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Ta-DDDDAAAAAA!!!

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I’m ba-ack! And you thought you could get rid of me that easily. Not a chance, my people. Not a chance.

WELL, what have I been doing these past few weeks – er, months, but who’s counting? – that I haven’t written to you lovely readers? What haven’t I been doing is the real question (and don’t say “posting on your blog”. Not allowed.). In any case, here is a limited list:

1. My new job! I currently work as a part-time editorial assistant for the editor-in-chief of an academic journal. It’s a job, and it’s something I can do from home for a bit o’ extra money. It’s obviously not my ideal job, nor does it use too many of my hard-earned collegiate skills, but I do get to communicate with people from all over the world and learn some new stuff. It’ll do until…

2. …I finish my first app! As some of you may or may not know, I’ve dabbled in iOS (that’s iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch) development in the past, and I’m turning much more attention to it now. Currently I’m catching up to speed on all the new development features that I’ve missed because of *SOMEONE* I’ve had to take care of for the past over 10 months. Psshh. I’ve got a couple of project ideas lined up already, and I’m hoping I can get them pushed out and ready to go in the next few months.

3. That *SOMEONE* that I may or may not have ever mentioned on this blog before. Yeah, him. He, uh, also occasionally takes up some of my time.

BABY PICTURES ATTACK!!!!!!!!

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There’s more where that came from, too, my friends. ‘Tis but a small selection. You’ll have to stay tuned for more!

4. Finally, baking. Yes, I may not have been keeping you updated about my baking, but I sure as cake was still continuing to bake (I honestly did not mean for that to rhyme). Because of the backlog, however, you’re just going to have to enjoy the pictures of my creations without too much background explanation. Me tired. I’ll start afresh with this weekend’s assignment.

Here it goes:

Orange-chocolate-pecan coffee cake:
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Somehow in all my adventures I’d never managed to produce a coffee cake before, but this one was definitely delish!

Tres leches cake! With real leches!

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Chocolate cappuccino cake, which was actually very cinnamon-y:

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This occasionally happens to me with baking; I, actually, was not the biggest fan of the above cake. I mean, it was ok, but it was not necessarily what I look for in a chocolate-coffee cake. For one, I thought it was kind of dry. HOWEVER, the things that I am usually meh about turn out to be some of the biggest hits with everyone else. This cake was exactly an example of that. People kept telling me how moist and delicious it was. Go figure. Whatever makes ’em (and “’em” being the people so gracious as to partake in my culinary exploits) happy, I guess!

So then I got on an insane scone kick. To the point where I wasn’t able to even take pictures of some of the ones I made because they disappeared so fast. But here were my favey-faves, maple oat scones:

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And James’s favorites, mini vanilla bean scones:

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Finally, there was the rediscovery of my amazing breadmaker, which produced this lovely lemon poppyseed cake:

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Alas, not pictured (because I somehow didn’t manage to snag these on camera!) are a classic pound cake, my father-in-law’s traditional birthday chiffon cake (which I even made twice, and still didn’t manage to catch on “film”!), lemon-blueberry scones, and orange-cranberry scones.

So you see, I have been a busy beaver. Those baked goods couldn’t just bake and eat themselves. And all the other stuff? Well, come on, let’s get our priorities straight. 🙂

Welcome back!

Oh, oh, it’s Maciek, you know!

I think it’s high time we had a Maciek update, don’t you? Especially since this is what I had I wanted to start off this post with:

And before I even had a chance to write it, he straight up started doing this:

So, here are the quick stats, in number form. See if you can guess what the number matches up to before you scroll down!

8

Months old, as of a week ago. Such a big boy now!

23

Pounds. At least. When we weighed him a week or so ago, he was 23.2, so who even knows what he weighs now.

