keeping up...

with life in general is taking all the energy that I have right now, which is why the blog has been somewhat neglected.  I have lots of things swirling around in my brain though, and lots of recipes that I want to work on, so keep your eyes open for new stuff!

Thank you all for being a part of our lives here...  it is so much fun to share my thoughts, recipes and babies and to know that you all care even a little!  :o)

I promise I will not neglect the blog for long...  I enjoy it way to much for that!  And I would miss you all too much!   Happy New Years to all of you!!

(and WOW I just realized how much I use exclamation points!  :o)  I'll work on that... maybe that should be my new year's resolution?)


what I want...

is this sweet handcrafted MamAmor doll!
She is pregnant, gives birth - complete with umbilical cord and placenta, and breastfeeds... and she's fully customizable!  How cool is that?!
Check out their website if you want more pictures and info on this special doll!


Haakon's birth story...

Is not ready yet...  I'm still working on it...  Sorry!  There is just so much to process and communicate with you and I don't want to do a half-way job.

I will tell you, though, that it was a completely life-changing event for me!  I have never felt so weak and at the same time so strong...  so completely vulnerable and yet so completely supported.

I gave birth at home to my beautiful son, and I would not change a thing about his birth!  And, in case you're wondering...  yes, I will be planning to birth my next child(ren) at home, and I can't wait!

Also, we love to talk about this and would especially love to answer your questions, if you have any!


baked caramel pecan french toast

I love anything with caramel and pecans involved...  and this is the perfect combination of those flavors in a delicious easy breakfast!

The best part?  Most of this can be made ahead, so you just have to put on the topping in the morning and throw it in the oven!  It doesn't get much better than that!!

Baked Caramel Pecan French Toast Recipe

for the base
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups lowfat milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 loaf french bread, diagonally sliced into 1" slices
for the topping
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream and vanilla.  Dip the bread slices into the mixture and then place in a greased 9x13"baking dish, overlapping slightly if necessary.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350ºF.  In a medium bowl, stir together the topping ingredients and spread all over the french toast.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden and set.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving!


homemade almond roca

I have been working on Christmas presents lately...  Doing a lot of homemade this year, and having so much fun finding new, special things to make!

This recipe makes a delicious copycat Almond Roca...  And no, I haven't exactly decided who is getting this, but I hope whoever does enjoys it!!

Homemade Almond Roca Recipe
adapted from this recipe on Tasty Kitchen!

1 lb butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups chopped almonds
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

In a large heavy pot, on high heat, cook together the butter, sugar and water, stirring constantly through 3 stages...  1. smooth and runny, 2. cheesy (like melted white cheese), and 3. smooth and golden brown.  Once the caramel mixture reaches the 3rd stage (smooth golden brown) remove the pot from the heat immediately and stir in the 2 cups chopped almonds.

Pour the mixture out onto a foil-lined and buttered baking sheet.  Let it set for a few minutes and then sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.  After about 5 minutes, or when all the chocolate chips look shiny and soft, spread them out thinly and evenly all over the top of the caramel mixture in the pan.  Sprinkle the top with the 1/2 cup almonds and let cool completely.

(If your kitchen/house is too warm, you may need to put this into the fridge to finish cooling and setting the chocolate before breaking!)  Once the candy is completely cool and the chocolate has set, break it into pieces and store in Tupperware, in the fridge!


mama cloth... day 5

TMI disclaimer again!  Guys, please scroll down and look at some recipes or cute baby pictures...  and if you don't listen to me...  don't say I didn't warn you!  :o)

I almost can't believe I'm saying this, but I love my mama cloth even more now on day 5!

I had to use a disposable pad the other night while I was doing laundry and I ended up getting up in the middle of the night when the dryer was done to switch back to one of my Lunapads because I was so uncomfortable.  I guess that means I am truly a convert now!  :o)

Ok, so I know what you're really wanting to know, now that we've talked about the comfort factor...  How do I deal with one more load of 'yucky' laundry to do?!  Well, here's the thing...  it's really not nearly as bad as you think!

Here's what I do:  I keep a wet-bag hanging in my bathroom (just like I have for our cloth diapers) and when I change pads I put the used one into the bag.  When I am almost out of pads (about every other day) I run a load of laundry.

In my front-loader, I do a soak with a capful or so of bac-out, then a "whitest whites" wash with a small amount of cloth-friendly detergent (I use Country Save) and then sometimes another rinse... if I feel like it.   I then throw the clean pads in the dryer on medium heat (with NO dryer sheets!) until they are dry.  And that's it!

Doesn't sound too bad, does it?  Even after deciding to try mama cloth, I have been nervous about the laundry part.  But it turns out I had nothing to be nervous about, and one extra load of laundry (that doesn't have to be folded, by the way!) is so worth it for the comfort and cost-savings of cloth!


a comparison...

of brothers.

