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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Cupcakes

For Adam & Candice's Halloween party last night, I baked cupcakes that I dyed black and Dean decorated them as brains and Jack Skellington (aka The Pumpkin King).


Brain cupcakes inspired by Martha Stewart Spooky Halloween Cupcakes.



Chocolate Fudge cupcakes (dyed black) with cream cheese frosting



Jack Skellington aka The Pumpkin King


Chocolate Fudge cupcakes (dyed black) with cream cheese frosting
regular and peanut butter M&Ms, chocolate syrup, and slivered almonds

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Recipe: Vietnamese Beef Pho

I love Vietnamese Phở Bo. For those of you who are not familiar with this yummy goodness, it is:
  • beef broth
  • your choice of meats: rare beef steak, beef flank, tendon, tripe, brisket, and/or meatballs
  • rice noodles
  • your choice of toppings: fresh mint, basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, sliced onions and jalapeno peppers, and/or lime
  • condiments: Sriracha and Hoisin sauce

A friend was kind enough to share her recipe to me and since Hubby is not really fond of Phở (he's more of a Bánh xèo and those kind of foods type of guy), this week is the perfect time to try this recipe while Hubby is away in training. Unfortunately, she didn't give me precise measurements of the ingredients so I just had to taste and seasoned it as I go. This also requires all day cooking and the taste gets more authentic and delicious when consumed the next day---that is if it lasts that long :)

Ingredients:
  • Beef Broth:
    • beef bones: knuckles, leg bone with marrow
    • water (enough to fill an entire 6 quart pot including all the beef broth ingredients inside)
    • 1 medium sweet Vidalia onion
    • sliced ginger
    • 2 cinnamon sticks*
    • 2 teaspoons of whole coriander
    • 1 teaspoon of fennel
    • 3 whole star anise*
    • 3 whole cloves
    • 1 cardamom pod
    • mesh bag
    • 1/4 cup of fish sauce or to taste*
    • 2 tablespoons of sugar or to taste
  • For the bowl:
    • fresh rice noodles (in the freezer section)
    • thinly sliced rare beef steak
    • beef flank, tendon, tripe, brisket, and/or meatballs (optional)
  • Garnishes and condiments:
    • lime, cut into wedges
    • fresh herbs: mint, basil, and/or cilantro
    • bean sprouts
    • sliced jalapeno peppers
    • thin vertical sliced white onion
*You can omit the other spices if you are having trouble finding them but do not skip these. These really give it that authentic Phở taste.

Directions:

Thoroughly wash and clean the beef bones and parboil on high heat for 1 1/2 hours or until all the blood has been cooked out. Dump the pot and rinse the bones.

Put all the spices (in a mesh bag), onions, ginger, and the beef bones into a clean pot and fill with cold water. Simmer in low to medium heat without allowing the water to boil for 2 hours. The low simmer will keep the color of the broth light and clear.

Add fish sauce and sugar in small amounts and taste the broth so you can adjust the seasonings. Simmer for another 2 hours.

When ready to serve, bring beef broth to a boil. Prepare the rice noodles according to the manufacturer's instructions and place in a large bowl. Pour steaming hot broth over the rice noodles and add your choices of meat*. Garnish with as much or as little fresh herbs and condiments as you like.

*The thinly sliced beef steak will cook with the heat of the broth. However, if you prefer to cook the meat completely, boil the meat in a small amount of the broth in a separate pot.

I prefer my Phở Bo with rare beef steak, flank steak, tendons, cilantro, bean sprouts,
and a squirt of lime but I could only find rare beef steak this time.
It is usually served in a big bowl but all of my bowls are either small or REALLY big.
I also had to sliced the meat myself so the meat doesn't look/taste like the traditional
Phở.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pacifier


No one in our family used pacifiers as a baby so when my little boy needed one, I didn't know what to do. I'm not saying using a pacifier is wrong and believe when I say that because I did so much research about it after realizing there's no way I could survive breastfeeding and those first few months of Nathaniel's life if I don't finally give in to using one. I was just worried my little one will be too attached to it and for way past over infancy.



I already had a plan about how to help Nathaniel stop using his pacifier when the time comes. I read on BabyCenter about several "going away" binkie parties. My favorite is tying the pacifiers to a balloon and telling our child that these are now for the other children to use.


