Changing

Big CH-CH-CH-CHANGES are happening in our household!(Edited to add: I am NOT pregnant! 🙂 )

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And someone ^^^^^^ is pretty excited about it. Winking smile

I can’t say much for now, Craig and I still have a lot of thinking, talking and praying to do. But I just wanted to let you know what I may be stepping back from blogging for a bit.

Although, Gabriella is taking HUGE steps forward…

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She is using EVERYTHING as a walker. Including the box of our favorite beer. HA!

I can’t wait to share everything, once WE figure it out. I promise more details to come. For now, I’ll just say that I’m excited! Open-mouthed smile 

Have a WONDERFUL day!

Oh, and PS, look at this:

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My bad habits are rubbing off. Gabriella can’t get enough of Lululemon either. Uh oh!

Agendas

I didn’t have a post planned for this morning, but then I did a devotion in my Bible Study book this morning & HAD to share. It really opened my eyes, and I think it may have an influence on some of you too.

The book we are using for Bible Study is ‘Tune In’ by Jen Hatmaker. It is a WONDERFUL book, and I highly recommend it. You can also do the study on your own, it doesn’t  have to be with a group. Either way I think you would really enjoy it. The book is written in a modern context and her writing style just really makes things clear. One minute she is making you laugh, and then the text she writes something so powerful that it really makes you think.

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(^picture from Amazon Winking smile )

In the chapter regarding ‘peace,’ I read this passage:

‘We must lose our pride to gain salvation. OUR AGENDAS MUST DIE IN FAVOR OF A LIFE OF SUBMISSION. We sacrifice selfishness for holiness, pleasure for righteousness. Those are HARD TO LAY DOWN.’

The words in caps REALLY hit me. How often do we try to plan out our lives? I mean everyday I have an ‘agenda’ for the day that I plan out in the morning. It could be something silly, like what I need to get from the grocery store, or how long I plan to run. But I also try to plan our my life’s agenda. And I think that is why this hit me so hard. OUR agendas MUST DIE in favor of a life of submission. WOW. Not going to lie, that is HARD to do.

That’s my goal though, to work on that. Let God guide me with what HE wants me to do in my life. The funny thing is that I think he is guiding me right now. Guiding me towards something new in my life. I was actually talking to some friends about it yesterday, and I really just feel like it’s something I should do. I plan to talk about it more in a little while, I am still praying about it to make sure that really is part of my ‘agenda’ that God has in mind for me. Smile

The main thing I need to remember though is to just take a step back and let God guide me. STOP trying to plan every detail. Let HIM guide me.

Are you a planner?
Do you lay out all of your plans for the day before starting?

Spicy Ranch BLT Braid

Well hello there!! I apologize for the lack of posts last week.

Gabriella and I went up to Jacksonville to visit my parents and Craig was actually out of town for the while week for a work conference. I figured while he was gone it would be a perfect time to visit my family & friends in my hometown.

It was such a nice time, and Gabriella did AWESOME! Remember how I was just talking about all of the attachment issues coming back? Well, much to my surprise she did GREAT with my parents and friends. My Mom watched her for me for a bit one day so that I could shower, and she was fine. The second she saw me though she started crying for me. But the whole ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is key for her.

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LOVE this little chick!

It truly is AMAZING how fast she is growing. My Dad kept commenting on how she would be walking in no time. A few times he would look at her and gasp and I was like what is going on??!?! He thought for sure she was about to start walking! Smile 

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She LOVES her walker, which is above. (please notice those chunky thighs. O.M.G. I just can’t get enough of them!) She constantly wants to walk walk walk. No more stationary toys- I actually packed up her jumperoo, exersaucer, and another walker that you actually put her in. She does not like anything that confines her, girlfriend likes her independence. Winking smile

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Seriously, HOW is that my LITTLE girl!?!?! She looks HUGE! Ahhh, slow down Gabriella, SLOW DOWN!!

Anyways, while I was home I got to thinking of some of my favorite meals that my Mom used to make when I was growing up. One of them happened to be this vegetable chicken braid. It was just a mix of vegetables, chicken & spices wrapped up in crescent rolls. It was delicious- just the mixture always tasted so good and I always loved learning that was what we were having for dinner.