12/9/10  baby Haakon, 7 days old.  8lbs
4/16/09  baby Bjørn, 5 days old.  6lbs


first impressions...

"Hmmm...  look at this interesting little baby daddy's holding..."
"What?!  You mean we're keeping him?!!"


mama cloth... day 1

...here we go!  :o)

First of all, for those of you who haven't heard of it before...  mama cloth is just what it sounds like: cloth pads for women.  So men, feel free to quickly scroll down and browse through some of my recipes...  since that is why you're here, right?  ;o)  And if you choose to continue reading this post...  don't say I didn't warn you!
Ok ladies, I know, I know...  it sounds like a step backwards for us doesn't it?  I mean, didn't our moms and grandmas have to use 'mama cloth' all the time, and weren't they thrilled with the invention of disposable products that they didn't have to wash?

Sure, disposable products can be very convenient.  But they can also be very uncomfortable, not to mention hard on our bodies - having all those chemicals in our most sensitive area.  Disposable pads and tampons can actually make our periods heavier and more painful as our bodies react to the unnatural chemicals that we are being exposed to!

Many of us understand this when it comes to diapering our babies.  We use cloth diapers on our babies to protect them, and also for their comfort!  (Not to mention the significant cost savings!)  So why, if cloth is good enough for our babies, is it not good enough for us?

I decided to try mama cloth partly for the cost savings, and partly for my health, but mostly for the comfort factor.  As all women know, there is a very distinct level of discomfort that comes with our periods that we all feel is inevitable.  We put up with it as best we can and count down the days until we can be 'free' again each month.  Well, I am not willing to accept that inevitability anymore.  I need to know if there is a better way!

And that brings me to today.  A few months ago I decided to buy a set of Lunapads to try during this postpartum period.  I prepped them and had them ready to go.  But the baby came last week...  and I chickened out.  I just couldn't do it.  I was afraid of the mess, the awkwardness... the unknown.

So I used the regular disposable pads I had on hand for just-in-case.  And I didn't think about my Lunapads again.  But then a few days passed and the discomfort got worse.  The oh-so-sensitive skin down there was screaming to me for relief, and I just couldn't take it anymore!

After a day of misery I remembered my stash of Lunapads that were hiding away.  I pulled them out, somewhat reluctantly, yet determined to give them a chance.  So...  what do I think??

Well, the first thing I can comment on is the comfort factor.  Yes, there is a bit of awkwardness at the different 'feel' of cloth pads compared to disposables.  But I wouldn't call it discomfort at all, it is just different.  Comfort wise, I am in a very happy place right now!

At this point I know I am much happier than I was a few days ago, and I'm sure I'll have lots more to say after I've had a chance to try these out a little longer!


the hardest part...

so far has been how unable I currently am to take care of my firstborn on my own.

I can't pick him up and cuddle him... or rock him to sleep... or take his hand and go with him when he wants me... and it absolutely breaks my heart.

I miss him so much, even though he is right here in the room with me.  I want nothing more right now than to hold him and rock him until he has had his fill of mommy-time...  and until I have had my fill of Bjørn time!

In some ways I feel like my body has betrayed me...  It has carried me through one of the most difficult and empowering experiences of my life, and then decided it needs it's own time to heal and regenerate.

And yes, of course my body deserves that time...  has earned that time... but my heart doesn't agree.

My heart believes the race was finished when my sweet baby was born, but unfortunately that's not true.

Yes, we did technically finish the race and we are holding the prize in our arms... but there are still several laps of cooling down and restoration left to go, and my heart just wants to be done!!


He's HERE!!!!

Haakon Andreas Thomas
was peacefully born at home in the water at 6:16am on Thursday, December 2nd, 2010!
He weighs 7lbs 15.5oz and is 20.5 inches long!
We are so excited to finally have him in our arms!  Thanks for all your love and prayers and keep your eyes open for lots more pictures and his birth story...  hopefully sooner than later!!  :o)

Hi!  I'm Annalise!

My husband, My Love, is Andrew...  He is a great friend and and amazing dad.  I am so blessed to be walking this life along side him!

We have 3 kiddos & another one on the way:

Navy is my 10 year old stepson...  He is a charming, spirited pre-teen who definitely keeps us on our toes.  Sometimes I blog about my life as a 'Stepmom'.  Most times I keep those things to myself.  But please feel free to reach out to me on this topic.  I love to talk to other stepmoms!

Bjørn is my 3 year old son... I never knew what being a mom really meant until he was born, and WOW does that change every. single. day.  I love that boy so much it hurts!  He is my challenge...  my passionate handful...  but in a beautiful life-changing way.  God is definitely using him to refine my spirit, and I am grateful every day for him.

