Thursday, October 13, 2016

{Little} Piano Man!

On Thursday, September 29th, Trotwood had his first piano lesson ever! He wasn't too excited about learning to play the piano because for some reason, he has his mind fixed on wanting to play the banjo. Now, I fully support learning a string instrument (or several) but piano is non-negotiable. When I was younger, I took piano lessons and didn't continue with the lessons when I was a teenager. I wish that I had chosen to take lessons then (or that my parents had forced me to take them) because I honestly love the piano and I love playing even though I'm terrible at it. And when I say I'm terrible, I'm not one of those humble people trying to downgrade their talent. I really do need a lot of practice at the piano. It's on my list to someday get back to but right now, every time I sit down to play, one or both of my children want to bang out a tune so I just let them and no real practicing gets done on my part. Someday, I will have more time to practice! In the meantime, I'll enjoy other people's talents and force my own progeny to practice.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Happy Fall!

Happy fall! It's finally fall although we are still experiencing 80 degree weather and have yet to see any leaves change. But it's going to happen! It may just not happen until later in October or early Novemebr. I love fall! And, I just got this little piece of art for my house and it makes me happy. 

This past weekend was General Conference weekend! In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, General Conference happens twice a year, the first weekend in October and the first weekend in April, and it's a time when we get to hear talks from the Prophet and President of the Church, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other church leaders. There are a total of six sessions, all of which are about two hours each. I know it sounds like a long weekend, but it's one I really just love to stay at home with my family and listen to these inspired talks. After conference is over, all of the talks are put online and I love going back and listening to them throughout the year. And, since we're at home all weekend, the weekend just turns into a weekend of cooking and baking in between conference sessions. 

Somehow, early on in our marriage, Mr. Rochester and I started a tradition of baking scones during conference weekend. I remember, we found a scone recipe in a newspaper years ago and we thought we'd try it out (this was way before Pinterest). And ever since then, I've made the same scone recipe twice a year during conference time. This time I thought I'd try a different scone recipe (thanks to Pinterest) along with my traditional recipe. 

Oh, I think I mentioned how much Little Dorrit is loving "coloring" lately. Here are both the kids with their pencils and paper at the kitchen table while I'm working on making the scones. "Coloring" to Little D. really just means drawing or scribbling and she rarely wants actual crayons. When we do give them to her, she just ends up eating them so we try to stick with pencils. Trotwood also loves art and drawing and I love to see the kinds of things that end up on his papers. 

So, I tried out this copycat recipe of Starbucks Pumpkin Scones. I'm not going to write out all the steps because if you're interested, you can just follow the link and see how it's done. But here are a few pictures of my process. 
The recipe had you divide the dough into two separate balls and then roll it with a rolling pin into two separate squares. Doing it this way produced smaller scones than I'm used to making since my other recipe instructs you to just pat the dough into a ball. 
And here's the finished product! I think I've mentioned this before but Mr. Rochester isn't keen on icing so I almost didn't put icing on some of these. However, they actually aren't very sweet unless you put the icing on. And the only way I deviated from the recipe was here when I added more liquid to the regular glaze to make it a little runnier. 
After adding the regular glaze and the spiced glaze, the scones almost tasted like cookies! We all really enjoyed these and I think I'll make them again sometime! 

As I mentioned before, the normal recipe I use for scones, came from a newspaper clipping - I can see the words "USA Weekend December 17-19, 2004" on one part of the clipping but that's about it. Apparently, I didn't capture the author's name in the clipping but after just a little internet research, I found the source! It's by a woman named Pam Anderson and the recipes gives you several variations of scones - our favorite is the cherry almond version. 

So here's my ingredients:
One thing, I like about this recipe is you grate a stick of frozen butter into the dry ingredients and then work the butter into the dry mixture. I feel like doing this is what really helps give the scones a flaky texture. 
Here's the circle I mentioned earlier. Then you cut it into triangles. 

And voila! You've got some delicious, flaky scones. 
I will say, I've never actually tried the blueberry lemon or cranberry orange scones - we've done plain blueberry and plain cranberry and those have both been delicious so I have no doubt adding the citrus elements to the scones will also be tasty. We just have a {nameless} person in our household who doesn't really like citrusy baked goods...but I think I may have mentioned that in a previous blog post.