I was craving that thee other night, but wanted to kind of mix things up. After looking on Pinterest for a bit, I got an idea and went from there.

With it I created….

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Spicy Ranch BLT Braid

(adapted from this recipe)

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 slices

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped cooked chicken

1 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese

3/4 cup crumbled cooked turkey bacon

3/4 cup 2% Plain Chobani

1 package Spicy Ranch seasoning (1 oz. package)

1 package reduced fat refrigerated crescent rolls (Pillsbury 8 oz.)

shredded lettuce

diced tomatoes

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Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the chicken, cheese, turkey bacon, Greek yogurt and Ranch seasoning. Set aside.
  2. Open the crescent rolls. Lay out the dough on a non stick baking sheet. Press together all the seams. Cut small strips 1 1/2 inches apart along both sides. Leave about a 3 inch row in the center that is uncut. Spread the chicken mixture down the center evenly.

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    3.  Cross the strips over each other in a braid pattern. Press the end together. Bake at 375* for 20 minutes.

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    4. Top the braid with lettuce and tomato before serving. Cut into 8 pieces.

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Instead of using mayonnaise like the recipe my Mom has, I subbed in Greek yogurt. I used 2% Chobani, but I’m sure you could also use fat free. I just thought the extra milk fat may make it a bit creamer.

The recipe says it makes enough for four…well, I guess that depends on how hungry you are. Craig and I polished off everything but a tiny little slice. We both really enjoyed it, and it was one of those meals that doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed.

Quick, easy meal for the WIN!

Enjoy your Monday! Gabriella and I have some big plans this week, and we are very much looking forward to it! Open-mouthed smile

Learning to Relax

Isn’t it funny when you realize that you just had an ‘ah – ha’ moment?

I had one of those yesterday afternoon.

Craig is always telling me that I let Gabriella affect my mood too much. Sometimes I agree, but then other times I want to tell him to hush it…in the nicest possible way, of course. Winking smile 

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I honestly can tell you that I’m pretty sure I don’t give her enough credit. I am constantly thinking that ‘she’s not ok,’ or ‘she can’t do that, it’s too out of her routine.’ WRONG. Gabriella is SMART. And she is a PERSON, she can adapt. She is no longer an itty bitty baby (and yes, I know, itty bitty babies can definitely adapt too), she can get thrown out of her usual ways and she will BE OK.

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(She’s like I’m totally fine, Momma, DUH!)

It’s just hard for ME to remember that. I don’t know if it’s a first time Mom thing, or if it’s just a ME thing but I am constantly worried about making sure her environment is just right for her. Does that even make sense?

Let me explain.

Gabriella and I came up to visit my parents for a few days in Jacksonville, just to spend some time with them and to catch up. Yesterday, while she was napping in the afternoon, the power went out. The second it happened I went into panic mode.

I immediately went straight to her room to make sure that she was still sleeping since her sound machine went off. We keep it on white noise while she sleeps- both for naps and bedtime. Honestly if I could go back, I don’t think I would use a sound machine…BUT, like her pediatrician told me ‘If that’s her only crutch, then you are doing just fine.’ Anyways, she was still sleeping but because I went into the room to try to turn it back on (the power was out just for a bit), I woke her up.

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I was frustrated. I was frustrated with my self, but didn’t realize that in the moment. I was actually mad at the city of Jacksonville for making this power situation happen. I mean, really Holly, really?!!? LIFE HAPPENS, get over it! But at the time I didn’t see it that way.

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Since I ended up waking her up, she started crying, but I decided to wait it out a bit to see if she would fall back asleep. I went in the other room to see my parents and asked how long the power usually stays out when this happens. They said it could be anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours- no one knows. Of course they could tell something was wrong, and asked if everything was ok. I got all ‘huffy puffy’ and said, ‘well, no, Gabriella is now awake because her sound machine went off.’

First of all, that was only half of it, the real reason that she was up was because I just HAD to rush right into her room to make sure I had the sound machine ready to go in case it came back on. STUPID. She was FINE. I could have just let her be.

