Archive for the ‘The Rest’ Category

Mixed Berry Cake With Lemon Whipped Cream Icing

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

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A Cake Off you say? Don’t mind if I do.

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When it comes to Team Cake vs Team Pie, I am Team Why Can’t I Have Both? There’s no such thing as too much dessert. When I was looking for inspiration for a cake to submit for this contest, I searched Pinterest for cake and might have ended up eating half a box of cookies because it made me so hungry. This is why I am not a food blogger.

Half way through mixing the batter I realized I needed 3 9-inch cake pans but all I had in my cabinet was 1 9-inch cake pan and 2 8-inch cake pans. I thought really hard about how to make that work before giving up and sending my husband to the store to get the right pans. Be smarter than me and make sure you have the cake pans you need BEFORE you’ve already separated all the eggs and have the mixer going. This recipe has kind of a lot of steps, but I promise it’s worth it for the results: moist but light cake with an amazing flavor and super light frosting with exactly the right amount of sweet.

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Mixed Berry Cake With Lemon Whipped Cream Icing
Adapted from A Latte Food

Cake
    • 4 eggs, separated
    • 3/4 cup butter, softened
    • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 2 1/2 cups flour all purpose flour
    • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
    • 1 Tbsp baking powder
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/3 cup greek yogurt
    • 1 Tbsp lemon juice, fresh
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Berry Puree
    • 2 cups mixed berries (I used raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries)
    • 3/4 cup sugar
Lemon Whipped Cream
    • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
    • 1 8 oz cream cheese
    • 2 Tbsp lemon zest (about the zest of 2 large lemons)
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
Extra berries & mint to decorate
Preheat the oven to 350 and spray your cake pans with non-stick spray.
Make the berry puree first: throw all the berries (hull strawberries first) and the sugar in a food processor or blender on high until it’s well mixed. You can strain it if you hate seeds but they don’t bother me. Set aside.
Next the cake: separate your eggs and set aside. In your mixer, whip the butter for a minute or two until it’s fluffy. Add the vegetable oil and mix for another minute. Gradually add in sugar and eggs until everything is well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed.
Mix your dry ingredients in a separate bowl (flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt), then mix your wet ingredients in another bowl (milk, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and greek yogurt). Alternate adding wet and dry ingredients to your mixer until just combined. Whip your reserved egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then fold them into the batter, gently but completely. Divide your batter as evenly as you can into the three prepared cake pans.
Add about 1/3 cup of berry puree to each pan, using a knife to swirl it around. The kids really loved this part, so it’s a good time for helpers. Be sure to reserve any leftover puree to drizzle on your plate or spoon over the cake when you serve it.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Mine was perfect at exactly 25 minutes.
For the frosting: whip the heavy cream on high for a few minutes until it starts to thicken. Add in the lemon zest and vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar (add too fast and it will end up all over your kitchen) and then the cream cheese. Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Once your cake is done and cooled, put the bottom layer on a plate or cake stand. Top with about a cup of frosting, spreading it all the way to the edge. Repeat for all three layers, with extra frosting for the top. Use a large knife or spatula to spread any frosting that leaked out from between the layers evenly around the sides. You can fully frost them if you want but the golden cake showing through is so pretty I left mine sparse.
Decorate the top with extra berries and mint leaves to make it extra fancy and really impress all your guests. It’s a big cake and serves about 15, as long as no one cuts a piece that’s 1/4th of the cake. Which I totally did when we had leftovers the next day. Be sure to store it in the fridge if you’re keeping it overnight.
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If you think this looks delicious and want to make it – or just add it to your aspirational dessert Pinterest board (doesn’t everyone have one of those??) – you can pin the graphic below! This is a Cake Off and I’m in it to win it, despite not being a food blogger.
Mixed Berry Cake With Lemon Whipped Cream Icing YUM!

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I Checked CHET Out

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

This post was sponsored on behalf of Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET). All opinions and photos are my own.

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Want to feel old? Think for a second about how many years it will be until your oldest kid goes to college. In my case, the answer is ELEVEN. ELEVEN YEARS. That is less time than I have been married, less time than it’s been since I graduated from college, and WAY less time than it’s been since I myself was 18 and headed off to college. Along with feeling really old, the thought of sending my kids to college fills me with fear and dread. Do you know what college costs? I don’t. I know the answer is somewhere between “a lot” and “an amount you will never be able to afford by the time it is your turn to pay for it”. The average cost for a 4-year private college in New England is more than $52,000. I have three (and a half) kids. This is the part where I usually throw my hands up and turn on HGTV and think relaxing thoughts about renovating my backyard to include a fire pit and a water feature. These tiny homework-doers can just stay small and live with me forever.

