot records from his two-month appointment, as they are kept electronically. Finally during my last phone call a few weeks ago, the manager apologized profusely and offered no-charge appointments for both boys before we moved. So, I decided to take her up on it, seeing as how I hadn't found another doctor yet and Noah would soon be needing his four-month immunizations! She also promised no waiting once we arrived, a definite plus at that office! As promised, when we arrived today and I asked for her, she came out shortly and escorted us to the back. Whew. I had to fill out the usual first-appointment info sheets again, but no biggie. Ethan stayed entertained by catching up with the Angry Birds. Yay for iPads!! We made it into the room in a fairly timely manner and the doctor was right in. Woo hoo!

Noah was checked out first and we got his current stats. Since last month he gained just 14 oz (surprising given his current round the clock eating habits), to weigh in at 15 lbs, 8 oz, which is in the 50th-75th percentile. He grew almost 2 inches to measure up at 25.75 inches (75th-90th percentile) and his head is now 43.5 cm (75th-90th percentile). No big surprise there! He had to get two immunization shots today and another oral one. Poor guy. Fortunately, he was a champ and after just a few seconds of crying he was all better again. Lots of hugs and kisses from Mommy always help! :)

Ethan also did well with his check-up. At almost 2-3/4 years old, he is still weighing in at 30 pounds and measuring up at xx inches (Oops! I'll have to fill that in later when I get copies of their records!). The doctor decided to do some blood work on him to make sure everything looked good. Thankfully, they did this with just a finger prick instead of actually drawing it from his vein like the hospital did back in the spring. That was a disaster and something that did not need to be repeated. He also needed his flu shot. That was not pleasant for him and he is still saying he has a boo-boo on his leg. :( Poor "big boy". Apparently all of that tired him out because he came home and took a 3+ hour nap! Wow! I even managed to accomplish some sweeping while he was sleeping without waking him. Score!

Below is a pic of Noah at four months, wearing the 12-month onesie. I love that adorable little face and those chunky little thighs! ;) Sadly, however, Noah has regressed the last month with his sleep schedule. That seems to be the trend with the second child. :( While he still sleeps around 12 hours total at night, he has been waking up every 2 to 3 hours again, like he did when he was a newborn. Occasionally he gives me a 4 to 5 hour stretch (normally the first stretch of the night), but it is rare. He is still taking short (~30 min) morning and evening naps along with a longer (1-3 hrs) afternoon nap. It is wonderful when I can time up both of their naps and get at least an hour of time to get stuff done during the day! That has been essential with Josh gone during the week, leaving me to tend to the boys by myself 24/7. I love them, but I do need a bit of a break! I find it challenging being a SAHM to two little ones who aren't in school yet, aren't involved in any activities outside of the house, and having our families so far away. We do have occasional playdates, but even that has become very hard with a tiny one again. Hopefully we will make some friends when we move to Tennessee!

Noah has really been enjoying the time he spends in his jumperoo. See the video I posted on FB. Those little legs don't quit! At this rate, I swear the boy will be walking before his big brother did, at the early age of 9 months. I think it has something to do with the fact that he adores his big brother and can't wait to really play with him! It is rare that he takes his eyes off of Ethan during the day when we are all playing together. Ethan has been a really fantastic helper and has done great at trying to "play cars" with him when he isn't being a booger and trying to drag him across the room. Oops!

Here is a pic of Ethan at 4 months with Noah's pic. :) I can still see the family resemblance, but there are obvious differences too. Noah has a much fuller/rounder face and is obviously still chunkier than his big brother was at that age, as he should be at a whole pound heavier and almost an inch shorter! haha!

What I discovered on our recent trip to Ohio, while I was looking at a photobook of pics from when my sister's son, Jacob, was a baby, was how much Noah resembled his cousin! Take a look. Definitely safe to say those are both "Frank" babies!! Wow!

This next month should bring some interesting changes, as we are hoping to be reunited with Josh in Tennessee soon! We are still on the hunt for a house there, but we are realizing that we may have to go ahead and rent an apartment while we continue our search, or find a piece of land and build a home. Life would be so much easier if we weren't so darn picky! ;) Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure...all of us will be happy to be together again, no matter where it may be!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

I love Indian food. I know, that is a very surprising fact given the picky eating habits I possessed when I was younger. However, Indian food was one of the many cuisines Josh turned me on to while I was in college. Shh, don't tell him because he is always taking credit for the newfound variety to my diet. ;) Anyways...chicken tikka masala quickly emerged as my favorite dish at one of the local restaurants in Cincy - Ambar India. If you live near Cincy, you must go there and get some of the best food in the city! Josh and I like our Indian food pretty spicy. Traditionally at Indian restaurants, you order the spice level you want for your dish on a scale of 1 to 5 or 6. I normally order a "3" or "4", and Josh gets anywhere from a "4" to "6", depending on how much he wants to sweat. ;) One time we made the mistake of opting for the lunch buffet instead of ordering our meals. Never again. The food they prepare for the buffets is made to appeal to the masses and is at about a "1" on the spice scale. Definitely not enough spice for us.

