Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake


The time has finally come for me to share the long awaited recipe for "the best chocolate cake EVER".  We recently had this cake while in Texas for my grandmother's funeral.  My mom's best friend made it and we all went nuts for it.  I am actually not a huge chocolate cake person, but this cake had me eating my words (pun intended).  Cut to me sneaking it out of my cousins fridge for breakfast the next morning, only to be caught and have her say that she had already snuck a piece for breakfast too.  Yup, it is just that good.

The recipe is a little odd and seems complicated at first, but it actually turned out to be very easy to throw together.  Without further ado (and I apologize in advance for my Smurf blue counter tops- the kitchen is still a work in progress):

Bring to boil in a saucepan:
1 stick butter
½ C. vegetable or canola oil
1 C. water

In a mixing bowl, combine:
2 C. sugar
2 C. flour
¼ C. Hershey’s Cocoa powder (Natural Unsweetened)




Pour boiled mixture over mixing bowl ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.
Add to mixture:
2 beaten eggs
½ C. buttermilk
1 ½ t. soda
1 t. vanilla

Beat with an electric mixer for a couple of minutes on a high speed.


Bake in rimmed sheet pan or jellyroll pan (15x10)…I used a (17x11x1) sheet pan, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Smaller pan= thicker cake,  but quite honestly it tastes great either way!!



While baking, mix:
1 melted stick butter 
1/3 C. buttermilk
1/4 C. Hershey’s Cocoa powder (Natural Unsweetened)
1 t. vanilla
1 C. nuts—chopped or whole…I prefer pecans
1 box powdered sugar…or add as much as needed to make a consistency just a little thicker than a usual cake frosting.

Icing—on hot cake:
Immediately after removing the hot cake, evenly space globs of the icing on top and spread the icing evenly.  As the icing begins to melt, it will spread easily.


Let the cake cool and the icing set up before serving…if you can wait that long!!






Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake:
Bring to boil in a saucepan:
1 stick butter
½ C. vegetable or canola oil
1 C. water
In a mixing bowl, combine:
2 C. sugar
2 C. flour
¼ C. Hershey’s Cocoa powder (Natural Unsweetened)
Pour boiled mixture over mixing bowl ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.
Add to mixture:
2 beaten eggs
½ C. buttermilk
1 ½ t. soda
1 t. vanilla

Beat with an electric mixer for a couple of minutes on a high speed.
**Bake in rimmed sheet pan or jellyroll pan (15x10)…I used a (17x11x1) sheet pan, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Smaller pan= thicker cake,  but quite honestly it tastes great either way!!
While baking, mix:
1 melted stick butter 
1/3 C. buttermilk
1/4 C. Hershey’s Cocoa powder (Natural Unsweetened)
1 t. vanilla
1 C. nuts—chopped or whole…I prefer pecans
1 box powdered sugar…or add as much as needed to make a consistency just a little thicker than a usual cake frosting.
Icing—on hot cake:

Immediately after removing the hot cake, evenly space globs of the icing on top and spread the icing evenly.  As the icing begins to melt, it will spread easily.

Let the cake cool and the icing set up before serving…if you can wait that long!!

**A note about altitude- this cake recipe was developed at sea level.  I did not make any adjustments at our high Boulder altitude, but probably should have as I did have a bit of a drop occur in the center.  It still tasted fabulous though.

Enjoy!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Our Easter

We had a wonderful Easter!  Here are some pictures if you would like to see.

We did Easter baskets for the girls and I was surprised by how into them they were.  They loved checking out their loot.







We have two crawlers on our hands now so these girls were all over the place with their new toys.



We went to 10am mass and then over to Eric's brother's home for brunch.

Noelle is not shy, but I would call her reserved.  Sometimes she does this coy smile when she is entertained.



And then she finally lets her guard down and lets her real smile come out.  Kills me with cuteness.



Avery Grace:



Mommy and Daddy photos:

     

I hope you had a wonderful Easter too!


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Can We Get a Redo?