Thankfully, Nathaniel started refusing the pacifier by himself at seven months old. We went to Indiana for 2 weeks to visit family and friends and I'm guess the change in scenery and routine helped him forget about this little habit.


Last week, Nathaniel found his oldest pacifier (before we changed to Nuk) and started playing with it. I was worried he will start using the pacifier again but he is content with just playing with it like his other toys.

Did your child use a pacifier? When did he/she stop using it? What did you do to help him/her?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook

The Simple Woman's Daybook
For Today (October 26, 2010)

Outside my window... Sunny 54 degrees :) It rained all weekend so it's really good to see the sun out and shining!

I am thinking... besides my twice a day sweeping, I am not doing any other chores till Friday when Hubby comes home! :)

I am thankful for... text messaging :)

From the kitchen... homemade pumpkin bread---one of Dean's favorite breads. I wasn't fond of it until I tried this recipe. Now I love it just like he does!

I am wearing... Green shirt, shorts.

I am going... to the Commissary to pick up a few items but mainly to buy laundry detergent so I could wash our bedsheets, comforter, etc.

I am reading... Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

I am hoping... Hubby is enjoying his time/learning a lot at his training.

I am hearing... Nathaniel playing with the doggie door trying to convince Riley to come back inside.

Not around the house... we put away Nathaniel's playmat for the party last Saturday and still debating if I want to put them back. It's not like he stays on them nowadays.

One of my favorite things... Nathaniel only wanting his mama when he wakes up from a nap :)

Inspired by the church song... "How sweet to hold a newborn baby, and feel the pride and joy he gives; But greater still the calm assurance: This child can face uncertain days because He lives! Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, Because He lives, all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living, Just because He lives!"

A few plans for the rest of the week...
  • Hubby comes home from a week-long language training in Southern California on Friday. This was one of the schedule conflicts I mentioned a while back so I couldn't continue taking the Wilton cake classes :(
  • I want to go to the Safety Spooktacular 2010 on Saturday at our off base housing
  • Halloween party at the Griffin's on Saturday evening
  • Pitch-in at Church on Sunday
  • If we're not too tired and Hubby is willing to give up Sunday Night Football, I would like to go to the 17th Annual Fall Festival at the base

Here is a picture I am sharing... 10.23.10; Fresh homemade-popped popcorn sprinkled with parmesan cheese. This taste sooo much better than movie theater popcorn!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Recipe: Chocolate Mousse Frosting

9-inch Layered Chocolate Cake with Chocolate/Vanilla Mousse and Raspberry Filling

This past Saturday, my husband's coworkers came over for a get together/cookout. It was Gordon's birthday and his father was in town from Texas. It rained all day, which made it a little difficult to grill burgers and hotdogs but everyone seemed to have had a good time.


For a while now, I wanted to make a "layered" cake so I took this opportunity to try it. I really enjoyed how easy to assemble and decorate this cake and I can see myself making more of these in the future. Hubby wasn't as impressed and even though he liked the mousse filling (and he hates whipped cream!), Dean said he still prefers his cake covered and iced.


I went with the easy route and chose a super fast and super easy recipe from the Taste of Home website for the Chocolate Mouse Frosting. In the future, I will definitely make this where I have to melt my own chocolate.

Makes 7 cups

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups cold 2% milk
  • 1 package (3.9 oz) instant chocolate fudge pudding mix
  • 1 package (3. 9oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 carton (16 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding for two minutes.

Fold in whipped cream. Store in the refrigerator.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Say Goodbye to the...

Last night, we bid goodbye to a fellow Marine Corps family and Church of Christ members. Tim and my husband Dean actually go as far as starting and graduating bootcamp together earlier last year. And because Tim's language is much shorter compare to my husband's, they are now off to their next duty station.

Nancy is a very good woman. She took care of our dog when
we went home to Indiana and baby-sat Nathaniel when
I (rarely) worked and usually with a very last minute notice.


Saying goodbye to their dog Muffin.
Long time ago, I couldn't remember Muffin's name but knew that it was food related.
So I asked Dean: "Is their dog's name... Biscuit?"


I'm extremely sad to see such a great couple leave and it makes me wonder
how many "Say Goodbye" entries I'll be writing throughout
the course of our career with the Marine Corps.

