September 17, 2014

Oatmeal Pumpkin Spice Cookies

You know what? I love Target. Not a surprise, because I think we all feel that way. You can buy almost anything there, and now with the semi-recent additions of a grocery section you can justify a  trip there almost daily -- much to my husband's chagrin. But don't worry, I usually only make it there once a week.

Anyway, what I really love most about good 'ol Target is that they always seem to have the newest grocery products. I can always count on them to have the newest seasonably appropriate flavors of International Delight coffee creamers, the trendy Chobani Greek Yogurt Flips and of course the best selection of holiday appropriate candy!

Enter the Toll House Pumpkin Spice baking morsels (I hate that word, morsels. Yuck):



My mother-in-law told me about them last week and so I had to run out on Saturday and pick me up a bag. And what do you do with baking morsels? You bake! So I decided to whip up some Oatmeal Pumpkin Spice cookies with them. And you guys, they did NOT disappoint!

They're soft and chewy in all the right ways and perfectly pumpkiny! I hope you're ready for Fall and all things pumpkin because you're going to want to make these!



INGREDIENTS: 
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 white flour
1 1/2 cups oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
1 cup Nestle Toll House Pumpkin Pie Spice baking morsels
3/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)
3/4 cup chocolate chunks (optional)


INSTRUCTIONS:
1. First take out all of your ingredients, preheat your oven and make sure your butter is sitting out. Next put the oats, flours, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium size bowl -- stir to combine. Set aside.


2. Combine sugars and butter in a large bowl and use a hand mixer, or a stand mixer if you have it, to beat them together. Do this just until they are well mixed and fluffy.


3. Next add the egg, vanilla, pumpkin and beat together until combined.




At this point in the cookie making process I started to worry that the cookies might be too pumpkin flavored (is that possible?), so I thought some chocolate would help cut the flavors a bit. I didn't have chocolate chips on hand, so I used what I had, which was two 1.5 oz Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars. I unwrapped them and threw them in the blender for a few seconds to create chunks. This step is totally optional though.


4. Now you can mix in your Pumpkin Spice Morsels and whatever other add ins you desire -- I added 3/4 cup chocolate chunks and 3/4 dried cranberries. Make sure you mix these ingredients by hand using a wooden spoon -- the paddles on a mixer are too harsh and might break down the chips.


5. Now scoop them out onto a prepared baking sheet. I like to use my MIU baking mats to line my cookie sheets, but you could also use parchment paper. Scoop out balls of cookie dough using either a tablespoon or cookie scoop.


6. Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Let cool on a baking rack before serving.


These go perfectly with a hot cup of coffee! Enjoy!

September 15, 2014

Busy Bag Link Up & DIY Portable Road Playset Busy Box

Last week a big group of us shared the busy boxes / bags we received through our Busy Bag Exchange. I have absolutely loved seeing all of the creative ideas my mommy blogger friends have come up with for the busy bags / boxes we exchange. So much creativity and so many great ideas were shared!

Now, it's our turn to share how we made the boxes we sent out, where we bought the materials and any tips we might have.


I got the idea for this busy box from Dyan at And Next Come L, and as you'll see I originally thought I would make the road connect by attaching Velcro, but decided against it at the last minute. It seemed like a good idea because the Velcro would hold the craft stick road in place, but then I thought it might be frustrating for a 2 year-old to deal with so I just skipped it. I also made a set for O too and knew he'd like it more without the tricky Velcro.

O has loved playing with his set, which probably has something to do with the fact that I only pull it out every once in a while. I keep the box on the dining room table, so he usually forgets about it until I pull it out (maybe 2-3x a week).

Want to see how I made it and how to make one of your own? Here is what you'll need: 



Materials All materials were purchased at Micheal's Craft Store
2 sheets of green felt
1 sheet of blue felt
Velcro dots which I ended up not using, but they're still in the picture
jumbo wood craft sticks
yellow & black acrylic paint
paint brush
small box / bag
figurines of your choosing
cars



1. Start out by painting your craft sticks with black paint on ONE side -- these will be your "roads" for the play set. I tried really hard to keep the paint even and from getting on the back side, but some still slipped by. Because of the extra paint on the backside the craft sticks stuck to the paper I had them drying on, so on my next batch I was even more careful and laid them out to dry on wax paper.

I waited about 1 hour between painting the first side & letting it dry before I painted the backside of the craft sticks.


2. Once both sides are dry you can begin painting the yellow lines on the craft sticks to make them appear more like an actual road. I'm not super crafty or neat with a pain brush, as you can see, but luckily toddlers do not care about either of those traits as long as you're fun!


3. While you wait for the yellow lines to dry you can make a little pond or lake for your road play set using the blue felt.

4. Now that all of your "roads" are dry you can assemble your road play set. Use the two green felt pieces as grass and lay the craft sticks however you see fit, as long as they are all connecting. O had a fun time laying out his roads and deciding for himself where they should all go.






Everything fits really nicely into the plastic pencil box I bought at Micheal's, but it would all easily fit into a gallon Ziploc bag, which is probably easier for portability and storage space. 