18

Clothing size: 18 months. Yes, you read that right: 10 months “older” than his actual age. That’s more than twice his age, for the mathematically uninclined. Yes, I do realize that these sizes really match up to height/weight more than age, but it’s still crazy. I also wish there was size-AND-age-appropriate clothing for babies because a) Maciek is still a BABY and I want him to wear BABY clothes. But sorry, he’s the size of a toddler, so he must wear toddler clothes now, no choice about that. And b) his proportions are not that of a toddler! Luckily he has super long legs (part of the reason why he grows out of clothes so quickly, actually. Thanks, James), but his poor arms are almost always too short for his sleevies. 😦

2

Months, the average amount of time Maciek wears a size before he grows out of it. That means lots of trips to Carter’s for us. 🙂

5

Teeth, officially! He’s got at least one more that’s just below the surface, but so far my bite marks say 5.

3

New skills learned within four weeks. Yep, in less time than it took him to turn a month older (he did all of this between turning seven and turning eight months), he learned to sit steadily on his own, sit up on his own, and crawl. Honest to goodness, crawl. Mobile Maciek is so different than stationary Maciek, and definitely more challenging to keep up with. But pretty entertaining as well! (I should mention here that he’s also learned to eat Cheerios and play the piano, as the video shows. No big deal.)

Many

Ok, so it’s not really a number, but that word refers to the amount of new foods he’s tried, which include millet, quinoa, blueberries, mint, green beans, cauliflower, bananas, avocados, mangos, and turkey!

I think that’s a pretty decent update for now. I’ll leave you with what my master engineer baby managed to do this afternoon.

Besides flipping over pianos. Hulk baby.

I sometimes entice him into playing with his blocks by building him a little pyramid, which he then promptly destroys by trying to take a piece out of it. Not so today:

Mayhaps he's just a master Jenga player.

When life gives you desserts, part dos

Ok, let’s just put it this way. Holidays tend to seriously, seriously mess with my schedule. I can honestly offer no justification for my long absence (one about which I have been reminded by several people now… Sorry!) except that around here, we tend to go absolutely nuts around the holidays. Between the cooking and the cleaning and the BAKING and oh yeah, that baby kid, I just found all my free time being quickly gobbled up. My new pastime of making Maciek’s food from scratch, as well as a project that was supposed to be done by Christmas Day but that’s still in the works (can’t say more here – the wrong eyes might see it!), and the far-away rumblings of a potential job (more on this later!) may, just may, have contributed to my recent absence as well. Unfortunately some of these things may keep me scarcer than usual for a couple more days yet, but hopefully not for long.

Anywho, as a peace offering, please accept my last post which was still in the pipeline (from many, many weeks ago), a promise that Christmas baking shall be thoroughly covered soon, and some cute pictures of Maciek. Because, hello, babies make everything better. Enjoy!

During his photo shoot for his Grandpas' Christmas gifts.

Enjoying his new toy from his Aunt Becky and Uncle Michael.

With his cousin Kacio. Gaaaaah, I'm dying of cuteness!!!

Last time, we talked about repurposing your leftover dessert into yet more dessert. It seems pretty straightforward to take the bits and pieces you’re left with and combine them into something interesting and new, no?

But what if you have two perfectly good, simple, standalone, classic dessert favorites? You could eat them separately I suppose.

Or you could SMASH THEM TOGETHER.

A-like so:

I give you, ladies and gentlemen, Brooksters. No, I’ve never heard of them before, yes, they make a complicated dessert out of two very simple ones, but you know what WHO CARES because they were totally worth it.

I was tipped to the idea of these by my lovely brother who found a specialized Brookster pan at a kitchen store and immediately thought of yours truly (thanks, Matt!). He had good timing, too, because I was sort of stumped as to what I should try out this weekend. Silly me, not thinking to just throw two desserts in a pan together. So I pulled out my trusty desserts cookbook to find some good, simple recipes.

