creating christmas traditions…

one of the most amazing things about forming your own family is the ability to birth your own family traditions…

i think a “family tradition” that my girls will hopefully look forward to fulfilling for many, many years to come was born last night.

every year since mister & i have been an item, we’ve gone to a local resort to view the “festival of lights.”
the whole town embraces the title & even the “gardens” are made up of lights in flower-form…light displays are everywhere.

we took ava last year at just one year of age & she loved it! she was bouncing up & down in the car (it’s a driving tour through a small resort at a mere 10 mph, so she sits safely on my lap).

this year, we knew she again would love it, so we eagerly anticipated the trip…

love it she did…

once again, she was perched quietly at attention on my lap, in awe of the scenes…nibbling her christmas cookies & asking for sips of mommy’s coffee (access denied of course – she had water).

that’s where the new tradition comes in – festival of lights, toasty car, christmas tunes on the radio, tin of homemade christmas cookies & as soon as she’s old enough (maybe next year), a yummy cup of hot chocolate (coffee for mom & dad)

it was so much fun. we loved watching her get excited over the different characters & it cracked us up to hear her call santa “a ho-ho” every time she spotted him.

i have a feeling i’m gonna like this holiday treat for many years to come…

a few of the displays we enjoyed were…

cinderella…

the gardens…ava & i had to walk through them to find the potty & i let her touch them.
she thought it was hilarious…

we also enjoyed the life-like nativity in the gardens & ava is still talking about her baby Jesus…i love it.

next year, i’ll have to take pictures.

maybe isla rae will join in on the fun – this year she peacefully snoozed through every “ooh” & “ahh.”

we may need a bigger vehicle with a larger front seat…

merry christmas!

turkey feta chowder

ok y’all – gotta get this recipe out of my head before you run out of the leftover turkey in the house. this is delicious (& half of the reason why thanksgiving made me extra excited this year). lame? no – it’s good. trust me.

ok…

this is one of those one-pot-wonder soups & your food processor or blender will do most of the work for you.

* start out by melting 2 tbs of butter in your stock pot (don’t burn it, just melt)

* add to that, 2 tbs flour – stir consistently, creating a rue

* once combined, slowly add in your 32 oz carton of turkey stock (i’m sure chicken stock would be fine). turkey’s just usually on sale post-thanksgiving…

* this is when i break out the whisk…your whisk is your friend…tilt your stock pot towards you, creating a deeper “pool” of the liquid & whisk the liquid into the rue until it’s a consistent, milky texture

* now let that stew for a few mins on low while you give your food processor a little attention

* add a few roughly chopped peeled carrots…

* now half of a med onion…

* last, throw in about 1/3 to 1/2 a jar of roasted red peppers. i like these, b/c they are in a jar of garlic-infused olive oil, so it’s a win-win. you get all of those flavors & oil at no extra cost! pour in about half of the oil (just enough to leave the remaining peppers still covered

* it’ll look a little something like this…i went ahead & threw in some salt & pepper as well (about a tsp of salt & 14 cranks of my pepper mill). don’t toss the processor bowl into the sink – you’ll need it again in a sec

* pour the lovely liquid into the pot & whisk again…

* stir in a generous cup of heavy cream…

* now – throw your left over turkey, about 6 to 8 white, button mushrooms & 1/2 a container of feta cheese into the food processor bowl – chop it up

* add that yummy combo into the pot & stir one last time – voila!

* couple with a salad – you can even make use of the extra ingredients from the soup – sliced carrots, chopped onion, fresh mushrooms, diced roasted red peppers, a little of that fantastic oil, some balsamic vinegar, a dash of salt, pepper & a sprinkle of feta…

the only thing missing from that scene is a toasty, buttered slice of baguette…enjoy!

this is so good, i bet you’ll buy a turkey breast just to make it again!

