Friday, September 30, 2011

Have you tried dry shampoo?

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of TRESemmé. All opinions are 100% mine.
Maybe you've noticed that sometimes I like the take the hard way of doing things for the sake of making something from scratch. I've made marshmallows, graham crackers, goldfish crackers, other crackers, and bagels. John sometimes says to me, "Why don't you just buy XYZ from the store?" when we're having guests and making it ends being just one more thing to do.
Well, sometimes I do take shortcuts. For example, I've never made my own deodorant, detergent, or dry shampoo, like I've read many people do. Call me lazy.
Have you heard of this "dry shampoo" thing? I actually haven't tried it, but I'm kind of excited about it. We've all heard that washing your hair every day isn't that great for it, but for fine haired people like me, you know that waiting a day make your hair just sorta hang there. And by the end of day two? It feels drab, tired, and stringy. No thanks!
Coincidentally, one of the blogs that I read, I am Momma, Hear Me Roar, posted today on making her own dry shampoo. Maybe sometime I'll go the homemade route or jump on the all natural body products bandwagon, but if you're new to dry shampoo, don't you want to try out the professional stuff to see how it's really supposed to feel when it's done right?
TRESemm√© came out with TRESemm√© Fresh Start Dry Shampoo, which seems to be easy to use and the perfect solution for those days that you skip washing.
For best results, follow these easy steps:
  • Shake vigorously before use and between sprays.
  • Lift sections and spray lightly directly at the roots.
  • Spray in short bursts, 8-12 inches from your head. 
  • DON'T spray all over like hairspray.
  • Leave it in for 1-2 minutes, using your fingertips to distribute the product.
  • If the bottle clogs, remove the nozzle and rinse it under warm water. Reattach.
There's a full line of products to revive your hair in between washes. They are uniquely formulated to absorb excess oil and remove odor, rejuvenating your hair without having to worry about drying it. With citrus extracts in each formula, your hair is left with a clean, fresh scent.
Here's the whole line:
Strengthening Dry Shampoo: The formula, with B12 vitamins and keratin, helps strengthen hair and leaves it full of healthy body.
Volumizing Dry Shampoo: The formula, with mineral clay and citrus, removes oil while injecting hair with salon-gorgeous volume.
Smoothing Dry Shampoo: The formula, with Vitamin H & Silt Proteins, refreshes your straight style by removing excess oil, impurities and odor to ensure your smooth look lasts.
Moisturizing Waterless Foam Shampoo: The formula, with Witch Hazel, Citrus, and Aloe Vera, refreshes your hair by removing excess oil, impurities and odor while moisturizing hair.
If you are still a little wary of what dry shampoo is, you should check out this video by Julia Allison who shows a video tutorial on how to use it. She's also giving away a $500 gift card to Target to a lucky viewer!

Visit Sponsor's Site

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cranberry Apple Pumpkin Muffins

After we went to the apple orchard, we came home with a couple of bags of apples. We'll be heading to another orchard tomorrow, which means that we'll have even more apples. Since I had an opened can of pumpkin from the pumpkin spice syrup, I went in search of a recipe with apples and pumpkins. I didn't find anything that fit what I was looking for. So, I came up with this and loved how they turned out (two batches later).

I love the tart bits of cranberry in there, but if you don't have any, you could always just add more apples or chopped nuts.

Cranberry Apple Pumpkin Muffins
Makes 24 regular muffins

Muffin Ingredients
2 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour)
2 tbs white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbs ground flax (optional)

1 1/2 cups pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup Canola oil
1/4 cup coconut oil (or substitute more Canola oil, butter, or applesauce)
2 eggs

2 cups diced tart, peeled and cored apple (about 2 small apples)
1 cup roughly chopped fresh or frozen cranberries (approximately 1 3/4 cups when whole)

Topping Ingredients
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbs white sugar
pinch of salt
5 tbs unsalted cold butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare two muffin tins with either nonstick cooking spray or liners.

Combine all topping ingredients except the butter in a small bowl. Using your fingers, incorporate the butter until large clumps form. Refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the muffin.

