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Yesterday we went out as a family… it was a nice break from being cooped up inside for weeks from the rain and flooding, Texas has been in a vicious cycle of floods and thunderstorms now for weeks, with even a tornado that almost touched down in our city, only a few miles from us.

Getting out to experience the sunshine and water was a welcome change!  Finally some Summer!

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Turkey, Cheese, Tomato Lettuce Wrap… cold and fresh tasting in the hot sun

We always pack lunches and snacks… cold sandwiches, or wraps, salads, cups of cold applesauce, pudding or yogurt.  Anything really cold… it tastes even better in the heat & humidity.

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One tuckered out little guy!

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Where we usually eat lunch and snacks… over the lake water

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Someone loved the lake breeze when he woke up!

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Oh Mama!

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There is nothing like having mommy friends that bring you food after having a baby!  Having mom friends over, the kids screaming and playing, jumping on our trampoline in the beautiful Texas weather… the sunlight, the baby blue sky days – there is just nothing better!

Except maybe having babies close together with one of your girlfriends 😉  That just might be better ❤

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So loved & so blessed.

Perfect Sugar Cookies & Royal Icing

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I’ve been doing sugar cookies with my son every December, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to make the process easier or less overwhelming so that the fun remains the priority in our baking and decorating for Christmas!  Since I’m especially visual when it comes to baking (I need to know what the texture is supposed to look like), this year I’ve found two youtube videos that perfectly show how easy it is to 1) make the sugar cookies from scratch and 2) make EASY Royal Icing that looks so beautiful and is so easy to decorate any cookie with!

 

Sugar Cookie Recipe

Watch this video

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg – room temperature
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
 Directions:
  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl with a hand mixer or using a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl as needed.
  3. Meanwhile, crack the egg in a small bowl and add the vanilla extract and almond extract and whisk lightly with a fork, just to combine. With the mixer on low, add the egg mixture gradually and mix until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl at least once.
  4. With the mixer on low speed and using a large spoon or scoop, gradually add flour mixture until the flour disappears and the mixture forms a slightly crumbly dough.
  5. Place two sheets of plastic wrap onto the work surface and dump the dough onto one of the sheets.Gather the dough together using the plastic wrap and form into a ball. Divide the dough in half with a pastry cutter or knife and place one half of the dough on the other sheet of plastic wrap. Form each piece of dough into a ball and then flatten with your hand and smooth the dough into a disk about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap the dough in the plastic and refrigerate at least 1-2 hours or until firm. Dough can be refrigerated for a few days at this point.

6. Remove 1 chilled dough disk from fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes before rolling. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place some flour into a small bowl for flouring the cookie cutters.

7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly flour work surface and rolling pin. Place dough on surface and very lightly flour dough. Be sure the dough is smooth around the edges before rolling. Roll out the dough to about 1/8 – ¼ inch thick. Turn as you roll and add more flour to surface and pin, as needed, to prevent the dough from sticking. If the edges begin to separate while rolling, just push them together. Note: If the dough is too cold, it will crack when you try to roll it and if it’s too warm it will be very sticky. Let cold dough rest for a few more minutes or gently work it with your hands. Soft dough should be returned to the fridge until firm.

8. Dip cookie cutter into flour, press cookie cutter into dough to cut cookies as close together as possible. Remove excess dough from in between cookies and set aside to roll. Place cookies on baking sheet or slide a thin, lightly floured spatula under the cookie, move it to baking sheet and release cookies onto sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Reroll excess dough gently and cut. Place baking sheet with uncooked cookies, into the fridge to chill for about 15 minutes. Chilled dough will help prevent spreading and over browning.

9. Bake chilled cookies for about 8 -11 minutes or until edges begin to turn golden brown. Cooking time depends on size of cookies – 1/8 inch thick should be done in about 8 minutes, but ovens vary and so will cooking times, so keep an eye on them.

