Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Rocking Chair

About a week before Macy's birthday, I impulsively decided that I wanted to fix this old rocking chair that my siblings and I had as babies. Here is a picture of the chair back in the day (the one my brother is sitting in).

Eva (4), Anna (2.5), and Jake (1) -- I am totally making up those ages, but it looks about right, right?
 So, I asked my father-in-law how long it would take me to sand and refinish this little rocker, and his response was basically "a lot longer than it would take ME to do." So, knowing that neither of us had any time to take on this project, we went to work. Jim did his magic down at the shop, sanding and staining and spraying, and of course him and the rest of his crew did an absolutely beautiful job! He handed the chair back to me a couple days later to finish it off with the seat cushion and backing. I do have a couple more details to complete (adding ties to the bottom cushion so it will stay on the seat, and putting some trim around the unfinished outer edge of the seat), but it was certainly finished enough to show to Macy at her party. So cute! I'll get some more pics up when I finish the rest of it, and of course I'll include a picture of her in it.

 I'm kicking myself for not getting a current "before" picture, but I'm sure you can imagine how it looked after sitting in a garage for 20+ years...

Macy is ONE!

Well, it's official! Our little munchkin is one-whole-year old. We had an Asian-inspired birthday party for her on Sunday, and everything went great! I won't lie, there was a lot of prep and planning and Googling involved in creating this party. But the way I figured it, I'm probably not going to get many more chances to go all-out on a birthday (I'm going to have to go back to work eventually!), so why not!? 

This was my first attempt at cake design. Funfetti cake (out of the box) with homemade buttercream icing. I got my inspiration here and here. Freestyle writing on a cake is tough...at least with the tools I had it was. So I was not about to attempt a "Happy Birthday" in front of "Macy".

Cherry blossom cake

Since the cake wasn't that big, I also did some sushi cupcakes. Devil's food cake mix with coconut sour cream frosting, and of course some jelly belly "roe".

Sushi cupcakes

And here is the rest of the spread:

Fortune cookies dipped in melted white chocolate chips (with a little red food coloring)
And of course, what Asian-themed party is complete without some candy sushi!?
  • Rice Krispies treats for the rice
  • Green and blue fruit roll-ups & fruit-by-the-foot for the nori 
  • Melted & molded Airheads for the nigiri atop the rice (and when I got tired of doing that, I used Swedish Fish)
  • Gummy worms in the sushi rolls 

Ha ha, don't mind my brother in the background..
Rubber ducky fountain
Origami art
Cherry blossoms borrowed from my friend Greta
Origami/tattoo/sticker station
Per my request, my brother drew this Pin the Tail on the Dragon drawing and I cut out little tails for the kids to tape on. But then of course we didn't end up playing since the oldest kid in attendance was three.

Party favors
"Cherry blossoms"
And here is the guest of honor in her kimono
(Oh yes, I made the kimono too, out of an old shirt of mine)
The headband was ALSO made from an old t-shirt

This is where I stopped taking pictures, but eventually everything got devoured.

I didn't really get any messy cake pics, but she did eventually embrace the birthday cake and make a mess of herself and her kimono (it's washable, after all!)

What I did not get pictures of:
  • The invitations (I'll see what I can do about getting one linked)
  • Two flavors of homemade ice cream: Green tea & Coconut
  • The drinks: Virgin mint mojitos (with optional devirginization) & Apple juice tea (apple juice mixed w/a little iced chamomile tea)
  • The virtually indestructible chinese lantern pinata. I know Ramie got some great pictures of the pinata demolition, so I will post them eventually.
I have not yet sat down to determine a final head count of guests, but I'm guessing about 30. I knew there were going to be a lot of people, but I was counting on the weather to cooperate so that people could spread out and go outside. The weather did not really cooperate, but it turned out just fine. As always, Macy was a trooper and handled herself really well. Love that girl!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Macy's Muffins

This is actually my version the Bran Flax Muffins on the back of the Bob's Red Mill Flaxseed Meal bag. I made some alterations to make them baby-friendly (no nuts or raisins and extra veggies). They're such an easy snack (for Macy and me), Macy loves them, and on some days, it's the only way I can get her to eat her vegetables! I make a double batch and store some in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Flaxseed Meal
3/4 cup Oat Bran
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup carrot, shredded
1 cup zucchini, shredded
2 apples, peeled and shredded (one time I didn't have apples so I made them with about a cup of canned crushed pineapple instead..)
1/2 cup cranberries, chopped (optional) ((or chopped prunes))
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together dry ingredients (in ingredients list: flour through cinnamon) in large bowl. Stir in carrot, zucchini, apples, and cranberry. Combine milk, eggs, and vanilla. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir until ingredients are moistened; do not over mix. Fill muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Monday, May 2, 2011


This week, I decided to experiment with dry beans. I'd never done the whole soaking overnight, cooking for a couple hours method before. I basically just wanted to see if it was worth the extra effort to save a few bucks. And after this week...well, I'm still undecided... but I did get to try black-eyed peas for the first time! 