Haakon is 18 months old, and he has an extra special place in my heart...  he was my first baby born at home!  He is so incredibly happy... I honestly didn't even think it was possible for a toddler to be filled with so much joy.  He laughs... all the time!  No exaggeration.

Baby Girl is due in August 2012...  and yes, I am absolutely ready to meet her!

This is our life:

I am a big city girl married to a small town boy. Every day is a joy and a challenge as I learn to live and love this small town life.

I am a foodie... with a deep passion for everything edible and for sharing what I love with others.  Food is my love language...  If I bake for you, I love you.  That's just all there is to it!

I spend my days taking care of my kiddos, trying to keep ahold of the housework and feeding my friends and family.

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what in the world I was thinking getting 12 chicks when I was 6 months pregnant and dreaming about all the eggs I am hoping they will repay us with for our efforts!

I'm a wife & mom, a baker, a cook & a blogger.

We live a very real life, and eat as much real food as possible.  Classic, beautiful comfort food is my passion and filling my family and friends with delicious treats is where I find my joy.

I believe in living a very full life of moderation.  We have our cake and eat it too...  we just don't eat the whole thing at once.  Sharing it with friends means we don't have to feel bad about making a different cake tomorrow!

Welcome to my journey...  It's nice to meet you!


sandbakkelse - norwegian almond butter cookies

Ok, I want to warn you right now...  when I say butter cookies, I mean butter cookies.  This recipe is chock full of butter.  One whole pound to be exact!  But don't be scared...  these are so worth every bit of that butter!

This is a traditional norwegian cookie recipe that my grandma has made for years.  In some places these are made in special molds, like little tart shells, but for ease and simplicity sake, my grandma makes them as regular cookies...  and I think they are perfect!

You really can't beat these with a big hot mug of coffee...  And I like to add the red sugar sprinkles around the holidays for a little festivity!

Sandbakkelse Recipe

2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
colored sugar sprinkles, optional

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, almond extract and salt until well blended.  Mix in the flour, until you have a smooth, well-mixed dough.

Scoop the dough out onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  Flatten with a fork dipped in water and sprinkle with colored sugar, if using.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges are just barely golden brown.  Remove to a cooling rack to cool completely before storing in Tupperware in the freezer (if they don't all get eaten right away, that is!).


40 weeks...

...have come and gone.  Yet you're still cuddled inside me, sweet boy.

When will you make your grand entrance into this world?  When will you come out of your safe little cocoon and join this family that is waiting so patiently to meet you?

When will I get to hold you in my arms and cuddle you and smell your sweet baby smell??

I love you so much, my son.  I am so grateful for this time we have had together... the months that you have been all mine, safe and protected from this often harsh outside world.

But I am also so ready for you to come out.  You are running out of room, and I am ready to hold you, and kiss you, and to introduce you to the world!

Come out, come out from inside sweet boy!  We love you and can't wait to meet you!!


jalapeño popper dip

I love jalapeño poppers, so when I saw this recipe -  I knew immediately that it would become a favorite!

Boy was I right...  creamy, cheesy, much less messy than poppers... and so perfect with chips!

I have been known to eat this dip as a meal.  And it has happened more than once!

If you like jalapeño poppers, try this dip!

Oh and try this Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese too!  Oh my.

Jalapeño Popper Dip Recipe
adapted from babskitchen

2 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayo
1 (4oz) can diced green chiles
6 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped (or 1/4 cup jarred jalapeños, rinsed & chopped)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese, sour cream and mayo until smooth.  Stir in the chiles and peppers until mixed.

Spread the mixture into a baking dish.  In a small bowl, stir together the parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.  Sprinkle this mixture on top of the spread in the dish.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese mixture is heated through and bubbly.  If you'd like, at the end, turn on the broiler to brown the top a bit more!

Serve with lots of tortilla chips!

(Oh, and this only tastes better the next day...  you could throw it together the day before you wanted to heat it up and it will be amazing!  Or, you can bake it up and eat some and then stick it back in the oven the next day...  either way it is delicious!)


bjørn's first real winter snow!

I know we had snow last winter, but I don't think that really counts as his first snow, since he wasn't old enough to play in it or care.

We didn't last long out there, because mommy got too cold...  I'm pretty sure Bjørn would have stayed out all morning if I had let him!  :o)


peppermint bark

Peppermint Bark is a holiday staple for many people.  Usually coming in a tin from Williams-Sonoma or in a big tub from Costco.  :o)

This recipe tastes just as good as those more-famous store bought versions, if not better, and is much cheaper... not to mention incredibly simple to make!

You will never need to buy store bought peppermint bark again!

