Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Hallow's Eve

Another holiday that just gets better every year that Valentino gets older and is able to understand and participate more - HALLOWEEN!!!

Happily, Valentino agreed to be a fireman again - he was the cutest fireman ever last year, and we're definitely getting our money's worth out of this costume! It's going to be chilly again so this will hopefully keep him warm too.

Halloween 2011 - Valentino @ 4 years old

Some pictures from Halloweens past:

2010 - Our first Halloween in NC

Valentino @ 3 years old - He painted pumpkins and had a monkey costume, which he refused to wear. We ended up going to a church carnival instead of trick-or-treating {which turned out to be perfect!}.

I look terrible here, but still a cute pumpkin carving picture of us :)

And a few from Sunday night, when we carved our pumpkins:

Daddy and Vale on the front porch

Mine - Valentino's - Vic's

We'll be trick or treating in a nearby neighborhood and we're all looking forward to it!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Vic's Favorite Cookie {that I make}

I hear this is a common thing – wives that can’t quite make foods “just like mom’s” for their husband. In our house, this is the case with chocolate chip cookies. Even though I asked my MIL what recipe she used {the one off the back of Nestle Toll House chocolate chips}, I’ve tried to get mine to turn out just like hers to no avail. I’ve bought identical ingredients {even using – gasp! – the same brand of margarine she used [I bake w/butter only]}, but mine have never come close to looking or tasting like hers.

Don’t get me wrong, Vic likes my chocolate chip cookies{as evidenced by the swiftness in which they disappear from our house}, but I’ve given in to the fact that my chocolate chip cookies will never be his favorite version of the classic.

PS: In my humble opinion, after perfecting the technique this past year, I make a GORGEOUS looking chocolate chip cookie {and I’ve been told they taste good too!}!

That being said, I was determined to make a cookie that he’d LOVE. And this is IT!

As adapted from the back of the Hershey Kisses package {they call them “peanut butter blossoms”}:

Peanut Butter Kisses
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter {I use JIF, and probably closer to 1 cup}
1/2 cup shortening {I use Crisco}
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbs. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour {I use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup unbleached white flour}
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Additional white sugar for rolling
 ~30-36 Hershey Kisses {most of a bag}

1. Heat oven to 375*.

2. Beat shortening and peanut butter together in a large bowl until well blended. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla, then beat well.

3. In a seperate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture.

4. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar, then place on an ungreased cookie sheet. {TIP: They don't spread much, so you can bake a lot at once.}

5. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned on top {cookies will crack around the edges, too}. While they bake, unwrap the kisses.

6. As soon as you pull the cookies out of the oven, press a kiss onto the top of each one. Remove from cookie sheet and allow to cool completely on a wire rack {Vic likes them cold and hard, from the fridge!}.

The recipe says it makes about 4 dozen, but I usually get about 30 cookies... I guess mine are much bigger than what they make!

I love making cookies {more recipes to come!}, so lucky for me, Valentino will have a wide variety of “Mom’s” cookies to call his favorite… sorry future daughter-in-law!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Going nuts... for COCONUT!

If you follow me on pinterest, you've undoubtedly seen that I pin just about everything coconut. I, as well as the rest of my family, LOVE coconut in just about every shape and form {besides coconut water - that stuff is gross!}.

After having read MizFit's post about oil pulling with coconut oil, I knew I needed to get my hands on some. Oil pulling has many of its own benefits including improved oral health {stronger teeth and fresher breath}, as well as claims that it helps prevent Alzheimer's and eases sinus/allergy issues. Trader Joe's sells virgin coconut oil for $5.99, so I picked up a jar during my last visit. Since then, I've taken to oil pulling with coconut oil a few times a week for about 5-7 minutes at a time {I can't find time to do it for the full 20 minutes that is recommended, although I want to make a habit of getting started before I hop in the shower}.

A few weeks later, I read another blog post {from who, I can't remember} about the book The Coconut Oil Miracle. Since I now keep coconut oil in our cupboards, I was intrigued to find out about coconut oil's other health benefits.

From all I've read, coconut oil is full of healthy fats and is inherently antifungal. There are also claims that consuming healthy, natural fats such as those found in coconut oil actually promote weight loss, since the fat is more satisfying and helps keep you fuller, longer. I've started consuming it by the spoonful - a dollop in my oatmeal, a dollop in my morning coffee, a spoonful in a smoothie. It's really quite good, especially because I can't get enough of the flavor of coconut. Though I haven't tried it yet, the oil can be used in cooking in baking - I'll be picking up The Everything Coconut Diet Cookbook tomorrow from our public library, so hopefully I'll find some new recipes to try.

I'm looking forward to some of the benefits kicking in... better metabolism and shinier hair? I'll take it!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

2012 North Carolina State Fair

We spent Tuesday {Valentino's Birthday} at the NC State Fair. It was a gorgeous day - high 60's, not a cloud in the sky - and we had a great time together. We were there from about 11am to 6pm, and Valentino was a trooper the whole time {no doubt thanks to the stroller that lugged him around!}.

The State Fair is one of my favorite events of the year - we haven't missed it yet since moving to NC {this was our third time}. The atmosphere is great, there are a lot of free performances {a ventriloquist, jugglers, sawmill demonstration, and the BMX/motocross stunt show to name a few that we saw}, endless food and rides for everyone, lots of animals to see, and the weather is almost always perfect. Valentino is so lucky that he gets to celebrate his birthday there!