Be safe and maybe we'll see each other again here in three and a half years :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Amazon: 50% off of diapers with free S&H

Amazon currently has a great deal on diapers. You will save between 15-50% off depends on if you choose to do just one or all of the following:
  • Sign up to be an Amazon Mom for free and you will 15% off of baby products. You are just simply telling Amazon that you are a caregiver (mom, dad, grandparent, etc.). See more info here.
  • Sign up on Amazon's Subscribe & Save for free to receive an additional 15% off and free shipping and handling. Amazon will ship your items every one, two, three, or six months and they will only bill you for each item once it is shipped. The good thing about this is you can cancel anytime. If you want, you can cancel as soon as your first item is shipped!
  • Parents magazine has a 20% off diapers coupon for Amazon inside their November issue. We don't get this magazine but there are plenty of these codes on Ebay and that's where I purchased mine. I chose to forgo the bidding option and picked a reliable seller with a Buy-it-now option. I paid $2.81.

So here's the math if you choose to do all of the above when buying an economy pack (204 diapers) of Pampers Baby Dry in Size 3:
  • List Price: $48.99; Amazon's Price: $37.98
    • -$5.69 (Amazon Mom 15% off)
    • -$5.69 (Subscribe & Save 15% off)
    • -$7.60 (Parents Magazine coupon for 20% off)
      • = $18.99 with free shipping! (with the added $2.81, it is still only $21.80 for 10 cents/diaper!)

What a great deal!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook

The Simple Woman's Daybook
For Today (October 19, 2010)

Outside my window... Gloomy 52 degrees. But the sun is starting to peek out!

I am thinking... about our friend and fellow church member in Indiana who was admitted last Sunday to the unit where I used to work because of a brain aneurysm. Being oh too familiar with her situation (after all I did work at Neuro ICU for more than two years) I know that even though she is stable at the moment, she is not completely out of the woods till at least the next 10 days and still has a relatively long recovery after that.

I am thankful for... our good health.

From the kitchen... homemade cheese bread.

I am wearing... Floral t-shirt and dark blue pjs.

I am going... to fax a few paperwork to TriCare sometime today. We have been getting charged a co-pay on "non-traditional" appointments i.e. Nathaniel had a rash last August (as opposed to the expected well baby visits). Granted it's very little but one of the benefits of serving in the military is having no co-pay.

I am reading... Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult.

I am hoping wishing... Hubby didn't have a two-day immersion today! He won't be coming home till tomorrow at 1530 at the earliest.

I am hearing... Nathaniel playing with his Daddy's Combat Lifesaver book. Ooops, I probably should stop him.

Around the house... toys, toys, toys! Nathaniel just emptied his toy box all over the living room.

One of my least favorite things... spiders! A daddy long legs spider just dropped next to the monitor. Ick!!!!

Inspired by the church song... "This world is not my home, I'm just passing through; My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue; The angels beckon me from heaven's open door; And I can't feel at home in this world anymore. O Lord you know I have no friend like You; If Heaven's not my home, then Lord what will I do?"

A few plans for the rest of the week...
  • Hubby comes home tomorrow late afternoon.
  • Call our old property management office again either on tomorrow or Thursday. We got a call this past August after moving from that place more than a year ago for some fees. We wrote a letter last month to dispute the charges and have still yet to hear from them.
  • One of my husband's coworker is having his birthday party at our house on Saturday. He wants everyone to meet his Dad who is coming from Texas and we offered our house for the get together. And I'm baking a cake!
  • Hubby is off to do more training on Monday. More on that later.

Here is a picture I am sharing... 10.17.10; One of my bridesmaids gave birth to a beautiful baby boy last Sunday. 6lbs 15oz. Such a tiny little thing!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Videos

These are for our family and friends who refuse to get a Facebook account :P

"Vamonos!" 9.10.10
Nathaniel loves Dora the Explorer. We can't stand her loud voice (borderline of yelling) and it just so happens to be the only show Nathaniel would watch. Go figure!



"Here Kitty, Kitty!" 9.12.10
This reminds me of the kittens from the Human Society with the way he's reaching through his crib. (And sorry about the sound not coinciding with the video. I've tried to fix it so many times and still, no luck.)



"How to Torture a Baby Part 2" 9.26.10
Nathaniel getting tickled by Daddy



"Look at what I can do!" 9.29.10
Nathaniel figured out a way to use his Bumbo and still be mobile.