Now it is YOUR turn!! Please link up your post about a busy box you've made so we can all share our ideas! I'm looking forward to seeing your ideas and pinning them to my Busy Bags to Make Pinterest board.

Weekend Wrap Up & Motivational Monday

The weeks go by quickly, but the weekends go even faster! I know I always say it, but when I think of the weekend it is the first thing that comes to mind. If it were even possible they're feeling even shorter now that Keith's picked up a few hours of paradigm work on Mondays. We had a full weekend though all squeezed into the time we had.

On Saturday O and I spent some time with Keith's mom and then some time with my mom. He's so lucky to have two grandma's who love him so so much! My mom watched O while I went to Target, Safeway and Micheal's. I've heard a lot of people complain about all of the fall decorations and products everywhere, but I don't really see the problem and kind of love it. And it is now officially fall here at our house, because we've found our first pumpkin spider of the season.. in the mail box! Ek! My mom and O relocated it to the bushes, but the next morning it had found it's way back into the mailbox again. Needless to say I will not be getting the mail anymore.



Saturday night we went out for pizza and ice cream. O's been such a homebody lately that we practically have to bribe him to leave the house. On Saturday night I told him we were going to a pizza parlor like Pizza Planet (like they go to in Toy Story), and it worked! We played games, ate pizza (O's with tons of parmesan on it) and then went for ice cream. It was a nice outing.


Sunday morning we hung around the house in our pajamas and played toys, read the paper, drank lots of coffee and I baked some delicious cookies that I can't wait to share with you this week!



Around lunch time we headed up to San Francisco with Keith's mom to celebrate her birthday! Keith's sister Kelly had a brilliant idea and suggested we all go to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival!
It was such a fun idea for us to all go together, even Keith's sister who lives up north was able to come down with her husband to join us.

The Chocolate Festival did not disappoint, there was definitely a ton of chocolate to be tasted and sampled! When you first enter they give you your Chocolate Tasting Ticket, which has 15 spots to be marked off as you claim your 15 samples.


When you first entered the festival there was a large both where you could pick up some samples of Ghirardelli Minis, chocolate covered pretzels and some of their new and limited edition chocolate squares.



One of the best parts of the whole day was the gorgeous views of the bay! It's not everyday that the weather is that clear and sunny in San Francisco - we got lucky!


Believe it or not I only sampled two thing while we were there. I don't know if it was the ride up, which usually makes me feel a little carsick or the fact that we were chasing O 99% of the time, but I just wasn't in the mood to have more. What I did try was amazing though! I tried the drinking chocolate, which was like drinking pure chocolate, and reminded me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I also tried the S'mores type chocolate covered thing!


There was more than just Ghirardeli at the fesival too though. Lots of other vendors donated their time and (sweet) products to the fundraiser, which benefits Project Open Hand, a non-profit that serves meals to seniors and people with HIV and AIDS.
After the festival we were all in the mood for some real food, so we ventured down to the piers to find a place to eat -- not an easy task with 10 people, but we ended up finding Bistro Boudin. You know Boudin, right? They're famous for their sourdough bread and clam chowder. The bistro is a fancier version of their regular restaurants, and we'll definitely be back someday, because look at that VIEW!

 

And of course, this little cutie pie was totally tuckered out after the all day chocolate festival. After nap time we played with pumpkin guts, watched some football, cleaned up the backyard and then it was bedtime.  It was a great weekend and I wish it didn't go so fast!
_________________________________________
Goal: Make healthy choices for me and my family, including making conscious (healthy) food choices and staying active.

Progress to date: Down 3lbs...on Friday that is -- I'm afraid to get on the scale today after all the fun we had yesterday.

Highlight of last week: Starting preschool! I'm hoping this week is just as smooth.

Challenge of last week: Starting preschool! It threw us off our schedule, which resulted in two skipped naps. All of the change could have made healthy eating a lot harder, but I stuck to it.

Workouts: 3 great weight training workouts and 3 semi-good cardio workouts. My knee has been bothering me, so I've been using the stationary bike, which isn't the hardest workout. And I try to just keep O in the childcare for 60 minutes and it goes by too quickly, which results in time being shaved off the end of my workouts which is when I do cardio.

Lessons I learned this weekPacking a protein bar, apple or carrot sticks makes it much easier to avoid eating out or feeling too hungry in between meals. I'm not missing dessert because I know I can have it on the weekend, and it tastes so much better when you have it less often. 

Here's the plan this week: 

Monday - Weelicious Pesto Turkey Meatballs + Quinoa Pasta + Veggies
Tuesday - Easy Oven Fajitas w/ corn tortillas
Wednesday - Slow Cooker Curry Chicken
Thursday - Greek Turkey Burgers in Whole Wheat Pita with Greek Salad
Friday - Out

Have a nice Monday everyone! 

September 12, 2014

Hey there, Friday!

Hooray, the weekend is here! I'm linking this post up with a gaggle of wonderful people, so go check them and all the other linkersup too! September Farm, The Farmer's Wife, A Little Bit of Everything, Grace and Love, and Momfessionals! 


ONE The Moon & Lola necklace I bought all the way back in July during the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale finally arrived! At first I thought it was a little large for my taste, but after wearing it once I totally changed my mind and fell in love, hard.

