David’s Outer Space Birthday Party

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Space Party Food

Tomorrow is David’s 4th birthday! How can that be? In a way I feel like it’s been a million years since his birth (AKA the most painful day of my life AKA my only natural birth). In other ways I just don’t know how this tiny boy is 4 years old. Parenting David has been a ride, lots of ups and downs, but we are thrilled with the boy he is becoming. He is a completely different creature than his sister and brother. And that’s awesome.

David has never had a “friends” birthday party, and I felt kind of guilty about it since Libbie had one for her second, third, AND fourth birthdays! But her birthday is not five days before Christmas … About two weeks ago, I decided to just plan a little shindig. And if no one came, whatever.

I’ll admit that David wanted a Cars theme, but I was stuck on space. Sorry, dude. We shopped at Party City and found they really only have character-themed items. But we were able to find some gold and silver disposable items, some plates with stars, silver stars, and star garland. We also picked up Toy Story tattoos, some Buzz Lightyear light-up thingamajiggys on clearance for 50 cents each, and Toy Story alien streamers.

alien cupcakes

I decorated with the streamers and Joshua’s Green Toys rocket and astronauts set.

For the cupcakes, I made a red velvet box mix with homemade buttercream frosting tinted green. The candy eyes I got at ALDI around Halloween, and I used purple gel frosting for the mouths. I wanted to use green sour straw candy for antennae, but I wasn’t able to find it anywhere!

(Usually I am pretty anti-food coloring, but around Christmas I have just given up. C’est la vie.)

We also had “rocket dogs,” hot dogs on a skewer wrapped with crescent roll dough. I don’t recommend trying this, as most of my crescent roll stayed on the baking sheet and it just frustrated me to death! I stuck a triangle of cheese on the end of each one after they baked.

Rocket Hot Dogs

We finished out the menu with tropical fruits on skewers, popcorn, and “astronaut fuel,” also known as applesauce pouches from ALDI.

Astronaut Applesauce Fruit kebabs

For drinks, we had Capri Suns, Coke and Diet Coke, and Dawn Camp’s spiced apple cider (“wassail”), which was crazy delicious!

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David wore his astronaut costume, which was a big hit. My mom and Dad got it at the NASA place in Texas for him a few years ago.

I wanted to make this a big play date. We put out our dress-ups, our train set, and some Little People play things. We also played Toy Story on the TV and had coloring pages of an astronaut and an alien. One of David’s friends REALLY liked the dress-ups!

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David had a wonderful time with his friends, they all played and ate happily, and he got some fun gifts. And best of all, I didn’t stress out. I haven’t even attempted a party since Libbie’s Beauty and the Beast one in 2012. It was crazy, I did way too much, and it burnt me out on parties. I think I finally figured out how much I can take on without going nuts with this one.

(I didn’t even do goody bags or favors of any kind. I kind of figure right before Christmas the last thing parents want is one more junky toy. At least that’s the last thing I want!)

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My friend Tiffany and her sweet girls.

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I tried to take a picture of David, which Libbie interpreted as “jump in the picture, pose, and try to get David to do the same.”

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Thanks for coming to our party!

P.S. Having this room on campus (which we also used for the Beauty & the Beast party and my sister’s engagement party) to use for free so that I don’t have to clean up my whole apartment and try to stuff a bunch of people in it … SO AWESOME.

Winter Break Menu Plan

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Well, hey! The dining hall is closing, so it’s time for a menu plan around there parts. Share some favorite easy meals with me, OK? I need some new ones.

Thursday
D: Panko-Crusted Pork Sandwiches, baked sweet potatoes, pear slices

Friday
B: Egg Pie with bacon and cheese (modified from Cowboy Quiche)
L: David’s birthday party – space-themed. Rocket Dogs, Fruit Rocket Ships, Alien Cupcakes, Holiday Wassail, Astronaut Applesauce (GoGo Squeez pouches), popcorn
D: Tacos, warm corn and black bean salad

Saturday (David’s birthday!!)
B: Chocolate chip pancakes
L: Homemade pizza
D: Chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, baby carrots

Sunday
B: Eggs, toast
L: out
D:  Sesame Red Lentils, sugar snap peas, grilled sausage

Monday
B: Breakfast cookies
L: sandwiches, tortilla chips, fruit
D: Arroz con Pollo y Frijoles, salad

Tuesday
B: Ham, egg, and cheese sandwich on English muffin
L: leftovers
D: Aussie Meat Pie variation, quinoa salad

Wednesday (Christmas Eve)
B: Breakfast cookies
L: Greek pasta bake
D: Cornish game hens with cranberry-honey glaze, sweet potato souffle, broccoli

Thursday (Christmas)
B: Orange rolls, breakfast casserole
L: Asian pork tenderloin, roasted potatoes and carrots, Asian green beans
D: Leftovers & clean out the fridge

 

Too-Good-to-Share Chocolate Chunk Cookies {Secret Recipe Club}

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Chocolate chunk cookies

We’re having a special Secret Recipe Club event this month: a Cookie Carnival. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been baking cookies like nuts the past few weeks. I just love serving up platters of homemade cookies and bars around Christmas.

cookiecarnival

I was assigned to Bewitching Kitchen, a new blog to me. The author, Sally, was born and raised in Brazil; she’s lived in Paris and California; and is now settled in Kansas. Quite an array of places! She and her husband are both biochemists. (Wow! I am always fascinated by bloggers who have “real jobs,” you know, outside their home. How do people do it?)