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(^how hilarious is that?! She is in the sink at my parent’s house Smile )

My parents then said, ‘well we don’t even hear her crying, are you sure she is still up or did she fall back asleep?’ I responded with ‘yes, she’s STILL up, I JUST walked past her room and she was crying.’ (I sound like a real FUN daughter, right!?!?!?! Winking smile God bless them.) So my Dad went to listen near her door & she didn’t make a peep. Little stink, she knew she was going to prove me wrong. Smile I really had just walked past her room & she WAS crying, but she had stopped at this point.

Guess what? She fell back asleep. She was ABSOLUTELY FINE. And she didn’t NEED the sound to sleep, I just MAKE it seem like she does. SILLY SILLY ME. Sometimes I just want to slap myself across the head and say WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!?!?!

There was NO NEED to freak out because of a power outage, or a silenced sound machine. LIFE GOES ON. GABRIELLA SLEEPS ON. CHILL OUT HOLLY, CHILL OUT. I’m capitalizing these things for myself- I swear it’s like a mantra I need to tattoo on my forehead.

The main thing is that I think it’s just a ‘live and you learn kind of thing.’ Babies don’t come with instruction manuals…although I swear that would be MUCH easier. You have to learn each other- you baby has to learn YOU, and YOU have to learn your baby. Nothing about being a parent is easy, but I PROMISE it’s all 100% worth it & I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, other than the fact that I need to learn to relax a bit. But, then again, I am just a work in progress. Smile

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(I just LOVE her in her bathing suits! Smile )

Every day is a new day, and every day I feel like I learn something new. It’s actually pretty neat to realize, even if it is a hard pill to swallow.

Banana Cream Bread

Good Morning!

Hard to believe the weekend has already come & gone. It went way too quickly. I actually had to work most of the weekend, to play ‘catch up,’ because I wasn’t able to do much during the week. This past week was pretty rough with Gabriella, and I tie it mainly to teething. I feel bad, I really wish I could help her because I know she has to be in pain.

One thing that kind of caught me off guard though is that she is kind of going through a regression. We got over the ‘only Mommy can hold me or be around me’ phase about a month or so ago….or so I thought. It’s baaaaaaaaaaack!

She only wants to be around me, or have me hold her. Most of the time she won’t even go to Craig, well I take that back, she will go to him, but only if she can see me. If I’m out of the room she has a break down. Just to further explain how much the attachment phase has come back, I can’t even take a shower or bath without her. She actually crawled into the shower with me while I had her playing on the floor. The second she saw me, she came right in (the door was open of course- I have my eye on her the entire time) WITH her clothes & diaper on. I just had to laugh! She looked up at me like, ‘oh hey Mom! I just wanted to get cleaned up too.’ Love that little girl & I love how much she makes me laugh.

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Sometimes it’s hard though, because I really can’t get any help. I just remind myself that she won’t be this little for long, and it’s actually pretty cute HOW much she wants to be with me. And one of my VERY FAVORITE things is that when she goes to look for me if I am out of the room, is that she heads straight to the kitchen! LOVE that!! She knows how much her Mommy likes to cook.

The other day I had a bunch of super ripe bananas. (YUCK!) I always buy a ton because Gabriella will eat them too- especially in her morning oatmeal. Her favorite breakfast right now is oatmeal with chia seeds, mashed banana and a little bit of YoBaby banana smoothie mixed in. It’s quite tasty, I must say. She has good taste! Smile

I also had one of my very favorite packages arrive in the same day.

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Makes my day when you see this arrive on your porch! Chobani is my very favorite yogurt company, not only for their delicious yogurt, but also because they have one of the VERY BEST customer service teams. I love how they instantly respond to comments on any social media and always want to make the consumers happy! You don’t see that too often these days.

When I opened up the box I happily found a TON of yogurt!

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0% Vanilla, 0% Plain & 2% Plain. I really like the new labeling for the vanilla! The plain varieties are PERFECT substitutions for so much like sour cream, heavy cream, oil, butter, mayonnaise, and cream cheese.

