Wednesday, December 19, 2012

can’t leave alone bars


I found this recipe four years ago in a Gooseberry Patch Christmas cookbook that I borrowed from the library. They taste like a yellow cake meets a chocolate chip cookie, with a brownie texture! I put these bars and some other sweets on a tray for my (then-boyfriend) Steve’s family. I think that cookie platter was the reason they decided to keep me. ;)


18 1/4 ounce package white cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
6-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter, sliced


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix, eggs, and oil in a bowl; mix well. Press two-thirds of the mixture into a greased 13x9 inch baking dish.

Combine condensed milk, chocolate chips, and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH for 45 seconds. Stir, and then microwave again for 45 to 60 seconds, or until the chips are melted. Stir until smooth—then pour over cake mixture in pan.

Drop remaining cake mixture by teaspoonfuls randomly over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until light golden. Let cool before cutting into squares.

Makes 3 dozen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

cranberry & white chocolate oatmeal cookies


My friend gave me the recipe for these gems a few years ago.  I remember I packaged them into clear bags with shiny green ribbon, and then I set them in front of our neighbors’ apartment doors as a Christmas surprise. 

2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 oz package dried cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well.  Combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.  Add to the butter mixture, a little bit at a time, mixing well.  Stir in the dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden-brown.  Cool on wire racks.

Makes 2 1/2-ish dozen.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

flashback to last november

 I am in full Thanksgiving mode tonight, and so I looked back on the photos we took last November.  We had a 2-month-old, and he was (and still is!) the apple of our eyes.
We went to the town that Steve’s parents and my parents live, and we had a very nice, low-key Thanksgiving.  Our Ivy girl was really sick that week, and that was super hard.  She had re-injured an old injury by running full speed into a glass door.  She had a difficult time bouncing back from that.  And we are thankful that she has recovered so well in the past year!
I can’t wait for the second Thanksgiving with this cute little guy!

Friday, November 16, 2012

chocolate mint cookies


This recipe came from my lovely friend Bethany.  We live far away, so we are “old-fashioned” pen-pals, and we send each other recipes along with our notes. 

This cookie calls for Andes mints (I didn’t find these in my store), so I substituted delicious Hershey’s Mint Truffle Kisses.  I think these are only available around Christmastime, so my other suggestion is Hershey Bliss Crème de Menthe.  Mmm!


3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons water
2 cups (12 oz. package) chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
package of mint chocolate candies


Combine butter, brown sugar, and water, and melt over low heat.

Add chocolate chips.  Stir until partly melted, then remove from heat and stir until fully melted.

Pour into a large bowl and cool 10 minutes.

Beat in eggs.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt together.  Then add them to the chocolate mixture.

Chill the dough for 1 hour.

Roll the dough into balls, and place them on a greased baking sheet. 

Bake at 350 degrees for about 4-5 minutes.  (The bake time depends on the size of the cookie.  Don’t over-bake, but they should not look soupy either.)

Remove from the oven and immediately place 1/2 an Andes mint on top of each cookie.  Allow the mint to melt, then swirl with back of spoon.

Remove cookies from the pan and cool.

For me, this made 54 cookies.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

raspberry custard kuchen

My Aunt Meg made us this amazing Raspberry Custard Kuchen (pronounced koo-kin) dessert a few summers ago, and I was so impressed with how fresh and delicious it is! You can tell that it's made from scratch, and the crust tastes like the most amazing pie crust you've ever had. The topping is creamy and soft with a burst of raspberry flavor. It's one of my favorite summer desserts, especially when it's served a la mode!


1  1/2 cups flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 Tablespoons whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups fresh raspberries (I used a 12 ounce container)

For the topping:

1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, combine 1 cup flour and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in whipping cream, and pat into a greased 13x9 inch baking pan.

Combine the sugar and remaining flour and sprinkle over the crust. 

Arrange raspberries over the crust.

For the topping, combine sugar and flour. Stir in eggs, whipping cream, and vanilla. Pour over the berries.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm, or chilled. (It's delicious with a scoop of vanilla on top!)

Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

a braveheart halloween

Here is our little William Wallace.  

A little background as to why we wanted to dress up our 1-year-old in a Scottish kilt like Mel Gibson in a 1995 classic movie...

Summer camp played a special role in our lives, as it is where Steve and I fell in love.  Every week at camp, we would play a giant capture-the-flag style game across the whole property, a game called BRAVEHEART.  The campers would practically beg to play Braveheart, and I have to say, it probably is the best game I have ever played.  You get to wear face paint (red for English, blue for Scots), run around camp pulling people's flags and searching for medallions.  There is so much hype and energy around it, it's amazing. Needless to say, this costume has a lot of meaning to people in our camp circle!