I had planned to make these Snickerdoodles with a Twist (instant coffee!) when I first got the assignment, but last week my brain stopped working and I made some regular snickerdoodles. So instead I decided to make Elizabeth Falkner’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. I am always up for trying a new chocolate chip cookie recipe. And these may be my new go-to recipe!

chocolate chip cookies on cooling rack

I believe the secret to these cookies’ goodness is threefold. First, the kosher salt. The bigger crystals of salt make these almost sweet-and-salty, which we all know is the perfect combination. Second, the different sizes of chocolate chunks add interest and texture. Third, I think it’s been much-tested that cookies allowed to “marinate” in the fridge for a while have a better flavor than those that don’t.

My cookies ended up just a little more crispy than I would have liked, so next time I will cook them for a shorter period of time. I like chewy cookies, though, so if you like yours crispy, aim for 14-16 minutes of cooking time.

For my second batch, I added in some Andes peppermint crunch baking pieces to make them more Christmasy. I liked the peppermint, but I actually preferred the plain chocolate chunk cookies.

Too-Good-to-Share Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Yield: about 26-30 cookies

Ingredients

  • 8 T butter, softened or grated
  • 3/4 c. (6 1/4 oz.) packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. plus 1 T (4 oz.) sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 c. minus 1 T (7 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 8 oz. bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped into chip-sized chunks
  • optional: chopped walnuts or 1/2 c. Andes peppermint pieces

Instructions

Cream together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add egg, vanilla, and salt and mix well.

Sift into the bowl flour, baking soda, and baking powder; stir to combine.

Stir in chocolate chunks and any other add-ins. Cover tightly and refrigerate dough for at least half an hour, as long as overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 F, positioning racks in the upper third and lower third of the oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Form dough into 1-inch balls with a cookie scoop or rolling by hand. Place 2 inches apart on sheets. Bake 7 minutes; then rotate cookie sheets from top to bottom. Cook another 5-9 minutes. For chewier cookies, do 5-6 minutes; for crispier ones, 7-9 more minutes.

Let cool on sheets for a minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool.

Notes

Since I got a small kitchen scale for mailing packages, I've measured by weight when it's offered in a recipe. It is more accurate and will give you a consistent product.

http://www.jessieweaver.net/2014/12/chocolate-chunk-cookies/


Let’s Talk Cookie Baking

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Check out The Cookies of Christmas

by Jessie Weaver at Foodie.com

One of my favorite Christmas tradition is making and decorating sugar cookies. My mom thinks I was about 4 the first time we did this, and I can’t remember a year from my childhood when we didn’t roll out the special sugar cookie dough and spend hours piping icing onto cut-out cookies. We made everything from ornaments to Nativity scenes to reindeer – and one year, I remember, Bob and Larry from Veggietales and a Santa dinosaur.

I’ve tried to carry on this tradition as an adult. It makes an awful mess, but I love it. This may be Cookie Week here, because I want to share the sugar cookie dough recipe I use, plus Monday morning you’ll see my cookie recipe for the Secret Recipe Club Cookie Exchange.

But y’all. My mom was missing out on a lot of things to make her life easier when it came to cookie baking. We never used parchment paper or silicone mats. I never touched a cookie scoop until one of my co-workers bought me one for my birthday well into my married life. My mom didn’t know the wonders of the stand mixer until very recently.

I hope you have learned about all those tools! Not to mention, you need a very thin spatula to take cookies off the sheet. And having a multi-level cooling rack helps, too.

I’ve been making cookies like a fiend lately. It helps to have a whole dorm of high-school boys as taste-testers! That way I don’t weigh 6,000 pounds, and they get a taste of homemade goodies. I even took requests this year for the kinds of cookies they wanted. (Chocolate chip, some kind of Reese’s, and snickerdoodles.)

Above I’ve shared some of the recipes I’ve made or planned to make this year. I found as I was bookmarking on Foodie that I am kind of obsessed with crinkle cookies and anything involving peppermint!

What is your favorite kind of Christmas cookie?

This is a sponsored post in conjunction with Foodie.com, a great site to bookmark recipes. 

Saturday Linky Love

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Saturday Linky Love button

Three and a half more days of school for my big girl! (One and a Christmas program for the almost-4-year-old!) This week will be nutso, but I am looking forward to having the kids and Mr. V home, relaxing, and doing Christmasy things.

For now, links!

Reading offline: Finishing up Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #5).

So, what did you read that was great this week? Link up here. You can grab the code for the button in the sidebar, if you want. Please link back here and add the PERMALINK to your post, not your home page.

Now Available for Kindle: Parenting Parables

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Parenting Parables cover

Yay! Although it won’t have the same pretty fonts as the PDF, you can now order Parenting Parables for your Kindle or Kindle-friendly app for the same price of $2.99.

I know you may feel rushed right now with the holidays, but may I suggest taking a few minutes out of your day to sink into the Word? It sure helps me feel more balanced as a person and parent!

Enjoy – and let me know if you’re reading it.