1.06.2014

The Best Anytime Pancakes Recipe

"Best Anytime Pancakes"
Super quick, super easy, super yummy.
Ingredients
2 c. all-purpose flour (we use white whole wheat flour)
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk (see notes below)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Optional Add-Ins (pick n' choose)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 mashed banana
1 cup fresh berries

Topping Ideas (pick n' choose)
Butter
Maple Syrup
Powdered Sugar
Peanut Butter
Whipped Cream
Honey
Fruit

Mix the dry ingredients- flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl- if you choose to add cinnamon and allspice, add it with these ingredients. In a small bowl, beat the eggs, buttermilk, and oil. Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened. Mix in the banana or berries if you would like, too! Pour batter onto a greased skillet or pan by 1/4 cupfuls (or however you big you like your pancakes). Flip pancakes when bubbles form on top and cook until second side is golden brown. Don't worry if your first ones are the worst...you should just eat those while you cook the rest and no one will know ;). Serve with the toppings of your choice!

A special note: Most of these ingredients you will have on hand except the buttermilk. This one always gets me because it is not something I purchase unless I foresee a need. On the other hand, pancakes are usually a meal that I make when I am scrambling for time- so no chance for a trip to the store. Luckily, there is a substitution for this ingredient. Simply add 1 tbsp. of white vinegar plus enough milk to equal one cup and let it stand for five minutes. Then add this to batter as you would the buttermilk. It is such a lifesaver in a buttermilk pinch! Happy pancake making!

1.03.2014

A Sunshine Birthday Party for Asa: Part II


As promised yesterday, here it the second part of Asa's sunshine birthday party! We started the party off with tacos and then Asa opened his presents. One thing I have learned as a mom (so far) is to not have huge expectations of how your child will handle a new situation...which for us was a birthday party. Having so many people there to celebrate him had to be a bit overwhelming but this kid was a champ. He KNEW the presents were for him and squealed with glee every time a new one was opened. It was hilarious. He even did a little stomping action for his pirate ship- ha! It was such a joy to experience this alongside him and watch him enjoy himself.

After presents, we ventured onto his cake. I have seen photos of kids going nuts with these cakes and was prepared for Asa to do the same. However, Asa is his own sort of character. The kind of character that approaches something new with thought, caution, and patience. His "smash" cake didn't actually turn into a smash cake. He simply stuck his pointer finger out and ate the frosting off of it. Slowly he began to use his entire hand and then allowed his other hand to join in on the exploration. He even managed to get his foot up there for some leverage but proceeded to take his time. It was pretty darling and I'm glad he was able to experience it just the way he wanted. He didn't actually eat much of it, but you know what they say? More for me! 

Sometime later after things calmed down I found myself sitting before the cake with a fork in hand. I had a few moments to reflect on the day and felt that things went pretty well for my first kid's birthday party. It is kind of shocking that he is over a year now but as I look back at each milestone, I can't help but smile. It was a great year and I can't wait to watch him grow throughout the next one. Birthdays are kind of nice in that they allow us to reflect on that specific person's last year of life and also to enjoy them- and Asa is one enjoyable kid.

1.02.2014

A Sunshine Birthday Party for Asa: Part I

Well, as many of you know, I had been planning a sunshine birthday party for our son, Asa, and I am happy to say it went off without a hitch! I feel like I have taken forever to post about it but with leaving my job to stay at home, changing computers, and the busy life of being a mom, I just haven't gotten around to it yet. Alas, I am finally catching up with life again and am happy to share some of the joy we shared that day.

We decided to have his birthday on the last Saturday in September which turned out to be one of those warm, autumn days that feel like summer. My parents had come over the night before to help with a bit of cleaning, cooking, and decorating- it would have been much harder without their help. We tried to get as much set up the night before so that all we had left were a few final preparations.