Once I saw that I had over ripe bananas and a new shipment of Chobani, my mind got to work & I decided to make quick bread, because that’s what over ripe bananas are best for. Smile

One of my favorite desserts is actually banana pudding, or banana cream pie. NOTHING is better than homemade banana pudding with fresh cream, bananas & vanilla wafers. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I wanted to re-create that same flavor, but in bread form. That is how this recipe came to be- Banana Cream Bread.

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Banana Cream Bread

(adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek Yogurt (I used 0% Chobani)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour  
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 large ripe bananas, mashed (the riper the better)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, divided

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, cream butter, and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add Greek yogurt and vanilla; mix well.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir into creamed mixture just until moistened. Fold in mashed banana and 1/4 cup nuts.
  • Pour into a greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining nuts. Bake at 350° for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 1 loaf.

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The addition of the Greek yogurt gives the bread a nice flavor, and adds in the ‘cream’ flavor without the added calories & fat of REAL cream.

The house had such a nice smell while it was baking, and of course I could barely wait for it to cool before slicing it. So I had to cut a few slices since the first couple crumbled, which meant I had to eat them. Smile

I know that there are THOUSANDS of banana bread recipes, but I guarantee you this one will not leave you disappointed!

I know it’s hard to think about, but tell me your favorite part of Monday.
Mine is that it’s long run day!! I truly enjoy starting the week off with a long run- usually 12-13 miles, just depends on how my legs feel…and if my child will continue to nap Winking smile

If you eat Chobani, what’s your favorite flavor?

QUICK Dinner: Greek Tortellini Salad

Who doesn’t love a quick & easy meal? Being a Mom I LOVE them, but not just Moms’ need quick and easy meals. I know how much I valued an easy meal that I could throw together after a stressful, busy work day. We all have those CRAZY days where the thought of making dinner sounds like absolute torture.

I love those meals in which you usually have all of the ingredients in your kitchen. Can’t beat not having to run to the grocery store on your way home or in the middle of the day. Although I cannot tell a lie, I enjoy just browsing the aisles…at least I used to. Before Gabriella. Winking smile If she is being a good girl, sometimes she will sit in the cart with me for a while before getting to be little Miss Fussypants.

Oh gosh, yesterday she was TERRIBLE. I mean TERRIBLE with a capital T. But I blame myself, I wrote about how wonderful she was yesterday…and then CRAZY lady showed up. EEK! No more good talks about Gabriella for a while. I would like to save what little sanity I have left. Winking smile

Without further a do, I present you one of the quickest meals…EVER!

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Ingredients:

-1/2 package of frozen fully cooked tortellini (most frozen packages are 19oz. – that was the size I used)

-1 tsp minced garlic

-1 tsp salt

-1/2 tsp black pepper

-3/4 cup feta (I used tomato & basil flavor)

-5-6 fresh basil leaves, diced (or 1/2 tsp dried)

-15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained & rinse

-1 cup diced tomato

-Fresh spinach (I used baby spinach)

Directions:

1. Cook tortellini according to package.

2. While you are waiting for the water to boil, and then the tortellini to cook, heat a skillet over medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray & add garlic, salt, pepper, feta, basil & beans to pan.

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3. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until feta starts to melt. Then add diced tomatos.

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4. Cook for another two minutes & add cooked tortellini.

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5. Serve atop fresh spinach & ENJOY!!

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Did you notice that piece of bread in the first picture?? I MADE it!

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I am on a ROLL (pun intended Winking smile ) with making homemade bread. I actually really kind of love it. There is really nothing better than pulling out a nice big batch of fresh bread from your oven. I can’t even tell you how quickly the first loaf was devoured by Craig and I.

This time I decided to make ‘copycat’ Macaroni Grill bread. I don’t know if you have ever been to a Macaroni Grill, or if there is one near you, but it is some of the BEST bread! I think Panera may just have my #1 spot for favorite fresh bread.