Sift first 10 ingredients (whole wheat flour through flax) into a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the liquid ingredients (pumpkin, both oils, and eggs). Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until there are flour streaks but no flour pockets remain (see image below). Fold in the chopped apples and cranberries.

Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full, approximately 3 tablespoons of batter per cup. If needed, even out the top of each using the back of a spoon or fingers dipped in water. Sprinkle each with a generous amount of the topping, about 2 tsp each (if I were to guess; I didn't measure). There may be some topping leftover.

Bake the two muffin tins side on the middle rack of the oven for 17-20 minutes, rotating halfway through if you think of it to be sure that they are cooking evenly. Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. You can eat them when warm from the oven, but bits of the fruit will probably stick to the liners. Allowing them to cool will leave you with perfectly intact muffins.

And, so you know that you haven't forgotten something or done something wrong, this batter is very thick. This is how it looks with flour streaks before combining the fruit:

Monday, September 26, 2011

LE is 1 1/2 Years Old!

Last week marked LE's half birthday. It's amazing to look back to a year ago and see how much she's changed. Babies grow up so quickly!

Last year around this time, LE was still needing to have tummy time.

She sported the curl-hawk-- like a mohawk but just a curly cue. Now, her hair is long enough to kind of pull back into a ponytail. It's straight in the front and really curly in the back.

She was just starting to army crawl. Now, she runs, climbs, jumps, bounces...

She was just starting to eat veggie purees. Now, she'll eat anything except purees.

Our little LE is very spunky and full of life.
Photo compliments of my older brother

LE jumps up and says, "Oof, oof!" when she hears or sees a dog. Similarly, she does her version of "moo," which I can't spell, when she spots a cow. She's a bit more timid when it comes to meowing. Watch carefully to her face when John asks her where the pig is.

Did you see it? She makes a funny face and blinks. We didn't notice her doing this until watching a few different videos of her. We figured out that she thinks "oink, oink" is "blink, blink" (a command she knows). So, she thinks that when she sees a pig, she is supposed to blink. {She also thought "big" was "pig" towards the end; this was the start of her getting congested, and her nose was bothering her.}

She takes care of her stuffed kangaroo and baby doll LeLe by offering them her pacifier and sippy cup. Throughout the day, she sets them on top of a cloth on the ottoman to change their pretend diapers. If she's able, she'll take out a baby wipe and diaper from the bin. Then, after cooking with her pans and wooden spoons on the rug, she lets them sample her soup. Almost always, we have to get to taste.

She's starting to get persistent about some things, like picking out which socks to wear and how many shoes to wear around the house.

She's still happy to nap on her dad, just like she has since the day she was born.

We're excited to see how she'll change in the next year. It's been so fun so far.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Alright, I get it... fall is here!

I have to admit, I've been in denial about fall. I was not ready to let go of the warm summer days filled with outdoor playing and gardening. Before I knew it, I looked outside our back door to see our tree (yes, the one and only) yelling, "Get with it! It's fall!" 

To ring in the season properly, we jumped right in to many of the fall favorites. We made pumpkin spice lattes, apple-pumpkin-cranberry muffins (with apples that we picked from the apple orchard), low-fat pumpkin cream ice sandwiches cut into the shape of pumpkins, caramel for dipping apples, and chili with cornbread. 

It certainly feels like fall!

In case you haven't spied a pumpkin spice latte recipe that you want to try, I'll share this with you. It's so simple and the perfect way to put you in a good mood on a crisp morning.

I originally found this recipe on Pinterest. I can't vouch that it truly tastes just like Starbucks' since it's been a year since I had theirs. I can vouch, however, that this tastes delicious. I've had it in my espresso every day since I made it (a week ago).

Pumpkin Spice Lattes
Adapted from Sugar Crafter
Makes enough for at least 7 lattes, as long as you don't like yours sickeningly sweet. 

Pumpkin Spice Syrup Ingredients
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 - 2 1/2 tbs pumpkin puree
3 cinnamon sticks (preferred), or 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon, depending on how strong your cinnamon is 
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat over medium low for 15 minutes (or so; doesn't have to be exact); don't let it boil. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a jar or other container to store it in. Keep in the fridge for up to one month, shaking or stirring before each use.