Some highlights:

His millionth time meeting Smokey

A pony ride for the Birthday Boy

Milking a cow!

Riding the kiddie roller coaster alone

Waiting in line for the Ferris wheel

Riding the Ferris wheel

Saying "Hi!" to Stormy
Family photo at the National Guard booth

Vic climbed the rock wall at the National Guard booth

Waiting in line for the big roller coaster

About to take off!
{He did great - he was scared the whole time, but got off with a huge smile on his face!}

Family photo

Getting squeezed by a giant walking tree

I can't wait to go back next year! Valentino and I really want to go at night to see the fair all lit up - we'll definitely plan to do that in 2013 :-)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Half a decade.

This boy:

At Durant Nature Park this past weekend
Turns five years old tomorrow. I can't believe it.

It's been an incredible five years, full of so many life-changing events. But that boy has been a constant for us. Constant joy. Constant amazement. Constant worry. Constant LOVE.

It was hard to pick these favorites out - this doesn't even scratch the surface - but here's a quick flash back at five years of Valentino.

Three days old in his "grandpa pants"
Four months old in a cooler.
First birthday
One-year pictures
Almost two
Second birthday
Almost three
Third birthday
{PS: I miss those curls!}
Almost four
Fourth birthday
Happy Birthday, Valentino - Mommy and Daddy love you more than you will ever know.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A colorful cake to celebrate half a decade

Only two more days until my one and only child turns five. I can't believe it.

We had some early festivities with the neighbor boys today to kick off his big day:

Inspired by Pinterest... super easy!
I love to make the cake for Valentino's birthday, and I'm always trying to make it special somehow. This cake was a hit visually {even though at first, Valentino asked me "why is there an 'S' on my cake?"} and everyone agreed it tasted great to boot.

Inspired by an image I've seen floating around on Pinterest {I hadn't even read nor pinned it myself}, I simply baked a 2 rounds w/boxed cake mix {Betty Crocker's chocolate fudge mix} but subsituted 1% milk for the water the directions called for. Then I frosted the cake as usual {with Betty Crocker's chocolate frosting}. Next, I sketched a "5" on parchment paper {although I think maybe wax paper might've been a better choice...} and cut it out. I set the cutout on the cake then went to town with Wilton's rainbow non-pareils. Removing the parchment paper was tedious, as it stuck really bad to the frosting {of course}. I ended up using a toothpick to coax it free. After it was removed, I smoothed out the frosting inside the 5 - and there you have it! Pretty fool-proof. 

Tuesday is the boy's actual birthday, so Vic and I have taken the day off. We're headed to the North Carolina State Fair - something we haven't missed since we moved here in 2010. It's a pretty good time - the weather is usually perfect, the food is great, the rides are fun {though $$!}, and there's a BMX stunt show. Valentino has a great time, and Vic and I enjoy the people watching and atmosphere.

In other news, we had a fabulous weekend, even though of course, it's ending too soon. We explored two new-to-us places yesterday - Durant Road Nature Park and North Wake Landfill Park {not as weird as it sounds!} - and enjoyed the gorgeous weather {I even got a bit sunburned!}. I am not ready to go back to work, but knowing that I have Tuesday off keeps me going :o)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Random Friday Thoughts... I've returned!

Life {mostly work} has been crazy since my last update, so I just haven't felt inspired to type up a post after having sat all day inside, behind a computer. Sorry for my *loyal* followers... all few of you :-)

What has gone on since my last post? Nothing out of the ordinary... here are the highlights:

  • September came and went. The weather was nice here, but very wet. We cursed the rain, especially when it happened on a Saturday.
  • I spent a lot of time in the pool and didn't go to the gym to do anything else (but I did run outside at least once/week).
  • We went to Bug Fest and SparkCon in DT Raleigh, and to an open house at a fire station.
Rickshaw ride during BugFest
Firepuppy at the Stony Hill Fire Station open house
{PS: I need one!}

  • Valentino got a go-cart, and it's hilarious.

Random thoughts on this Friday:

  1. Why would someone swim laps wearing a snorkel? It doesn't make sense to me and it's cheating. Plus I don't like when said snorkel is pointed in my direction and I get a blast of your exhalation. Ew.
  2. My mind has been very consumed with political thoughts lately, and I've wanted to seriously lash out at some people w/opposing views who are in my FB feed... this morning, I decided I was going to ignore it all for today and focus on positivity and not let their ignorance words get to me.
  3. I really want to clean/organize/purge junk from my house.
  4. I'm obsessed with coconut oil, ever since reading that it {like ACV} is a wonder-cure for everything from fatigue to better hair to weight loss. I'm going to start using it more and consuming it in smoothies and oats to cash in on the benefits! {PS: Both Vic and I have experienced wonder-curing from ACV in the past few weeks. That stuff is the shizz.}
One thing to think about:
How do you feel about homeschooling? Be frank. You think homeschool kids are freaks? Or do you {like me} wish the option had been available to you when you were in school {not having to deal w/getting up super early and school busses, no boring classes w/crap you don't care about, bullies, cliques, not fitting in/having all the "cool" stuff, peer pressure, BS curriculum, etc.}?