But let’s be honest, one of the best parts of going to Macaroni Grill is eating plates & plates of their bread. By the time I get my entrée I’m stuff to the gills of bread…which I why I typically order a small salad. I’d rather fill up on bread. Carb-a-holic anyone?! Smile

So when I found a recipe for a knock off of Macaroni Grill’s bread, I was ALL OVER it.

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If you decide to try this recipe, I would just suggest increasing the amount of salt (to maybe 2 tsp- with more sprinkled on top) & the rosemary. (to about 3 tbsp)

Someone else, besides Craig & I, couldn’t keep her hands off of it either.

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We won’t mention any names though Winking smile

Have a wonderful Thursday! I’m hoping for a happier Gabriella today, especially since we are get to see our friends today. YAY for Thursdays- one of my favorite days of the week! Open-mouthed smile

Favorite quick dinner?? Feel free to link away, I could use some more quick meals in my rotation.

Favorite place to get fresh bread?? I think my top HAS to be Panera.

Big Step In Parenting

Last night I was so exhausted that the thought of writing a post was out of the question. We are all allowed those nights, right?? Smile I really have no idea why I was so tired, (well ok maybe it was the 13 miles I did…I’m insane- I know!) but it just hit me like a ton of bricks.

Anyways, back to regular posting today!

So I wanted to talk about HOW MUCH friends mean to me. I know it may sound silly, but I really can’t tell you enough how much my friends have been there for me. It’s been an interesting month- lots of both ups and downs. But what helped get through the not so good moments was the support from friends.

I know when I first had Gabriella my Mother in Law very much encouraged me to try to find some other Moms in the area. Not just so that we could have play dates & talk about our crazy kids but also for the support they offer. Also for the advice and relatable stories that they have- makes you feel like your child really isn’t all that crazy. Winking smile

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I have been loving that Gabriella is getting more socialized. Honestly the past two months she has changed SO MUCH! We have play dates every week, and she is friends with one of the neighbor’s kids as well- who she sees every day. (His Mom & I go walking in the afternoon with the kids) She used to really only let Craig or I hold her, and at one point (sometimes even now) she only lets me hold or play with her.

But since being around other children & babies, she is little miss social butterfly! Even my Mom made a comment while we were in Jacksonville as to how much she has changed. That she was completely fine with playing and I didn’t have to be right next to her all the time. My Mom & Dad were able to play with her and they enjoyed their time together. It was really sweet!

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This past weekend was a new step in our world as parents. Craig and I were invited to a cookout at a friend’s house. It started around 4pm, and we were planning to leave around 7/ 7:30pm in order to get Gabriella to bed. Well, while I was getting all of her stuff together (isn’t it AMAZING how such a little person requires SO.MUCH.STUFF?!) I threw in her PJ’s, so that we could get her all ready for bed before getting her in the car.

Well we decided to try something new. Our friends also have kids. So they had everything we needed. A pack n’ play, a sound machine, and a quiet room. Can you say perfect?!! Another reason you have to love friends with kids- they understand what you are going through and tell you NOT to apologize.

Craig & I wanted to stay for a bit to hang out with everyone, since we really don’t get to do that often and we were having a GREAT time.

ANYWAYS, to make a long story short, Gabriella did WONDERFUL!!! She was able to sleep in the pack n play until we were ready to leave. We actually stayed longer than expected (after midnight…OMG…who are we!?! Winking smile ), and I ended up just nursing her back to sleep when we got home.

It was SO nice to know that we can actually DO THINGS! We can go to other people’s houses, and enjoy ourselves. I know that sounds SO silly, but it really was a HUGE step. I was nervous to take her out of her element, but she did better than expected. That’s why half of the time I feel like I’m the one that has issues instead of Gabriella Winking smile I just need to trust in her, girlfriend knows how to impress her Momma!

And one way to win over all of your friends’ hearts, just in case your child is a crazy person is to make them Better than Crack Brownies! You gotta be prepared, people! Open-mouthed smile

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I have made these before for my family in Maryland, and they were a hit there. With the ingredients, you CANNOT go wrong!