Update: A friend tried this recipe with a few issues. Make sure that you don't let your syrup get too hot or else it will start to caramelize and turn into a goopy mess! You are looking for a low simmer, if it simmers at all. 

Whipped Cream Ingredients
4 oz heavy cream
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whip all ingredients on medium high until soft peaks form (about a minute or less) if you want to spoon it on. To pipe it, whip a little bit longer until firm peaks form. Spoon into a pastry bag or ziplock fitted with a 1M tip at the end. Store extra whipped cream in the fridge, tightly covered.  

Latte Ingredients
1/2 - 3/4 cup milk, frothed or hot
2 shots espresso or strongly brewed coffee
1 1/2 tbs pumpkin spice syrup (approx)
whipped cream (optional)

Pour the pumpkin spice syrup into the bottom of a mug. Add the espresso and hot milk. Top with whipped cream, extra syrup, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Recipes for Raspberries

So... did you run out and pick raspberries? I really wanted to go one last time this week, but I was sick. There's always next year.

Here are the two ways I used up the raspberries that we picked a couple of weeks ago (aside from eating them straight, that is).

Chocolate Pots de Creme with Raspberries
This chocolate is incredibly rich, and each bite needs a raspberry. You would be truly missing out if you chose to eat this without the tart, crisp raspberries to counterbalance the rich chocolate. 

It's worth noting that since so much of the flavor comes from the chocolate, you need to buy good quality chocolate (i.e. Don't buy the cheapest chocolate available)!

Yields 8; Recipe from America's Test Kitchen

Custard Ingredients
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (Ghirardelli or other kind with 60% cocoa)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups half & half
5 large egg yolks
5 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs vanilla extract
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder mixed with 1 tbs water

Whipped Cream Ingredients
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp sugar
chocolate shavings for sprinkling on top (optional)

and, of course, a large handful of raspberries for each ramekin

For the Custard:

  1. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl, and set a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl.
  2. Affix a candy thermometer to a medium saucepan or get an instant read thermometer ready. 
  3. In the saucepan, whisk together the heavy cream, half & half, yolks, sugar, and salt. 
  4. Switch over to a wooden spoon and pull up a stool-- you'll be here a while. Cook over medium-low heat until the custard registers 175-180, stirring constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom. If you're me, you will only stir it every minute or so until the custard is starting to thicken, and then I will stir constantly until the end. DO NOT let it creep past 180; err on the side of too thin as it will thicken as it cools. 
  5. Moving quickly, pour the custard into the strainer over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes until the chocolate is mostly melted. Whisk gently until all of the chocolate is melted and smooth. Add the vanilla and espresso and gently whisk until incorporated.
  6. Scoop even amounts of the custard into 8 ramekins, then tap each ramekin on the counter bring potential air bubbles to the surface.
  7. Let ramekins come to room temperature. Then, cover each ramekin flush to the custard's surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours and up to 72 hours. Let it sit at room temp for 20-30 minutes before devouring (oops, I didn't do that).
For the Whipped Cream:
  1. Beat the cream, sugar, and vanilla at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. 
After letting the chocolate custard sit out at room temp for 20ish minutes, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream onto each custard, garnish with chocolate shavings (if desired), and top with copious amounts of raspberries.

Raspberry & Apple Fruit Leather

I used this simple recipe from to make homemade fruit leather. I added about a 1/2 cup more berries and apple sauce than the recipe suggests, which gave us enough for two batches. I froze the leftover sauce for a week between batches.

One thing to note is that it only took 4-5 hours for ours, so start checking on it early!

LE really really likes fruit leather, and I like that it's a convenient, less messy on-the-go treat for her. The first batch we planned to bring with us as a snack on the plane to NY, but she and I ate the whole thing in the 5 minutes it took for John to bring the stuff downstairs. Oops.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Not tired at all!

You're right, LE. You're not tired at all.

(Photo taken on my phone with her in her highchair 10 minutes after an hour of fighting her nap and me catching her straddling her crib railing, climbing her way out.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Picking Raspberries

We’re towards the end of raspberry season in Wisconsin! The season only lasts a few weeks and is very sensitive to the weather each year. This year’s season started about two weeks after last year’s.