A few weeks ago a friend posted a recipe for chicken tikka masala to be prepared in the slow cooker. I couldn't wait to try it out because 1) I haven't had the dish in ages and 2) I love meals that I can just throw in the crockpot! Sadly, LaGrange is not exactly a hot spot for Indian food. There are NO Indian restaurants anywhere near us. :( Such a travesty, isn't it? We were definitely spoiled in Cincy living just minutes away from Ambar India. In Kentucky there was a really good Indian restaurant just down the street from where I worked at UK. I definitely took advantage of that one, especially during the last 5 months we were there, as I craved Indian food more than anything else during my pregnancy with Ethan. After moving south we were left with no options to satisfy those cravings. :'(

So, this past weekend I decided to give the recipe a try. I was going to have it ready on Friday when Josh arrived home from his 5+ hour trip from Tennessee, but unfortunately, though it is a crockpot recipe, it does require a bit more prep work than I was able to accomplish with a needy 4-month-old in the middle of the day. :( So, with Josh home all day Saturday, I had time to get it assembled to enjoy that evening.

The recipe can be found at Meal Planning 101's blog. Here it is, in full, if you don't feel like visiting their blog...

Chicken Tikka
1 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
1/4 to 1 tsp cayenne (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
6 to 8 chicken thighs (skin on, bone-in)

Stir all of the ingredients, except chicken, into the bottom of a large plastic container. Add the chicken and coat the chicken completely with the marinade. Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour, or overnight.

1 can 28 oz diced tomatoes
1 can 5.5 oz tomato paste
2 inches fresh ginger, grated (store your ginger in the freezer and it will be super easy to grate)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 Tbsp tikka paste (could use mild curry paste instead, but then also add about a Tbsp of lemon juice)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried coriander

1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 cup cream
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Turn your oven on to broil. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a rack over top. Take the chicken out of the marinade and place on the baking rack. Place under the broiler about 6-10 inches from the heating element and broil on each side about 10 minutes. You don't have to worry about cooking the meat all the way through, you are just looking for a nice browned color. As you can see, I didn't have a rack, so I placed it right on the baking sheet.

While the chicken is broiling, in a pan over medium high heat, add about a tsp or two of oil. I used olive oil. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes to soften. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a few more minutes until the mixture is nice and fragrant. Place the mixture into your crockpot. To that, add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garam masala, tikka paste, cumin, chili powder and coriander. Stir together. When the chicken is done broiling, add them straight to the slow cooker and stir into the masala. Slow cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

Before serving, stir in 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala and salt if it needs it (it needs it!!). Then stir in the cream and fresh cilantro. Serve a chicken thigh and lots of sauce over basmati rice or Yellow Basmati Rice: 2 cups basmati, 4 cups water, salt, and 1/2 Tbsp of turmeric. Stir together and prepare as you normally would. When the rice is done, stir in 1/2 cup frozen peas.

More notes: I used greek yogurt. Not sure if this affected the flavor or not. For the cayenne pepper, I used 1/2 tsp as I didn't want it to be too spicy in the hopes that Ethan would eat it. I was short on time, so I marinated the chicken for just an hour. Fortunately, I already had almost all of the spices in my cabinet because I have a delicious chicken curry dish I make and I also love using the Indian spices on roasted chickpeas. :) I did need to get the tikka paste. Unfortunately, I couldn't find tikka paste at my local Publix, so I settled instead for red curry paste. I also passed on the cilantro as I didn't think it was really needed. Still short on time, I cooked the meal on high for just 4 hours. At the end, I used regular whipping cream, not knowing for sure what to use since the recipe didn't specify. I served the dish over plain kasmati rice with plain naan (Ethan's favorite!) on the side.

Now for the bad news. We weren't super excited about this dish. :( As I said before, we like our Indian food spicy and this just didn't hit the mark. It was definitely more along the lines of a "1" on the spice scale, which was great for Ethan. He ate a whole plate of it! I don't know if using the full amount of cayenne pepper would have remedied this problem or not. We felt the dish was too chunky from the tomatoes (even though I bought the petite diced ones), and at the same time, the sauce was not thick or creamy enough either. Perhaps a heavier cream would have helped this? Maybe using a tikka paste versus a curry paste would have made a difference too? If I was to make the dish again (not sure if I will yet), I think I would opt for boneless chicken breast. The thighs may have given more flavor, but I definitely got a few bites of cartilage (not as easy to spot as the bones), and it wasn't pleasant. Overall, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the dish was bad. It just wasn't the chicken tikka masala I know and love and was craving when I decided to try the recipe. I may give it a try again and alter some ingredients to see if I can recreate the dish that I want.

As I noted in the previous paragraph, I was excited to see Ethan eat a good portion! For a little guy who normally prefers hot dogs and mac 'n cheese, he sometimes surprises us with what he will eat. :)