we've moved!

If you're still finding me here or just stumbling upon this site...  come on over to www.sweetannas.com and see what's new!

Update your links/blogrolls if they're still bring you here.  I won't be posting here anymore after this.

Love you all, friends!


31 days of letters (day 8) a letter to my blog…

Ok, I know I’m pushing the ‘family’ thing here...  but after this long week of no blog, I am realizing that this blog, and you guys, are more family to me than I ever realized.

I missed you.  All of you.

I missed writing, pouring out my heart, and knowing that at least 1 or 2 people cared enough to read along.

I missed sharing the exciting things I find in my kitchen, knowing that a few of you might be encouraged to try something new in yours.

I missed this place, this little corner of the interwebs that I call home, this part of me that in some ways is like another child that I have birthed.

And for a good few days I was afraid I had lost it all.  A little dramatic, maybe, but I will sleep better when everything is secure and running smoothly again in it’s new home.

I think I have lost more sleep over this blog in the last week than I have because of my tiny baby! :o)

Thanks for being more patient than I am…. I’ll be back soon.  Very soon, I hope!


31 days of letters (day 7) a letter to my daughter... when you're a teenager...

You are kind.  You are smart.  You are important.  (If you’ve never read or seen The Help, you need to go do that right now). 

You are so much more than our broken world leads you to believe.  You are more than just beautiful. More than just a pretty face on a pretty frame.  You are a princess.

God’s princess.  As a child of the King, you are a princess, and as such, you are a valuable, precious treasure to Him and all of us who love you.

You are special.  And you are perfect, just the way you are.

Your heart matters more than your jeans size.  Your kindess matters more than your hair.  Your generosity matters more than your style.

I am so proud of you, sweet daughter friend.  I am so incredibly blessed to be your mom and I am honored to walk this tough road of moving from childhood to adulthood with you.

I know you probably think I’m old and oblivious, but I promise you that I know what it’s like to be a teenager.  I know what it’s like to love and lose and to laugh and hurt.

I know what it’s like to feel broken, and like noone could ever understand what you are feeling.  I have been there, and I will always be here for you.

You are my heart, my daughter, and I have been praying for you since long before you were ever born.

I love you, sweetheart.


31 days of letters (day 6) a letter to my dad...


I know we have not always seen eye to eye, and probably in a lot of ways because we can both be so stubborn, but I am so glad I am your daughter.

You are a kind, generous, loving man...  and such an amazing Grandpa.

Watching you love on my kids makes me so proud to have you in their lives.  We brag about you often.

Your selfless, always playing, always going, "more again grandpa!", long walks, phone-sharing self brings my children so much happiness.

You are one of the biggest joys in their lives and they talk about you all the time.  I'm pretty sure rarely an hour of their lives goes by without at least a passing thought of you.

I only wish we lived closer so they could have more than just weekends here and there full of grandpa-time!

Thank you for being such a light in our life.  Thank you for being the best Grandpa I could have ever dreamed for my kids!


31 days of letters (day 5) a letter to myself... the me who is a mom

Dear me-who-is-now-a-mom,

I know this life is not exactly what you expected or planned.  The everyday is not all the fun and games you had dreamed of, and many days have much more hard than easy.

You are in Holland.  You thought you were going to Italy, but it turns out your plane ended up in Holland instead.  (Please read this poem.  It's beautiful!)

Italy would have been great, and you had big plans there, but you know what?  Holland is beautiful too.  Holland is joyful, and Holland is exactly where you belong.  Holland is home.

It's OK to be a little bit sad about not going to Italy, but it's not OK to stay sad or to wallow.  Holland is here to stay and you need to love it as much as you loved the idea of Italy.

You will never regret deciding to love this place you are in.  You will be a stronger woman for it.

You can do this.


31 days of letters (day 4) a letter to my mom...


I don't think I ever really knew the depths of your heart until I had a child of my own.  The first time you had to leave us after Bjørn was born, I wept.  All of a sudden I knew exactly how deep your love for us is, and I hated watching you leave.

I have always known that you love me.  I have always cherished our relationship.  But I never fully understood that mama-love until I had children of my own.

I would die for my children, in a heartbeat.  I would give my lung, my kidney, my bone marrow, my blood...  whatever they needed I would give them!  And I know you would do the same for us.

