Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A limb's limit

A couple of months ago (April 16th to be exact), a tornado ripped through our area. "Our area" refers generally to the line the tornado traveled from Sanford through North Raleigh as well as specifically to Holly Springs and the road not a mile away that the tornado tore down. We were very lucky to be spared by Mother Nature's handiwork.

While the tornado didn't come through our neighborhood, we did have a very mean storm hit. Wind, rain, thunder, lightning, we had it all. Surprisingly, we didn't lose any limbs or trees and really didn't have much debris at all. I mean, really, I should WISH for a nearby tornado every time considering how we came through it unscathed.

There were storms in our area yesterday and when I got home, I saw this out the kitchen window.

Each of those lighter pavers is 2 feet square so that should give you a rough idea of how big the limb is.

This limb was a decent size so maybe it had been holding on for dear life since the tornado, and yesterday's weather event was the final straw.

The McHusband was in Connecticut for work last night so guess what he's going home to tonight?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

That weekend in Charlotte

Okay, enough with the food (for now). We were in Charlotte a couple weekends ago and had a wonderful time meeting Maxie, playing with the other kids, visiting family, and attending a baby shower.

The McHusband to the rescue! A balloon had floated to the ceiling in Bri's two-story living room. But combine a couch, a tall McHusband, and a pair of grill tongs, and that balloon didn't stand a chance.

While we waited for Nate to get home from work, the McHusband took Lyla and Owen (and the rum and diet coke that was supposed to be mine) out to the swingset.

I joined them after a bit.

The next day, I went back to hang out with Bri, my mom, Lyla, and Maxie while the McHusband stayed back at the house to help his dad with stuff. We girls went to Hobby Lobby to get stuff for Lyla's Minnie Mouse party, which was yesterday.

Bri has two well-stocked candy jars in her kitchen and neither the McHusband nor I have the willpower to resist them. That's not always good when there are little ones around who want candy, too. I gave Lyla some Laffy Taffy, and she promptly stuffed the whole thing into her mouth and tucked it into one cheek.

That night, after a dinner consisting of brownie trifle, pretzel sticks, and wine, we watched the Michael Jackson concert documentary This Is It. It was pretty interesting and looking back on how sick he was supposed to be, it was amazing what he was able to do on the stage.

Lyla entertained us with her own dance moves.


Stop! In the Name of Love

Uh, the "put your leg in" part of the Hokey Pokey?

So, wanna know how Bri's coping with being a mom to two precious little girls? Well, let's just say that the bottles she's washing each evening aren't the only ones she has her hands on. Kidding! Sorta...

On Sunday of that weekend, after Fake-Father's Day breakfast, the McHusband and I attended Bill and Veerle's baby shower. Coincidentally, Veerle's due the same day as Sara and with a boy as well.

When we got back to the house, I was talking to the McMom in the den. The McHusband went into the kitchen and came out eating a sugar cookie. All of a sudden the McMom yells, "Stop! Spit it out! Don't eat those!"

See, they were from Christmas and had been in a Tupperware container since then. Now, to Tupperware's credit, they were still edible as long as you avoided the moldy bits.

Green sprinkles are good. Green fuzzy spots? Not so much.

A potential poisoning: what a way to end the weekend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Lyla showed us her recital dances when we visited. Bri had told me how everyone - Bri, my mom, Nate, and Shannon - cried while watching her. Well, I have to admit, I teared up during Lyla's living room performance. What is it about these kids that can break your heart and make it overflow at the same time?

And the Wiggle-Wiggle song and dance:

You wouldn't guess it by how much she enjoyed dancing for us, but she wasn't too happy about being up on the stage for the recital. Don't worry, Lyla, I see MANY more dance routines in your future.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Meet Miss Maxie

So we were in Charlotte the weekend before last to meet our newest niece, to celebrate a fake Father's Day (faux holidays = a McFamily tradition), and to attend a baby shower for Bill and Veerle.

Maxie is such a sweet baby. She does not seem to require much beyond the basics - food, sleep, and diaper changes. She's not gassy, doesn't have to be held to sleep, and isn't bothered by her older sister running around being crazy.

I was almost disappointed that she didn't NEED more cuddling to be happy. Not that I let that stop me from holding her as much as possible.

Can you believe all that hair? Lyla didn't have that much hair by her first birthday!

Look, a rare instance of open eyes!

Congrats, Bri, Nate, and Lyla - she's a sweetie!

Recipe Recap: Banana Cupcakes with Assorted Frostings

Yes, another food post. I know I really need to finally write about our trip to Charlotte a couple weekends ago, I just haven't had much time to sit in front of the computer at home.

You know, cuz it cuts into my TV time.

I promise, I'll try to catch up this week. In the meantime, here are some cupcakes.

We had bananas that were too ripe to eat (too ripe for us anyway) so I was either going to cut them up and freeze them for smoothies, or else turn them into a baked good. This recipe showed up in my Reader just in time so I figured it was serendipity and who am I to argue with the universe?