Peppermint Bark Recipe

2 cups good-quality white chocolate chips
1 cup good-quality chocolate chips
1/2 cup crushed candy canes

Line a baking sheet with foil, shiny side up.

Carefully melt the white and dark chocolates in separate dishes, stirring every 20 seconds or so to make sure they don't burn.

Spread the chocolates side by side on the baking sheet, about 1/4 inch thick.  With a butter knife or small spatula, swirl together the chocolates until they look pretty!

Sprinkle with the crushed candy and set aside to cool, at least one hour or until firm.  Remove from the foil and break into chunks.


peppermint truffle cheesecake bars

I am obsessed with peppermint and chocolate.  Whenever I think about what I want to bake next, all I can seem to think of is how to find another way to combine the two!

Maybe this is another weird - for me - pregnancy craving?  Especially since I don't really care two-bits about chocolate normally!

Today my obsession has taken the form of Peppermint Truffle Cheesecake Bars.  Bars instead of a traditional cheesecake, because I wanted something a little easier and less-fancy...

(And what I really mean is, I wanted to be able to cut them up and eat a few before I stick the rest in the freezer for the holidays...  which is not so easy with a traditional, too-pretty-to-cut-a-chunk-out-of-just-because-I-have-no-self-control cheesecake!)

These are actually a very light cheesecake bar.  Not as rich and dense as a normal cheesecake, they have an almost mousse-like consistency.  So yummy!

Peppermint Truffle Cheesecake Bars Recipe

for the crust:
40 regular Oreo cookies (not double stuffed!), finely crushed
1/2 cup butter, melted
for the filling:
2 cups chocolate chips, melted
2 (8oz each) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
4 large eggs, room temperature
for the topping:
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
4 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature
1 cup crushed candy canes

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line a 9x13" baking dish with foil.

Stir together the crushed Oreos and melted butter until the crumbs are all moistened.  Dump the mixture into your foil-lined pan and press firmly into the bottom.  Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set.   Cool completely.

Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and 1 cup sour cream in the food processor until well blended and smooth.  Add in the eggs, mixing until just incorporated.  With the food processor running, stream in the melted chocolate and mix until blended.

Pour the filling over the cooled crust and bake for 35-40 minutes.  The edges should be set but the center should still be a little wiggly at this point!  Let the filling cool while you prepare the glaze.

Carefully melt together the 1 cup chocolate chips, 1/4 cup butter and corn syrup.  Stir in the sour cream and pour the glaze over the filling in the pan.  Smooth the top and then sprinkle with the crushed candy canes.

Let the bars cool on the counter for about an hour before you stick them in the fridge to chill overnight, or up to 5 days, before cutting and serving!  (These also freeze great...  just wrap them well in foil after they are chilled and thaw them in the fridge for a few hours before serving!)


39 weeks!

Yes, I know I should be posting a 40 week baby bump pic in order to stick with the pattern I have followed so far... but since I'm kind of hoping this little guy decides to come before we reach the 40 week mark, I thought I should take a 39 week picture!

If I go past 40 weeks, I will probably post that one too...  but hopefully that won't be the case!  :o)
Hurry up and get here baby boy!  We can't wait to see you and introduce you to the world!!


slow cooker beef stew

This recipe is a little different than you'd expect.  In fact, it's not at all what you would expect for a beef stew!  But I saw a version of this online, and just couldn't resist trying it out...

I was not disappointed!  The unexpected ingredients really make this an amazing, flavorful and yet super-simple slow cooker meal.  I like to serve it over mashed potatoes, but you can serve it however you like!
Not-Your-Traditional Slow Cooker Beef Stew Recipe

3-4 medium potatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
1 can cream-style corn
1 1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 1/2 pound beef stew meat
1/2-1 pound mushrooms, quartered
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (Johnny's or Lawry's)
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 cup spaghetti sauce

Place everything into the slow cooker, stir, turn on low, and cook for 8-10 hours!

It's that easy!  And so good!!


groaning cake

Ok, I know that's a weird name for a cake, but to be fair - I didn't make it up!  I heard about this treat in my online wanderings, and just had to try it out for myself.  (It's an old English tradition to bake a cake like this for a laboring woman...  I couldn't find much detail when I googled it, but feel free to look it up and let me know what you learn!) 

It's actually more of a quick bread than a cake, and it's chock-full of healthy stuff...  blackstrap molasses, olive oil, apples...  all good things meant to give the new mama a 'boost'.

This is my version, and I think it's pretty good...  Of course I did spread a little butter on my slices, but since the 'insides' of this cake are so healthy, I figured it would be ok!  :o)

I just enjoyed a few slices and now I've got the rest stored in my freezer to take out when this baby comes!