Such a crazy, intense, mind-blowing love this is.  And I don't think any child can really understand it until they become a parent themselves.  I might even go so far as to say only a woman, only a mom, can fully understand the depths of that love.

The intensity of feeling a baby grow and kick and move inside of you and watching them enter this world from your body.  Of knowing that they were prayed for and desired and brought forth through blood, sweat and tears.  The insanity of sleepless newborn nights and fussy baby days...  crazy toddler years and dramatic teenage tears.

All of it wrapped in a fog-like blanket of love.  A blanket that covers all the hard times and erases them ever so gently from our memories so that when we look at our 2 year olds and dream of another baby, we have already forgotten the pain of childbirth and the difficulty of seemingly-endless sleepless nights.

And then we love them through the growing years.  We watch them slowly find their own footing in life.  We love and pray and hold on to their little hearts as tight as we can, and yet at the same time we have to let go as they step away a tiny bit farther every day until they are grown, and completely separate.  Walking away and then coming back as friends.

Peers.  And yet still children.  Blood of my blood.  Heart of my heart.  That same deep, all-consuming mama-love.  Never changing.  All-consuming.  Wow.

I love you mom.  More than I ever knew I did before I became a mom myself!


31 days of letters (day 3) a letter to my husband...

My love,

You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Without you, I don't know where my life would be today.  This little (or not so little!) family we have created together is everything I had ever hoped for and more.  I can't imagine life without any one of you in it, and I thank God every day for you.

I am so looking forward to these next 50+ years together, Lord-willing, and I can't wait to see our future as it unfolds each day!

I know we have our moments sometimes...  and we don't always see eye-to-eye...  but we always find our way back to the love that brought us to where we are today, and come out stronger on the other side.

We are deep in the middle of a tough season right now.  Life is beautiful, but life is hard.  We are sleep-deprived and heart-exhausted with all these littles needing our every breath...  and it seems we rarely find time for each other.

But this is just a season, best friend husband, and before we know it we will have all the time in the world for each other and we will miss the chaos that is our life right now.

Thank you for taking such good care of us, My Love.  Thank you for working so hard to provide for this family of ours and for letting me stay home where my heart is.

You are such a great father and husband, and I love walking through this life with you by my side!



31 days of letters (day 2) a letter to my daughter...

My sweet Baby Girl,

Someday you won't be my baby girl anymore.  (Although you will always be my baby.)

Before we even know it, you will be a rambunctious toddler, a playful preschooler, an awkward tween, an overly-confident teen...  I don't even want to think about how fast this time will fly!

For now, you are my tiny little baby girl.  You are barely 2 months old and your favorite thing in the world is to snuggle in my arms.

No, I am not naïve enough to think that will always be your favorite thing.  But, I pray every day that you will always remember that favorite place...  even when you can't seem to reach out and find it.

Always remember how safe, protected, comforted and loved you are in my arms, sweet girl.  Always remember that I am here for you.  That I will always be here for you.  Always.

I love you sweet girl.  So much.

dairy-free corn chowder

Creamy, rich, bacon-y, comforting...  delicious corn chowder, with no dairy in it!!

I am not eating dairy right now.  Hopefully just for one month, but maybe for the duration of Sweet Girl's nursing time...  we'll see.

Anyways, I have been craving all things dairy, of course, and I was so excited when my sweet friend Amy shared her dairy-free corn chowder recipe with me!  (Which, I believe, is a variation of her just-as-sweet mom, Dawn's, regular corn chowder.)

I was nervous, to say the least, but I trust Amy and I knew she would not steer me wrong.  (And she didn't!  This was delicious and SO rich and creamy tasting!) 

I changed things up a bit, of course, but the credit still fully goes to Amy, since I would have never tried making a dairy-free chowder without her help!

Thanks Amy!

Dairy-Free Corn Chowder Recipe
serves 4-8

1 pound bacon, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2-4 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 baked potatoes, peeled & diced
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
3 cups chicken stock
2 cans cream-style corn
2 cups frozen or fresh corn
salt & pepper, to taste
1-2 teaspoons chipotle or cayenne pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2-3 tablespoons masa harina (corn flour), optional
1-2 green onions, sliced, optional

In a large dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium heat, stirring often, until nice and golden.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease, turn the heat up a little higher and then dump in the onions and celery, sautéing until soft.  Stir in the garlic for a few seconds, and then stir in the potatoes and let them brown for 5 minutes or so.

