Tuesday, November 30, 2010

go daphne, eat a cupcake!

to help daphne celebrate her first birthday, shanny and i whipped up some amazing cupcakes with butter-cream frosting. decorating cupcakes may be one of my favorite things. eating them is a close second!

when this sweet little peanut was given a cupcake she had no clue what to do with it. she looked at it for awhile, picked it up and chewed on the paper. such a sweetheart!

gift time was coen's favorite part (he wasn't much for the cupcakes either!). daphne's mama did most of the unwrapping, while all the kids gathered around and played with the toys.

the party was at the riverfront carousel. at first coen wasn't too sure about riding the "horses" but he warmed up to the idea and we rode at least a half dozen times. after a while it made me so dizzy, i had to let daddy have a go at it!

we had a great time celebrating daphne. her mama, shanny and i have been friends since 1st grade at kennedey school. it is really special to have friends that know your history....all of it. happy birthday sweet daphne, here's to another great year!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

whatcha got cooking? (an experiment)

every fall i see adorable little sugar pumpkins piled high in the produce section just begging to be made into something delicious. really though, who in their right mind would go through all that work for pumpkin puree, when you can buy it in a can? (other than martha stewart). i decided this year i was going to give it a go and i set out on a mission to find a recipe that called for fresh pumpkin. hello, slow cooker pumpkin soup!

it took me about a week after i bought the pumpkin to work up the courage to slice it open. mostly i was feeling guilty about it. coen bonded with this little pumpkin and had been carrying it around the house for the past week. oh well. once i sliced the top off i quickly realized that i wasn't completely sure what i was doing. i googled, "how to slice a sugar pumpkin", but didn't come up with much (i learn best through pictures, not essays). the solution: treat it like a cantaloupe.

peeling it was the tricky part. i went back and forth between a potato peeler and a knife. but soon this sweet little pumpkin was in 2 inch cubes. the smell of the pumpkin and onion cooking in the cast iron skillet was surprisingly delightful. however, the previous steps to getting that sweet little pumpkin into the slow cooker was A LOT of work.

i was completely unprepared for this part; "tie the rosemary, thyme, sage, cinnamon, and bay leaves into a piece of cheesecloth..." for starters, i didn't have any cheesecloth and i had completely spaced buying fresh herbs. woops. so i got creative. i had some dried herbs from my mother-in-laws garden that i tied up in piece of first aid gauze. impressive?

after i pureed the cooked pumpkin mixture, i sampled my hard work expecting to be delighted with fall flavors. i wasn't. it was missing something. i added a little brown sugar (about a tablespoon at a time, mixing in between till i was satisfied with the flavor), a tablespoon of butter, and a pinch of cinnamon...we were in business!

i served it with warm bread, and it was delicious. a great way to send fall out with a bang! welcome, chilly chilly winter... we've been expecting you.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium sugar pumpkin, seeded and cubed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken stock, or as needed
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh sage
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pumpkin and onion; cook and stir until lightly browned. Transfer to a slow cooker. Pour in enough chicken broth to cover the pumpkin. Tie the rosemary, thyme, sage, cinnamon, and bay leaves into a piece of cheesecloth, and place in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on Low for 4 hours.
  2. After 4 hours, remove the herb sachet. Stir in the cream, and puree the soup with a hand blender until smooth. Serve.

* I added brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon to taste after the soup was pureed. Have fun experimenting with this soup and making it your own!

Monday, November 22, 2010


recently, a very dear friend came to visit. having company is always exciting for coen, and her visit was no exception. i met emily just after wes and i started dating, wes had known her long before that. she is so special to us! i have always explained my friendship with her as "easy." she gets me, i get her. most of the time. this picture was taken about 7 years ago, just before we jumped off the deck into a snow bank.

coen warmed up to her instantly. i mean, why wouldn't he? she is all fun and giggles! he gets caught up on the vowels in her name and pronounces it, "emalemaly", precious. (if you look closely, he is actually holding her hand in this picture. love.)

it was high on our priority list to take her out to the edgefield estate for some good food, and even better brew. thankfully we had a clearing in the weather to actually walk around and enjoy the grounds. i can't say for certain, but i think she will be back. (if even just to go back to the edgefield!).

she also got the grand tour of wes' office. however, i think it may have been the highlight of her visit. the week after her trip she was starting a unit on volcanoes with her 7th graders. what perfect timing to visit us! we let coen have a go in the conference room, he had lots of very important information to discuss.

emalemaly, it was such a blessing to have you. thanks for giving us a reason to eat, drink and be merry! we love you!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

whatcha got cooking?

hello, layered chicken and black bean enchilada casserole, why do you taste so good? tonight i made this dish and all of us gobbled it up. in fact after each bite coen would say, "more! more! more!" before he had even finished chewing. it is really quick and easy. i prepared it during nap time and popped it in the oven about an hour before we wanted to eat. to make it a bit healthier, i used reduced fat cheese and light sour cream, it was quite tasty! the best part of making a casserole like this is having leftovers for lunch. yummy!


