Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Weekend of Celebrating

This weekend we celebrated Frank's birthday. His parents came to town on Friday afternoon, and we had a wonderful dinner at our house. Frank has lately become the best steak chef, and I have been raving about his steaks to his mom. So, she brought some filets and Frank cooked them. He does a special dry rub on the steaks and then pan sears in a skillet and then finishes them off in the oven. He also makes a red wine reduction to go with the steaks. They are oh so juicy. I handled the sides for the birthday dinner. We had steamed green peas and baked sweet potatoes with cinnamon and brown sugar. And of course, we all had a piece of the Boston Cream Pie that I made on Thursday night. On Saturday we did some more celebrating. All week Frank told me that he didn't want to make a big deal about his birthday. But as the week went on, we had several friends ask what we were going to do and mention that they would love to get together. So, we threw together a last minute birthday lunch. We are so thankful for our sweet family and friends that made this such a special birthday.Originally, Frank's parents had planned to go back home after lunch, but we talked them into staying another night and just spending the whole weekend with us. After the birthday lunch, we all rested and then went out for some Little Pea Adventures. Frank and his dad headed to the Hunting and Fishing Expo, and Frank's mom and I waited for Little to wake up from her nap and then headed to Huntsville to go shoe shopping and to meet the guys for dinner.

On Sunday we all went to church and then lunch with friends. It was a great birthday weekend. Stay tuned because next weekend we'll have ANOTHER birthday weekend. This one will be my big 3-0!!!

Mollie's New Friend

This cat showed up at our house a few days ago. She is so sweet and clearly an indoor cat. She must live in a house with a dog because she is not the least bit scared of Mollie. Actually, she was rubbing up against Mollie. Normally, Mollie does not like cats and would chase them, but with this cat she is different. I think she is just confused because this cat doesn't run from her and is the same size. Because she's been hanging around so much, we named her Alley (as in Alley Cat) and we've been giving her dog food (we don't have cat food around these parts) and water until we can locate her owner. We've posted on our neighborhood online forum, so hopefully we'll find her home soon.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Little's One Year Photo Shoot

Today my sweet friend, Anne, came and took pictures of Little. Though she is 13 months old now, we are still calling this her One year photo shoot. We are just running a little behind due to vacations, birthdays, etc. Most of these were taken on our front porch, which is also where Little's newborn pictures were taken. My how things have changed. I love looking back through all her pictures to see how she has grown and turned from a baby into a little girl. What sweet memories! I'd love to post all of the photos, but here are just a few.
These two love each other...And a couple of pictures with Momma...

Boston Cream Pie...Oh My!

Frank's favorite dessert is homemade apple pie...or so I thought. When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday cake, I asked him if he would even eat whatever I made because he's been on a work-out/diet routine. He said there was only one kind of dessert that would make him crash his diet...Boston Cream Pie. I had no clue what he was talking about, but from what he described, it did not sound good. Nevertheless, I began a search for a recipe. Some were way too complicated. Some were way too easy. But I found one that was just right. And let me tell is delectable! I even impressed myself with this one. So, I thought I'd share the goodness. This recipe was found online at a Paula Deen forum, and then I changed it up just a bit.

First, I'll let you know that I spared no expense on the fat content of this cake. Normally I would use 1% milk and light sour cream, but NOT this time! I used whole milk and regular sour cream. And wait until you see the rest of the ingredients. This dessert is rich! One thing I really liked about this recipe is that the actual "cake" part of the dessert is a cake mix. I did not want to have to make a cake from scratch. And with all the other richness of the dessert, you seriously cannot tell that the cake is not made from scratch. Trust me. Or just come by and taste a piece of Frank's birthday cake.

There are three parts to the cake.

Step one: First part is the yellow cake. Use 1 box of yellow cake mix and prepare according to the directions on the box for a round cake. FYI: You only need one layer, so you can either make something else with the rest or throw it away. The only change I made to the box directions is that I used olive oil instead of vegetable oil in my batter. When your cake is done baking, cool completely.

Step two: The chocolate ganache topping. This is good to make as soon as you put your cake in the oven because after you make the chocolate topping, you have to put it in the fridge to cool.


6 1oz squares of Baker's unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups confectioners sugar

Use a double boiler and melt the chocolate and the cream together. I do not own a double boiler, but you can see in the picture that you can easily make one yourself by putting a glass mixing bowl in a saucepan. Be sure to stir regularly so as not to burn the chocolate.
Once the mixture is smooth whisk in the sugar and keep whisking until it is smooth.
Put the ganache in the fridge and let it cool until it is a spreadable consistency or about 30 minutes.
Step 3: The filling

1 small box of instant vanilla pudding mix
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup sour cream


In a large bowl mix together the pudding, cream, confectioners’ sugar, milk, and sour cream.
Beat at medium speed until stiff peaks form - should be the consistency of thick pudding.

Once your cake is cooled, you are ready to assemble. Cut the cake in half. The best way to do this evenly is to first make a 2 inch cut around the outer edge of the cake. Then you can cut all the way through. I used a fish filet knife because of how long and sharp it was, and it worked perfectly! Slide the top layer onto another plate so you can put the filling on the bottom layer. Then, slide the top layer back on. By this time, your ganache should be ready to spread over the top.

Word of advice...this dessert is too rich to have with a glass of milk. I'd stick with water! Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quick and Delicious Quesadillas!