Dump in the rest of the ingredients, including the reserved bacon, and stir well to combine.  Heat to just a light boil and then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or longer.

A few minutes before serving, mix the cornstarch with a few tablespoons of cold water.  Slowly drizzle this mixture into the soup, while stirring constantly, and then continue to simmer for a few minutes until the soup has thickened to your liking.  (Stir in the masa harina now too, if you are using it!)

Serve with a bit of extra bacon and green onions for garnish, if you'd like!


31 days of letters (day 1) a letter to my sons...

My sweet boys,

You are such a joy to me.  So rough, so tough, yet so quick to give me a hug, a kiss, an "i love you" when you're in the mood...  & sometimes even a snuggle.  I  can't imagine my life without you.

You made me "Mom"!

You were so wanted.  So prayed for, so loved.  Long before you were ever knit together, you were wanted.  I always knew that I wanted boys first.  That I wanted you all to have each other.

I love that my boys have brothers.  I love that you have each other to play with, fight with, laugh with, grow with...  and I pray every day that you will be best friends as you grow and all through your lives.

God gave you to each other and I am so excited to watch you all grow up together.

There will be fights.  There will be days, maybe even weeks that you don't think you even like each other.  But you know what?  In your hearts you will always love each other.  And one day, you will not be able to imagine your lives without those best friend/brothers by your side.

I pray that you will always stay close.  That you will always be there for each other...  through thick and thin.  I pray that you will find wives, if God leads you to them, that will be friends and learn to love each other, so that you can enjoy that journey of your lives together also.

And I especially pray that as you grow...  as we all walk through this journey...  that you will always know how much your dad and I love you.  How much we care about you and how much you mean to us.

You mean the world to us, my sweet boys.

Grow up to be strong men in this life you are traveling.  Be strong, stand firm and follow what you know to be true.  Don't be swayed by the 'everyone else's...  just because they are doing it, saying it, believing it, doesn't make it right.

And even when you think we are old farts who don't know anything...  remember...  we've been there.  And we love you.  So much.


31 days of letters... in 2012

I'm joining in this fun writing exercise with the nesting place for the month of October...

It's a challenge to write for 31 days straight, every single day, about one topic.

I love to write, and I don't feel like I push myself enough in this area, so I wanted to join this challenge.

The topic I chose:

Yep, starting tomorrow, there will be 31 days of letters.

Letters to my daughter, my sons, my husband, my parents...  at this point I don't exactly know.  Maybe not all to my family, but mostly, and we're all really family right?  All I know right now is that there will be letters.  Lots of them.  31 to be exact.

And don't worry, I will still be posting recipes.  So that means there will be multiple postings some days.  But I love writing and couldn't resist this challenge for myself!

If you're interested in joining...  Go to nesting place and check it out.

Oh, and I'll be linking all the posts back up here so that we can find them all easily in one place!


31 Days of Letters

  (day 1)  a letter to my sons...
  (day 2)  a letter to
  (day 3)  a letter to
  (day 4)  a letter to
  (day 5)  a letter to
  (day 6)  a letter to
  (day 7)  a letter to
  (day 8)  a letter to
  (day 9)  a letter to
(day 10)  a letter to
(day 11)  a letter to
(day 12)  a letter to
(day 13)  a letter to
(day 14)  a letter to
(day 15)  a letter to
(day 16)  a letter to
(day 17)  a letter to
(day 18)  a letter to
(day 19)  a letter to
(day 20)  a letter to
(day 21)  a letter to
(day 22)  a letter to
(day 23)  a letter to
(day 24)  a letter to
(day 25)  a letter to
(day 26)  a letter to
(day 27)  a letter to
(day 28)  a letter to
(day 29)  a letter to
(day 30)  a letter to
(day 31)  a letter to


pumpkin pie coconut macaroons

As if the name doesn't tell you enough...  these are a chewy, moist, delicious little coconutty bite of pumpkin pie bliss in a macaroon form!

And to make things even better (for me at least! Ha!), they are dairy-free!  (And even gluten-free too, I think!)  YAY!