Royal Icing Recipe

Watch this video:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar – sifted – Also known as powdered sugar or icing sugar
  • ¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract

 

 Directions:
  1. Using a mixer with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
  3. With the mixer on low, gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on medium high until thoroughly combined, shiny and smooth. Scarp the sides and bottom of bowl a few times as you mix. It the powdered sugar begins to stick to the sides of the bowl, place a rubber spatula under some warm water and then scrape the bowl. If the icing is too thin, add more sugar or beat a bit longer and it should tighten up. If the icing seems to be too thick, then add a little warm water, about 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  4. Add food coloring, if desired. Spoon, spread or pipe onto cookies, cakes, cupcakes or desserts.
  5. Use immediately or place in an airtight container, with plastic wrap placed directly on top of icing, as the icing hardens and forms a crust when exposed to air.
  6. Note: If spooning or spreading the icing, be sure to cover the bowl with plastic wrap as you work, as the icing can begin to form a crust within minutes when exposed to air. Keep some damp paper towels available or even a small pitcher of warm water to rinse utensils (spoons, spatulas, knives), as they will get crusty as you use them. It can be messy, but if you’re ready for it, everything will be fine.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo & Recipe videos all belong to Dishin’ with Di

Halloween Cookie Cakes

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This month we’ve made a couple of cookie cakes – one just the size of a personal pizza, and then one really large one (the size of a pizza pan) for a party.  These taste amazing, from a homemade chocolate chip cookie dough recipe from GOOP.  It’s truly easy to do – easier than making cookies even because it takes less time!  And yet it tastes richer than the commercial cookie cakes they overprice.

Enjoy!

Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Read original issue here

ingredients

makes about 40 cookies

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) lightly salted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (Nestlé can’t really be beat)

preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 350º.

2. Whisk the flour, soda and salt together in a bowl.

3. In another large bowl, mix the butter with a wooden spoon to lighten it a bit and then mix in the sugars.

4. Add the water, vanilla and eggs to the butter mixture.

5. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined and then fold in the chocolate chips.

6. Spread all of the batter evenly across a foiled, greased pizza pan.  It should be about 1/4″ think.

7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the center is firm and the whole cookie is browned.

8. Let the cake sit in the pizza pan to cool, and leave it in the pan for easy transfer (cookies break).

 Recipe adapted from Tate’s Bake Shop.

Our pictures of this baking pleasure!  My son loves this first pic… says it reminds him of how good it tastes 😉

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It takes only a few minutes to whip up the batter (the only thing that takes awhile is waiting for the butter to soften to Room Temp – but that can be sped up with the microwave).  You can also use any kind of chip… peanut butter, white chocolate (which is divine!), M&M’s work well, or caramel chips.  Doing it homemade gives you endless options to make this your own special cake.

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If you’re worried about decorating it, don’t worry – with the variety of icing tips out there, you will be able to make a pretty design.  Start with the edges… this is just a simple “star” tip (a classic one at the store) and you just get used to pressing only for a second and out will come this little design.

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For me, I’ve practiced the ghost busters logo, but it’s also easy to write on cake, outlining the letters with another (skinnier tipped) color.  Sprinkles add a great dimension as well, and your kids will love putting them on!

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And the end result!

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Celebrate the Pumpkin

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I’m loving our Fall 2014!!  There is something about pumpkins and looking forward to the activities of October that just gets me pumped & excited!  Almost every weekend in October is full of plans and pumpkin-y things, from the first weekend when we picked out pumpkins 🙂 ❤ to Oktoberfest at the Beer Gardens this coming weekend, to Halloween parties – I want my son to really appreciate everything in each time’s season… not just feel like time passes by, but to learn how to have JOY in every season with all its unique changes and flair.

Soon, we’ll be posting us making the Pumpkin Spice (Latte) Muffins, complete with the video we use & the recipe.  We’ve already done our first batch of sugar cookies glazed with Dinosaurs, shields, and swords for my son’s Tuesday class once a week.  We’ll be posting a Frittata breakfast post – the perfect Fall morning treat aside with all its spices and warmth, along with Tamale Pie next week – with multiple ways to create it from “Yankee” aka – not really Tamale Pie, to Quick & Easy, to the real thing which uses the authentic masa.

Just this Wednesday, my husband and I were able to sneak away for a date night downtown.  It was peaceful and breezy – the perfect Fall evening – as we watched the river that runs throughout our downtown turn to black with the night sky.  It was a full moon that night, and we were able to just relax & enjoy each other, listening to the music and night life all around us.

Before we got to our destination, we walked through one of our favorite places, La Villita, or “the little village.”  This place has special memories for me as I used to dance there on weekends for performances.  This year they decorated every corner and front shop porch with pumpkins – I couldn’t resist capturing the memory!

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This is what we saw when we first came inside La Villita… the beautiful vines in the backdrop, and the first of their pumpkin show.

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And an adorable, Halloween cat – this cat could easily have been named “Pumpkin” in my book.  ❤

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The colors of the pumpkins are just so pretty in this picture – and how they slightly reflect on the white wall.  It was so beautiful.

 

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Decorating our own pumpkins with Glow in the Dark glue!