I'm always looking for quick and easy meal ideas (that actually taste good). At our last playdate, Big Jen had some cheese quesadillas that she had fixed for Isaac. Little, who always eats Isaac's food when it's available, really liked them. So I decided to pick up some tortillas and try it myself. The first batch of quesadillas were just made with Monterey Jack cheese, and they were very tasty. But since then, I've decided to throw in a few tricks. I'm still planning on experimenting with other fillings, but for now here is my black bean and cheese quesadilla recipe. This literally takes less than 2 minutes to make, and it is delish!

1. Spray your skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat to medium/high.
2. Lay tortilla on skillet and then put cheese on half. I used the shredded four-cheese Mexican mix. Put a couple of spoonfuls of black beans on top of the cheese and then sprinkle some taco seasoning on top of that. Lastly, add more cheese.3. Fold over the unused half. By this time, the bottom should be starting to brown. When browned to your liking, flip over for a few more seconds to brown the other side.4. Cut into triangles using spatula, and serve with salsa and sour cream. Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Family Reunion

This past Saturday, we drove down to Birmingham for our semi-annual family reunion. Though lots of family couldn't make it this time, we still had a great crowd. It was a lot of fun seeing how much all our kids had grown. For some of them, it was the first time meeting Little.

These four are the glue that ties us all together...My mom, her sisters and her brother. They take a picture like this every time we get together. They are in order left to right, oldest to youngest, but my mom would tell you they are in order left to right in order of cuteness.
At former family reunions, when we took a picture of the "kids" it was all of us, including me and my cousins. Now when we take a picture of the "kids", it's a picture of the kids' kids, meaning our parents' grandkids. My how things have changed in just a few years. Here is a picture of the "kids" in attendance at this reunion, which is about half of the total kids in the family. It was fun watching all of them interact, especially for those of us with the newest additions.
I wish I'd gotten a picture of everybody, but here are a few pics of some of my cousins. Have I mentioned that I have the best cousins in the world?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fun in the Sun at the Pool Playdate

Today we had a pool playdate at our house, and we were so happy to have such beautiful weather for this one. You might remember the last one got rained out and we had to play indoors. Not today. We had lots of fun in the pool and most of the kids even ate their lunches outside on the deck at the picnic table.We didn't manage to get a group shot at this playdate, but I tried to get a few shots of everyone.

Lauren, Allie and Baby #2 (who I found out today Allie named of baby is unknown at this point but apparently Bubba works either way)

Joy and Caroline

Me and Little (Yes, that's right, I finally made it into a picture. You know how it goes for the person who is always taking the pictures...never in them.)

Lindsey and Copeland
Lindsey is one of my very best friends. We went to high school together, were in youth group together and were in each other's weddings. She just moved to North AL, and I'm SO excited!

Big Jen and her future daughter-in-law

New buddies, Little and Copeland

Sweet friends, Grayson and Luke

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Our First Family Vacation

For the past week, we were at Orange Beach enjoying our first family vacation with Little. Though we had wifi, I wasn't able to update the blog because we were too busy relaxing to the max! We truly had the most wonderful time. The weather, though forecasted to storm every day, was perfect the whole time we were there. We couldn't have asked for a better time. This was Little's first time to be away from home (other than staying at my parents' house when the tornadoes were here in April), and she did surprisingly great.

We got our vacation started on Sunday. We decided to stop halfway to let Little walk around and stretch her legs. As we were getting close to Montgomery, I called my best friend Jessica from high school to see what she and her family were up to. Luckily, they were eating lunch at East Chase (it's kind of like Bridge Street) and were going to wait for us to get there. I had not seen her in years, but as soon as we saw each other it was like no time had passed. We lost track of time and ended up staying with them for over an hour and a half. Good thing we were on vacation with no plans. I have never been so close to anyone (other than my husband, of course) as I was to this girl. I love her and share a bond with her that is indescribable. What a perfect way to start our vacation! So then we headed on to the beach. On Monday morning, as soon as we woke up we headed out to introduce Little to the sand and ocean. She was a little unsure at first, but Frank was very patient and just sat with her. Eventually, she was sitting in the water and letting him bury her legs in the sand. Here's a pic of the first time she touched the sand. Our condo was conveniently located on the ground floor on the corner of the building, so we had a huge porch and grassy area that Little really enjoyed walking around and picking up leaves and sticks. We could just sit on the porch and let her go. And right outside our back door was this great little Splash Pad. There were toddlers at the Splash Pad at all times, so we spent a lot of time out there. We were definitely spoiled by having it right outside our door. The pool was right next to it also, so we were close enough to where we could put Little down for a nap and go out to the pool with the baby monitor while she slept. My parents came to the beach on Monday to spend vacation with us, and Little was so glad to see them. We spent almost every minute of each day outside and then went out to eat a few times as well. Here is a shot of my parents at Lulu's. Lulu's is such a fun place to eat, not to mention the fried green tomatoes and cheeseburgers are excellent. We ate lunch on the water there and then we were able to go out to the play area where they had all kinds of things to do. There was a huge sandy area with beach toys for kids to play with. There were lots of kids everywhere, and Little enjoyed making new friends. We also ate at Calypso Joe's. Here we were able to walk down to the docks and watch the people clean the fish they caught that day.
We had lots of good food, great weather, and just an all around wonderful time. I would definitely call our first family vacation a success. To see more pictures from our trip, check out my Facebook page.