Ugh, this week.  I just want to whine and complain about it.  It has been a rough one.  On the bright side, we have had my mom in town to help with things- thank God, but whew.  It all started last Sunday when Noelle woke up with a fever.  This girl has been sick for what seems like months straight now (#daycare).  She had just finished antibiotics two days prior, but my immediate reaction was to assume that she already had another ear infection.  Off to urgent care Eric went only to return saying that her ears were clear and that she must have a virus.  Cut to today- the poor little thing does have an ear infection (this makes five in 3.5 months) and a virus that is causing wheezing.  We are going on five days of fever and very little sleep for mommy and daddy.


A call to the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor has already been made.  It is time to get this girl some tubes.
On Sunday evening we hosted my sister and her boyfriend for her birthday dinner.



Again- thank goodness my mom was in town because she basically did all the cooking herself.
It was a nice evening and the girls were happy to have an audience to perform their new crawling skills for!

  

On Wednesday, the great blizzard of 2016 hit; or at least I hope that was our final big storm for the season.








Imagine if you will, no electricity, husband at work, one sick baby, one hyper baby and a lot of snow that needed shoveling.














We made the most of it though and luckily, the house held its heat pretty well.  My mom and I lived off chips and salsa and cheese- glorious!








I got a little shoveling exercise in. You know you are out of shape when you can barely move the next day from shoveling soreness.













So, here we are nearly at the end of the week and I just hope that we can get our acts together for Easter.  Eric's family is scheduled to visit and we would hate to miss festivities due to sick baby girls. Avery wasn't looking so good last night though...  Here's hoping for an Easter miracle!



Friday, March 18, 2016

Twin Baby Favorites

I realize that the blog has been a bit baby heavy recently.  I PROMISE that I have a recipe in the works for you that is not to be missed and a long awaited post detailing our basement addition.  Don't give up hope for this blog yet.  For today though, I am outlining some of my must have baby items. None are twin specific, nor are any the "fancy pants/latest and greatest" baby products out there. They just work.  Plain and simple.

Fisher Price Rock N Play: Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up: Infantino Grow-with-me: Medela Quick Clean Bags:Baby Deedee Sleep Nest:Wubbanub: Honest Company Diapers

  • Fisher Price Rock N Play- this is my number one favorite item.  My cousin sent me one of these and I immediately went out and bought a second.  If you have a baby with reflux or a chronic runny nose (hello daycare), this is a life saver because it elevates their head a bit.  It is also convenient in that it folds up and can be stored when not in use- a must with twins and double the baby gear.
  • Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up Seat- As the girls hit the three month mark, they were wanting to sit up and be in on the action more (and mama was wanting them to get off the back of their heads so they could round back out).  These seats fit the bill and still serve as great baby containment devices.  I have one with the tray and one without and definitely recommend spending a few extra dollars to get the tray in front.  These also fold up and store nicely.
  • Infantino Grow-With-Me Activity Gym and Ball Pit-  This picture is a bit deceiving.  What starts as an activity mat for little babies, turns into a ball pit for the big girls.  My girls LOVE playing in this and it is large enough that they can still both play in it at the same time.
  • Medela Quick Clean Micro Steam Bags- When you wash as many bottles and pumping supplies as I did/still do, you need time saving techniques.  It doesn't get much easier than stuffing everything in a bag and letting it do the work for you.  Plus, these do not take up any counter space.
  • Baby Deedee Sleep Nest- It's cold here in Colorado and I would find myself waking up at all hours of the night worrying that the girls may be cold.  After finding these sleep sacks, I no longer have that worry!
  • Wubbanub- Pacifiers are great until your baby is screaming and you cannot find any of them. Wubbanubs stay put and my girls were able to grab the little animal and get the pacifier back into their mouths themselves at an early age.  Que the choir of angles!
  • Honest Company Diapers- For the first three months, we used Honest company and I was thrilled with them.  They never leaked, were cute and I felt like I was doing something good by buying them. After three month, my budget conscious side won out and we switched brands, but if I had my way, we would always use Honest Company.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Evolution of a Room

We like to joke with people that we are quickly running out of rooms in our house to remodel and therefore must be about ready for a move.  When Eric and I got married 3.5 years ago, the house needed some help (to say the least). It was truly a bachelor pad, but not even a current one. It was a bachelor pad circa 1975.  I can remember his mom saying, "so what do you have planned with this yellow wall?", which was a nice way of saying, you are planning to paint over this ASAP, right?  Cut to a couple of years later and every surface (with the exception of Eric's man cave/poker room) has been updated in some way.  Sometimes though, life dictates changing a room that you thought was "done" and another project is born.  This was the case with our baby room.