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ouch.

lip biopsy today, peeps.

it hurts somethin’ terrible.

and it was gross.

i’m exhausted from a VERY late night/early morning first.time.EVER.black.friday.nearly.twenty.four.hour.shopping.extravaganza

my abnormally larger bottom lip is throbbing at me…

hope you all had a wonderful holiday with your family/friends.

i have more to say about my rookie shopping spree & this centimeter-squared hole in my pout, but right now, it’s time to sleep!

pumpkin chai “pullcakes”

yes. that’s what i said…pumpkin chai pullcakes.

ask ava if she wants a cupcake & she’ll reply 90% of the time “pullcake, ok.”
the other 10%, she’ll simply say, “yes.”
i love her “yes” btw…so matter-of-fact in her sweet little voice. “yes.”

you’re still stuck on the “pullcakes,” aren’t you?

well, i have to say it’s officially the first word she’s made up all by herself.
i’m guessing it’s b/c you have to pull the paper from the cake to eat it???
i’m not sure really, but it’s adorable & it works for us, so we’ll most-likely never refer to them by any other name.

seriously, she’ll be 20 & we’ll still be buying her “pullcakes” for her birthday.

well, anyway, i told you i was going to tell you about these awesome cupcakes pullcakes we made the other morning…

here they are:

aren’t they purdy?

pumpkin chai cupcakes pullcakes topped with a dreamy cinnamon chai cream cheese frosting. yum.

my muse…elizabeth of simon & simon’s pumpkin cake.

Grandma Lova’s Pumpkin Cake Recipe
1 yellow cake mix {see I told you it was easy}
1/2 cup of water
1 egg
2 cups of canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Mix all of the ingredients with your mixer until smooth. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 -30 minutes….until a toothpick comes out clean.

this cake is probably, without a doubt, perfection the way it is, but like i’ve told you before & i’ll tell you again…

1 – i don’t like following recipes to the letter (which is why i am way more passionate about cooking…i’m all into the throwing random things together, tasting it as you go kind of thing)

2- i don’t like water.

well…i love water really…it’s God’s miracle liquid…
but in recipes, i feel it’s an opportunity lost in regards to adding extra flavors…
so i try my best not to use it when i can…

that’s where & why the chai comes in.

my hubby loves chai. he loves it.
he will grab chai from anywhere & critique it. he likes his chai.

thus…we had some chai k-cups hanging out in the pantry.

i don’t like chai. weird. i know. how can you not, right???
it’s like autumn in a steaming little cup of coziness!
but in the words of miss ava…”i don like it, mom.”

it was perfect in this recipe though.

so i brewed 10 oz of chai & added 1/2 c to my mixture after it had cooled.
i reserved the remainder for my frosting.

i also added a teaspoon of vanilla to the cake mixture. who doesn’t love vanilla extract? yum.

are you smelling this??? it’s awesome.

then, i followed elizabeth’s frosting directions as well…

Frosting
1 can vanilla frosting
1 oz brick of cream cheese softened
Mix frosting, and frost cooled cake {if you can wait that long}. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.

but i also added a teaspoon of vanilla & 1-2 tablespoons of chai.

just blend as you add the chai & stop when you hit a desirable consistency.
oooh! you know what else would be yummy??? pumpkin flavored coffee! yes!

while the cupcakes were baking, i let the frosting hang out in the refrigerator…

after the cupcakes cooled, i placed a heap of frosting in a small plastic baggie…
snipped the corner & went to town.
believe me, you’ll have more than enough of this heavenly stuff, so don’t be shy.
your mister will thank you.

of course ava & i had to sample one straight from the oven. that’s why it looks all warm & decadent…

i will say, if you try to eat them warm…they will fight you coming out of the liner…
but if wait it out, the liners will peel off much easier.
if you’re making this into a cake…well, then…no worries…dig in!

i finished them off with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon & a bit of sugar.
if i had mad skills…i’d add a sweet little caramelized sugar decoration.
like that…

wouldn’t that be divine?

finally, using a genius idea from pinterest…
we perfectly packaged a few for the moms & dads coming by that afternoon to pick up their lovies…

make ’em. refrigerate them. eat them. you’ll love ’em.

we promise.

xo

happy thanksgiving.