I have been so grumpy lately without my dairy.  Baby Girl isn't showing any great signs of improvement yet, but it's only been a few days so I guess we've still got a ways to go on that.

I am so hoping this helps her feel better, but at the same time I am hoping it doesn't help at all.  :o/  Selfish, huh?

Anyways, these little dairy-free gems (all macaroons are dairy free, so I didn't do anything sneaky to these, in case you were wondering!) really are delicious.  Super simple to throw together and taste like a little bit of autumn-joy in your mouth.

Especially with a big cup of coffee...  because we all know coffee makes sweets taste better, right?


Pumpkin Pie Coconut Macaroons Recipe
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes about 2 1/2 dozen small cookies

2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg whites
1/4 cup pumpkin purée

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of your food processor, pulse the coconut for about 1 minute.  Add in the sugar, spice & salt and pulse for another minute.

Pour in the egg whites while the food processor is running and continue to process for another minute.  Add in the pumpkin and pulse a few seconds to combine.

Drop with a small scoop onto the prepared baking sheets (the cookies won't spread much).  Bake each sheet for 25-32 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown on top.  Remove from the oven and cool completely on the baking sheets.

These are one of the very few cookies that, in my opinion, actually store better not in an airtight container...  they stay crispier on the outside while still nice and chewy inside that way!




Joining Lisa-Jo and gang for Five Minute Friday again...

No editing, no censoring, etc...  just raw, focused writing for 5 minutes.

And...  GO:



I am grasping at threads in this new life of mine.  This new normal we are trying to establish with a new member in our family.

 My boys are grasping at their past and their comforts.  I am grasping at a dream of what will be.

Once we get through this struggle.  Once we get to the other side of this race, this marathon...  this ironman that is parenting babies and toddlers.

Yes, I know that older kids, tweens, teens, adults...  all posses their own intricate difficulties, but I am so looking forward to that difference.
I love my children so much.  I don't love this stage that is whining and crying and not-able-to-reason or even understand sometimes what we are saying to them and trying to teach them.

I don't love diapers and potty training and endless sticky messes of oatmeal on hands and faces and hair and tables and chairs and floors and everywhere else they can get to before we catch them with the rag.

I am so excited for parenting my little family:  stage 2.  And even though that stage seems so far away from us...  I know it will be here before we know it.

And so, for now, I am focusing on none other than rocking, snuggling and holding my sweet babies.  

Because, you know, they just don't keep.

No matter how hard we grasp.


hearty beef & bean soup... on the stovetop or in the slow cooker!

Tender, melt-in-your mouth chunks of beef, with a flavor-packed broth and a bunch of beans, veggies and potatoes.  This is a perfect hearty fall soup for these chilly evenings that are approaching!

I think I could eat soup every day and not get tired of it.  Soup is definitely near the top of my list of all-time favorite foods...  but oddly enough I always forget how much I love it until I am eating it.

I'm actually pretty sure I've never met a soup I didn't like.  Obviously some are more loved than others, but I love soup in every form.  Thin, thick, creamy, brothy, meaty, light...  There are just so many amazing options, it never gets old for me.

This soup started out as a clean-out-the-fridge dinner, but as ingredients got thrown into the pot I realized how tasty it was getting.  By dinner time, I knew I had to share this with you and will definitely be making it again!

I absolutely love the beef in here.  Tender, juicy and packed full of flavor...  so comforting and satisfying!

Hearty Beef & Bean Soup Recipe

2 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons bacon fat or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 long celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large baking potato, raw or leftover baked, chopped
3 cans beans, rinsed (I used 2 black & 1 garbanzo!)
4 cups beef or chicken stock
4 cups water
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt & pepper, to taste

In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat the bacon fat (if you don't have any, olive oil will work) over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onion, carrots and celery until soft and slightly browned.  Stir in the garlic and sauté for a minute or two until very fragrant.

Push the veggies all to the sides and dump the meat into the center to brown a little before adding in the rest of the ingredients.

Bring everything to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for as long as possible for best results, but at least 6 hours if you are using regular stew meat.

This is a soup that tastes better the longer it simmers.  You could even start it one night and reheat it the next for amazing results!