Groaning Cake Recipe

2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 cups (about 2 large apples) peeled, grated apple
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Grease two 9x5" loaf pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together the first 5 ingredients.  Stir in the grated apple.

In another bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients.  Mix the wet ingredients into the flour/apple mixture until well blended.

Pour the batter into the two loaf pans and place into the oven to bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


pumpkin cinnamon rolls

Ok, I've been meaning to post this recipe for a while now, and keep getting distracted by other things.  (You know, like Christmas baking and a baby on the way!)  :o)

I had actually never made homemade cinnamon rolls before these, but I am now converted and will be making these again and again!  (Especially the amazing cream cheese frosting...  think Cinnabon!)

The pumpkin flavor is mild, but definitely there and adds a lovely warm touch to the cinnamon rolls.  You can substitute vanilla for the maple syrup in the frosting, but it really does add a lovely layer of flavor with the pumpkin, if you have it!

These freeze wonderfully...  baked or un-baked.  I made a full batch and froze two-thirds of the formed cinnamon rolls in a pan to bake at a later time.  This is a perfect treat to stock in the freezer for un-expected company!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

for the dough:
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (not hot) water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup warm (not hot) milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
6 cups flour (approximately)
for the filling:
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
for the frosting:
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
1/8 teaspoon salt

for the dough:
In a small dish, stir together the warm water, yeast and sugar and set aside to proof (watch it bubble and grow a bit, so you know it's still good!) for a few minutes.

In the bowl of your stand mixer with the standard mixer blade, mix together the proven yeast mixture, the warm milk, melted butter, sugar, salt and pumpkin purée until well combined.  Mix in 3 cups of the flour, and then continue to add the flour - 1/2 cup at a time - until the dough gets somewhat hard to mix.

Switch to your dough hook and continue to add in flour while it kneads on low speed until the dough is barely sticky (like bread dough).

Rub a bit of oil around the ball of dough and place it in a large bowl with a clean towel on top.  Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free place and let the dough rise for 1-2 hours, or however long it takes to double in size.

Gently punch down the dough, and remove it to a lightly-floured board to roll out.  Roll the dough out to approximately a 12x24" rectangle.

for the filling:
Pour the melted butter all over the rolled-out dough, spreading it out evenly.  In a small bowl, mix together the sugars and cinnamon and sprinkle the mixture evenly all over the melted butter.

Roll the dough up tightly into a long roll, pressing the edge to seal it.  Cut the log into 16 rolls and place the rolls into buttered pans.  (You will probably need a 9x13" pan and an 8" square pan to fit all of the rolls.)  Cover the pans with a clean towel and let the rolls raise for another hour or so until they have about doubled in size.

While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Once they are ready, place the rolls in the oven to bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the insides are no longer doughy.

for the frosting:
While the cinnamon rolls are baking, beat together all the ingredients until creamy and spread over the warm cinnamon rolls when they come out of the oven!


perfect snickerdoodles

My husband's birthday is today and these are one of his favorite cookies, so I thought I would surprise him with a batch.  My plan to bring them to his work this afternoon for a surprise treat was foiled though...  when I remembered that I don't have a car today!

Oh well, it's the thought that counts, right?  (Honey, that was for you!)  I love you husband!  These cookies are waiting patiently for you to get home tonight!

These are perfectly chewy, moist and cinnamon-sugar-y.  And the best part...  NO shortening, like so many snickerdoodle recipes seem to call for.  If you try these, I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Perfect Snickerdoodle Recipe

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tarter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
for rolling:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

In your mixer bowl, cream together the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well blended.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Add to the butter mixture, beating until combined.

In a small bowl, stir together the 1/4 cup sugar and tablespoon of cinnamon.

To form the cookies: scoop out a tablespoon of dough, roll it into a ball and roll it in the cinnamon/sugar mixture to coat.  Place the cookies 2 inches apart on your parchment-lined baking sheets.   (These cookies will spread!)

Bake for 7 minutes and then remove the pan from the oven, leaving the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes to set before moving them to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies or so (depending on how many tastes of the dough there are!)  :o)


a letter to my firstborn...

My dear sweet baby Bjørn,

You are growing so quickly... right before my eyes.  My tiny baby boy, you are no longer a baby.  (Although you will always be my baby!)  You are a little boy now, and you are even about to become a big brother!

I was starting to get anxious for your little brother to get here.  To make his journey from protected life in my womb to the exciting world outside it.  But I woke up one morning and realized how precious and how special each of these last moments are with you as my main focus.  Life will change for us soon enough, and I am done wishing for that change to happen quicker!

Yes, I am excited and so ready for your little brother to get here, but I am also so excited to enjoy each and every moment I have with you...  just you.  I am savoring each hug, each finger-tugging request to play, to get you something, to show you something...  each time that I can respond to your needs and your desires right away, for I know that things will change so soon!