I went with mini cupcakes so that I could have more to share. The McHusband's office, while grateful for the treats, also gives me a hard time through the McHusband for making them fat. So I didn't want to burden them with too many sweets. Instead, I took the majority of the cupcakes to my building and shared them with the doctor's office next to us.

The original recipe calls for a peanut butter frosting so I made a half-batch of that. I'd been wanting to try a honey buttercream and these seemed like a good base for that so I made a half-batch of that as well and then further divided it in half and added cinnamon to a portion of it.

Peanut butter in the front, then cinnamon on the left and honey on the right.

I actually liked the peanut butter frosting-banana cupcake combo more than I thought I would.

The honey flavor wasn't quite strong enough for me in the honey buttercream, but it was a very pretty frosting and it wasn't overly sweet so I think it's a pretty versatile frosting.

Bachelor Number 3, the cinnamon-honey buttercream, was my favorite. The cinnamon was definitely there, but it wasn't overpowering, and it was a nice complement to the cupcake.

So there you have it - one cupcake, three different flavors. Which one do you think you'd like best?

(A cupcake for anyone who can identify where these pictures were taken. It was 10:00 at night and I had to go to where the light was best. If you've been to our house or driven down our street at night when the garage door is open and the McHusband's out there working, you know how bright it is in there.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Recipe Recap: Turkey Burgers, Cajun Sweet Potatoes, and Cherry Rum Lemonade

Another food post without any pictures. Tsk tsk. But the recipe links have pictures so check those out.

We made Sweet Hawaiian Turkey Burgers with Cajun-style sweet potatoes last night. Wow, what a great meal! The burgers were definitely sweet, and I think next time we make them I'll temper the sweetness with some red pepper flakes or maybe even just add some jalapeno slices to the burger as a topping.

We had some Cajun seasoning in the cupboard so I was lazy and used that with some brown sugar instead of making it from scratch, which I've done once before so I can still say the original recipe is very good as well. I cubed one sweet potato, shook it in a bag with the olive oil and spices, then baked them at 390 degrees (my oven runs hot) for about 30 minutes, stirring after 15 and 30 minutes. Then I baked them for an additional 8 minutes and broiled them for a few to get the outsides a little crusty.

We girls went out Saturday night (not to worry, there are DEFINITELY pictures from that), and I made a cherry rum-spiked lemonade for sipping before we headed downtown. It's similar to my other beer-vodka lemonade so I really didn't doubt that I would like it. Heather, Chelle, and I each drank it and all thought it was very yummy. It's a great summer drink that I think would be good as a slushy drink, too.

I made mini banana cupcakes last night and will frost them tonight. I'm using a peanut butter frosting on half and a honey buttercream on the other half. I will definitely snap a few photos and report back on which frosting works best. I've got my money on the honey buttercream. As much as I like peanut butter in general and peanut butter on bananas specifically, I'm just not too sure about the banana cupcake-pb frosting combo.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Recipe Recap: Mississippi Mud Cupcakes

Heather's birthday was last week and we celebrated with a girls' dinner at PF Chang's and I of course jumped on the opportunity to try a new recipe. Heather is chocolate's biggest fan and when I found out she loved marshmallows almost as much, well, this recipe was a no-brainer.

Now, Kristan (that's Kris-TANNE) warned me not to fill my cupcake liners very full. I tried to heed her warning, I really did. But I wasn't very successful. Can you blame me? Chocolate batter, chocolate frosting, and marshmallows - of course more is better!

Kristan recommended four or five marshmallows per cupcake. You can see I pushed the limits there as well.

Oh yeah, once I covered everything with more batter, I could see that I wasn't doing very well in the follows-directions-well category. Do those look 1/3 to 1/2 full to you?

What do I get more my overzealous efforts? Fallen cupcakes.

But guess what? Fallen, suddenly hollow cupcakes are vessels for more sweets. I stuffed those suckers full of even more mini marshmallows then filled what was left of the hole with frosting. (Sorry, no pictures of that step, but just imagine this hole filled with yumminess.)

I would say these turned out pretty good. I think I could've done without the frosting-marshmallow combo prior to baking although it did make for an ooey-gooey middle so if that's your thing, then go for it. I didn't love the frosting off the bat, but when I finally ate a cupcake with the frosting on it, I became a fan. It was a simple frosting that came together easily so I think I'll use it again. But I'll probably make 1 1/2 to 2 times the recipe. I don't know if it was the holes I had to fill or what, but I didn't have enough frosting.

I apologize for not having good after pictures, but I did want you to see what these ended up looking like when cut (or bitten) into.

Heather said it was a little too much frosting and Kim wasn't too keen on the marshmallows. Chelle and I couldn't comment because our mouths were full of cupcake, but I'm pretty we were quite happy with our dessert.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Recipe Recap: Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze

Wow, I'm Stephie Crocker this week! I promise, I do more than just bake.

I also take pictures of what I bake and then I blog about what I've baked. I sometimes even eat what I bake.

