Tuesday, December 9, 2014

White Chocolate Dipped Cherry Shortbread

Before we moved to Minnesota I spent an agonizing amount of time imagining who my new friends would be. Would I even have new friends? What would they look like?  Could they ever compare to and replace the friends I was leaving behind?  The answer is yes.  And no.  Just as I've learned that I love my children fully, equally and differently...I love and adore my new friends fully, equally and differently.  These women who invited me to join their lives, their play groups, book clubs and social events have completed my circle here.   I adore them, I adore their children, I adore how fully full they've made my life these past six months.  Blessed is the word that constantly comes to mind.

And did I mention one of these new friends of mine, Amber, hosted a cookie exchange party?  That's a sure way to get to my heart.  Nine women means nine different kinds of cookies.  Oh, how we've been buzzing around on a sugar high since Saturday night!

I also got to learn how to frost cookies using royal icing, and I am totally hooked.  This icing makes gorgeous cookies!  Thanks for the intro Dawn!

And I got to try an awesome new cookie recipe to bring to the party.  This one will be added into my holiday repertoire from now on.  Cherry shortbread dipped in white chocolate.  Oh my!  Although, the finished product looked a little bit like a Santa with a hat but no facial features, so I can't decide if they are cute or creepy. Thoughts?

Life is good.  God is good.  My heart is full.  I am blessed this holiday season beyond measure.


White Chocolate Dipped Cherry Shortbread
Adapted from BHG

Makes 30 cookies

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and chopped finely
2 1/2 cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar, plus 1/2 cup extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, chopped into 1/4" pieces
12 ounces white chocolate, chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Colored sugars or nonpareils for decorating

Preheat oven to 325F.

Spread cherries on a layer of paper towels.  Place another paper towel on top and press lightly to absorb excess moisture.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt and mix briefly to combine.  Add cold butter and mix on medium-low, or use a pastry blender, until the dough resembles coarse meal.  Add cherries, 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chocolate and the almond extract.  Knead the mixture with your hands until it comes together and forms a smooth ball.

Form dough into 1 tablespoon balls and then roll in extra sugar to coat.  Place on cookie sheet approximately 2" apart.  Dip the bottom of a drinking glass in the sugar and then flatten each dough ball.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until centers are set, then set on a wire rack to cool.

Once cookies are completely cooled, melt remaining white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl by cooking for 15 second intervals and stirring after each 15 seconds until completely melted.  Dip half of each cookie into the white chocolate, then dip in colored sugar or nonpareils for decoration. Lay on parchment paper to dry and harden completely.  Then, you should definitely...


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Claire Bear is Two!

It's amazing how you can love two children so differently, yet so very completely.  When I was pregnant with Claire I had a fear many second-time parents have...will I love her as much as the first? The answer is, "God yes! And in such a new and awesome way from the first!"  These are two different human beings, of course I'm not going to love them the same way.  I just love them both the way they need to be loved.

Two years ago, Claire burst into our lives 10 days early and with little fuss.  I went to bed as normal the night before her birthday, and at 8:30 am we were holding her in our arms, slightly shocked at what had just happened, but already in love.

I was so nervous to introduce Claire to Anna, certain that I had just ruined her life as she was no longer the only center of our universe.  But, again, my fears were unfounded.  Anna marched herself into the hospital room that morning demanding "where's my sister?", and they've been an unstoppable team ever since.

Claire has brought so much joy into our world.  She is the happiest child I've known and truly has zest for life that brings smiles to everyone around her.  She is affectionate, snuggly and loves throwing her arms around my neck and kissing me square on the lips.  This kid really loves life, and seeing this as a parent brings me insurmountable joy.

Claire has changed so much this year...from baby to toddler.  From helpless to determined.  From straight-ish hair to spiral curls.  Along with her joy, Claire has some serious spunk!  She let's her needs be known, she doesn't let Anna get away with picking on her, and she does everything just a little louder than most would deem necessary. She is her own person through and through. And oh oh oh how I love this little person.

Happy Birthday Sweet Claire Bear.  You are my Bear, my Muppet, my Monkey, my Bear Bear, my very heart and soul.  I love you so much.  I can't wait to see where this next year brings you.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


This is where Mace and I got to spend three amazing days all by ourselves.  No kids, no distractions, just each other.  It was quiet. It was magical.  It was awesome.

Mace and I are a couple that crave alone time together.  We get out on dates as often as possible, and count the minutes til the girls go to bed so we can be alone together.  We love spending time with each other and are pretty good at making that happen.  Except, just for short periods of time.  

Anna was 15 months old before I left her with my parents overnight and went to a Bed & Breakfast for a whopping 12 hours.  We have done one or two other overnights, but never longer than 24 hours.  Never longer than 24 hours, I said.  When Mace and I finally realized that we hadn't been away together for a weekend in over four years, we knew that had to be remedied immediately.  And remedy it we did.

