9 months

Dear Emma,

It's a day late in coming, but happy 9 months sweet girl! This month has gone so fast. It's been a whirlwind of family, snow, good food, and lots of laughs. You are such a happy girl (and often share your happiness with high-pitched shrieks...which people either love or hate!) It's been so fun to watch you learn so many things this month!You are definitely on the move now. You've mastered crawling and are really thinking about walking. You love to stand and will pull yourself up on anything and everything. You have amazing balance and can stand for long periods of time unassisted. You have even taken a few steps on more than one occasion! You can walk from the coffee table to the couch and back. You prefer to play standing up with your toys in front of you on the couch or coffee table. Your walking attempts have kept us entertained for many hours! I love your squeals and giggles each time you stand up. You are so proud of yourself!Your sleeping habits have greatly improved! You have slept through the night several times this month and almost every time you do get up, you go back to sleep quickly. You take two naps a day and will sleep in the car on short and long trips alike. You got lots of cousin time in this month with Annsley, Elsa, and Jackson. You pretty much slept through all of Christmas (even the Christmas Eve service) and so graciously let Mason open all your presents. I'm pretty sure there won't be a repeat of that next year.

Several people have commented that you've become much more animated in the last few weeks. You interact with those around you and love to "talk." Mason is still one of your favorite people and can often make you laugh out loud. The super cute baby belly laugh that makes me laugh too.

You are such a good eater. You've tried lots of new foods this month and loved them all. You are really good at feeding yourself and can drink out of a cup if we hold it. You're just growing so fast. My favorite times are when you are sleepy and cuddle into my shoulder, either before a nap or just after you wake up.

At 9 months, Emma, you:
~are loud....lots of giggles and shrieks
~feed yourself
~follow me around the house
~still have a little stranger anxiety
~play with toys
~have two teeth
~love bathtime
~are slowing getting some more hair
~like to play in the morning for a little while before having breakfast
~sign for more
~smile and wave when people are leaving
~like music
~get a little sweeter every day

We love you so much!




12 Days of Christmas: Oreo Candy Cane Pie

Day 12: Oreo Candy Cane Pie This is what happens when my sister-in-law, Caroline, and I start dreaming up desserts. It's also what happens after Grammie makes candy cane ice cream (crushed candy canes mixed into vanilla ice cream) for dessert earlier in the week. We had a lot of ice cream left over, so what better thing to do than turn it into a pie? We started with an oreo cookie crust and spread the softened ice cream on top. Froze it and then added a layer of hot fudge topped with more crushed candy canes and froze it again. Peppermint and chocolate. Oreos and ice cream. Perfect! Then we enjoyed a piece of it every night after dinner for the past two nights. We also enjoyed some sweet victory over the guys in our Spades tournament.

Between all the deliciousness in the kitchen, the crazy card games and the eggnog latte drinking , we are having way too much fun with the kids.

Are you ready for Christmas? I hope this season finds you well. Ryan and I have spent some time discussing what exactly we want this holiday to look like for our kids. While it may be different from year to year, we are excited to teach them the true meaning of the season....a celebration of Christ's birth. Merry Christmas!


12 Days of Christmas: Gingerbread Cookies

Day 11: Gingerbread CookiesI usually don't make cut-out cookies at Christmas, but I knew it was something I wanted to do with Mason's cousins. We spent one afternoon letting them cut out the cookies and then decorate them. They loved it. It was sweet to watch them working together, discussing the frosting and sprinkles.

Gingerbread Cut-out Cookies

From Gooseberry Patch: Christmas All Through the House

1 1/2 c. light molasses
1 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. cold water
1/3 c. shortening
6 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 t. allspice
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. cinnamon

Mix the first four ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Sift together dry ingredients and stir into molasses mixture. Chill dough overnight (we chilled it for a couple hours and it was great.) When ready to bake, roll dough into 1/4 inch thickness and cut out with cookie cutters. Place on lightly greased cookie sheets; bake at 350 for 15 minutes. (Maybe a little less if you want them chewy.) Decorate! 3 dozen.


12 Days of Christmas: Honey Knot Rolls

Day 10: Honey Knot Rolls

Last Sunday we had our Christmas meal at church after an amazing service. I was supposed to bring bread, so after searching around a bit on the internet I decided on honey knot rolls, and the recipe can be found here. These are wonderful, with a honey butter glaze on top. Watch them closely though, the bottoms browned up pretty quick.

The kids are napping and when they wake up their cousins should be here! We get to spend the holiday with Ryan's brother and his family who are stationed in Germany. It's going to be a great week! Four little ones will sure keep up busy, but we have lots of fun things planned.