I give you the upstairs "guest" bedroom from when Eric was a bachelor:



That brown dusty door to the left was one of the bifold closet doors.  Also- check out that green carpet...  Eric actually used this guest bedroom as his sleeping quarters because he said that the master bedroom felt too big.  So, this was his bedroom.  It kind of gives me a full body shivery just thinking about it.  Gutting this bedroom was one of the first projects that I took on.  We painted, put in new lighting, new carpet, new closet doors and brought in new furniture, and were left with this.







Simple, clean and no longer a room that made guests wonder if they were going to contract a communicable disease by staying in it.



















When we found out that we were pregnant with twins in October 2014, we knew that this room would be the future nursery (due to its close proximity to our master bedroom) and I quickly began daydreaming/Pinning ideas.

A twin nursery is a whole different ballgame when it comes to planning especially when the room that you are dealing with is approximately 10' x 10'.  We knew that we would have two cribs, but planned to go more modern with these and keep them simple (read on the small side).  We decided that we must have a glider and we obviously needed a dresser, but the challenge became how to fit that all in one room.  Besides the furniture logistics, we knew that we wanted to add a ceiling fan (moving air reduces SIDS risks) and a new window, and update the stripes to be gender specific.  Here is what we are looking at now.


For the cribs and mattresses, we went with Babyletto and specifically chose the Mercer cribs.  The price was right, the drawers underneath provided much needed additional storage, and I liked that they came with a toddler bed conversion kit.  These cribs have now been in use for nine months and I can say that I am very happy with them.  The orientation of the two is a little odd, but it is what we found fit best within the room.





We recently added some bumpers to the cribs because Avery keeps getting her chubby little legs stuck in the slats. 













For the glider and the dresser, we went with Land of Nod.


     

It doesn't look like they actually carry this dresser anymore, but the Toby glider can be found here.  I literally lost sleep over finding the perfect dresser and glider.  I had my heart set on a navy blue glider thinking that if we ever had more children, this would work in a boy or girls room.  It also had to have a high back so that we could rest our heads during late night feedings, and a fabric that was practical (no velvet or suede fabrics for me).  The dresser had to be just the right length.  I found a dresser that I loved at Pottery Barn, ordered it and then decided that it was a little too big.  The children's furniture at the Land of Nod is a bit smaller scale so it is perfect for our space.  The small pouf on the floor is Restoration Hardware Baby and Child and gets a ton of use.  The girls like to climb on it and it gives me something to lean against when I play with them on the floor.


In terms of decor, we have items from all over.  We have two bins from 3 Sprouts to hold toys.  The book shelves on the walls are from Target.  The gold dots are wall decals from etsy and a lot of the framed art is from Minted.  Two items of note are the mobiles.  My sister made these from the girls and they LOVE them!  


Finally, the closet has been wonderful.  The previous owners built it out and we added a second level of hanging storage.


It looks like a bit of a mess, but trust me in that it is an organized mess.

So there you have it.  This room has gone from my least favorite room in our house to by far our favorite room.  In fact, we had the room ready to go in early April 2015 , which was three months prior to the girls due date (thank goodness we did since the girls came early) and found that we spent a lot of our evening sitting on the floor in this room because it just felt so uplifting and fun!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Our Cast of Characters

The girls turn ten months today and to say that we have our hands full would be an enormous understatement, but one of the most fun aspects of having two babies at the same time is the ability to compare the differences and similarities between the two. I tell you, genetics are truly amazing.  In terms of looks, Avery and Noelle look incredibly different to Eric and I, but to others, they look exactly the same.  My sister actually still says, "now, which one is this one?" when she sees them, and people automatically assume that they are identical when we are out in public.  The picture below from this weekend cracks me up because it so speaks to these differences.   Noelle- 10 and 2 with eyes on the road- safety first.  Avery is just relaxing, one hand on the wheel- don't worry mom, I have this driving thing down.