15-Minute Method: How to Boil the Perfect Egg…

One Good Egg

I am one of those people that has had to ask Google “how to boil eggs” probably more times than I should admit.  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t remember!  I must also confess, I would just pick a suggestion randomly, and they often didn’t even turn out well!

At last, by trial and error… I have finally achieved trial and success! These eggs are perfect!   Yes, I said it… PERFECT, and I’m happy to share the super-easy-to-remember process with you too!

egg

The “15-Minute Method”

Okay, I start out with my 2 quart pot (it’ll usually have a label on the underside or handle) – it’s like a medium sized pot.  I like to stick with 7 or 8 eggs at the most.

I cook several at a time, because my Avey-baby will gobble them up like nobody’s business.

Plus, they fit perfectly in this sized pot…

Place them in the pot filled half way with tap water before turning the burner on – for obvious reasons. If you try to place eggs into hot water, it will hurt, people! Plus, you can’t drop them in, because they’ll crack… so, unless you want poached eggs, trust me.

Then bring it to a rolling boil and set the timer immediately to 10 minutes (once it’s boiling). I usually have to turn the heat down a bit halfway through, because the roll gets a little violent, and I’ve quickly given myself a poached egg or two. Do not, I repeat, do not put a lid on it.

Once the 10 minutes is up, remove the pot from heat and let them sit in the pot for an additional 5 minutes – still uncovered.

Once the 5 minutes is up, drop them into a prepared ice bath – I like to use this large, glass measuring cup, because it’s easy… I use it to scoop up a bunch of ice, and then I just pour the water out when it’s time to stick them in the fridge.

Plus, being that it’s glass, it’s easy to see how many eggs I have left and identify them as hard-boiled…  You don’t want to stick ’em back in an egg carton and grab the wrong kind when you’re in a hurry.

These eggs have been perfect every time, and they’re a cinch to peel…

Quick Re-cap

I call it the “15-Minute Method, because it takes exactly 15 minutes to achieve perfectly hard-boiled eggs.  Lucky for me, it’s such an easy phrase to remember.

So, 10 minutes boiling and 5 minutes sitting in the hot water, removed from heat.  Ice bath, peel, DONE!

See??? Perfection!

eggs

Miss Avey would have to agree… She just downed three!

Enjoy!

 photo a9de1fdb-52d3-4604-a79d-ba7ee6db5adb_zps8f990315.jpg

nod of approval!

i just took a peek at the new land of nod catalog & they are ready for the holidays! i’ve always been a fan, b/c their stuff is unique & if you can hit the clearance & sales at the right time, you can really get quality products at a reasonable price. not to mention, when i was pregnant with ava bean, they sent me a complimentary journal that i used everyday to record her everything & i loved it so much that i searched relentlessly for another one online when pregnant with isla rae. {it’s this one by the way}

so anyway, i’m a big fan of land of nod.

they now carry blabla, which i had found via layla grayce back before isla’s arrival. super cute knit dolls like this bunny…

i adore these new show your stripes animals. so cute!

isn’t he cute? i think i love the elephant too…

i have been obsessed with pbk chairs, but land of nod has pulled ahead here too. check out these adorable & unique “nod chairs.” love ’em!

i’ve been looking for a play tea set for ava for a while now. she’s already broken three pieces to her porcelain set…this would be perfect for her morning coffee… 😉 she’s so my child…

they also will donate to a great cause “no kid hungry” for purchasing products such as the tea set.

i am also a huge fan of imaginary play & educational toys…land of nod certainly offers a plethora of choices in those departments. this store is every teacher-mom’s dream!

plus, if you get stumped…they offer a gift guide to help quell the sensory overload…

ok, well that about wraps it up for my unsolicited, free reviews & opinions! happy holiday shopping friends – let me know what great deals or finds you discover!

oh these are just too sweet!