I really only make something if I have a reason to contribute it to a party or get-together; the McHusband and I don't need to eat an entire batch of cookies, a pan of brownies, or a whole Bundt cake by ourselves. I guess we've just had a busy social calendar lately.

I made this coffee cake last week to bring into the office. I have a Bundt pan that's about half the size of what you'd consider a "normal" Bundt pan and it worked great for this recipe, which called for the coffee cake to be made in a bread pan.

This coffee cake was really easy to throw together and exceeded my expectations. I mean, I figured it'd be good enough and serve its purpose at our breakfast meeting, but it ended up being worthy of writing home about. One of the guys at the meeting asked to take some home with him and he informed me the next morning that he'd just finished the last of his three slices.

Each slice of the coffee cake was moist and had just the right amount of the brown sugar-cinnamon layers. The glaze gave it a little crunch factor.

I'm not a huge fan of maple syrup (give me the fake Mrs. Butterworth's stuff any day) so I wasn't too sure about the glaze. But it turned out to be very tasty and a very nice complement to the coffee cake.

I liked this coffee cake so much, in fact, and I had the leftover sour cream that I needed to use that I decided to make it again on Sunday and stick it in the freezer for future use. Keep your fingers crossed that it's as good the second time around.

Sorry I don't have any pictures of the inside. I'll try to do an updated post when we cut into the one in the freezer and will include some interior shots.

{Recipe here}

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Recipe Recap: Lemon Cream Bars

I told you about these bars a few weeks ago but didn't have any pictures for you to drool over. I made another batch of the bars for a Women's Night in the 'hood and made sure to photograph their deliciousness.

I made these in my just-slightly-smaller-than-9x13-pan and still made the extra crust/topping like I did the first time. I don't think I'll ever make that part according to the recipe.

These are so easy to put together - the hardest part is squeezing the lemons for the juice - and they are very tasty. The lemon flavor is there, but it's not in your face like it can be in some recipes.

If you're looking for something summery to contribute to a get-together, give these a try. They were a hit at two parties, one office, and a neighborhood gathering.

{Recipe here}

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Recipe Recap: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough-Stuffed Cupcakes

I made Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough-Stuffed Chocolate Cupcakes to take to Chelle and Jeremy's cookout. Most of the people who had those AND the brownie-stuffed cupcakes liked the latter better. Not that they didn't like these enough to eat them, they just preferred the others. I think I did, too.

I doctored up a cake mix according to Tidy Mom's instructions:
1 box cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 c. melted butter
1 c. water

For the cookie dough centers, I used Nestle's mini break-and-bake cookies. I spooned some batter into my liners, then plopped (yes, I'm pretty sure that's a technical cooking term) one of the unbaked cookies into the middle.

Then I covered the dough with a little more batter before putting the tins in the oven.

Unfortunately, I can't remember where I got the frosting recipe from so I don't know who to credit, but here it is.

3 sticks room temp butter
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
7 - 8 c. sifted powdered sugar
1/4 - 1/2 c. milk

Cream butter and shortening until smooth, approximately 3 minutes on medium using paddle attachment. Slowly add sugar. Once all added, crank speed up to med-high and whip for approximately 1 minute. Add milk depending on how stiff you need/want your frosting.

To the butter cream, add:
1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. light brown sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
milk as needed

This frosting was good if you like a stiffer, almost crunchy bakery-style frosting. I liked how well it piped onto the cupcakes, but I don't know that the flavor was anything to write home about.

I had a few left over break-and-bake cookies so instead of popping them raw into my mouth, one after another (which I SOOO could've done), I baked 'em up and used them to garnish the cupcakes.

Aren't they cute?

The McHusband liked the little cookie halves. I sent leftovers into the office with him, and I think a couple showed up minus their cookie toppers.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Cookout

Let's see, it's June 5th so it seems an appropriate time to blog about the Memorial Day Weekend cookout we went to at Chelle and Jeremy's last weekend. Hey, cut me some slack, Memorial Day was really late this year so it was probably going to show up here in June no matter what.

Anyway, as always, we had a great time hanging out with everyone. Who was there? Bruce and Heather were there with their girls, Jovyn came down from VA, Terry and Vickie, Shawn and Vanessa, neighbors Kendall and Adam, coworker Hustler, and Kevin S. graced us with his presence (and Kristen's yummy cookies) later in the evening.

The neighbors, Kendall and Adam.

Heather was giving me a hard time about my pants being too big. What do you think?

While we girls were out on the patio causing trouble, the rest of the gang was on the screened-in porch.

At one point, I went inside to refill my drink, and when I got back I saw that my camera had been used to take some, uh, interesting shots.

A few random shots just cuz.

It was another great night spent with good friends. I'm not gonna get all sappy, but the McHusband and I are lucky to have these people in our lives.

It doesn't matter if we're just hanging out at someone's house, out to dinner on a Friday night, celebrating a birthday or helping each other with some project - I appreciate all those shared moments and love all the memories we're making.