OR brown all the veggies and meat and then dump it and everything else into the slow cooker on low for 8-12 hours for an almost hands-free meal.  Yum!


what we're into... September 2012

I love this posting by Sarah Bessey about what she's into each month, and I think I want to join her in this.

It's such a fun way to peek into someone's life, and great way to record memories of my own life!

(Join us, if you'd like...  I'd love to know what you're into!)

What I'm Trying To Read
(because we all know I'm not getting a chance to actually finish reading anything these days!)

Me, Myself & Lies - by Jennifer Rothschild

She's Gonna Blow!:  real help for mom's dealing with anger - by Julie Ann Barnhill

Devotions For Sacred Parenting - by Gary Thomas

What We're Watching
(We don't have regular TV, so we're pretty much a Netflix & DVD only household.)

I just finished Eureka (loved it!), then Warehouse 13 (liked it) and now I've just started Parenthood and I'm absolutely loving it!

Andrew and I also just started White Collar together...

and the boys are loving Ice Age 1&2, Toy Story 1&2... and whatever else I make them watch when I get sick of those 4 movies!

What We're Listening To

In the car we've been rotating VeggieTales WorshipLittle People Christmas and an old favorite Chris Tomlin Live.  Quite the variety, huh?

On Pandora, we've been loving the Winter Song station for a super-relaxing mama/baby channel!  (Thanks for the suggestion Lisa Jo!)

And the husband is loving his usual (somewhat annoying to me!) dubstep.  :o)  (Which leads me to a burning question:  Do you and your husband/significant other enjoy the same music?)

What's In The Kitchen

Well, this is usually a fun one for me, but you might be surprised by our September.  We have been eating a lot of cup-o-noodles and oatmeals.  Yep.  Life has been that crazy!

Yes, I have done a little cooking & baking (pumpkin caramel pecan rolls, pumpkin spice syrup, roasted cauliflower mac & cheese), but the majority of our days have been finishing off the freezer meals and eating as quick and easy as possible.

On another note, Baby Girl and I are trying a Dairy-Free diet as of a few days ago.  She is NOT a happy camper and I am finally ready to try this last resort.  I hate to see her suffer.  And I hate to give up dairy (one of my favorite things!).  It is a major struggle and sacrifice.  But I sure do love her a whole lot!

What Blogs I'm Loving

My favorite new-to-me find this month:  Lisa-Jo Baker (Tales from a Gypsy Mama).  I am absolutely in love with Lisa-Jo and everything she writes.  Seriously brought to tears or cheers almost every time I read her stuff!!

My favorite not-so-new-to-me blog's:  My Kitchen Addiction, Annie's Eats, Gimme Some Oven & He Sows, She Sews.  Check them out!

And that's about it for the September edition of What We're Into!  Unless there's something else you'd like to know?!


pumpkin spice caramel pecan rolls

Rich, decadent, gooey caramel pecan rolls, laced with an cozy hint of pumpkin and spice...  these are easy, delicious and a perfect treat for fall!

Fall is in the air, even though it has been in the 70s here this week, and I am so so ready for it.

I just adore the fresh, clean change in the air.  School starts again, routine is put back into place, home is welcoming and cozy, coffee is sipped, candles are burned, treats are baked...

This particular treat is one more hit for my pumpkin obsession...  these were actually inspired by my favorite fall treat, Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

I got this original caramel roll recipe from my sweet friend, Amy, and it has been a staple in our house ever since.  I can't even begin to count how many times I have made these!

I especially love that I can make these the night before and let them rise in the fridge to bake off fresh in the morning.

Whenever we have company, it's one of my favorite ways to spoil them - without killing myself in the process!

Pumpkin Spice Caramel Pecan Rolls Recipe

2 cups chopped pecans
2 loaves frozen bread dough (rhodes brand works well), mostly thawed
1 1/4 cups butter
1 large package vanilla pudding mix (cook, not instant!)
1 regular package butterscotch pudding mix (cook, not instant!)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Grease a 9x13" or larger baking dish with lots of butter. Sprinkle the chopped pecans into the bottom of the dish. Cut the thawed bread dough into small chunks (scissors work really well for this!) and spread out on top of the pecans, filling the pan evenly.

