Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Lovin'

Hello Summertime!  It seems that you have finally made your appearance here in Ohio (at least for this week!).  It's been absolutely gorgeous here the past three days, and it looks like the weekend is going to follow suit.  As I write you now from my antique desk in the living room corner, the sun is shining in the big front window, Lily is dancing around to her favorite summer song (Mika - Grace Kelly!) and Charlie is snoozing away in his bouncey seat;  life feels blissful this morning!

Growing up, I was a total Summer was my absolute favorite season.  My summers were spent lounging by the pool, running bareful through our neighborhood, watching my little neighbor's t ball games at the park, weekends at King's Island, slumber parties, late night sneaking out to sit on the front porch with my best friends (who happened to live next door!) and cookouts...LOTS of cookouts!   Summer was the best, and my memories of those days always bring back this amazing nostalgic feeling.  My family made summers great!  We always had our family friends over for pool parties and cookouts - every weekend felt like the fourth of july.  The adults would eat, drink and be merry, and us kids would spend the entire day/night in the pool. Chicken wings, chips and salsa, and of course the summer sounds of Jimmy Buffet on the outdoor speakers.  I wouldn't trade those days for anything, and I want to create the same memories for my children!

So as another Summer begins I have a mental list of things I want to do with my kids this year.  Beach vacation plans...check. Picnics...check. Zoo trips...check. Swimming....check.  Playdates...check. Cookouts...check. This really is one of the most "fun" seasons of the year.  Trust me, I'm all about Fall time with the crisp breezes and the smells of bonfires in the air, cozy days by the fireplace (at Mom's house ;) ), pumpkin and apple picking, and all the joys of the season.  But now that I have my own children, it brings back the LOVE of summertime that I had when I was a kid. You can feel the energy in the air that just isn't there any other time of year!  It really does make you feel like a kid again!
My favorite part of summer are the pool days...we don't belong to a pool or anything like that, we just have a little plastic pool with a slide for Lily (although Matt and I squeeze in with her from time to time!).  We fill up the pool and have it out on the deck, and spend the day watching her "swim" with our feet in the pool, good summer music playing,  eating lunches outside followed up by sticky popsicles in the shade of the big tree in our yard.  It's a little different from the in-ground pool that I had growing up, but it still carries the same nostalgic  feeling. I think next Summer will be even MORE fun since we'll have both kiddos running around!  Isn't it funny how much more carefree you are, as a parent, on those summer days in the sunshine?  I think it just forces us to RELAX!

So I'm on my way outside with my little ones but I leave you with wishes of a fabulous summer filled with picnics, playtime, and sunshine! Have a beautiful day!

Summer 2009 *10 Months old*
Summer 2010 *18 months old*
Summer 2011 *2 1/2 years old*
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lazy Rainy Monday and Homemade Mac n' Cheese

Hello!  Yes, I'm still around ;) After a little hiatus I'm ready to start writing again (I know you all missed me SO MUCH! ;) ) Things have been a little crazy around here, getting adjusted to having two little ones at home.  It's been so much fun!  Charlie is nearly a month old now and time is flying by so fast!  Lily is doing great with Charlie and is constantly asking if she can hold him or kiss him!  I think they will be fast friends and I'm so excited for him to get a bit older so they can play together. It'll be so wonderful for Lily to have a built in playmate! I feel so blessed to have my little family :)
Yesterday was a rainy, gloomy day here in Ohio, and it looks like today is going to be much the same (although I do see some sunshine this morning!).  When it comes to days like these, I always want comfort foods! Something warm and filling to fix for lunch or dinner.  Yesterday it was homemade macaroni and cheese! Yum!  This recipe came from my mother-in-law, Mary, and it was one of my husband's favorite meals when he was growing up.  It's a major comfort food for him - and it's a really easy and delicious recipe!  I have tweaked it just a bit to my own tastes...and the best thing about it - is it makes a ton - two 9x13 pans!  The recipe halves really easily if you don't want to make that much, but it freezes REALLY well, so that's usually what I do with it.  I make one 9x13 pan and two 8x8 pans to cover and freeze for lunches or a side dish with dinner.  The mac n' cheese goes GREAT with burgers or hot dogs on a summer evening too!