Noelle (left) is our first born/big girl.  Not only is she larger than Avery, but she is the epitome of a first born child.  She is an observer- whether studying your face or the tiny piece of lint off the floor, everything gets inspected.  She is also calm, which I can speak to even from the time she was in utero.  When you sit her down, she will casually, yet deliberately, pick up her toy or move to her belly to roll around. Everything is thought out and nothing is erratic. She is choosey in giving out her smiles and love, but those she does love, she loves intensely and she lets you know it.  She is a mama's girl and loves to be read to on my lap and snuggled close so that she can twirl my hair.  Last night, she was having trouble sleeping due to a persistent cough and I as I held her on my lap, she grabbed my hair and pulled my face right up to hers and just held it there.  Hot baby breath and coughs through smiles made that 2:00AM wake up totally worth it.


Avery (right) on the other hand is our wild girl. Unlike Noelle, who makes deliberate and strong movements, Avery is always kicking and bee-bopping around like the party girl that she is.  She knows no strangers and makes everyone's day with her giggles and smiles.  Avery has no fear and for this reason is a complete Daddy's girl.  Daddy makes funnier noises, can flip her upside down and all around, and "bumble bee fly" her all over the house.  She is such a joy, and is the snuggliest, squishiest baby that I have ever been around.   Her fits of laughter are infectious and I just pray that her little personality stays just as joyful and silly as it is now.  She is my little baby and on occasion, she will slow down just enough to let me hold her like a baby and kiss on her soft little cheeks and just drink up what little time I have left of the baby stage.











Trouble...  I think she was growling at me in this picture (I am not kidding).  Personality with a capital "P".











Ugh.  I look at these pictures with such mixed feelings.  On one hand, I am so excited of what is to come, but on the other, these may be my last babies and it is just heartbreaking as they become more mobile and independent everyday.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Is This Really My Life?

For months now I have been contemplating a return to blogging.  While pregnant with my twin girls, I had a hard time finding twin specific blogs that I could use a resource (love this one though- PB&J Babes), I like having our house projects documented so I can go back and refer to them, and the idea that with some hard and consistent work I could turn this blog into a business is appealing.  On the other hand, I have two little ladies to protect now and I do not think I have fully flushed out the appropriate mix of family/DIY/recipe/decorating for this blog.  I am hoping that it naturally evolves with time.  Until then, I am going to dip my toes back into blogging and see what comes from it. Maybe it will be my relaxing outlet (or it will serve as yet another excuse as to why I do not have the time to work out).  Only time will tell.

In any case, a lot has happened since my last post and almost daily I feel that I need to pinch myself to confirm that this is in fact my life, and not the life that I have always just dreamed of having.  I will slowly catch you all up in coming weeks, but after an uneventful pregnancy, the girls made quite an eventful entrance into the world seven weeks early.


We have been so lucky in so many ways.  Not only did we overcome infertility, but our premie babies were/are doing wonderfully.  Don't get me wrong, finding out that these babies were coming early, having babies in the NICU for a month, etc, was THE HARDEST thing I/we have ever been through.  We never gave up though and now there isn't a day that goes by that I do not acknowledge that we are so blessed.

I should mention that in the midst of all of this, we decided to take on a major basement addition. Yes, we are the often joked about people who get pregnant and then decide we must in 10 months complete major home upgrades.  The plan didn't quite meet my timeline or anticipated budget, but I am VERY happy to say that it is complete and signed off on by Boulder County.  Another update for another day.

For today though, here we are:

    

Soooooo busy.... Soooo happy...

Again, I look at these pictures and think-  Really?  It just doesn't get any better.