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But denial is not a good way to stop things from happening (see also: birth, child vomit, lactose intolerance) and these kids are getting older and smarter by the day. Making a plan is the only real option, so I finally sat down at my computer with my Important Papers file and looked at the Connecticut Higher Education Trust website.

Here are the quick facts about CHET:

    • The Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) is Connecticut’s 529 college savings plan.
    • CHET works like a Roth Retirement account, your contributions grow tax-free along the way, and are tax-free when you use the money for college.
    • PLUS for CT taxpayers there is a CT state tax deduction on the contributions you make to CHET each year, up to $10K for joint filers and $5K for single filers.
    • Money saved with CHET can be used at accredited colleges or universities in the country as well as some abroad.
    • CHET funds can be used for wide variety of college costs, tuition, room & board, computer, any supplies required by the school, etc.
    • If you don’t use the savings (for example, if your child gets a scholarship) you can roll the money to another child.

And here’s how it actually worked out:

I went to the site and clicked on “Open an Account”. They asked for my social security number and info, then Evan’s social security numbers and info. I entered our banking information so I could make the required opening contribution (it’s only $25) directly, then chose which investments I wanted to put the money in.

This was the part where I normally get stressed and run away, because I am not a financial guru or investment specialist. I am a person who has definitely HEARD the word “index fund” before but can’t quite remember where. There is a ton of information about each option on the website and there are actual humans you can call and talk to if you want, but my eyes and brain quickly start blurring when I feel overwhelmed by the choices. I ended up reading some of the advice, showing the options to E, and then just picking something, because a fear of choosing the wrong option 11 years before he goes to college shouldn’t stop me from investing in Evan’s future. There was an option to set up reoccurring contributions with lots of flexibility, but you don’t HAVE to. It asked me to agree to the risks and terms, asked me to set up a username and password for managing my account, then I was done. Repeating the process for each of my other children took less than 2 minutes, since they were all under my same account and the info was saved.

After I set them all up, I sent my mom an email for each account with an easy link so she can make contributions herself, either online or by mail. You can send them to anyone in your address book on special occasions (birthdays, holidays, etc) or “just because”. I think she was probably ready to just set up the accounts on her own (you can do that! you don’t have to be the parent, so if you have grandkids or nieces or nephews who you think need a 529 absolutely look into it!) but now I am done and she can rest easy.

Right now, CHET is running a contest in honor of 5/29 day (May 29th). One winner will win a $1,529 contribution to their account and two runners up will win $529 contributions. Free money?? YES PLEASE. You can check it out and enter easily here.

ALSO. If you had a baby in the last year (or you happen to be having one soon), CHET has an amazing Baby Scholars program, where they will give you up to $250 for free just for putting money in your kid’s 529. It’s not a complicated, convoluting system either – you put money in, they add money. I am kicking myself SO HARD that I didn’t do that for Lincoln before it was too late.

I feel like that was a LOT of words to talk about something that seems really boring, but it’s one of those things that’s been on my to-do list literally for years and I am so glad I can finally cross it off. Give yourself an A+ in adulting today and check CHET out.

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Name Suggestions Here Please

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

So, we’re having another boy, which means we need another boy name. This is terrible news, because we have NO boy name ideas.

These are our current boys: Evan Richard (III) and Lincoln Scott. Evan Richard is named after his father & grandfather. Lincoln was MY grandfather’s name and my uncle’s name and Scott was my father’s brother. Scott is also my soon-to-be brother-in-law’s name, although we didn’t choose it specifically for that reason. It’s just one of the ways our family manages to have plenty of people but very few names.

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I have two lists at the moment. The Family Name list and the Names I Found That I Would Consider list. The family name list I’ve been keeping sort of hoping something grows on me, but they are mostly nos. There are a lot of good names we like that I feel I can’t/shouldn’t use because other people close to us have used them, but most of those aren’t full-stop-NO-WAY nos.

There are also a lot of good names we like that I feel I can’t/shouldn’t use because other people close to us have used them, but most of those aren’t full-stop-NO-WAY nos. The definite nos are: Ethan, Carter, Zane, Zachary, Alexander, and whatever my sister-in-law uses when she has her baby in July.