Inspiration

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I swear I can smell Fall in the air when I go out early in the morning on our patio.  I truly have a love for all the seasons – I appreciate the changes in each – but I think I love Fall a little bit better.  Summer has been wonderful, yes, even while pregnant and over-heating from just being outside for 5 minutes in the afternoon.  But thankfully, we live very close to a huge waterpark, and that’s been our playground all summer long.  The best feeling is walking barefoot in sand!

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Or for a kid, playing in it!

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The summer has been incredible also in that we got to see our son involved in sports – his first ever season playing soccer, and he’s already really good.  His last game he scored 3 goals, and played really well!  He’s athletic like his daddy and I were.

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He’s the one in the middle, they are all so adorable!

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He’s throwing the ball in, I’m behind him sitting down.

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It was wonderful going to his games every Saturday… love this little boy so much!

Ready for Fall!

I’m addicted to all the wonderful Fall foods to cook… just some from last year that I posted recipes to are the Mini Apple Turnovers, the Creamy Potato Soup with Sausage, and the decadent Traditional Chocolate Tart that has changed Christmas dessert for me forever now.  All recipes can be found here

There will be many more delicious recipes this coming season to look forward to!

Some links that are awesome:

Pregnant Mommy Rant (Things you really wish you could say to people when you’re pregnant… but you can’t)

An interview with the gorgeous Gigi Hadid on her beauty routine

Miranda Kerr’s 7 Rules for Adulthood (See if you’re stuck in immaturity or are really growing up)

Ideas for an Easier Morning

 

The morning – especially that quiet segment between when I awake and when others do – is like a sacred time of renewal, meditation, much needed prayer, and finally… creativity.  According to a study done by PHD, a media planning agency, 69% of women say they feel their least attractive when they wake up in the morning.*  I don’t know about you, but I definitely believe everyone’s morning would go easier, and feel happier if we didn’t collectively feel so yuck in these precious morning hours.

Here are some tips of my own, along with points taken from Allure’s July 2014 issue article, Rise & Shine:

  • Use a coffee timer   –   seriously, no other single device will make your morning more beautiful than being able to walk over to a brewing pot of coffee, the aroma itself is enough to pull me out of bed at an unwholesome hour.  If you don’t do coffee, or do instant tea (my best friend loves her Green Tea in the morning), taking the extra effort to just ensure that everything is organized and in its place is enough to make the process easier, and even pleasurable.
  • Leisurely Plan Your Outfit   –   Savannah Guthrie, a Today co-anchor, says she forces herself to think about what she’s going to wear for the day while in the shower, so that by the time she gets out she knows exactly what she’s going to put on.*
  • Use a tongue scraper   –   nothing works better to get your mouth feeling really clean… and if you’re like me, you don’t feel as though your morning is complete without your mouth feeling beautifully fresh.
  • Wear easy morning makeup   –   After a quick wash with an alpha-hydroxyl toner, use a tinted moisturizer or BB cream, along with cream concealer to dab with your finger under your eyes & along the ridge of your nose & sides of your nostrils.  A cream blush can double as color on your cheeks as well as naturally tinted looking lips.  Allure’s article also suggests a soft pencil eyeliner (that smudges for you), mascara, and a sharp eyebrow pencil to really make your eyes morning ready.
  • Hair   –   showering the night before gives you the option of having clean, ready to go hair in the morning, and taking an extra step or two right before sleep will save time and energy as well as give you that morning-goddess feeling.  Use leave-in conditioner on the bottom-half sections of your hair and braid in one or two braids to sleep in for soft, naturally wavy-looking, ready to go morning hair.

 

 

 

 

*Points from Rise & Shine by Danielle Pergament in Allure July 2014 issue

Rainy Day Boots

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We love the rain!  A few weeks ago, it was raining for a couple of days… being stuck inside the house is never fun… so we went out when it stopped for awhile.  Water was still running off the roof so my son grabbed his old rain boots that don’t really fit anymore, and tried to catch water in them. 

It made for an adorable photo opp!

Awakening of Spring

 

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I grew up in the country, literally between two city limits, and in the middle of nowhere.  It was still close enough to a town to call that our city, but it was in between.  We had some land, 6 acres that I would explore and play in.  I had a Secret Garden… I loved that movie… so there was a hidden place that was magical to me on our property.  It was majestic.

So now, every Spring I think about the music from the Secret Garden, called the Awakening of Spring, when in the movie, everything starts to burst open, life recreates itself, the earth is reborn.