"Naptime is for losers, Mama!" 9.30.10
Nathaniel refusing to take a nap. And I must have looked funny that day because all I had to do was look at him and he would burst out laughing.



"Massive Destruction" 10.03.10
Nathaniel playing with his blocks.



"Cantaloupe" 10.09.10
Eating cantaloupe for breakfast. I don't recommend feeding your babies like this unless you know how to perform infant CPR!



"Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!" 10.10.10
Screaming with/at (?) Daddy.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Calla Lilies

It has definitely been a while since I've taken pictures that doesn't have my son in it and let alone play around and do some editing. And since I got canceled again at work today (surprise, surprise!) and hubby had to go to work for Combat Fitness Testing, I decided to just get up and get in touch with my artsy fartsy side before the little one wakes up.


Calla Lily Leaf

The flowers bloomed earlier this Spring...

...but it seems like they're making a come back. I've seen a few bloomed flowers around our neighborhood.

Ten Months Old

Nathaniel is ten months old today!

The little one loves to pull himself up and occasionally lets go and tries to take a step so he falls flat on his bottom and once on his face. He is still not crawling properly and moves around mostly by scooting with his butt. Nathaniel also has a new tooth at the bottom (now a total of eight!) and he loves table food. It also seems that he is beginning to wean himself off of nursing during the daytime because he would rather play and eat adult foods when he is hungry. Nathaniel loves to chase our dog Riley and will do anything not to nap :)
 


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sears: Heroes at Home Wish Registry


I read about this two days ago and was reminded today just in time to sign up, which started this morning at 9am CST. For the past two years, Sears has been helping military servicemembers and their families during the Christmas season by providing evenly distributed donations in the form of a Sears gift card.

You must be an active military member and this program is limited to the first 20,000 applicants. It took me about an hour of constantly submitting and refreshing the browser before our application was submitted---I'm assuming because of the high traffic their website is getting right now. Also, just because our application was accepted, it does not guarantee that we will be one of the selected families. But it doesn't hurt to try! We will be notified on October 27th if we're one of the lucky families.


You can register here till October 15th 6pm CST. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook

The Simple Woman's Daybook
For Today (October 12, 2010)

Outside my window... Hot and sunny 82 degrees!

I am thinking... about what to give our family for Christmas. Since I haven't worked since August, it will have to be homemade and inexpensive. But nonetheless, it will be awesome!

I am thankful for... a roof over our heads.

From the kitchen... a Naan dough rising. I'm cooking vegetable naan "pizza" for dinner.

I am wearing... DIY I ♥ NY t-shirt with black shorts.

I am going... to check on the naan after this.

I am reading... House Rules by Jodi Picoult.

I am hoping... Nathaniel takes a nap soon. He is starting to get cranky!

I am hearing... Nathaniel playing in his jumper.

Around the house... clean, folded laundry that needs to be put up.

One of my favorite things... Autumn leaves, which I unfortunately haven't seen since a year ago (and two years for hubby!)

Inspired by the church song scripture... "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:17

A few plans for the rest of the week... Nathaniel turns 10 months old this Friday; Hubby has CFT(?) on Saturday; Weight check and second influenza booster shot for the little one on Monday.

Here is a picture I am sharing... 10.05.10; Being the photographer of the family means I'm rarely ever in the pictures. So these definitely are few and far between.


Cakes, Cupcakes, Bread, Etc.

I have been baking quite a bit for the last few weeks. I was finally able to take the Wilton Basic Cake Decorating class last month and was hoping to continue taking the rest but there's schedule conflicts this month and we're unfortunately low on "hobby funds" at the moment. But it works out too since I want to get better at bread baking.


1: September 16, 2010. Wilton: Basic Cake Decorating Class II; 9-inch Lemon Cake with Buttercream icing

2a, 2b: September 22, 2010. Sarah's 22nd birthday cake; 9-inch Buttercake with chocolate buttercream icing; (Translation: Happy Birthday, [plus Sarah's name in Arabic])

3a, 3b: September 23, 2010. Wilton: Basic Cake Decorating Class III; Red Velvet cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing as assorted flower toppings.