Simple Scones

(adapted from USA Weekend Cook Smart, December 2004)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
1/2 cup raisins (or dried currants)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in raisins.

In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth.

Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.)

Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. of sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

Cranberry-Orange Scones 

Follow the recipe for Simple Scones, adding a generous teaspoon of finely grated orange rind (zest) to the dry ingredients and substituting dried cranberries for the raisins.

Lemon-Blueberry Scones 

Follow the recipe for Simple Scones, adding a generous teaspoon of finely grated lemon rind (zest) to the dry ingredients and substituting dried blueberries for the raisins.

Cherry-Almond Scones 

Follow the recipe for Simple Scones, adding 1/2 tsp. almond extract to the sour cream mixture and substituting dried cherries for the raisins.

Yield: 8 scones. 
Per scone: 317 calories, 5g protein, 41g carbohydrates, 15g fat (9g saturated), 1g fiber, 263mg sodium.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Puzzles & Pie

On Saturday, I took the kids to the library. We really have a fabulous local library with great selections of books, resources, and all sorts of events happening all the time. In the juvenile section of the library, there lots of puzzles on little kid tables and Little Dorrit has recently found an affinity for doing puzzles. When Trotwood was younger, the puzzles at the library were also one of his favorite things and I love seeing how Little D. enjoys them now.
A few months ago, Mr. Rochester's sister moved to Fayetteville and she and her husband recently bought a house. On Sunday, we went over to have dinner with them at their new house. When asking what we could bring to dinner, Mr. Rochester's sister suggested dessert and when I mentioned this to Mr. Rochester, he jokingly suggested that I could bring something lemon. You see, Mr. Rochester is not a fan of lemony desserts. But I love them! Unfortunately, if I make any sort of lemon dessert at home, then I am the only one eating it so I never make them unless we are going somewhere. And this time, I decided to make a lemon meringue pie! Mr. Rochester was a great sport and tried a bite of the pie. 

I can't remember the last time I made a lemon meringue pie, or actually even a pie in general. For most of the year, I feel like Mr. Rochester and I have tried to make healthy food choices which means cookies, cake, and pie don't get made very often at our house unless there is a special occasion. When making the pie, I somehow didn't read the very last sentence of the recipe which said the pie needs to set for 3 hours. Oops. So, the consistency of the pie ended up being a little runny. The pie crust also turned out a little chewy and I think this happened because I was in a hurry and didn't let the pie crust cool completely before adding the filling. 
The meringue turned out great though! I'm not sure how much meringue you are technically supposed to put on a meringue pie but I love it, so I piled it on pretty high. 
We had a great time eating and visiting - my kids just love their aunt, uncle and cousin! We so wish we could see more of our family more often!
And Little Dorrit loved wandering around their backyard. (I love the little dress she is wearing!) One of her favorite things to do is put her "shoes on" and "go outside." 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

All of August

So, here's our August. Trotwood had his first day of second grade. I swear, first day of school pictures are some of the most difficult pictures of Trotwood to get. Apparently, the sun is always in his eyes regardless of where we take the picture.
Little Dorrit is obsessed with shoes. One of her favorite things to do is try on anyone's shoes in the house and then walk around in them. And she loves flip flops! Missing those first three toes on her left foot doesn't hinder her in any way from walking around in her brother's flip flops. She also loves beads. And hats. Maybe she's an accessory girl? 
On Saturday morning in August, we visited the local farmer's market for the first time. 
Trotwood thought this skull at the farmer's market was pretty cool.
Thankfully, August was a pretty quiet month for us! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Happy two years to Little Dorrit!