Serves 8

  • 2 cups diced chicken breast meat
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (4.5 ounce) can diced green chile peppers, drained
  • 1 (10 ounce) can red enchilada sauce
  • 8 (6 inch) corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and spray with vegetable cooking spray. Saute chicken with cumin and coriander until chicken is cooked through. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the cilantro, black beans, and green chile peppers.
  3. Spread half of the enchilada sauce over the bottom of an 11x7 inch baking dish. Place 4 tortillas over the sauce, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half of the chicken mixture over the tortillas, and sprinkle with half of the cheese and half of the sour cream. Spoon the remaining enchilada sauce over the cheese, and make another layer of tortillas. Layer the remaining chicken mixture over the tortillas. Cover dish with a lid or aluminum foil.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove the cover, and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and dot with sour cream. Continue cooking, uncovered, for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until cheese melts. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

grateful moments

i found myself in a simple situation last week that gave me the opportunity to teach gratitude to coen. let's back track for a moment. coen loves cars, trucks, trains...anything with wheels. if we are ever somewhere that has one of those big red cozy coupe cars, he is in it. our neighbors have one parked in their garage. it hasn't moved since we've lived here. everyday when coen and i
walk to the mailbox he sees it, points to it, and says, "drive! drive! drive!". i have to explain that we don't belong to that car, and we only drive cars that are ours (that's a much bigger life lesson, i hope to never have to teach!). well, on this particular day last week, he made a run for it...i was too slow. before i could stop him, he was in the car, "drive! drive! driving!" in the neighbors garage. at the very moment that i am trying to pull him out, the mom that "owns" this cozy coupe walks out of the house. she begins to laugh, and asks me if he wants it. are? you?kidding? she explains that it is just taking up space and her kids are too old for it. i thanked her a million times, and my heart was grinning as i watched coen push it home. he played with it all evening, and i began to think about the opportunity this simple act had given me. sure, he is only 1 1/2 and i had thanked her, but we could do more. the next day i baked up some cookies and had coen color a picture (a car picture or course!) and we walked next door. before we knocked i explained to him, that we needed to say thank you for the nice car they gave him. he handed his picture to the kids, and i passed the plate of cookies to the mom. the kids were smiling, the mom was thankful. there, that's better.

i wonder what else coen would be grateful for, if he could only truly understand the meaning. i would like to think that early morning snuggles would make the list.

both coen and lily should be thankful for pasta in the water table. for coen, it is a great outdoor activity for winter. for lily, well she ate about 3 pounds of dry pasta the 1st day we had it out. oops.

soccer class and team cheers, cause "we love soccer!"

then there's all the crazy fun he has with daddy, like jumping on the couch and ultimate playdough. boy oh boy, do they get wild!

i look forward to growing and nurturing his thankful heart, but for now i will have to take a guess at it. maybe he and i can share grateful moments for now, and of course a starbucks once in a while.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

hey coen, what does a monkey say?

our dear friend emily is visiting this week, and she just so happened to capture this moment on video. bless her.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

whatcha got cooking?

i have a love hate relationship with cooking. sometimes i love it, sometimes i hate it. but non the less, we have to eat! recently i tried to evaluate what makes me dread putting on my apron. i discovered it really has nothing to do with the actual cooking. a couple examples of cooking downers for me; a clingy, whiny toddler pulling at my legs saying, "mama, hold you? hold you?" and/or it's 5pm we need to eat in an hour, ah! what am i cooking tonight?! so you see, the cooking part is easy. for the past week or so i have rearranged my routine so that i start the slow cooker or prep as much as i can for dinner during nap time, or in the morning when coen is more likely to be playing by himself. that takes care of the clingy toddler issue (or at least limits it a little). the next part is all about planning ahead. i sit down and plan out a week of meals, make my grocery list, and shop for the week. we do a giant costco run at the beginning of the month, so my weekly shopping trip is for smaller misc items and produce. i know what i'm cooking, and i know that i have everything i need. priceless. now that i have you caught up to date, i thought it would be fun to share some of the good grub we have been eating. my goal is to highlight one recipe we all liked, once a week. with that said, it is my pleasure to introduce to you, Pesto Polenta Lasagna! yum.