12 Days of Christmas: Budino

Day 9: Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Budino
Another recipe from Baked Explorations. And it doesn't really involve baking. But it does involve 3 bowls and a pan. Budino is just a fancy name for pudding. Ever since I saw my first pudding recipe I have always wanted to try to make it from scratch. It's actually super easy and way better than the box stuff. Today is my cousin, Marylin's, birthday. We celebrated last week because she is currently out of town. I made birthday budino. Complete with a solo of "happy birthday" where I made a complete fool of myself. This would make a great dessert after your Christmas meal. You can make it early and let it set in the fridge.
Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Budino
from Baked Explorations

1 Tbsp. bourbon
1 vanilla bean
4 oz. milk chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. cornstarch, sifted
1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. whole milk
1 Tbsp. butter
whipped cream to serve (I just used the rest of the heavy cream and added a touch of vanilla and sugar)

Choose eight small wide-mouth glasses for serving. Put the bourbon in a medium heatproof bowl (bowl #1). Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and using the tip of the knife, scrape the seeds into the bourbon. Stir to combine.

Place the milk chocolate in another medium heatproof bowl (bowl #2). In a third heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, whole eggs, and cream.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in the milk. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until it just begins to boil. Whisking constantly, pour a third of the milk mixture over the egg mixture. Then add some more (about another third...you don't want cooked eggs in your pudding.) Transfer the tempered egg mixture back to the saucepan with the milk mixture, and whisking constantly, bring it to a boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until pudding is very thick.

Pour half of the pudding over the vanilla bean mixture and half over the milk chocolate. Add half of the butter to each mixture. Stir vigorously to release the heat.

Divide the vanilla pudding among the serving glasses. Chill them for 20 minutes. Keep stirring the chocolate mixture about every 5 minutes. Spoon the chocolate layer on top of the vanilla. Cover and chill until firm (about 2 hours). Top with whipped cream if you like.

Happy Birthday, Marylin!!


12 Days of Christmas: Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls

Day 8: Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls
What should you do with leftover frosting from these cookies? Why, make cinnamon rolls of course. I just took a basic cinnamon roll recipe and eggnog-ified it. I added a dash of rum extract, nutmeg, and cinnamon to the dough and then slathered them with leftover frosting. These were delicious warm from the oven, but they were just as great the next day too.

Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Quick Cooking 2001

1 1/4 c. water
1 egg
1/4 c. butter, softened
1 tsp. salt
4 c. bread flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. yeast
1/2 tsp. rum extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. raisins

Frosting: leftovers from the nutmeg cookies

Knead all the ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Let rise until doubled. Roll into a 17 x 10 inch rectangle. Spread with butter; sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins. Roll up, jelly-roll style, starting from a long side; pinch seam to seal. Cut into 24 slices. Place cut side down in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place, until doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Frost warm rolls.

I actually made the dough the night before and put it in the fridge and then rolled them out in the morning and let them rise then baked them. Perfect for breakfast or to share with friends.


12 Days of Christmas: Nutmeg Logs

Day 7: Nutmeg Logs
Do you love eggnog? I do. I can only handle a little bit at a time though. Or mix it with milk. because it's so sweet. These log shaped cookies taste just like eggnog. They are a fun addition to our cookie trays. Luckily we don't have any more in the house between delivering them to friends and bringing the rest to school because I couldn't stop eating them. These are probably my favorite new cookie recipe so far.

Frosted Nutmeg Logs
From Taste of Home

1 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. rum extract
3 c. flour
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt

1/3 c. butter
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. rum extract
1-2 Tbsp. half-and-half

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and extracts. Combine the flour, nutmeg, and salt; gradually add to the cream mixture. On a lightly floured surface, shape dough into 1/2 inch wide logs. Cut into 2 inch pieces. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 11-14 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes before moving to wire racks.

For frosting, in a mixing bowl, combine the butter, powdered sugar, extracts and enough cream to achieve a spreading consistency. Frost cooled cookies. 4 1/2 dozen.

I'm looking forward to two (busy!) weeks home with my kids. Yesterday we cut out snowflakes to hang from the windows, played, read books, and made granola. I still have a pretty long to-do list, but I know it will get done. It always does. I still need to finish making a couple presents and do all the wrapping. I'm pretty sure our Christmas cards are going to be late considering the email I got from snapfish saying my pictures weren't going to ship for two more weeks because of the holiday frenzy. Bummer. That's what I get for finishing my cards in June but waiting until Thanksgiving to get a photo.