This past weekend, we celebrated Little Dorrit's second birthday. Over the past year, Little Dorrit's fun and sweet personality has really started to shine through. In fact, I really can't recall the time when she first started showing her personality. Here are a few things about her:
  • She loves books. We have a few shelves full of baby and board books and every day, she pulls out every single one of them and either looks through them by herself or brings one (or more) to us saying "Read a book!" or "Book. Lap" Rarely, can I resist such sweetness.
  • Trotwood is one of her favorite people in the entire world. Honestly, I love to watch those two together. They both just love to play and they love each other. Little Dorrit will dissolve into peals of laughter from just about anything Trotwood does.
  • Little D. is not one of those people who "lives to eat." Thankfully, she is eating more now but sometimes, she still shakes her head and says "No!" when we try to offer her food. If it's not her idea, she doesn't want to have anything to do with it. Honestly, I think she just wants to be in control of what she eats. Currently, her favorite things to eat usually involve cheese: cheese sticks, macaroni and cheese, cheesy puffed corn or cheesy chips. Lately, she has been starting to expand her pallet to include things like fruit snacks, grapes and strawberries. Oh, and for some reason, she calls all fruit "oranges." Don't mind the chewed up piece of beef jerky next to her drawing pad in the picture below. She will often chew up food and instead of swallowing, she'll spit it back out again and say "All done!". And she still drinks from a bottle. She can drink from straw sippy cups and regular cups (this one is still a bit messy), she just asks for a bottle and we still give it to her. I feel like it's more of a familiar and comfortable object for her than anything else. For the longest time, pretty much all her nourishment came through a bottle in the form of Boost formula.   
  • Coloring is one of Little Dorrit's favorite activities. I was so glad when we finally figured out what exactly she meant when she said "Color!" All she wants is a pen or pencil and paper. That's it. No crayons or coloring books. We can just give her pencil and paper and she will be happy as a clam just sitting in her chair at the table "coloring."

  • She loves to go places and see other people. This girl definitely is not shy and loves to talk and to be around other people. If she puts on a shy act, she does it because she knows it will get her even more attention. 
  • Little Dorrit is a very tiny person. Her doctor doesn't seem to be worried about how small she is because she is growing and very slowly gaining weight. But at 2 years old, Little D. is barely 30 inches tall and she only weighs 22 lbs. The other day, her home health nurse told us something about when a person is two, you can double their height and supposedly that is how tall they will be when they are fully grown. I'd never heard that before and I'm not sure if it's a medical thing or an old wives tale, but if it is the case then sweet Little Dorrit may reach the great heights of just five feet tall. Mr. Rochester and I both have some very petite women in our extended family so this wouldn't be too unusual. It is just so different for us than how Trotwood was! Just to be on the save side, we are going to take her to see an endocrinologist to make sure everything is okay with her growth hormone levels.  
To celebrate Little Dorrit's birthday, we carried on the tradition of getting donuts for breakfast. Here's Little Dorrit taking the tiniest bite in the world out of a donut hole. 
And of course, she decided that she wanted something savory instead of sweet and opted for bites of my ham, egg, and cheese crossaint instead. 

When it was time to open her presents, she knew exactly what to do!
All of her presents consisted of some sort of baby doll. All this girl stuff is new for us so we just barely discovered that she loves baby dolls. After opening her babies, she just kept saying, "Hi baby!" over and over again. One of her babies came with a little plastic bottle and pacifier and she loved "feeding" the baby with the bottle. And, funny story, after having the babies for a few days, we noticed that sometimes, she will pick up the baby by its bottom, sniff its bottom, and then say "Poopy."I wonder where she got that from... 

Little Dorrit's birthday ended with a birthday dinner that we knew she would enjoy and eat. Now, I do love to cook but she is so difficult when it comes to food that we just decided to get her a Happy Meal and ice cream for dessert. And see how happy she was? 
It was a great day and I cannot believe it's been two years now. I'm so glad that she is doing so well and I look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with this little person who brings so much laughter and joy into our lives. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The rest of July

Hello there! It's been awhile. And yes, I seem to be starting out all my blog posts this way lately. So, since my last post, we've been busy. We went to the lake with some friends in July.
And Trotwood held a baby alligator at a petting zoo
Oh, and we dropped in at the Arkansas Treasurer of State where the boys each got to hold $450,000 in cash. Don't they look excited?