Here's what I did with the black-eyed peas, adapted from an Allrecipes.com recipe I found. The original recipe had a really weird and awkward amount of spices that weren't really necessary. Anyway, here is what I came up with:

Sweet & Spicy Sweet Potato Soup with Black-Eyed Peas


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes 
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh, cooked black-eyed peas
  • 1 cup sweet potato, cooked until tender and cut into chunks
  • 1 (12 oz) jar roasted red pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch dried thyme
  • salt and cracked black pepper to taste


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion, celery, and garlic; cook until onion is soft and translucent.
  2. Mix in broth, tomatoes (with juices), black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, and chopped bell pepper. Add brown sugar and all the spices.
  3. Bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, covered, until sweet potatoes begin to get mushy, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and cracked pepper to taste. Serve with Jiffy corn bread muffins. Yummm.

In addition to the black-eyed peas, I also played with a bag of dry black beans. I used a cup and a half to make these brownies (yes, brownies), and the rest will be made into another batch of black bean burgersThe brownie recipe is from Rocco D's Now Eat This! cookbook, and they are really quite lovely. 

Black Bean Brownies


  • 1 1/2 cups black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 3/4 cup egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 12 packets Truvia (or 4 tablespoons Splenda)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8x8-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Combine the beans, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and egg subsitute in a food processor and process until smooth, about 1 minute.
  3. Add chocolate syrup, yogurt, butter, sugar, Truvia, and vanilla. Process until all ingredients are combined, about another minute.
  4. Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, turning the dish halfway through the baking time. 
  5. Let brownies cool completely, then cut into 12 squares. Refrigerate leftovers.

Per serving: 1.6 g fat; about 80 calories; 4 g protein; 8 g carbs

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Nest Cookies

This is another one I got from Prudent Baby. They're super easy and turned out quite well and is a great way to use up those 1/4-full bags of chocolate chips (or am I the only one with like 8 opened bags of various flavored chips in her pantry?)

In this batch, there is butterscotch (I WISH I had more than a quarter-bag of the butterscotch chips!), dark chocolate mint, peanut butter & chocolate, and regular semi-sweet chocolate that I added some shredded coconut to.

Shopping cart cover

Isn't it a wonder how babies find it necessary to explore their world with their mouths at exactly the same time as they become old enough to ride in the big girl seat of a nasty, dirty shopping cart? Well, as soon as I realized that Macy would soon be ready to ride in (an consequently sucking on) the shopping cart, I started looking at shopping cart covers. Then I said, "shoot, I got skillz--I'll just make her one!" Here's what I came up with. It works for restaurant high chairs, too. It's elastic all the way around, has a padded seat for her precious little bottom, little  round leg holes, and slits on the back to either fit the cart's buckle through (which is still kinda yucky), or in my case, clip the buckle I made (see that orange thing around her waste?) to the metal slats on the cart's back rest. I used 2 of those key ring clips that look like rock climbing carabiners, and they work really well!

And now that I've perfected the design, here is her official Ducks cover. It's kinda hard to see in this picture how it would go in a cart, but trust me, it works! (I haven't made the slits in the back for the buckle yet)


  • We don't have lasagna very often, so I was surprised that this turned out as well as it did :) I wrote down the ingredients as I went so that I could actually replicate it. What a concept! 

  • 10 lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 pound pork sausage
  • 1/2 pound extra lean ground beef
    • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
    2 cups part-skim ricotta
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups spinach, coursely chopped
  • about 3 cups pasta sauce, separated (I used a simple Ragu w/veggies)
  • 2+ cups grated mozzerella
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, basil


  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. To make sauce: In a skillet, brown the ground beef & sausage until cooked through; drain grease. Add 2 cups (saving about a cup for the top and bottom of lasagna) of the pasta sauce to the meat in the skillet; stir, then set aside. 
  4. To make filling: Combine ricotta, cottage cheese, parmesan, spinach and eggs.
  5. Cover bottom of a 9x13 inch pan with 1/2 cup of Ragu (from the jar, not the skillet), then place 4 noodles over sauce. Layer 1/2 of the cheese/spinach mixture, then 1/2 of the meat sauce, then 1 cup of mozzerella, then 3 more noodles. Do it again. End with about a half cup of Ragu and a sprinkle of mozzerella. Top w/the salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil.
  6. Cover w/tin foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 25 or so. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Black Bean Burgers

  • We've had these black bean veggie burgers a couple times now, and I think next time I'm going to make a double or triple recipe and freeze them, because that's just what I do. Oh, and here's the best part: Macy loved them too! Though I did find a pile of corn stuffed into the corner of her high chair seat. I thought they might be too spicy for her, but she didn't seem to mind at all. I haven't changed very much from the original recipe, so check out the link to get the nutritional info. I've also included a simple lime dressing that goes really well with it.

  • 1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, coursely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2-3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and lightly Pam-spray a baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.
  3. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Strain out excess liquid, then stir into mashed beans. Add frozen corn.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce.
  5. Stir the egg mixture into the bean mixture. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into six patties.
  6. Place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10-12 minutes on each side.

  • Lime Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 small fresh jalapeno pepper, minced
  • salt to taste

We ate ours on a multi-grain bun with lettuce, tomato, avacado, the above dressing, and a little salsa. (If you want to go really wild, try it with this mango salsa!) Yummers.