The first day an organic raspberry farm a few miles outside of town opened its doors to “U-Pick,” our playgroup happily gathered up our toddlers and drove to the farm. It was LE’s and my first time picking raspberries, but it wasn’t going to be the last.

Upon arriving to the farm, we were greeted by Paul, one of the owners, who enthusiastically helped us newbies get set up with a few empty baskets, go through a quick lesson on how to pick raspberries, and teach us the rules of his farm:

  1. You absolutely must eat as many berries as you can while picking. You won’t be weighed upon arriving or leaving the farm. 
  2. You must talk to others while you are out there because this is a community activity. 

Forgetting to stop to pick up cash on the way, I asked Paul if he would accept a check. He informed me that they accept cash, checks, and IOUs... seriously! Oh, and did I mention that everything is beyond reasonably priced?  Huge heirloom tomatoes for about $2/ea, large red bell peppers for $1/ea, shallots for $4/lb. And the raspberries? $2.50 a pint.

Prior to hearing his rules, I was fully prepared to pay for an extra pint of berries due to LE not being able to resist stuffing her face as we went along. As it happened, she did stuff her face, often times stuffing berry upon berry into her mouth, faster than I could pick them. She had no qualms picking her own berries, either.

I gained a whole new appreciation for raspberries after that first day of picking. For one, I should have started earlier in the day. By the time I got there, others had already gone down the rows and picked the most obvious berries. I had to hunt for them by lifting the vines (branches?) and looking for them on the hidden undersides, much like small tomatoes grow, if you’re familiar with that. Unlike tomatoes, though, raspberries don’t continue to ripen after they are picked.

You can start to see in the photo above the white part that is left on the stem after the berry is pulled. Prior to picking the berries myself, I was a little squeamish with the little specks inside the berry. I thought they were the beginnings of mold, dirt, or something gross; however, now I know that even the freshest of berries have these little things in them.

That first day, it took me about a hour or so to pick 2 pints of raspberries. We ate them so quickly that I went back two days later, filling 4 pints of berries in about an hour, even while holding LE (she wasn’t digging being there that time and passed out the minute we got to the car).

If you are looking for something inexpensive to do one day, you should see if there are any “U-Pick ‘ em” farms near you. It’s a great experience, and you can’t beat the price. If you happen to live in the Madison area, you should definitely check out Blue Skies Farm in Brooklyn. Season will  likely go through the end of this week, so hurry!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Slow week of posts...

because our family is in NYC.

View from our hotel window tonight

More to come soon!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

LE at 17 Months

LE is already 17 months and a week old. She's still much the same as she was at 16 months (imagine that!). Here are the new things.
  • Prefers to sit on her own chair, preferably the one that she got to climb onto by herself. 
  • Slides down slides by herself though she sometimes desires to have someone go with her to hold her hand.
  • Continues to enjoy putting rocks and items into containers, moving them to different containers, and then putting them back.
  • Brings us books to read her at any lull in the day.
  • Loves, loves the song in this Target commercial. Every time she hears it, she stops, looks over to find me, and gives a "is this really happening?!" look just before simultaneously smiling and bouncing.
  • Gets her bib from her drawer when she's ready to eat.
  • Says her version of "moo" and "woof woof" when asked what a cow or dog says (sometimes)
  • Sidesteps or walks backwards when she's near our cat so that she can keep her eye on the cat at all times
  • Likes "helping"-- unloading the dishwasher, throwing things away, pushing elevator/garage buttons, closing the baby gates, and wiping things down with a napkin.
  • Holds her hurt body part out to us to kiss. If both of us are around, we both have to kiss it followed by her kissing it.
  • Speaks in a new form of jibber jabber. 
  • Spins in circles until she is giddy and falls down.
  • Looks up and waves bye bye when we put her in her crib at night, as if to say, "Ok Mom and Dad, you can leave now."
  • Gets her diaper changing supplies laid out and ready when she, um, goes.
  • Is healthy and tracking as she should on growth charts. She's 21.5 lbs and 30.5 in. She has 13 teeth. That #13 was a real pain for all involved. She sleeps 12 hrs a night and is transitioning to one 2 hour afternoon nap a day.