We celebrated two birthdays in July: Mr. Rochester's and Trotwood's birthdays. For Mr. Rochester's birthday, we went to a concert and I made a pear almond cake
And one of my very favorite pictures happened around this time - I just love all the smiles in this photo. 

On Trotwood's birthday, we always celebrate with balloons! He loves it and I'm thinking we are probably going to have to implement this tradition for Little Dorrit's birthdays. 

For his cake, Trotwood requested a vanilla cake with strawberry filling. I tried using a Swiss meringue buttercream for the first time and it turned out okay. I still need to experiment with more meringue buttercreams...and just cake in general. 
So that's pretty much our July! I'll do a large post for August next just so we can try and get caught up here. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

May July 4th be with you!

Hooray for Independence Day! Yesterday, we celebrated with good friends, sparkly sparklers, and way too much food! I think having enormous amounts of food on holidays must be an American tradition for just about every holiday. Or maybe it's just my family on every Sunday, er, holiday. 

I love having friends over on holidays because it gives me a chance to try out  new recipes. Cooking and baking are two things I really love doing but with working full-time, I usually only have time to experiment on weekends or holidays. So, yesterday, I made BBQ pulled chicken and pork sandwiches, Paula Deen's Southern Baked Beans, and the Smitten Kitchen's Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes. Our friends brought over the most amazing corn on the cob (they have a secret ingredient they use to make it so tasty. Yes. An actual secret ingredient to making corn on the cob!), papaya, watermelon, hot dogs, Conecuh sausage (which our friends swear is the best sausage in the world and is only available at select markets across the US -  mostly in the South. I have to say, after my few dining experiences with this particular piece of meat, I am now a Conecuh fan) and a very festive, homemade ice cream cake. Everything turned out absolutely delicious. 

For the Smitten Kitchen's pasta salad, when slow roasting the tomatoes, my tomatoes went into the oven like this:

but then I lost track of time and scorched about a third of them. Instead of Gaeta olives, I used kalamata olives and they paired beautifully with the slow roasted tomatoes that I had left. For the cheese, I chose Queso Fresco just because I wanted to see how it would work with the salad. I knew feta cheese would have done wonderfully but so did the Queso Fresco. The salad had a very Mediterranean flavor to it which I really liked. My finished product, in my opinion, was just a little too heavy on the noodles but that was all my fault. Had I not scorched all of those tomatoes, I think I would have been hard pressed to find anything wrong with my dish. However, despite my mistakes, this is definitely a salad I would make again. 

Paula Deen's Baked Beans recipe, of course, turned out amazingly. We don't often cook many Paula Deen recipes anymore. Let's be honest. Mr. Rochester and are both in our mid-thirties now and we have to save the recipes cooked in bacon grease and/or a pound of butter for special occasions. Definitely not the perfect image of a healthy recipe but it sure was delicious. I doubled the recipe since her recipe only calls for a 16 ounce can of pork and beans and I was using a 28 ounce can. But even with doubling the recipe, there still wasn't much leftover afterwards. 

And that was our fourth! Usually, we sit on our back porch and the church behind our house puts on a great fireworks show but unfortunately for us, that was the first night in years they apparently decided not to do it. The kids still ran around with sparklers and we watched other parts of the sky light up with color. 

Just to leave you with one more bit of cuteness. Little Dorrit wore her first ponytail with a big bow to church on Sunday. She was so mad at me when I was putting it in her hair but, as soon she saw herself in the mirror, she was enamored with how she looked and just pranced around all day with that bow in her hair, never once trying to yank it out. It.was.adorable. Also, cheese sticks are a staple at our house these days. Little D. is still a very picky eater but one of the things she will eat, and asks for about 6 times a day, is a cheese stick. 
I posted this one on Instagram. She's talking on her phone (notice it's really a cheese stick). 

Notice, I didn't say anything about my two month hiatus away from the blog? I missed it! My computer was giving me issues and blogging on my phone or iPad just isn't the same. And, then I just got out of the habit, but I'm back again, and I'm actually thinking about migrating my site somewhere else. If I do though, I'll make sure to make it public knowledge so you know where I am. This little site has been my online home for so long but I'm considering shaking things up a bit. More to come on that (if I actually get motivated to do something about it).