I love you so much, my firstborn son!  I could never have imagined how my life would change with you in it.  How little I would matter anymore, and how much you would matter!  Everything about you directs my every thought, my every move, my every plan...  My life revolves around you and I love it.

Soon, though...  very soon actually...  you will have a baby brother to share your life with.  Life will change, a lot, but for the better.  Definitely for the better.

I am so excited for you to meet your little brother.   Your life-long friend.  The one who will always be your friend, no matter where life takes you.  Yes, this friendship will take a little time to develop.  And yes, things may seem a little chaotic and different in the beginning, but I know you will love this new life we are about to enter!

You won't get all of my attention anymore, and you won't get all of daddy's attention...  but you will still get all the love you have gotten from the day we met you, and you will get lots of attention from the little brother who will adore you!

That's the beautiful thing about brothers and sisters and about mommy's and daddy's love...  our love doesn't get smaller or divided among you, it gets multiplied with each new member of the family!

I love being your mommy, my sweet boy!  I have loved every day, every minute that we have shared together...  and I can't wait for the rest of our days together!  Watching you grow and learn is one of my favorite things.  It's so fun to see your personality blossom, and to get to know you better.

You are such a bundle of energy!  All boy...  never sitting still, always trying to figure out what you can do next...  what you can get into, or onto...  how things work.

Cuddles with you are rare, but they are amazing and oh so thoroughly enjoyed when you decide to give them!  I am so thankful that you still like to be rocked before naptime and bedtime, even if it is only for a few minutes.

You like to snuggle into my neck, singing along with me and leaning up to give me kisses every once in a while until you fall asleep or decide you are ready for your bed.  Boy do I love those slobbery freely-given kisses!

You also love to sing and be sung to.  Right now your favorite is Old MacDonald...  You chime right in with the e-i-e-i-o's and the noises when you know them!  Another song you love is one I made up one sleepless night when you were tiny, and that I still sing to you before bed each night...  I want to write it here, since this really is your baby book, and so you have it forever.

(sung to the tune of I Love You Lord)
I love you Bjørn... and I always will!
You are my light and my life, my child.
I'll pray for you... every single day,
That God would wrap His sweet loving arms around you!

I know it's nothing special, and not fancy at all, but it is ours and I love to sing it to you!

I am so glad that you are my child.  My firstborn.  My life-changing love.  Thank you for making me a mommy.  For teaching me that life is not in my control, and love is more than enough!  I can't wait to continue on this journey with you.  I love you!

Always and forever,
Your mommy


peppermint fudge truffle cake

I needed to make a quick cake for a bridal shower yesterday.  I knew I wanted to do something chocolate, since I don't know the bride-to-be personally and most people love chocolate, but I also wanted it to be a bit more feminine, since it was for a bridal shower.

That's where the pink crushed peppermint candies on top came from!  (Pink, Brown and Cream were my wedding colors...) I hope she enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed making it for her, and tasting the crumbs and frosting!  :o)

Thick, chocolate-y (but not too-sweet) frosting layered in between and all around 2 rich dark chocolate peppermint cake layers, and finished with crushed peppermint candies... this cake is a perfect holiday treat!  (I'm thinking this might be a good cake to have for Jesus' birthday cake this year!)
I will take a better picture of this cake next time I make it and can actually slice into it at home for a pic!  :o)

Peppermint Fudge Truffle Cake Recipe

for the cake:
1 box devils food cake mix
1 large box (5.9oz) chocolate fudge instant pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup butter, melted & cooled
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
for the frosting:
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
5-6 regular sized candy canes, crushed

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and dust them with cocoa powder (you can use flour, but cocoa powder makes for a prettier chocolate cake!).

Combine all of the cake ingredients in a large bowl, stir to combine, and then beat with your mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans (it is a very thick batter!).

Bake for 32-38 minutes (depending on your oven) until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool on a rack until cool enough to handle, and then turn them out onto the racks to cool completely.

While the cakes bake, prepare the frosting.  In a medium saucepan, stir together the heavy cream and corn syrup and heat to just barely simmering on medium heat.  Turn the heat down to low and stir in the chocolate chips, stirring until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

Pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until very cold.  Once the mixture is very cold, stir in the peppermint extract and beat the frosting mixture (like you're making whipped cream) until it forms stiff peaks.  Spread in between and all over the cooled cake.  Sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy and serve!

This cake can be baked and the frosting cooked and chilled the day before, so all you have to do is whip the frosting, frost the cake and serve on the day you need it!


my little pumpkin boy!

This was technically Bjørn's first halloween, since we didn't dress him up or go anywhere last year!  :o)

He was such a sweet little pumpkin...  although he wasn't too cooperative for the pictures.  He did enjoy his fill of candy though!