The Brookster starts with some basic brownie batter and some basic chocolate chip cookie batter. Actually I suppose you could use whichever brownie and chocolate chip cookie batter you like, the instructions just say to have some of each. Speaking of which, I’ve made CC cookies from scratch plenty of times before, but I am ashamed to say that for the looooooongest time, I was convinced brownies were one of those things you just HAD to make out of a box. I mean, for me there was just no way you could recreate the ooey, gooey richness of a brownie without trusting the masterminds at Ghirardelli and Betty Crocker. Don’t ask me why. I don’t make any of my desserts out of boxes, but for some reason brownies-out-of-a-box just held their own special magic with me. Come to think of it, this is actually the first time I’ve made brownies from scratch. Huh. Well, bye-bye box! Honestly, these Brooksters ended up being most valuable to me in showing me how delicious a good, homemade brownie can be.

Once you’ve got your recipes lined up, Brooksters are fairly straightforward, just sort of time-consuming. You can pretty much only make one batch at a time, since you spoon brownie batter into the wells of the Brookster pan (which, if you’re interested in making this, looks like a shallower version of a jumbo muffin pan. And trust me, these things would be just as delicious even if they weren’t as huge, so use regular muffin pans, too) and let that chill for an hour, then make chocolate chip cookie dough disks, press them on top, bake the whole thing, and let the Brooksters cool in the pan. So you see, your pan ends up being tied up for quite a while, but it’s a fun dessert for when you only need to make a few of them/you have several Brookster/muffin pans.

So try these next time you want a classic, no-frills dessert that’s still a little different. You’ll be glad you did!

Adieu for now, friends, until next time when we talk about the annual Christmas baking that goes on around here. I’ll leave you with this teaser for now: 6 types of cookies in 24 hours. And I mean baking them, not eating them (although that happened too, shh). Aw yeah. Ciao!

Give thanks this post is not any longer

…while I give thanks for the following beautiful things from the past week:

1) My wonderful husband who took a few days off so we could have a nine-day vacation all together.

2) For fun excursions

Ready to go!

That introduced us to new friends

And left everyone tuckered out at the end of the day.

3) For time spent in the beautiful outdoors!

4) For time spent with family.

5) For baking, my great escape.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Marshmallow Sour Cream Topping and Gingersnap Crust

Cranberry Orange Loaf

First attempt at homemade pie crust. Yay!

My annual Thanksgiving contributions.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie with Graham-Pecan Crust. I love this picture because of how my nephew is creepin' in on this pie.

Caramel Pecan Pie

Cinnamon Apple Pie with Raisins and Crumb Topping - more like strudel than apple pie, but still delicious!

(The pumpkin desserts were the big winners this time around. Make sure to try the cheesecake and the pumpkin pie! The loaf, pecan pie, and apple pie are of course all worth a try, too!)

6) For my beautiful baby bub.

7) And for our beautiful family.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

P.S. The excursion was to the San Antonio Zoo and the outdoor time, at Enchanted Rock State Park. Both are highly recommended!

Food for thought

There comes a day in every person’s life where they have to claim independence, spread their wings, and leave the nest.

Today was that day.

For Maciek.

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating. Perhaps the amazing milestone of STARTING SOLIDS is not that dramatic. But it sure does feel like that to Mama! Her little baby is all grown up and doesn’t need her anymore! At least not much. 😉

But yes, a batch of homemade sweet-potato baby food later and Maciek has started solids. So grown up! And so far it looks like he loves it. We started off with a small amount today just to be cautious, but this kiddo looked like he could have kept eating a lot more. So we’ll let him go at it tomorrow! I’m excited to see how much he’ll eat!

Here it comes!

Do I chew the spoon or eat off of it?

This eating off a spoon thing is not working.

But Mama's finger is the best spoon!

Zut alors!

There comes a point in every baker’s life where you just have to cover up a mistake you made. This has, of course, never happened to me before. Ahem.

I was all kinds of excited about this weekend’s dessert because I felt like I was so clever in choosing it. You see, my beloved husband asked me to buy him a large amount of apples for our recent Halloween get-together so we could bob for apples. So I happily grabbed a five-pound bag and brought it home the day before the party. Where it sat for the next week, unopened.

Sssoooo, I needed to find a use for five pounds of red delicious apples. Lo and behold, my monster of a cookbook did not disappoint, and I found a recipe for Tarte Tatin, which is apparently a fairly common French pastry. I already had all the ingredients on hand, and I was going to get to try some new techniques.