We packed the girls up and sent them to my parents for two nights, and then my sister and bro-in-law's for a night. Three whole nights!  72 lovely, uninterrupted, kidless hours.  It was unbelievably heavenly.

We got to connect in a way that we've never done in the past four years.  We got to finish every conversation we started, unless it was interrupted by a spontaneous kiss.  

We got to eat entire meals without children on our laps or hearing the inevitable, "I don't like that!"  

We got to hike for miles and hours on the Superior Hiking Trail, thinking only of our own need for water, food or rest.  

We spent an entire afternoon in almost complete silence, reading and dozing as the feeling struck us. 

We drank too many glasses of wine without worry of having to get up in the middle of the night with a child.

We browsed in art galleries and shops in Grand Marais without fear of something being broken by little hands. 

We laid in bed until 9:00 each morning and let the sun soak in and warm us through the windows. 

We talked and we talked and we talked.  We fell deeper in love, though neither of us thought that possible.  And we dreamed.  We remembered dreams we used to have and created new dreams together. We had time. Beautiful time, just for each other and ourselves.  

We vowed to make sure we don't go another four years without a weekend getaway.

When we returned on Sunday we were met with the sweetest smiles and hugs.  We were all ready to be together again, refreshed and renewed from our time apart.

And, something unexpected from our trip, was this new bond our girls formed with each other.  They were apart from us, but had each other the whole weekend.  From that time together a new kind of love for each other was created.  Awesome.

Oh life is good.  So very wonderfully good.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


"I am Sam. Sam I am."
-Intro to Dr. Suess' beloved children's book Green Eggs and Ham.

"I am SAHM.  SAHM I am."
-Intro to my beloved new career.

SAHM, the acronym for Stay-At-Home-Mom.  Its my job, its my title, its what I do.  It used to bug me when the first question people asked when I met them is "What do you do?"  I mean really really really bugged me.  "I'm an accountant at the University," I would mumble.  Because, why should I be immediately be defined by what I do?  I wasn't proud of my job, I wasn't excited about my job, and the first thing people would say is "I hate numbers" or, "I could never do that, it'd be so boring!" Touché my friends.  Although I love numbers fiercely, the work was very dull.  I was always convinced that people would think that I was dull and would immediately start in on all the reasons I worked such a dull, dreadful job and how I was actually a fun and exciting human being.  Ugh.

When we moved back to Minnesota from Montana I was so excited to be done with my "dreadful accounting job" and working my dream job of SAHM.  Except, that it wasn't exactly what I thought it would be.  Claire was 7 months old, Anna almost 3.  There wasn't much we all enjoyed doing together as a threesome and I was struggling to find things to fill our days.  I was lonely, anxious, mildly depressed and kicking myself for thinking this grass was going to be so much greener.  I wasn't happy at all.

So, I decided to pursue my other dream job.  I got a job as a baker.  And for almost a year it really truly was a dream job.  Someone was paying me to bake! I got some time away from the girls and when people asked me what I did for a living I proudly beamed "I'm a baker."  And then the next question was always an inquiry about the time I had to get up in the morning.  4 am.  That was the killer.  For awhile it worked because I was so in love with this job.  Mace made compromises, our family made compromises.  I was tired all the time, I was cranky, the girls and I had dreadful afternoons after I got off work, things went downhill.  Suddenly my dream job wasn't working for our family anymore.

Fast forward to now.  I have restarted my dream job of SAHM.  There are a few key things I have learned about being a SAHM that changed this job for me from lonely/anxious/depressed mom to happy/blessed/joyous mom.  I am going to share these things in another post because they have been critical to my current success as a SAHM. And now, I'm proud to tell people what I do.  I'm proud when people say "I could never do that, it'd be so hard to hang out with kids all day!"  Yes, some days it is.  Some days it totally sucks like every other job.  But most days, most days are the most precious, awesome exciting days of my life.  I get to be with two of my favorite people in the world all day long.  My life feels full now.  My heart is often on the verge of exploding because it is so full of love and gratitude.  This is a very bold statement but: I am happier than I have ever been in my life.  My dreams have come true.

I am SAHM.  SAHM I am.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies, my friends, are my most requested recipe.  And, until now, I have selfishly held it very close to me.

I have made these cookies with brown butter and regular melted butter, and both ways are very good.The brown butter adds a depth of flavor to these cookies that makes them irresistible.  The melted butter makes them taste almost pastry-like.  You can't go wrong either way, but since I am a brown butter fiend, I almost always opt for that.