In a medium saucepan, melt together the butter and the pudding mixes, brown sugar, pumpkin, spices and cream until smooth. Pour the caramel mixture over the dough in the baking dish.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, remove the pan from the fridge to warm up to room temperature and raise a bit more while you preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Place the rolls into the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, until a piece taken out of the center (or just a peek if you don't want to mess with the prettiness!) is cooked through and no longer doughy.

If you'd like, place a large platter over the top of the baking dish and gently flip the caramel rolls out onto the platter so the caramel sauce and pecans can pour all over the buns.


roasted cauliflower and chicken mac & cheese

I guess you could just call this a casserole, but it is full of noodles and a creamy, rich cheese sauce, so in my book it's a mac & cheese!

The roasted cauliflower & chicken add a ton of healthy flavor to this dish, and the noodles and gooey cheese sauce give you the satisfying comfort-food we all crave.

This was one of the best meals I have made in a long time (and not just because I haven't been cooking lately!)...  I think I ate half the pan myself!

If you don't have or don't care for curry, leave it & the lemon juice out.  It will still taste great, I promise.

My favorite part of this dinner:  Letting my toddlers steal 'bites' of my dinner - that they thought was just a big bowl of mac & cheese - and enjoying the fact that they were actually eating cauliflower and chicken!

Roasted Cauliflower and Chicken Mac & Cheese Recipe
inspired by Go Bold With Butter

8oz penne pasta
2 cups cooked, diced chicken (cheater-chicken, leftovers, boiled, etc.)
4 cups cauliflower florets (about one medium head)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon melted butter, coconut oil, or olive oil
salt & pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk (or 1/2 cup lowfat milk + 1/2 cup heavy cream)
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon curry powder, optional
juice of one lemon, optional
2 cups shredded cheese (I like a combination of cheddar and monterey jack)
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Butter a 9x13" baking dish and set aside.

Toss the cauliflower florets with 1 tablespoon melted butter or oil, salt & pepper to taste.  Spread evenly onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until tender and starting to turn golden.

Cook the noodles according to package directions and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onion until soft, about 5-10 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour evenly over the top and then cook, stirring continuously, until lightly golden brown.

Whisk in the stock & milk, a little bit at a time, until smooth and combined.  Stir in the seasonings & lemon juice and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.

Once the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese until melted and smooth.

Toss in the cooked noodles, chicken and roasted cauliflower to combine.  Taste for seasoning, adjust as desired, and dump into the greased baking dish.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly on top.

(*If you are going to freezer-meal this dish, stop here - cover well with foil and plastic wrap and then freeze.  When ready to use it, thaw slightly and add an additional 15-20 minutes to the baking time!)

Reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF and bake the dish for 35-45 minutes or so, until golden and bubbly.


what you may not see...

I am not perfect.  I am far from it.  Just about as far as a person can get, in fact!

Yes, I may bake pretty desserts and fancy from-scratch meals for my family.  And even somehow find the time to take pictures and share them with you.

But you know what?  The other half of the time, we eat cup-o-noodles or grilled cheese for dinner, and that's as good as it gets.

Sometimes a week consists of hot dogs and quesadillas and that fancy mac & cheese in the blue box.  And sometimes the best I can do is instant oatmeal and cold cereal.

But you know what else?  That's ok!  It's all ok, in fact.  My kids will survive, and thrive even... and we will all be ok.

Someday I will have time to cook healthy fancy love-seasoned meals at every turn, but right now, right now, I pour my heart and soul and tears into that mac & cheese and I pray that my kids would thrive in spite of it's processed neon-orange powder.

Yes, I strive for that unattainable 'perfection', because God asks us too.

But He also knows we will never make it on our own and that's all part of His plan.  If I was perfect, what would I need Him for?  Really!

But oh how I need Him.  Desperately.  As sure as I need water and rest and sunshine to survive...  I need Him.

Somedays I can't see past the mountains of laundry and the never ending "I'm hungry!"s and I start to drown in the mundane.

But He is always there.   Sometimes at that last breath, but always there.  Reaching out, holding me, and showing me His glory and His love.

Through the soft, sweet breath of my tiny baby daughter on my neck, He shows me.

Through the sloppy, sticky kisses of my 3 year old...  Who never tires of saying "I love you too, Mommy", for the hundredth time each day...  He shows me.

