April 9, 2014

Letting it Go

After falling in love with Frozen and listening to the sound track countless times over the past few months, I knew we couldn't possibly miss out on visiting a real life ice-castle...
The Midway Ice Castles provided the perfect opportunity for our kids to further enhance their obsession with Disney's latest flick.  Movie aside, these castles are pretty dang amazing and we were all super excited to see them up close and personal... 
The kids were completely awestruck as we made our way into the winter wonderland...
Who are we kidding?  My excitement may have slightly surpassed that of the children...
However, in no time at all, our lips turned blue, our fingers and toes felt numb, and our noses began to drip rapidly...in other words, we were FREEZING.  
 Maybe I underestimated just how cold an ice castle would be...for future reference, ice-castles are EXTREMELY COLD (hence the ice).
I would have been happy to take a look around and be on our merry way, the kids had other ideas.
We were continually impressed as we explored seemingly every single icicle they had to offer...
Despite literally walking inside of a giant freezer, we had a blast.  The kids broke into "Let it Go" often enough to ward off death-by-frost-bite.
They insisted on crawling through every nook and cranny, making their way through each crevice and cave.  Panic set in for my claustrophobic self more than once, but we survived with only a few bumps and bruises.
After ooo-ing and aaw-ing over ice sculptures galore...
We made a shocking discovery...

(Or her twin-ish sister, who sorta-not-really looks like her.)  
Okay so Elsa was kinda lame, Olaf however, made a big impression on these three.  
I mean look at him standing there all Olaf-like.

Where were John and Tessa during all of this excitement?  
Snug as a bug, warm in the toasty car...
After driving an hour to Midway, John willingly waited in he car with the sleeping babe while we made our way into the freezing castles.  Without complaint I might add, what a guy!

Later we warmed up with some amazing Mexican food...
Tarahumara proved to be a new favorite and the perfect end to a very cold day.
We had a great time despite the cold, but were all bummed Daddy missed out.  However, we have simply chosen to "let it go" (a phase often heard in this household...seriously, thank you Disney) and make next year even better.  Hot chocolate, extra layers of clothing, a darling little sister and an awesome dad will certainly add to the adventure.

April 7, 2014

Sunday Sisters

There is no disputing the fact that parents take more pictures of their first baby than any others who may follow suit.  It's a fact.  Deny it all you want, we are all beyond snap happy when that first little angel makes their entrance into the world, proclaiming us parents.  I was determined to ward off this awful fate and feel I did pretty darn good when Coley joined our family.  As number three made her debut, things may have started to slip.  Why?  I'm not sure.  Maybe it's the fact that with each child there is less and less time for such luxuries as picture taking.  Or maybe it's because we finally realize you don't need a picture of every single smile, in every single outfit, in every single setting.

Shortly after Tessa's birth I realized that despite my efforts, I had fallen victim to the (above-mentioned) universal law...there simply were not enough pictures being taken of our little girly girls.  This revelation led to an immediate photo-session:
An idea was born.  Every Sunday I would take pictures of the sisters in our fanciest chair (not that fancy) before church.  Okay, maybe not EVERY Sunday, but often.  Okay and not ever has it actually happened BEFORE church, but shortly there after is close enough.  Without further adieu, I give you the first round of Sunday Sisters...

I feel so incredibly blessed to have not one darling daughter, but two!  Two sweet little sisters, two best pals, two sassy, silly, giggling beauties we all (especially Daddy) completely and thoroughly adore.
More Sunday Sisters sure to come.
(We might even let the boys join in now and again.)

April 4, 2014

A Lovely Month

Valentine's Day has never been a favorite of mine and I'm not quite sure why.  Maybe it was watching all those other girls receive roses (from their slew of secret admirers no doubt) year after year during the awkward years, also known as: Middle School.  Or maybe it's because the one year I was finally the recipient of not one, but two coveted roses, the attached notes were shockingly NOT anonymous at all.  Nor were they from my secret crush or any other boy of high esteem...One was signed with loving care by the biggest weirdo I knew.  The other?  It was from the second biggest weirdo I knew.  (And when I say weirdo I actually mean super-creepy-may-be-plotting-to-kill-us-all weirdo)  
Regardless of the particular reasons for my distaste for St. Valentine, Cupid, or whoever started this day of love, in our house, Valentine's Day has inevitably become another fun family holiday.
(Notice I didn't even complain once about you babe!?)

I believe I've made a grave mistake and would suggest that any new parents keep holidays as low-key as possible as my children have come to expect nothing short of fireworks for every single holiday.  They were quite disappointed in Martin Luther King Day and I wish I were kidding.
Last year Macie was particularly disappointed in my lack of Valentine decor, I tried to make-up for it this year, but failed to photograph my efforts until most of it was taken down.  However I did snap of few pics of our entryway...  

I had high hopes of holding a fabulous Valentine party for the kids, but at the last minute decided to retain my sanity and not go COMPLETELY all out this year...we also did away with our usual homemade cards and the kids seemed just as satisfied with store bought valentines...
The boys had a Valentine exchange at school and much to my disappointment (and relief) neither wanted to decorate a box at home.  Brown paper bags did just fine.  
Macie was over-the-top thrilled with all the goods from her dance friends...
Besides the annual card exchange with friends and classmates, a sweet and simple tradition our family started this year was our month-long anonymous love-note exchange...