We'll spend today finishing the ceiling trim, cleaning the house for company, going for a walk, and watching Emma perfect her crawling techniques. She can get anywhere she wants, but I wouldn't exactly call it crawling yet. She's too busy pulling herself up on everything. I've gone in to her room a couple times to find her standing in her crib, so pround of herself and as happy as can be! Then Ryan and I are off to have dinner with friends while the kiddos hang out with Lacy. Shaping up to be a pretty nice Saturday!

12 Days of Christmas: baking

Day 6: Double Chocolate Loaf with Peanut Butter and Cream Cheese Spread This loaf is in the breakfast section of the Baked Explorations cookbook. It would be like eating a giant slice of brownies for breakfast! I didn't actually try this since it was a gift, but it smelled amazing. And the spread was delicious. I definitely will be making it again so I can try them both together. This would make a great gift if you have a chocolate-lover on your list.

Double Chocolate Loaf with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread
from Baked Explorations

3/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. dark unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
3/4 c. buttermilk (I used whole milk)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped ( I used about 1/2 c. chocolate chips)

Peanut Butter and Cream Cheese Spread
5 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
1/3 c. sugar

Place the brown sugar in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add all the dry ingredients and mix. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk until blended, then add the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Whisk until combined. Turn the mixer on low and slowly stream the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Stir in the dark chocolate chunks by hand. Pour batter into a bread pan prepared with butter and flour. Bake at 350 for about 1 hour, until toothpick comes out clean.

To make the spread, beat together the cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until incorporated.


12 Days of Christmas: baking

Day 5: Caramel-Filled Chocolate Cookies

I made these cookies for our friend Tim. We hung out with him on Friday and celebrated his birthday. He got extra points for watching Mason while Ryan and I went to our eye doctor appointments. Let me tell you...it is a little difficult to pay attention to all the 1 or 2?, 3 or 4? , better or worse? questions from the eye doctor with a squirming baby on your lap. Somehow, even with all the baby passing back and forth, Ryan and I both ended up with Emma girl during this part of our eye exams. I think next time I'll bribe Uncle Tim to watch both kiddos and make him a dozen more cookies!

These are best warm out of the oven, when the Rolos are really melty inside! Mason helped me unwrap all the Rolos. And after every single one, he would ask "for Uncle Tim's birthday?" as he dropped it in the bowl. Oh, I love that boy. Here's the recipe:

Caramel-Filled Chocolate Cookies
from Taste of Home
1 c. butter, softened
1 c. plus 1 Tbsp. sugar, divided
1 c. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 c. chopped pecans, divided
1 package (13 oz) Rolo candies
4 squares white baking chocolate, melted (I used white chocolate chips)

In a large bowl, cream butter, 1 c. sugar, and brown sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in 1/2 c. pecans. Shape a tablespoon of dough around each candy, forming a ball. In a small bowl, comgine the remaining sugar and pecans. Dip each cookie halfway. Place nut-side up 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 for 7-10 minutes or until tops are slightly cracked. Cool for 3 minutes before removing to wire racks. Drizzle with melted white chocolate. 5 dozen.


12 Days of Christmas: baking

Day 4: Fennel Tea Cookies

These cookies taste a little unique because of the fennel. I think they are a great addition to the usual cookie tray if you want something a little different. The fennel is subtle, but lovely. Best of all, they're quick and easy to make.

Fennel Tea Cookies
from Taste of Home
1 Tbsp. fennel seed, crushed
2 Tbsp. boiling water
3/4 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
powdered sugar (for rolling)

In a small bowl, soak the fennel seed in boiling water; set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in the egg. Drain fennel seed. Combine the flour, baking soda, and fennel seed; gradually add to creamed mixture.

Roll into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar and let cool. 3 Dozen.


12 Days of Christmas: baking

Day 3: Sweet Potato Coconut Scones

I love to make scones for breakfast. Served with some fruit and coffee or tea, it's perfect for a chilly morning. I used to think that scones were a time-consuming special treat that I only made for tea parties. But, really they are pretty quick and easy. Just make up the dough, turn onto the baking sheet, shape, cut and bake.

This recipe is adapted from the Carrot Coconut Scones recipe I found in the Baked Explorations cookbook. It called for carrot puree and I didn't have any carrots on hand. I did have a batch of sweet potato puree though (for little Emma). I thought I could give it a try. You really could only taste a hint of sweet potato, but the overall flavor was delicious. I think next time I would toast the coconut and put it on top. Sweet Potato Coconut Scones

adapted from Baked Explorations

2 3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. rolled oats
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 c. cold butter, cut into chunks
1 egg
3/4 c. milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/4 c. sweet potato puree

1 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1-2 Tbsp. milk

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, oats, baking powder, salt, and coconut. Add the butter. Use your fingertips to rub butter into flour until mixture is coarse. In a separate bowl, which together the egg, milk, vanilla, and sweet potato puree. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until dough just comes together. Knead dough briefly with your hands. Shape the dough into a disk and gently flatten to about 1 3/4 inches high. (I shaped it right on the greased baking sheet). Cut into 6-8 wedges. Bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

To make the glaze, whisk all the ingredients in a bowl. Add enough milk until desired consistency. Drizzle over the scones before serving.