This pastry is unique in that you cook the apples in a simple caramel sauce, first on the stovetop, and then in the same pan, covered with a delicious crust, in the oven. When the tart is finished, the whole thing gets flipped upside down and you have beautiful caramel-y apples atop a gorgeous crust.

That is, if you don’t burn your caramel and apples first.

*Sigh*

Long story short, due to rushing around and trying to do too many things at once, I let my beautiful caramel apples cook just a touch too long on the stovetop. James came into the kitchen and wondered why there was steam coming out of our hot water kettle until he realized it was actually smoke coming from our cast iron skillet on the stove. Some quick thinking and salvaging of unruined apples later, we had a makeshift, semi-Tarte-Tatin baking in a pie dish in the oven, at least covered with that delicious crust.

And you know what? It actually wasn’t too bad. We took the tart to a family gathering where they all commented on its deliciousness. I either have a really awesome family who loves me and wanted to make me feel better or the tart was actually edible. Probably both. I’d say the biggest problem ended up being the tart’s diminished size, so it’s a good thing we’d thought ahead and brought some homemade oatmeal cookies since it was supposed to be a fairly sizable gathering.

All in all, everything turned out well. You might even consider my adventure totally appropriate, considering the origins of the Tarte Tatin.

And now, the incriminating evidence:

Prior to flipping.

Action shot!

All flipped over and ready to go.

Apples ready for their close-up.

Served with fresh cinnamon whipped cream.

The always-dependable oatmeal cookie.

A very similar Tarte Tatin recipe can be found here (just add in some cinnamon to the crust!), and as for the surprisingly amazing whipped cream, just add two tablespoons sugar and a quarter teaspoon cinnamon to a cup of whipping cream before you start beating it. I would imagine it would be a wonderful addition to holiday baking!

And, because we can hardly let a dessert post go by without some painfully adorable pictures of my own sweetums, prepare to be pained:

Mama, I disapprove of your mistakes.

Sometimes your desserts taste funny.

But it's ok because I'm flying!

Until next time!

Don’t pop the bubble!

I try not to rant on this blog. Not because I don’t have things to rant about, mind you – that’s just the problem. If I let myself rant, I could rant as much as the day is long, just because I can be a crotchety person like that. But let’s be honest, nobody really needs that. Hence I don’t rant.

But there has been this thing recently that’s really gotten my goat. Evidently more so than my usual pet peeves as I’m breaking my no-rant rule for it. I’ll just look at this as a sort of public service announcement, so that if you ever find yourself in this situation, you’ll at least have another perspective to think about. Here goes:

PLEASE don’t touch my baby if you don’t know me. Please.

Maybe this doesn’t bother other people as much as it bothers me, I don’t know. I don’t speak for all mothers everywhere but please at least keep this in mind. If I don’t know you, don’t touch my baby!

I read somewhere once that women get much more protective and confident when they become mothers, and I definitely think that’s true. But honestly, I think this is an issue of personal space more than anything else. I like hugs and chilling out cozily on the couch as much as the next person, but I wouldn’t go stroke a stranger’s hair or pinch their cheeks or anything. And I think most of us wouldn’t do that! So why is it that people have this insatiable urge to touch babies, even if they don’t know them? Aren’t babies even more vulnerable and in need of a personal bubble than the rest of us?

Now don’t get me wrong. I love it when people stop me on neighborhood walks, in the grocery store, at parties, whatever, to tell me how adorable my baby is. I totally agree! He’s amazing! But if I don’t know you, there is no reason why you need to touch him. So admire from afar, please!

I could have filed this away under the very few personal-space issues that I have (like pregnant-belly touching; I don’t really get that one either. I don’t touch your belly – don’t touch mine, friend!), but this one’s particularly important to me as it involves my child. So forgive this newly protective and confident mama, and ask before you touch!

Thanks for listening, and I promise I’ll try to avoid rants in the future! See you at the next dessert post!