I absolutely adored reading the scrawled and sometimes scribbled messages found in our "love-note box"  around the table each night.

Valentines Day itself brought us our usual heart-shaped breakfast on our fancy china that we use next to never...
Our favorite love straws...
...and our traditional new pair of shoes...
...made for a lovely morning.
Since Macie and I seem to be the only ones excited by new footwear, there were a few other fun Valentines as well.
 Tessa, who isn't a fan of shoes either, fell quickly and thoroughly in love with Macie's new monkey...
There was no romantic date on the horizon for John and I, although we did have a fun couples party with friends earlier that week.  
Instead we spent Valentine's Night watching these three make their personal pies...
...and discovered their lack of sneaking bites ability...
Tessa too watched on as her three crazy siblings made the ugliest (what else?) pizza's they could conjure up.
We topped the night off with chocolate...
...and my most favorite love story ever...

This past February was particularly special for John and I as we celebrated the 10 year anniversary of this life changing day...

John is so hard to shop for because his interests include a vintage car I know nothing about, guns, ammo, and uh...killing things.  I wanted to get him something special and decided to write him a letter, sounds amazing huh!  We have literally written hundreds and hundreds of notes, cards, and letters to each other over the years and I find it the easiest way to express my feelings.  I contemplated sharing that letter here...just kidding I didn't.  However, I did find it quite enjoyable to spend the weeks prior to our big day looking over all that has taken place through the past decade.  It was amazing to ponder and outline all the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the fun and excitement, the tears, the fights, the vacations, the new additions, the pets, the career moves, the places we've called home, etc, etc.  
So yeah, I got my husband a letter for our big 10 year, that and some concert tickets and a couple of self help books, ha!  He's not always the best at gift giving so I thought things were fine until I woke up to see my dreams come true in turquoise (picture is off color) cookware...
I had planned on a romantic date, but decided at the last minute (being a school night and all) to stay home and cook a fabulous dinner with my new Le Creuset.  Except I was slightly terrified to cook with it, but I did, and it was amazing.  The kids helped set the stage...
...and then hid out with a pizza and movie in Mom and Dad's room.
John and I had our own romantic night-in without any interruptions for at least 10 minutes.  Tessa soon woke and in quite the mood, but after 10 years full of hiccups, we were happy to make our party three.  

I wanted to make something special and admittedly the Ultimate Beef Wellington may have been slightly out of my league, but dinner turned out pretty tasty...  
Though after consuming a $40/lb piece of flesh, John and I both came to conclude our pallets are much more child-like than we perhaps pretend.  In other words, a burger and fries are just fine with me.  
(Information that really could have saved us a buck or two.)
After a 4 week hiatus from sugar, I in particular was looking forward to dessert.   
Maybe the fact that I threw this whole dinner together at the last minute is to blame for over-baking the cake, but regardless, it hit the spot.
As chocolate and meringue are two of John's favorite things, I am determined to perfect this next time I make it.  

As mentioned, I spent quite a bit of time on my laptop looking over pictures of the past 10 years the weeks prior to our anniversary.  I loved looking at my cute hubby and how much we both have changed over our first decade together and the fun we've had...
Maybe we have a bit more fluff around our middles...maybe we have a few strange lines showing up around our eyes...so what if there is a bit of gray in our hair.  We have changed, but we are still so very much the same. 
We have gone through much together and if there is one thing I know without a doubt, I would never want anyone else by side through this crazy, hectic, beautiful life.
I love you John, and in case you were wondering, I still believe we will conquer the world.


Chocolate Meringue Cake
Joy of Baking

3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk

Meringue Layer:
3 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup granulated white sugar

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 - 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1 pound fresh berries

Chocolate Meringue Cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Butter (or spray with a non stick vegetable spray) and line the bottoms of two - 8 x 1 1/2  inches (20 x 3.75 cm) round cake pans with parchment paper.

Separate the eggs while they are still cold, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl. Cover the two bowls with plastic wrap and allow the eggs to come to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes).
In a large bowl sift the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt.
Using an electric mixer, or hand mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in the vanilla extract.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans. Set aside while you make the meringue layer. 
Using a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. 
Evenly divide the meringue and place on top of the cake batter in the two pans, gently smoothing the tops with an offset spatula.  Bake for approximately 25 - 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. The meringue layers will have turned a light brown and will be crisp to the touch but soft inside. Place the pans on a wire rack to cool. When completely cooled, gently remove from pans. 
Filling: Shortly before serving whip the cream with the sugar until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl, toss the berries with a little sugar, if desired.
Assemble: If using strawberries, cut them into bite sized pieces. Place one of the cake layers, meringue side up, on a serving platter. Spread the whipping cream onto the cake and top with the berries. Gently place the second cake layer, cake side down so the meringue layer is facing up, onto the first layer. Dust with confectioners (powdered or icing)sugar. If not eating immediately, cover and place in the refrigerator until serving time. The assembled cake will hold in the refrigerator for a few hours. 
Serves 8 - 10.