I sewed the kilt and the wrap-around sash last night with $3 fabric from JoAnn's.  The face paint is Snazaroo, supposed to be really mild and safe for kids.  I got it at Michael's with a 50% off coupon.

Trick-or-treating in our town was canceled tonight because of Hurricane Sandy-related weather.  So we will have to wait until next year! 


Sunday, October 28, 2012

crib sheet

Nolan was in need of a sheet, since he only had one that fit his bed well.  I stumbled upon a crib sheet tutorial, and decided that I would make him one, that way I could choose any fabric or pattern. 

"" crib sheet tutorial

Something to watch out for with the tutorial:  It says that your 2 yards of fabric should be 45" wide, but at JoAnn's, all I saw were 43" and 44" fabrics.  I bought a 44" and it was still wide enough for the sheet, thank goodness.  Definitely buy the fabric on sale, or with a coupon, or you won't save any money by making your own. 

Also, the tutorial says you can leave your seams raw if you don't have a serger, but my seams started unraveling the minute I finished my casings for the elastic.  It was a mess.  I ended up putting "Fray Check" on everything, and sewing my heart out until I felt like it was going to stay.  I would try a zig-zag stitch over all of the raw edges next time.  So needless to say, the sewing I did was not very pretty.  But, it worked!  Proof it fit the mattress:
And he's been sleeping on it ever since. :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hannah's memorial dedication

After my beautiful, newly-17-year-old sister passed away from a horrible childhood cancer in 2001, half of her memorial money was given to her high school in Chicago.  The art teacher decided to design four mosaic benches to honor her memory.  The benches were finished within a year or two, but every time we contacted the high school, they told us that the benches weren't quite ready.  We did not forget about them, but eleven years later, the school contacted us because they wanted to install the benches and have an official dedication of them.  September 14th was chosen as the day, and friends and family showed up to remember Hannah and be a part of a beautiful tribute to her.  

Here were the benches, just before they were assembled.
 And now, all put together:

We had a good crowd of about 60 family members and friends.

My mother wrote lovely words to speak about Hannah. 

The current principal spoke as well.  Unfortunately, this dedication happened to be planned the very week that Chicago public teachers went on strike.  The art teacher who designed the benches was unable to come (almost all of Hannah's former teachers did not come).  But the principal read words that the art teacher had wanted to say herself, explaining the meaning behind each of the four benches.

Hand of support ;)

  Though it is a public school, we asked if it would be okay for my Uncle John to say a prayer, thanking God for Hannah, and for these new benches in the community.

Refreshments afterwards.

So grateful for all who came!

Three of my sister's gorgeous best friends. 

 Then Nolan stole the photographer's attention for a while.  This photo is with Great-Grandpa.

This visit was Nolan's first trip to Chicago, and the first time he laid eyes on my hometown and Aunt Hannah's hometown.   He will grow up to hear many stories about his vibrant aunt.

Nolan Bruce with Daddy and cousin Nathan Bruce.

My guys.
My mom and me.

 And then with my two aunts (Mom's sisters) Lori and Sally.

It was a very significant day in my life, and I hope that Hannah's benches receive many, many visitors, for years to come!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

a nautical first birthday party

We had a blast celebrating our little man's ONE year back in September!

This is where he was when the guests started arriving.  He needed some rest in order to be the main entertainment!

Signs around the house.  Many are from my mom's amazing Cricut machine!

The invite, table runner that I sewed, and lemon boats!

The main cake.  Chocolate with buttercream frosting and raspberry buttercream filling.

A second shot.  Buoys over blue water. 

Delicious sugar cookies, made by my sweet mother.

Cupcakes that I made with Nolan's small smash cake's leftover batter.

I don't have a photo of the inside of this cake, but it was dyed teal, red, and dark blue.

Many important parties in my life have involved theme-colored M&Ms ;)

Lifesavers, Swedish Fish, and Twizzlers tied in knots.

Hamburgers, hot dogs, fruit salad, chips.

I drank a few Frappuccinos to collect glasses for punch and iced tea!

Some of the wonderful group.

Opening up new books, clothes, and toys!

He must have loved his new popcorn popper because he brought it to cake time.

It took a while to discover that there was cake underneath all of the yummy frosting.


Sugar overloaded.

Cleaning up!

 My friend Briana serving cake.

Photo props!

My family.

 Playing with some new birthday toys after the guests left.

It was such a perfect day for celebrating our little pride & joy.  Thank you to all those (near & far) who were able to make that weekend special for us.

Since it's getting late, and this post is already lengthy---tomorrow I'm going to post some links for where I got the ideas for the party (invite, lemon boats, cake decor, photo booth, etc.)  So check back again if you're interested!


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