(Sidebar: what’s your feeling on off limit names? If we have a local friend we see at least monthly who has a child named Bob but Bob is 7 years old, that’s still OK, right? But if we have a local friend who has a child named Fred, we see Fred on a weekly basis, and Fred is only 1, that’s probably too close, yes? HOW CLOSE makes a name unusable, is the question.)

Family Names (mostly from my very Scandanavian family, in case that’s not incredibly clear):
William (my father)
Charles (father/brother/uncle’s middle name)
Andrew (brother/brother-in-law’s name)
Newell (E’s grandfather)
Lawrence
Paul
Olaf
Halvar
Oskar
Johan
Lars
Carl
Joel
Eric
Ruben
Rickard
Mathias
Gunnar
Anton
Martin
Gideon
Thayer
Ralph
Burton
Elias
Mason
Jason
Jacob
Arthur
Nathan

Names I Found That I Would Consider (my feelings on these change almost daily):
Asher
Griffin
Hudson
Beckett
Caspian
Sullivan
Phineas
Dash
Noah
Henry
Oliver
Wesley
Max

Oh wait, I forgot a list. This is the Things The Children Want To Name The Baby List:
Rocket
Kristof
Olaf
Baby
Kylo Ren
Ben Kenobi

So basically my family uses obscure, terrible names and my personal list all falls into the “dog or child?” category. I am still hoping I will stumble across something that makes me feel very strongly, but I’m sort of afraid that’s never going to happen and we’ll just settle. That’s ok though, right? You would think after named three children this would be EASIER instead of harder.

All name discussions, vetos, opinions and suggestions are welcome. PLEASE HELP US.

p.s. Caroline’s middle name is Noelle, if that helps. So the sibling set will be Evan, Caroline, Lincoln and ________. Caroline is named after my sister and my mother-in-law (Carolyn/Carol) as well as maybe a tiiiiiny bit after Caroline Ingalls and Princess Caroline and Caroline Kennedy. But it’s mostly family-based. So something at least family INSPIRED for this baby would be nice.

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Photos Of Pretty Things On Yucky Days

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

One of the things I like about photography is that although I try my best to capture real life, I’m able to frame real life as much more attractive than it might actually be. I can bring the better parts into focus and blur out the junk.

But this week has been all junk for me. I’m still recovering from whatever the horrible, straight-from-hell plant bloomed this month that caused my allergies. Today was the first day in weeks I’ve risked wearing real pants in public because I was 90% sure I wouldn’t pee myself when I had a coughing fit. I’m at that point in my second trimester when being pregnant starts to be uncomfortable in minor but annoying ways – my back hurts, my hips hurt, my knees hurt when I go down the stairs. I still have morning sickness in the mornings and sometimes in the evenings. I am trying very, very hard to focus on how much I should treasure this last pregnancy but I’m struggling.

To make things worse, our spring this year has been terribly rainy and cold. Spring in Connecticut is usually our beautiful, flower-filled reward for surviving winter. But this year has been dreary. It’s keeping us inside and depriving me of some much-needed vitamin D. It’s almost making my children COMPLETELY insane. No one can sit still for more than 20 seconds without poking someone else or grabbing someone else or kicking someone else or trying to stand on their heads and falling off the couch onto someone else. My patience – which would be thin from pregnancy and allergies to begin with – is so worn it’s almost nonexistent. Bad weather is so isolating for me as a mom, since most of my friendships involve things like taking long walks or our kids to the park or the aquarium or other outdoor-heavy activities. And once I fall into a pattern of being along more often than not I find it very, very hard to climb back out.

I’m clinging to the thought that we have a vacation planned in 3 weeks, the kind where the weather will DEFINITELY be warmer and my children will wear themselves out every day and sleep like rocks. Friends + sunshine + food + what will definitely feel like herds of children + the ocean = a total attitude reset. And boy do I need one.

I’m also crossing my fingers for a military move for the first time in a long time. Right now it’s just a maybe, possibly, there’s a tiny chance it could happen. But I’m not going to fight it and I’m not going to talk myself out of it by thinking about the logistics. I’m just going to think pleasant, tropical thoughts about what MIGHT be in our future.