I truly believe there is no worse heart-pain as a parent than not being able to take care of your child.  Whatever the reason... whether they are sick, you are sick, you are apart or things are just bigger than you can handle... nothing hurts as much as not being able to care for your child.  At least that's how I feel.

God created us, as parents, to care for our children.  To love them, to cherish them, to protect them and to raise them up (in the way they should go!).  When something happens that interferes with those instincts, it is so painful.

A few weeks ago I got sick.  Miserably sick.  Yes, it may have been just the flu...  but being 7+ months pregnant and having the flu is a much different thing than having the flu as an otherwise healthy non-pregnant person.  When you have a strong contraction every time you throw up (sorry for the TMI on this usually food-related blog!) and then end up having regular contractions at 33 weeks for several hours the next day because of dehydration, things can get pretty scary.

Even worse than that, for me, was the knowledge that I couldn't take care of Bjørn when he needed me.  I couldn't pick him up, hold him, or care for him because my body wouldn't let me, and I felt so lost...  so helpless.  We happened to be at my parents house when I got sick, and I am so grateful that they were there for us.  I don't know what I would have done if we had been at home alone!

I am lucky.  Or rather, I am blessed.  My Father had his arms wrapped around my family and we were protected and are fine.  And I have never been more grateful!  In the depths of my helplessness, I was reminded of how wonderful it is to be healthy and whole.  Every day, I am trying to remind myself to enjoy the not-so-helpless days, even when they don't feel so great, because things could always be much, much worse!


slow cooker barbeque beef sandwiches

On most chilly fall mornings I wake up thinking about what I can put in the slow cooker for the day...  something about the smells filling up the house all day just makes the cold seem cozier!

This time, for inspiration, I went out to the freezer in the garage to see what we had in there.  I found a couple of packages of rib steaks and decided to throw them in the slow cooker with a homemade barbeque sauce for shredded beef sandwiches.

It smelled great all day, and tasted even better!

Slow Cooker Barbeque Beef Sandwiches Recipe

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup vinegar (cider, white wine or red wine vinegar)
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
6 oz tomato paste
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (to taste)
3 lbs or so beef roast (pork would work great too!)

Mix together all of the ingredients, except for the meat, in the slow cooker, stirring well to combine.  

Cut the meat into large chunks and place into the slow cooker, turning the pieces to make sure everything is coated with the sauce.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling apart.  Shred the meat and return to the sauce to keep warm.

To serve, toast your favorite buns until golden brown and pile with meat!  Also great with a few slices of cheese thrown onto the bread before you toast it...  yumm!


36 weeks!

We're getting so close!  As of today, this baby is in the clear to come whenever he wants!

Now, I would love for him to stay in until he is good and ready...  but if he happens to be good and ready a little sooner than 40+ weeks, that would be fine with me!  :o)
I am so excited I can hardly stand it!  We can't wait to meet you, sweet boy!!


sour cream sugar twists (aka starlight sugar crisps)

Some of my favorite recipes for the holidays come from my grandma's kitchen... and more specifically from her 1950's copy of Pillsbury's Best Butter Cookies Vol II (no date, but the price on the cover is 20 cents!).

Since I get to start my holiday baking quite early this year (you know, because my hands will be full come the end of november!!) I was excited to make one of my favorite holiday treats!  Fortunately these freeze wonderfully, otherwise I would have a hard time not eating them all... right now!

In my family, we have always called these cookies Sour Cream Sugar Twists.  I actually didn't know they had a different name until I saw the recipe in the pillsbury cookbook!

So yes, these are officially called "Starlight Sugar Crisps" but to me they will always be Sour Cream Sugar Twists.

Sour Cream Sugar Twists (Starlight Sugar Crisps) Recipe
"Senior First Prize Winner in Pillsbury's 8th Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest by Mrs. Leland E. Ross, Roscommon, Michigan"

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup very warm (but not hot!  about 105º) water
3 3/4 cups flour (spoon gently into your measuring cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup cold butter, diced
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Stir the yeast into the warm water and set aside to soften.  In a large bowl whisk together the flour and salt.  Cut in the butter until particles are the size of small peas.  Blend in the eggs, sour cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla and the softened yeast.  Mix thoroughly.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours (or up to 4 days).

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  In a small bowl, combine sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla, stirring well to combine.

Roll out half of the chilled dough on a board that has been sprinkled with about 1/2 cup of the vanilla sugar.  Roll out to a 16x8" rectangle.  Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon more vanilla sugar.

Fold one end of the dough over the center.  Fold the other end over to make 3 layers.  Turn 1/4 way around and repeat rolling and folding twice, sprinkling the board and dough with additional vanilla sugar as needed.