You might remember from this post that I wanted to host his birthday party on a tight budget- around $75. I think after all was said and done I was a little closer to $100, but was overall happy with the money spent. We opted to not buy Asa an actual gift for his birthday because we felt that the party covered that (and of course all of the gifts that our friends and family so graciously gave him were more than enough for him). I scrounged around at the dollar store, hobby lobby clearance, and my own crafting supplies for his decorations, and of course, utilized my husband's graphic design skills a bit, too. Check out how it all came together below!
The "Happy Birthday" banner was made using twine, paper from an old book, a yellow scrap of paper, and a large piece of glitter paper and was super easy to make. I used a whole sheet of book paper for each banner piece, cut out the letters after I drew them onto the glitter paper (I just eyeballed their shape), then hot glued everything together- including each banner piece on to the twine! It was done in about 15 minutes and I think it added a little extra something to the room. This banner let you know it was time to party for this kid's birthday. The other banners were made the same way except I used ribbon instead of twine and simply cut the book paper into triangles.
Rather than buying poms to hang, I bought some colored tissue paper at the dollar store and whipped a few up with scissors and floral wire. I learned how to do this a few years back for a friend's bridal shower that I hosted but you can find a similar tutorial here. Again, this was another decor item that is quick and easy but makes a huge impact, especially when you are short on time and money.
We ended up with an extra print out of the sun and clouds that Josh designed for Asa's party and I had a quick inspiration that morning of what to do with it. We ended up leaving it out on the table for the party attendees to sign and leave a note on with hopes to do the same each year on his birthday. If I keep my ducks in order each year, I should be able to put them in a scrapbook as a keepsake for Asa to have as he gets older. Kind of like a birthday party guest book!
The drinks of the day were lemon water, lemonade, and coffee. Simple and sweet but also refreshing on that hot day. The solo cups we used were super fun because once you pulled off the tab there was an area where you could carve your name into it! Perfect for any situation where you might set your drink down but want to find it again. They also looked a bit like chalkboards once the name was on it....and who doesn't love a nice chalkboard detail these days.

Asa did have his own smash cake (more on that in a second and in part II), but I wanted something else for the guests to nibble on for dessert. In the spirit of autumn, I couldn't help but whip up my favorite pumpkin muffin recipe. I hope they were a hit. I know I ate about three of them that day!
I can't help but smile when I look back on Asa's smash cake. I think it turned out to be so cute! Since I knew that he would literally be smashing it, I didn't want to spend too much time or money on it. I ended up making an angel food cake in a rectangle plan, carved it into two squares for layers, and then used cool whip as the frosting. Asa doesn't eat a lot of processed sugar (rarely), but I thought that at least these options were a bit lighter than traditional cake and icing (maybe also easier to smash?). 

For the frosting design, I started frosting the bottom with the cool whip as is, then added a few drops of yellow food coloring and worked by way up to finish with a circle on the top (circle = sun = sunshine theme) of a more intense yellow. For the toppers, I cut out and glued the sun and clouds Josh made onto kabob sticks. I felt those added a whimsical touch :). 

Late the night before the party, I did have a panic moment when I realized that I didn't have anything planned to put the cake on. As I poked around in the basement, I came across a super cute gift bag that Asa had received an early birthday present in and decided to use that somehow. I ended up gluing it to a square piece of leftover cardboard and you wouldn't have known it was ever a gift bag! 
The biggest chunk of preparation went into the food but I think that the "diy tacos" were a great choice because a lot of  the prep could be done beforehand. My mom and I chopped lots of veggies for the toppings and cooked the meat the night before and the morning of the party we arranged the food, made a few dips, and turn on the crock-pot. The only downer was that I somehow bought WAY TOO MANY tortillas. It is safe to say that we are still eating those...even now (but luckily they did well in the freezer).
While the decorating and preparation was very fun, the best part of the day is yet to come...the celebration we had of this guy! Stick around for part II tomorrow for the party festivities. :)


1.01.2014

Five reasons why I've said no to a new year's resolution


noun
1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.
2. A resolving to do something.
3. A course of action determined or decided on.