Also, there are oats in these cookies, but I don't consider them an oatmeal cookie, at least not in the traditional sense.  I've added just enough oats to this recipe to give the cookies a chewy texture that is divine. Even if you're not an oatmeal cookie fan, give em a try.  I think you just might fall in love.

I always have a bag of these cookies in my freezer.  Almost every day, after things start going down hill (because this usually happens at some point every day, right?) I sneak away from the girls into a corner of the kitchen (or bathroom, or basement, or bedroom) and gobble one down.  I think of it as my "secret cookie", and always chuckle a bit to myself as I am snarfing it down.  And then, my day is instantly better!  Well, at least for those 46 seconds I am blissfully alone with crumbs falling down the front of my shirt.  Luckily, I've never gotten caught.  Please don't tell...?

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

14 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (3 oz) old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 cups (7 1/2 oz) dark chocolate chopped or chips
3/4 cup nuts, toasted and chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Melt 10 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  If opting to brown the butter, cook, swirling the pan often, until the butter turns a deep golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Transfer the butter to a heat proof bowl and then add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter.  Stir until the butter is completely melted.

Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt and vanilla to the butter. Whisk, by hand or on medium-low with the whisk attachment to a stand mixer, until fully incorporated.  Add the egg and egg yolk and whisk until fully incorporated. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes and then whisk for 30 seconds.  Repeat the process of resting and whisking 2 more times.  At this point the mixture will be smooth, thick and glossy.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and oats and stir to combine.  Using a rubber spatula, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts, if using.

Using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, or just eyeballing it, drop dough balls 2 inches apart onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake until cookies are golden brown and puffy and edges have begun to set but middles are still soft, about 11-13 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack, and if you can stand to wait, allow to cool to room temperature.  If not, just go ahead and...


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Brown Butter Baked Donuts

We started making donuts this summer and: We. Can't. Stop.  They have brown butter.  They are moist. They have a billion possibilities for flavors. The are delicious.  They have brown butter.

Mace accidentally bought me a donut pan when he used my Amazon account to order something for himself.  The donut pan was a splurge I'd been pondering buying and threw it in my cart.  Mace figured since it was in my cart, it was a sure deal.  Two days later I was the proud owner of this donut pan!

I originally found this recipe on Joy the Baker and fell in love with it.  I've tweaked it to include more brown butter (duh), the addition of cinnamon and given a few other topping suggestions.  The kinds of toppings you can put on these are truly endless...chocolate, white & almond glazes, nuts, sprinkles, cinnamon & sugar, and my personal favorite: chocolate glaze with toasted coconut and pecans.  My friend Hope, who has been maniacally making donuts as well, told me she stirred a little milk into some Nutella and dipped the donuts in it.  That will likely be my next favorite flavor.

Decorating the donuts is a super fun thing to do with young kids.  It has become a major activity in our house, especially when our friends with kids come to visit.  Just keep your eye on them so they're not licking their fingers after dipping every donut (like, ahem, Miss Anna always seems to do).

Brown Butter Baked Donuts
Adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes 12 donuts


6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


3 cups powdered sugar
6-8 tablespoons

Optional add-in ideas:
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond or any other extract

Topping Ideas:
Toasted nuts
Toasted coconut
Chopped, dried fruit
Cinnamon and sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a donut pan with oil or non-stick spray.

To make the donuts: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on medium-high heat, swirling the pan continuously, until the butter is light brown and has a nutty fragrance.  Watch the butter carefully and remove from the heat as soon as it browns to avoid burning.  Set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar. In another small bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract.  Slowly whisk in the slightly cooled brown butter.

Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and fold in until mixed and no flour streaks remain.  

At this point you can either spoon the batter into the donut pan, about 2/3 full, or pipe it in.  I prefer to pipe it in because I feel its less messy and the donuts turn out more uniformly shaped.  To pipe the batter in, fill a pastry bag or gallon ziploc bag with the batter.  If using the ziploc bag, snip a small bit off one of the corners of the bag.  Pipe the batter directly into the donut pan, about 2/3 full.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the donuts spring back when you touch them.  Set aside to cool in the pan while you make the glaze.

To make the glaze: stir 6 tablespoons of milk into the powdered sugar, and cocoa if using, and stir until all lumps are out of the glaze.  Add extracts at this point, if using,  Add more milk as necessary to have a thick but pourable glaze.  

Topping the donuts: Once the donuts have cooled, pop them out of the pan by either using a fork or turning the pan over onto a cooling rack.  Put the cooling rack over a cookie sheet to catch the glaze drips and make for easier cleanup.   If using other toppings besides glaze, put them on a small plate.

Dip each donut into the glaze halfway, then pick up and dip into the topping of your choice.  Return to the cooling rack and repeat with the remaining donuts.  Then you should...