Roll out to a 16x8" rectangle about 1/4" thick.  Cut into 4x1" strips.  Twist each strip 2 or 3 times and place on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake 15-20 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown.  Repeat the entire process with the remaining dough.

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Exchange sponsored by Red Star Yeast!


eggnog frosted nutmeg cookie logs

When I start anticipating the holiday season each year, I get excited about all the smells and treats and the memories that go along with them.

To me Christmas is eggnog lattes, sour cream sugar twists, kransekake, lefse, krumkake, satsumas, rømmegrøt, and these cookies... a recipe from the 1950's Pillsbury's Best Butter Cookie Cookbook that I have updated slightly to have even more of an eggnog flavor!

Everything we love about eggnog in a fun 'snow-covered-log' cookie, these treats are always at the top of my list of Christmas baking!

Nutmeg Cookie Logs (with Egg Nog Frosting) Recipe

for the cookies:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons rum flavoring
for the frosting:
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons eggnog
nutmeg, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and nutmeg to combine.

In your mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, vanilla and rum until well combined.

Slowly mix in the flour mixture, blending well.  (This is a somewhat firm dough, and should mix up into a big ball).

On a lightly floured surface, roll pieces of the dough into long logs, about 1/2" in diameter.  Cut into 3" pieces and place the pieces on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cookies are just barely golden brown.  Cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting.

To make the frosting:  Cream together the butter and vanilla.  Beat in 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon eggnog, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon eggnog, 1 cup powdered sugar and the remaining tablespoon of eggnog (if needed) - beating well between each addition until you have a nice spreading consistency.  Spread some frosting on the top of each cookie, and then sprinkle

This frosting will set up and not be too soft, making these cookies easy to store and transport.  These also freeze wonderfully, and can be made weeks in advance!


aprons and smiles...

Yesterday Bjørn came up to me with one of my aprons and begged for me to help him put it on.  (Well...  grunted and whined actually, but you get the point!)

He then proceeded to wear it around the house for the next hour, always making sure I was watching, and giving me these great cheesy grins!
Goofy facial expressions are a new thing for him lately, and they are so much fun!  I was excited to finally get them on camera!
He was obviously having a great time...  don't you think?
And here are the serious big brown eyes that we all know and love...
Oh, I just love this little boy so much!


easy raspberry strudel

Coffee tastes so much better with a treat along side it, doesn't it?

I've made this strudel a few times now, and it just keeps getting better.  The first time, I just used a can of pillsbury crescent rolls for the dough.  It was fine, but doesn't even compare to homemade!

This dough comes together like a pie crust, but the cream cheese in it makes it rich and very easy to work with.  I like to use my homemade raspberry freezer jam when I make this, but you could really use any type or flavor of jam.  And the almond glaze just puts this treat over the top!

Try it...  it's easier than you think!

Easy Raspberry Strudel Recipe
adapted from bunsinmyoven.com

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, diced
3 ounces cream cheese, diced
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup raspberry jam
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut in the butter and cream cheese with a pastry cutter or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Pour 1/2 cup milk over the flour/butter mixture and stir together with a fork until everything is just combined and a the dough holds together when you pinch some in your fingers.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead 4-5 times until it has come together and formed a ball.  Roll the dough out to an 8"x12" rectangle and transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Mark the dough in thirds lengthwise (use the back of a knife...  don't cut all the way through!).  Spread the jam over the center section.  Make diagonal cuts about an inch or two apart down both sides, and fold the strips over each other to make a braided pattern over the jam.  (At this point, I usually brush the top of the dough with a lightly beaten egg or some cream to help the top brown and give it a prettier look.  Completely optional though!)

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is cooked through and lightly browned on top.

While the strudel cools a bit, make the glaze.  In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and extract.  Drizzle the glaze over the strudel, cut into strips and serve with a mug of strong coffee!  :o)  (This recipe makes about 4-6 servings...  or 2 servings if any one of the people you are serving is pregnant!)  ;o)

This could easily be made ahead and frozen.  Just let it thaw and pop it into a 350ºF oven for a few minutes to warm it back up!


shrinking crocs

Apparently I have discovered a way to make a tiny size 2/3 pair of crocs!  (The smallest size they sell for babies is 4/5.)

I have washed crocs before, and never noticed a difference, but this time I threw them in with the regular laundry (in two separate loads, because I couldn't find one for a while!) and one is now significantly smaller than the other.

This is not a big deal for us, as I was just washing these to put away for baby #2, but hopefully I will be able to shrink the bigger one down to the same as the now smaller one!   :o)

Check out the pics!  (And yes, I promise these are the same pair of crocs, and they were well worn and loved by Bjørn all summer long!)

Actually I think the shoe that shrunk so much actually looks nicer and newer now than the other!

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