As I glanced through social media this morning, I have been bombarded with a plethora of thanksgiving and resolutions. I think it's great. In fact, it is a more than refreshing change from the regular junk that people post- sweeping political statements (usually from questionable sources), over shares of personal information, or complaints about daily life. Positive thinking for positive change is something I could get used to. Which is why I've given up new year's resolutions. Confused? Me too. At first. Then I dissected why I was so turned off by the notion of  new year's resolutions and felt somewhat enlightened by the underlying reasons I found. To keep things simple and rather quick- here's a list of the five reasons I am avoiding a new years resolution this year.

1. I hope my life reflects one lived by consistent resolution- all the time. If an area of my life is suffering, I would like to think that I would care enough to do something about it immediately. I'm not saying that it is not possible for this to coincide with a new year beginning, but what I am saying is that I think it should not be limited to that time of year. I feel that anything worth making a resolution about should have urgency enough to act on immediately. Do I really need a holiday to stare our problems in the face and yell "enough"? Maybe...but probably not- positive change can happen at any time.

2. Things fueled by culture rarely last long (in my opinion of course). Resolutions are so hot right now- as they are at the beginning of every year. There are a plethora of articles that you can browse to discover which resolutions are most popular and how to keep them. There are even apps that you can download to help you maintain your resolution (this is actually kind of cool because I feel like this would actually help you take your resolution and make it an actual life change). However, just because everyone else is making a resolution does not mean we need to. I don't think anyone should jump on board just because everyone else is doing so. Will a new goal really come to fruition because I got on Facebook and felt the need to make up a resolution alongside my peers?

3. Resolutions mean more to me when they happen in conjunction with a naturally occurring life event...not a holiday. Like most things in life, a resolution will only really matter if it has substantial meaning associated with it. Like I said earlier, an area in life might come to a head around the new year which would make a resolution applicable but odds are it was already there waiting in the wings for us to take notice. Resolutions come in many shapes and sizes but no matter what the focus is, I am glad they are made. I guess my point is that we probably could have made most of them a while ago. Why should we wait to live with intentional purpose and focus for a new year? I feel like we are only fooling ourselves when we doubt our own capability for personal change and growth. I think we are all more capable that we realize-regardless of the season.

4. I will find more success in my daily life if I focus on a resolution as a life change rather than a seasonal aspiration. Piggybacking off the previous reason, a new year's resolution seen as a life change seems like a more successful endeavor. When I want to make a change in my life, I need to evaluate how it is going to play into every facet- my home life, friends, family, faith, fun...all areas. I also need to have a substantial reason for why I want to achieve this new goal  If I dive in with only ambition as my guide I am bound to fail. On the flip side, if I have an understanding of the positive effect the change will have on my life from a long-term perspective, I am much more likely to see it through with a plan, calculated determination, and support from those closest to me.

5. It's not very encouraging to watch others proclaim a new year's resolution and then fail at follow through. We've all seen this and we've probably all done this- I know that I have. One year, I gave up pizza. I know, maybe not the most profound thing to decide to change and definitely not a practical idea (who tries to live without pizza?) but for some reason I felt like this was a worthy endeavor. It probably lasted a few weeks, but I remember looking around me and seeing most other people letting go of their resolutions. It made my lackadaisical attitude seem normal...almost insignificant. While that was probably okay with something like pizza, there are some resolutions that are truly worth the follow through. Life changes that I have made, those worthy of proclaiming have found much more success when the encouragement came from a place of consistency, true need, and decided focus. Something independent of those around me- unless of course they were brought them in for support and encouragement.

While reading those, I hope you felt more than negativity. I am not trying to put a negative spin on the holiday or even a negative spin on any resolution you might have made today. Rather, I am trying to say that we should be making resolutions but maybe in a different way. A way that changes our life for the long-term rather than a short-term sprint that leaves only disappointment for the spoils.

With all that said, I hope you have a smashing new year with a ton of positive change. Cheers to you and yours!

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