  • 1 (18 ounce) package polenta, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1/2 (24 ounce) jar bottled marinara sauce
  • 1/2 roll reduced fat sausage
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Oil an 11x7x2 inch baking dish.
  2. Brown sausage in pan, mix in marinara sauce
  3. Arrange a single layer of polenta in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Spread a thin layer of pesto over the polenta. Spoon half of the sauce over the polenta. Top with another layer of polenta and sauce.
  4. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Turn on the broiler. Top polenta with cheese and pine nuts, and broil until cheese browns and nuts are toasted.

so simple, so good. one recommendation i have is to use "Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce" instead of a traditional marinara. i discovered this sauce at costco a couple months ago, and i use it in replace of all traditional pasta sauces. it is SO SO good! last night i severed this dish with sauteed baby broccoli. i started the broccoli when i added the cheese to the lasagna. the broccoli is a piece of cake. sautee in olive oil with salt and pepper for 9-10 minutes. we like our veggies crispy, so if you want they softer cook longer. delish.

when i prepare a meal, nothing makes me happier that when coen also enjoys it with us. for a long time, we would eat an "adult meal" and i would make him something separate. this still happens from time to time, but lately he has been eating what we eat and i love it. last night he gobbled up 3 servings of pesto polenta lasagna!

i'm always on the hunt for new ideas and great recipes...let me know what you are cooking up!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

halloween, spooky fun!

lucky me. all my bribing with marshmallows surely paid off and coen gladly wore his lion costume! wes doubted my tactics 3 weeks before halloween as i taunted coen with a bowl on ghost shaped mallows. in fact, the headpiece to his costume became known as his "treat hat" and he would bring it to me and say, "more, mass-me-yos?" to be honest, he was so distracted by all the other kids and candy, he probably would have worn the headpiece even without all the prep work. i refuse to believe that though, it was totally all me and all my efforts. totally. this halloween was WAY more fun for all of us. last year, coen was in bed at 7 and had no clue anything was going on. but not this year. our little lion got many hours of wear out of his adorable costume. we happened to be out of town visiting friends over halloween weekend. on friday night we got to tag along to a corporate office halloween trick-or-treating extravaganza! it was a total mad house, but the kids had a blast. mission accomplished! saturday, we got to drop coen off with nana for a few hours and head out to a halloween birthday celebration for my brother and geri. i can't tell you how much fun i had greasing wes' hair back! i think he was afraid it would never go back to normal.
matt and cortney were a hit as juno and paulie!

we had a good time, and coen enjoyed his "party" with nana too! on sunday morning coen wore his costume to church and all the kids paraded through service. way. too. cute. after a big lunch and a nap, he was back in his costume and ready for his first ever trick-or-treat experience. it
was extra special because he got to spend the evening with his cousin's, bella & gianna, and our dear friends, grace & jane. he slowly got the concept of knocking on the door, but didn't understand why he couldn't go inside. i tried to stop him most of the time, but at one house when a kitty cat ran by, he was in the house and up the stairs. once again, it's a good thing he's cute. overall coen's first real halloween experience was a hit. funny thing is, i put all my efforts into making sure he enjoyed all the festivities, but at the end of the night he was asleep and we were feasting on a bucket of "fun size" treats. score, us!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

well, hello!

welcome. glad you made it over from keepingupwiththethelens. we started that site as a way to keep our family and friends in the loop as we journey through parenthood. it holds many memories and has truly archived the past few years. because of that i plan to print the last couple years using a service called, blog2print. i imagine it will be so fun to go back through the pages with coen as he gets older. which is actually already happening way too fast.

so why the change? a couple reasons really; simplicity & passion. the truth is, blogspot is a much easier and efficient tool for blogging. (goggle is the mastermind behind it, so of course it is!) the easier it is, the more efficient i can be at updates. enough said. aside from the practical stuff, i have found great passion in raising my family. true, we only have 1 crazy chaotic toddler to chase, but none the less i am sure that more will follow. let this blog be a highlight of the crazy, fun, chaotic journey we are on. as we travel through this life full of daily tasks, lessons, and discipline it is my hope that our nest remains joyful. for it is joy that will sustain us!