They no longer sell my exact one, but Mark & Graham sells one similar, in addition to a ton of other beautiful personalization necklaces and jewelry. My personal favorites are the Layered Dog Tag necklace (would be so cute with your wedding date on the large tag and children's initials on the small hearts) & the Rose Gold Elle Bangle.

I made the jewelry hanger myself. You can find the DIY here: DIY Jewelry Display
TWO I picked the Stuck On You Giveaway Winners! I will be forwarding your email addresses to Stuck On You and they'll be sending over your $25 vouchers! Thank you to everyone who entered.


THREE Roast Sweet Potato Bun Burgers - We tried something new this week with our standard burgers. Instead of using a bun we using slices or roast sweet potato. We both really liked it (O was never going to be able to hold something like that together with his hands -- he had all the contents of the burger broken down), it was super filling and much healthier than a burger with a standard bun and cheese.

FOUR Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival - This weekend we'll be taking Keith's mom up to San Francisco for her birthday to attend the best chocolate festival around. I am so beyond excited -- been eating clean all week for this! -- and you can expect a full recap of all the deliciousness next week.


FIVE Somersaulting - O and I have had a little Summer tradition in the evenings. If I'm finished cooking dinner, or we're waiting on something in the oven, and Keith still hasn't walked in the door O and I will play around on the grass out front until he comes home. Every time a car drives down our street O says "Ooooh! Is it daddy?". This week we were playing around with our somersaults and I caught him in motion (using the Auto Sports setting on my Canon dSLR Rebel (similar)). I'm going to have to blow this one up and frame it for sure.

Have an awesome weekend!

You can also follow along here: Facebook / Instagram

September 11, 2014

O's First Day of Preschool & "My First Day" Interview Printable

O had a fantastic first day of 2 year-old preschool on Tuesday!

I was a little worried about getting O to school dressed, in good spirits and on time. He's been a real homebody lately, and only wants to stay home to play. I'll tell him in the morning where we're going that day and he'll usually says something like, "I think I okay" meaning he has no desire to leave or "How about we stay home, play cars? That's an idea!". So on Tuesday morning we talked up school BIG time. We told him how he was going to get to play with other kids, play with shovels and sand, and have snack with his new friends. That is probably the only reason I was able to get him in the car Tuesday morning.

Once we were out the door we had 40 minutes to get to school, which is more than enough drive time between home and school, maybe even double. Better to be early than late though, because once we got to school I realized I had forgotten to pack quarters for parking (our school is in a downtown area with very little school parking), so we had to walk over to Safeway (the only nearby place that was open before 9am) for quarters. We ended up only having 5 minutes to spare before his teacher opened the door.



I was lucky that Tuesday is also my workday, so I got to be there with O for his first school experience. I think he would have been fine, but I'm pretty sure it worked out better for me. It was fun (and exhausting) being in the classroom with all the children on the first day, but the kids all did great! Barely any tears were shed when the other parents left. There are 3 other moms helping and the teacher, so we definitely had the class well covered.

The kids have about a half hour of free play (cars, dolls, dress up, kitchen, etc) / art/ playdough before getting outside for some play time. O's favorite things to do outside were digging in the sand and riding the little motorcycles. I was impressed with how well all the children did with listening to directions. After "recess" was dancing time inside, followed by hand washing and snack.

The children all sit at tables together for snack while the adults supervise and help with opening snacks and drinks. I was so proud of O for how he handled himself through the steps of snack time... standing in line to wash his hands, getting his little lunch bag from his cubby and finding a seat at a table with other classmates. I packed him a water bottle, pretzels and strawberries. Our salt-loving boy mainly snacked on pretzels and drank a ton of his water!


I was pretty proud of O all day for not clinging to me at all and just enjoying getting to know his classmates and even talking to some of the parents a bit. He's often more social and outgoing than I am -- Keith and I are so very thankful for that little bit of his personality! After snack the class went outside again for more playtime before coming in to play with blocks, and finally to have story time before dismissal.

And of course this was a day full of first, because Owen also climbed out of his crib for the first time as he was refusing his nap. I thought for sure he would be in need of a nap after all the fun we had at school, I know I was hoping to have one myself! He never napped that day, and has not napped since. I'm not giving up on naps though. Today we have no distractions after lunch to keep me from getting him to nap, so keep your fingers crossed I can make it happen. I'm not ready to lose nap time.


And what first day would be complete without some kind of memorabilia to capture what he was like on that very day? I created this little My First Day of Two Year-Old Preschool interview myself with all the questions & answers I thought we'd enjoy being able to look back on someday. As you can probably see, O is really into dinosaurs right now! I just asked him these questions the day before school while he was having lunch and wrote down his first answer. My goal is to create a system, like I Heart Organizing's School Paper Work Storage system, to keep all of his school work organized for safe keeping through the years.


If you'd like a copy of the printable for your own use I've made them available in Google Drive, and you can print them here Preschool, Two Year-Old Preschool and  Three Year-Old Preschool. They are definitely no perfect, but they'll do just fine as a memory keeper.

So today we're off to our second day of school -- wish us luck!

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