And for today, right now, I’m going to edit some more pictures showing my family as fun, pleasant people who sometimes go outside and do things besides scream at each other. Today’s photos were taken on the last evening we had a break in the rain. It was far too cold for Caroline’s outfit but don’t tell her that.

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Laundry Is My New Hobby

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Every year that I’m an adult, I do a couple more adulty type things that make me feel like an actual grown up instead of someone just pretending to be a grown-up. Any time I have to call the insurance company is a big one. Having a hairdresser (as opposed to just going to Super Cuts) is another. I suppose giving birth to children should be on that list, but mostly I still can’t believe I’ve been allowed to create and become responsible for so many humans.

This year’s big accomplishment is finally become proficient in laundry. I’m not sure if I’m just suffering from an abundance of second-trimester energy or what, but our laundry baskets are empty a significantly greater amount of time than they’re full. Let’s just not talk about actually putting AWAY the laundry. That part is still a big nope. But washing? I love washing.

I can tell you what the turning point was. I have a friend who told me she doesn’t dry her kids’ clothes in the dryer. She might as well have told me she sleeps hanging upsidedown like a bat. I thought she was a CRAZY PERSON. Do you know just how many clothes my kids wear? MILLIONS. A million different articles of clothing a day. Where do you put them to dry? What’s so bad about the dryer?

THEN I discovered the world of children’s clothing resale pages on Facebook. If the idea of buying and selling stuff on Facebook is weird to you, you’re the last person in America who has never been invited to a LulaRoe sale. But beyond regular FB parties is the resale world – cloth diapers, leggings, baby carriers, fabric, purses, neighborhood yard sale sites where you can buy everything from a canoe to a car. I’ve taken part in a lot of this sort of thing but it never occurred to me there was a market for kids’ clothes. Since I’m a huge fan of “nice” brands, like Mini Boden and Hanna Andersson, those groups totally got me. I’m now fully immersed in the second-hand world, where a pair of kids shorts in good used condition still resells for $25 and I saw a hard to find toddler t-shirt listed at $100. On these pages, “we don’t use the dryer on our boden/hanna” is a standard listing claim and “wash wear” can cut your value in half. So after I had ordered a few things, I popped over to Amazon and ordered a drying rack. It fits nicely in our bathtub to keep it out of the way and can be moved to the guest room if the kids HAVE to have a bath. It’s also come in handy for my new cloth diapers as part of the Make Cloth Mainstream Challenge, especially for sunny days where I can dry them outside. It’s not actually that hard to just grab my no-dryer stuff as I put the rest in the dryer (I still dry probably 80% of our laundry) and everything gets dry in 24 hours. I don’t actually plan to resell most of my Mini Boden/Hanna, because selling is a pain and my children RUIN clothing, but keeping them as nice as possible for as long as possible is a good goal.

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Linc’s new shirt after he had worn it for 1 hour.

Another thing I got with the diapers is wool dryer balls. DO YOU KNOW ABOUT WOOL DRYER BALLS? They’re supposed to help your laundry dry faster and they TOTALLY DO. They’re supposed to make your laundry softer and they TOTALLY DO. And they’re supposed to reduce static and you know what? THEY TOTALY DO. I have three and that seems to be a good amount for my small-ish dryer, but I know nothing about them except that they’re magic. Allen’s Naturally also sent me a bottle of Stink Out, which is also magic. Takes the boat smell right out of E’s clothes and everything they touch.

My last new favorite laundry discovery is BunchaFarmers stain sticks. I have two, and I keep one in the couch storage compartment and one next to the washer. That way when Linc pours juice all over his shirt I can strip it off him and rub some Buncha on it immediately. Or I can use it on the throw blanket I keep over the ottoman to keep it from getting destroyed by dirty feet, dirty children, spilled cups and markers. I have no idea why it works way better than most of the less-crunchy stain removers, but it does. It’s probably because of coconut oil. Coconut oil is some sort of voodoo that makes everything better.

I realize this might be the most boring thing to be excited about ever, but it’s what’s making me happy right now while my toddler flings himself against his bedroom door refusing to stay in his crib and nap for the second time this week. I feel like at least ONE thing is going well around here. Also, Linc is wearing a VERY cute Mini Boden shirt while he tantrums, so there’s that.

Disclaimer: I don’t have an Amazon affiliate account, so those links (and everything else) are just regular links. I got the stuff from Allen’s Naturally for free because of the #mcmschallenge but I love them enough to pay real monies when I run out. 

 

 

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