And even through the stubbornness and frustration of my willful 2 year old, He shows me.

Because in my pain and frustration with my son, I am often reminded that sometimes, ok most of the time even, I am that same stubborn 2 year old to My Father.

I don't listen well.  Certainly not the first time around.  I am rarely satisfied with what I have in the moment, and always seem to be asking for more.  I need constant supervision, and I always want to "do it myself"!

I sure am glad He has more patience than I do.


copycat Starbucks pumpkin spice sauce

I'm sure you have gathered lately that I have a bit of a pumpkin obsession.  I just can't get enough, once the weather starts to turn and fall is in the air.

Fall makes me so happy.

I love summer, for a minute, but it doesn't take long for it to get old.  I much prefer a cool, sunny fall day...  with the fresh smell of leaves and the breeze of change in the air.

I love sweaters, boots, scarves...  schedules, routines and activities.  Everything that is fall.

One of my favorite little fall indulgences are Starbucks' pumpkin spice lattes and chais.  So festive, fallish, and delicious...  I could drink them every day if my wallet could afford it!

Of course every day is just too much, but I finally nailed down a recipe that is as close to Starbucks' as possible.  Now I get my fix whenever I want it, and without the guilt.

My favorite way to use this sauce is to put 1-2 tablespoons into a mug, fill it up with hot coffee and top with a splash of heavy cream.  Autumn in a cup.  Try it!

What's your favorite fall treat?

Copycat Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Sauce Recipe

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup pumpkin

In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water over medium heat until clear and the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and reduced a bit.

Pour into a jar and let cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge.  The sauce is thick when cold.  It will melt just fine into your hot coffee!

This makes about 1 cup of sauce...  servings vary depending on how sweet you like your drinks.


the newest pumpkin recipe roundup

I did one of these last year...  but I realized that I have so many new pumpkin recipes (and I'm not done yet!) that it's time for a new pumpkin recipe roundup!

Did I ever tell you how much I like pumpkin?  What??  You figured it out already?

Ok, maybe it's a little bit obvious.

The first cold morning of fall each year, I become obsessed with pumpkin treats until Thanksgiving is over.

Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin chai, pumpkin chai, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin scones...  I just can't get enough!

It seems that every time I turn around I am thinking about a new way to use this favorite ingredient of mine.  And every time I go to the store, I grab a can or two (or 3 or 6, as soon as Costco starts carrying them again for the season!).

Well, enough blabbing about my pumpkin-love...  here's the latest:

(clockwise from top left) 

(again clockwise from top left) 

What I'm working on right now:  Pumpkin spice syrup (for lattes and my newest favorite - pumpkin chais!), and pumpkin pie slow-cooker oatmeal.  Keep your eyes open for these!

What is your favorite pumpkin treat?


this is just a season...

My first time joining Lisa-Jo and the mob for Five Minute Friday...

The rules are simple: no editing, no censoring, etc...  just raw, focused writing for 5 minutes.

(Side note:  This FMF is brought to you by my right hand.  My left is occupied by a sweet Baby Girl right now!)

And...  GO:


It's funny to me that my first 5 minute friday post is about focus.  Focus is something I don't have much of these days.

I was just thinking about this very topic today while making dinner.  It's almost impossible to focus on anything with a loud preschooler, a rambunctious toddler and a fussy brand new baby always needing your attention.

I am amazed that I get anything done right at all, let alone trying to do something new.

I can't even tell you how many recipes I have tried to create or recreate and have failed miserably at.  I just can't focus enough to get things right.

I feel like that Strawberry Shortcake dvd my boys love so much, where Apple Dumpling is all distracted and keeps adding the same ingredients to her cake over and over again.  It doesn't end well.

Nothing ends well anymore, it seems.  My days are spent trying to survive one minute to the next and counting down the hours 'til bedtime from the minute we all get up.

I know this is a season.  I know it will pass.  I have been here before, and I will get through it again.  I just miss my life, or rather - my mind, so much.  I miss focus.

I miss being able to whip up some beautifully delicious meal or treat, knowing all the while making it that it will taste good and I will be able to share it with people I love.

I miss the confidence that comes from focus.  I miss me.


Well, there's my 5 minute timer.  Thanks for giving me this space to write.  This was a fun game!  :o)

Five Minute Friday

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