12 days of Christmas: baking

I don't know if homemade pita chips count as Christmas baking. Maybe you need a snack while you're wrapping presents or addressing Christmas cards. Maybe you need something to munch on while you cook dinner. I just needed something to go with my roasted red pepper hummus.

I've never had pita chips that I can recall, but the idea of them sounded perfect after I made a batch of hummus. I didn't even have pita bread on hand, so this was a two-step process. But it was so simple and hit the spot! I started by making pita bread following this recipe (which I randomly found when searching for pita chip recipes.)

Then I mixed some olive oil, parsley, garlic powder, and rosemary. I cut the pita bread rounds into triangles. I coated them with the olive oil mixture and popped them in the oven (350) for about 15 minutes.

These turned out very flavorful and crunchy. I can't wait to try some whole wheat pitas next.



Whenever it's time to make dinner, I can always count on Mason to help. He loves to sit on the counter and pour, stir, and watch whatever I'm doing. And ask a million and one questions about whatever I'm doing. It's one of my favorite times of the day. It will be a little sad when he doesn't fit perfectly under the kitchen cabinets anymore. Our little corner nook is the perfect spot for him to sit and help.
He's been such a clown the past few nights at dinner too. He's been eating about half of the food on his plate before losing interest. I've had to bribe him get a little creative on ways to make him finish his dinner. On Monday it was all about feeding Emma. He wanted to give Emma some puffs. I told him if he took a bite, he could give a puff to Emma. He finished his plate. I think Emma got the sweet end of the deal. Sit there, smile and laugh at Mason and after he did all the hard work of eating bites of dinner, she got a bite too. Tonight it was all about the animal sounds. He kept asking me what different animals say. I told him I would let him know after he ate a bite of dinner. He thought it was a hilarious game. And he finished his dinner. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Also tonight he was being a little bossy, repeatedly telling me to take his plate away. I told him to stop being bossy. He replied with, "but bossy is my favorite!" Ryan and I could not keep a straight face. I really don't know where he comes up with this stuff.


12 days of Christmas: baking

I've been enjoying looking through all my cookbooks finding new recipes to try this holiday season. I'm challenging myself to post 12 of those recipes here on the blog. First up is White Chocolate-Cranberry Biscotti. I love biscotti. When Ryan and I were hanging out in Salida on Friday we went to a bakery in town and they had a basket full of huge biscotti. I have about a dozen biscotti recipes earmarked, but I'm sort of on a cranberry kick these days so I decided to try these first.
White Chocolate-Cranberry Biscotti
from Taste of Home: Cookies & Bars

1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar (the recipe calls for 1 cup, but it was plenty sweet with 3/4 c.)
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 c. dried cranberries
3/4 c. white chocolate chips
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in cranberries and white chips. Divide dough into 3 portions.
On ungreased baking sheets, shape each portion into a 10 by 2 inch rectangle. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes.
Transfer to a cutting board; cut diagonally with a serrated knife into 1 inch slices. Place cut side down on baking sheets. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. 2 1/2 dozen.

Mason wanted to help me stack the biscotti. When I got the camera and told him to smile he said, "they can't smile mom, they don't have teeth!" I said, "yeah, you're right." He then said, "mommy didn't know?" Ha!



Every year my bf, Mindy, and I challenge each other to make as many homemade Christmas gifts as we can. I love to give and recieve handmade gifts. We update each other throughout the year on our progress and occasionally try to get together to work a little bit. Even with all that planning, I still find myself in the middle of a thousand projects come December. But, most of my presents are about done. I had to finish my gifts for my cousins early because we celebrated Christmas with extended family at Thanksgiving. Here are a couple of the scarves I made:

For little cousin, Olivia...still in progress when the picture was snapped.
The teal one for Marylin and the green striped one for Karly. The kiddos are having an extended sleepover at Grammie and Grandpa's house. Mason's a pro at the sleepover thing, but this is Emma's first time. I miss them. But, Ryan and I are getting some sleeeeeeeep!! And my house is full of fabric, yarn, my sewing machine and Christmas music. I'm determined to finish as much as I can. Ryan and I are off today to do some antique shopping and hit up the hotsprings pools. What a treat!