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

48 Months

We were at the Children's Museum in Madison, WI this past weekend with our dear friends the Morrisons.  One of the employees there was very enthusiastic about figuring out how old each of us were in months.  An unusual question, and one that made me feel quite a bit older than the 422 months I am (I'll do the math for you, that's 35 years and 2 months).  But you know what's not a whole lot of months?  48.  48 months is how old Anna turned this past week.  48 tiny little months is all she's lived on this planet.  Amazing.  She's only been around for 11% of my life, and truly, I barely remember life without her.

The first three years of her life she changed so dramatically in height, weight, the way she looked, her motor skills.  All very dramatic physical changes.  In this fourth year of her life, the physical changes slowed down, but her personality took off.  Watching the emotional, mental and cognitive developmental changes in her this year has awed me.

She started preschool last fall and this, I believe, created the biggest change in her.  She has always been a very cautious and watchful child.  She never jumped into situations, played with other kids in new social situations or was willing to try much of anything new.  This past year we've watched her slowly come out of her shell, make new friendships and be brave enough to try new things.  We've watched a quality of leadership emerge from this child who didn't love interacting with other children or new situations.  Its been a slow metamorphosis and one that has me brimming with pride.

Another thing that has emerged this year is a sense of humor that has us constantly rolling. She understands humor in a way that is beyond her years sometimes.  I hope this is because of the laughter in our home and the way Mace and I use humor with each other and the girls.  We do like to laugh together and try to do so on a daily basis.

Watching this relationship between Anna and Claire develop has been so cool.  Sisters.  There's nothing in the world like that bond.  Obviously, they fight and get on each others nerves and absolutely hate each other at times.  But, also, they hug and they play and they squeal and laugh.  And they love each other so very very much.  They notice when the other one is missing and call out for each other when the other is gone.  They know they're each others best friend and my heart aches with love watching them navigate this relationship that is theirs alone.

Its these little things that have surprised me the most about parenthood.  These slow, beautiful changes as I watch my child become her own person.  I love you Anna, more than I could ever put into words. My heart swells with love for you my awesome, spunky, intelligent, funny, witty, beautiful child.

We celebrated her 4th birthday with gusto and charm!  It was complete with 45 of our closest friends and relatives, a balloon animal artist, a Cinderella cake, and a very anti-climatic pull-string pinata.  It was a blast.

I cannot wait to see what this next year has in store for you Anna!  Its going to be a good one.  Happy 4th Birthday my Love.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day...it's all about me!

I love being a mom.  I love waking up and seeing my daughters and holding their still sleep-warmed bodies in my arms.  They are getting to the age where I look forward to our days together and what adventures might await us. When they were babies it was harder to approach the day with any thoughts other than schedules, meals, naps. Now we can color, play play-doh, walk (skip! run!) to the park, pick flowers (dandelions) in the yard, eat ice cream, snuggle and watch movies together on a rainy day, etc etc.  These days together are becoming more fun and less work.  I say that rather loosely, because they are still a lot of work, but now there's less drudgery during the day and more happy moments. In a few words...we are settling in.  We are settling into our family, finding a rhythm.  A beautiful rhythm I love.

I mean, how can you not adore a day spent with these two?

Life is good.  I spend most days home with the girls, but have my job at the bakery a few mornings a week to give me some adult time and do something I adore.  Still...I need some me time.  I have been finding less and less time to connect with me lately.  I found myself looking in the mirror the other day and thinking, "I look like your typical middle-aged mom.  I feel identityless...I look and feel like every other sleep-deprived, haggard, slightly overweight, unkempt mother out there.  And how, how did I become that woman?"  I didn't like the way I looked, the way I felt, the way I was a little perplexed about who this person was staring back at me in the mirror.  This was not an overnight change, this is something that's been in the works for the past few years, and that has slowly crept up on me.  I was suddenly staring at a person I don't really want to be.  Huh.

So, here we are at Mother's Day.  Mace asked what I'd like to do for the "big day", and the only thing I could think of was: be all alone by myself.  That would be the most beautiful gift in the world.  I couldn't say the words though. They felt selfish and wrong.  Except, that I never ever get to be selfish anymore.  And the more I stewed on this thought, the more I only wanted to be completely alone on Mother's Day.  And so, I finally spoke the words, cringed a little bit and heard from my ever-patient, ever-awesome husband, "Do it!".

And now I'm alone.  I'm drinking a beer and writing (something that's been desperately missing from my life) and soaking up the complete silence surrounding me.  Peace.  And.  Quiet.  This might  have to become a tradition.  It's Mother's Day.  A day for me.  And I'm taking it!

Happy Mother's Day to all my moms and all the moms I love out there.  Hope you're finding yourself in this beautiful day.  XOXO