*freezer tips*

  • Wrap your pans in a tight layer of cling wrap and then in aluminum foil to keep them fresh the longest
  • Short on pans?  line the bottom of your pan with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Cover and freeze. Once your casserole is well frozen, just pull it out of the pan , wrap in foil and drop it into a freezer bag.  When you're ready to cook it again, just remove the foil and pop it back into the pan.
  • Always thaw your dish before cooking it....if you bring it nearly to room temperature the cooking time will remain the same.  If you don't have time to thaw it - just add about 15 minutes to the original cooking time :)
  • Most dishes are good for about 3 months in the freezer - add a piece of tape to the foil and write down the date you made it so you know how long it will be good!

Homemade Mac n' Cheese

1 (16 oz) box elbow macaroni
1 1/2 sticks butter
4 T. flour
3 c. milk
4-6 c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, cook macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and set aside. In the large pot, melt butter. Add flour and blend well. Stir in milk and 2 c. shredded cheese and stir constantly until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and stir in cooked macaroni. Salt and pepper to taste.  Pour into two greased 9x13 pans and spread evenly.  Top each pan with 1-2 cups of shredded cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Enjoy!!!

I don't know about you, but I really enjoy spending rainy days at home - yes, they can get a little old when you get several of them in a row, but when it comes to the occasional rainy day to give you a break from the heat - they can be a lot of fun!  I really enjoy them when my husband is home too!
Yesterday, Lily wanted to  make a "pillow fort."  This is usually done without much enthusiasm on my part because I know it's a huge day of MESS in my already crowded living room...but she loves it, so how can I possibly say no!  We spent most of the day in Lily's "fort" with pillow fights, puzzles, video games, and movie and popcorn time.  It gave me a lot of fun photo ops and as always, its a great way to make memories for my babies!   Yes, I had to fight my obsessive compulsive cleaning ;) but it was worth it to see Lily enjoying herself so much!
Time for me to get some of the things accomplished that I put off yesterday ;)  And I'm reheating yesterdays mac n' cheese for lunch today too! Hope you all have a fantastic Tuesday!!
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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fried Doughnuts

Yes, I said it….FRIED doughnuts.  Okay so I think all doughnuts are fried, but for some reason when you heat up that big pot of oil at home they just seem that much worse for you….but they are so SO worth it ;) During the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy I was craving these like crazy…now with my post pregnancy body staring me in the face I’m wishing I hadn’t eaten quite so many ;) haha! But that’s why I had a healthy 9 pound baby boy….right?!?!
Growing up, these doughnuts were a rare treat in my house…but every once in a while on a Sunday morning Mom would decide it was time to make these for breakfast.  My job was always rolling the doughnuts in the cinnamon and sugar….which, by the way, is the best part.  You have to eat these as soon as they’re done too. They are BEST when they are hot!

Normally, when Mom made these we used the tubes of refrigerated biscuit dough and fried them up as is, or occasionally we’d cut the center out and make doughnut holes as well.  If you’re not in the mood to make up the dough, then this is the way to go!  They are delicious and have a lighter texture than the homemade dough.  I decided this time to make up my own dough….mostly because I didn’t have the biscuit tubes in my fridge…and when you’re pregnant and have a craving…there is NO time to wait for your hubby to go to the store ;)  So either way you make them they’ll be amazing!  Here we go…
Fried Doughnuts
2 c. biscuit baking mix
2/3 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
oil for frying
1 1/2 c. sugar
cinnamon to taste
In a large bowl, combine biscuit baking mix, milk and vanilla until moistened. In a shallow dish, combine cinnamon and sugar and set aside. Drop dough by tablespoon full into the hot oil.  Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown…remove from oil and roll in cinnamon/sugar mixture immediately.  Allow to cool (slightly) on a paper towel.  ENJOY!

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