4a, 4b: September 30, 2010. Justin's 20th birthday cake and Wilton: Basic Cake Decorating Class IV (Final); 9-inch Marble cake with vanilla buttercream icing; (Translation: Happy Birthday, 'Yakub' [Jacob]); I tried to make it as manly as possible while still applying what I learned in class!; (Instructor made the 'ribbon')

5a: October 2, 2010. Homemade Soft Pretzels baked by hubby and me!
5b: with Cinnamon Sugar; Photo by Hubby

6a, 6b: October 9, 2010. Homemade Cheese Bread

7a: October 9, 2010. Butter Pecan cupcake; "Pumpkin" Cupcake
7b: Hubby called this "Golf Course" Cupcake

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Baby Pictures

Fellow Blogger/Mama/Marine Wife had an awesome idea of posting baby pictures of her husband, herself, and their adorable baby girl. I posted an entry a long time ago about at barely three months old, we could already notice traits of Little Dean and Little Diana in our son. And now that Nathaniel is almost 10 months old, it is great to once again "compare" our little one to ourselves when we were about his age :)


Dean, circa 1986
(Sorry for the poor quality---this was taken using my crappy phone camera
back in July and is the only baby picture of my husband that I could find!)

Diana, circa 1986
(I'm assuming this was taken in '86 since I'm already standing)


Nathaniel, circa 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook


The Simple Woman's Daybook
For Today (October 5, 2010)

Outside my window... Sunny but cold 59 degrees.

I am thinking... about what to dress Nathaniel as for Halloween. So far, we're thinking mouse because he loves cheese!

I am thankful for... a four day weekend coming up!

From the kitchen... Sopas for sick husband and baby boy. It's a Filipino version of Chicken Noodle Soup: chicken, hot dogs, macaroni noodles, cabbage, carrots, onions.

I am wearing... St. Louis Arch t-shirt and blue-flannel pajamas

I am going... to sign up for the Wilton Flower and Cake Design Class that starts this Thursday.

I am (still) reading... Second Chance by Jane Green. It's pretty boring but I'm more than halfway done with the book so I'm just finishing it to see how it ends.

I am hoping... this cold going on in our house goes away soon!

I am hearing... Nathaniel "snore" due to a stuffy nose :(

Around the house... five newly borrowed books from the library yesterday.

One of my favorite things... sweet, crunchy grapes!

Inspired by the church song... "Trust and obey, for there's no other way. To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!"

A few plans for the rest of the week... Picnic at hubby's work and cake class on Thursday; thinking about going to the Baby and Me Rhymetime at the library on Friday; (maybe) work Saturday and Sunday from 7a-3p; and Hubby is off Friday through Monday!

Here is a picture I am sharing... January 5, 2010: 21 days old!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Recipe: Homemade Soft Pretzels

I have been craving soft pretzels for quite a while so my husband and I baked homemade soft pretzels last Saturday. They were so delicious---just a hint of sweetness and butter, the outer crust was just slightly firm and the insides were not too doughy and remained very soft. I personally think they are better than what you buy at the mall especially when the homemade ones just came out of the oven. And even now (two days later), they are still yummy and soft.

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water (lukewarm)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt (optional)

Directions:

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

Add the flour and butter and knead the dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces (16 for smaller, personalized pretzels). Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope (12-inch for smaller pretzels). Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press firmly onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.

Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt if desired.

Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

covered in Cinnamon Sugar
photo by Hubby

We already have so many ideas on how to vary the "flavor"---(different types of) cheese pretzel, chocolate chip pretzel, garlic pretzel, etc!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Recipe: Elvis Presley Cookies

Our neighbors invited us a couple of days ago for a cook out this evening but unfortunately, we already had plans to go to a birthday dinner with my husband's co-workers. So I decided to bake some cookies for them to show that we appreciate the invite and wish we could come! I had helped using cookie mix from the store but I added my own little spin on it. And you will soon figure out why I named them "Elvis Presley Cookies" :)


Elvis Presley Cookies

Ingredients:
  • 1 8oz Jiffy Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp of butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup of chunky peanut butter
  • 1 very ripe banana

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine all the ingredients.

Drop by spoonful on ungreased parchment paper on baking sheet.

Bake for 11-13 minutes or until lightly browned.


I would have added more chocolate chips but we didn't have any on hand. But these cookies are very soft and delicious. I'm sure Elvis would have loved them :)
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