Better-Than-Crack Brownies

(Copied DIRECTLY from How Sweet Eats)

1 batch brownies (boxed mix or oooey gooey brownies)

1/2 cup salted peanuts (if don’t have salted, add sea salt)

1 cup chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups

1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 tablespoon butter

1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies Cereal

Mix brownies according to directions, and bake for 20-25 minutes in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Remove and top with peanuts and peanut butter cups, and bake for 4-6 minutes more.

While they are finishing baking, melt chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter. Stir in cereal. Remove brownies from oven and evenly pour chocolate mixture over top.

Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

DELICIOUS!!

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I know it sounds sad but I feel like it was a big step in our ‘parenting life.’ Smile The fact that we know she can sleep OTHER places, not just her crib, is HUGE.

Happy Hump Day Open-mouthed smile 

Have you tried these brownies??? PLEASE DO!!

Parents: Did you have this same issue? Was it a big deal when you realized you could actually ENJOY yourselves rather than adjusting to your child’s routine?

Red Velvet Cheesecake

If you follow me on Instagram (hollynotarange), you know that I spent my weekend in the kitchen. My favorite place to be!

I don’t know if I have mentioned it on here before, but I actually have my own baking company. (VERY small!- and I just do stuff in my personal kitchen) I don’t advertise, everything is by word of mouth. The way I actually got started was just by sending food into Craig’s work. Whenever we had leftover sweets, I would send them along with him just so that they weren’t in the house. Whenever there are sweets here I found them hard to resist, so I’d rather get them out! Winking smile

Anyways, a couple of years ago Craig’s group asked if they could just pay me to bake a bunch of stuff for their Christmas party, that way they didn’t have to worry about making or buying anything. Once I did that, I had people ask me if I had a company and if I did if they could order stuff from me. It made me so happy to hear that my baked goods were getting rave reviews and that people want to hire me to bake for them. SIGN ME UP!!

…and so that is the story of how ‘Hollywood Sweets’ came to be!

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(the black lines are personal information, they don’t actually look like that Winking smile )

Craig is the one who thought of a name for my business, and he also coined the tag line ‘sweet treats for your sweet tooth.’ Quite a creative husband that I have. Smile I ordered some business cards and he gave them to people at his office that asked for my information, and I’ll leave them on community billboards occasionally just to see if I can also get some business that way.

On Friday I got a call requesting baked goods- she wanted something with red velvet (but not an actual red velvet cake) & something chocolate. So I got to work thinking of different recipes, and options for her to choose from.

She ended up going with Red Velvet Cheesecake & Salted Caramel Brownies.

I got the cheesecake recipe from Food Network, and then decided to make a cream cheese frosting for the top.

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Red Velvet Cheesecake
(recipe from here)

Ingredients:

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups finely crushed chocolate wafer cookies (I used Chocolate Teddy Grahams)
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt

    For the filling:

    4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
    1 1/4 cups sugar
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    2 tablespoons all purpose flour
    4 large eggs
    1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 teaspoon red food coloring

    Directions

    Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the cookie crumbs, melted butter, sugar and salt in a bowl. Press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Put the pan on a baking sheet and bake until set, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

    Make the filling: Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the flour, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Transfer 2 cups batter to a bowl; stir in the cocoa powder and food coloring. Pour the red batter into the crust, then pour the white batter on top. Using a spoon, pull some of the red batter up from the bottom of the cake and swirl. Bake until the edges are set but the center is still wobbly, about 1 hour, 20 minutes.

    Turn off the oven but keep the cake inside to cool, 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan (don’t remove the springform side), then transfer to a rack to cool. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before slicing.

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    Once the cake was completely cooled (I let in cool in the refrigerator over night), I decided to frost it. It was for a birthday, and I hated that it cracked. (Even though a lot of commenters said the same thing happened to them- they said thankfully it doesn’t effect the taste Smile )

    Cream Cheese Frosting

    Ingredients:

    4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 of a block)
    4 oz. unsalted butter (1/2 a stick)
    2 cups powdered sugar
    1 tsp. vanilla

    Directions:

    Beat the cream cheese & butter together in a mixing bowl- I put it on medium high speed and let it mix for about 2 minutes. After two minutes, turn the mixer down to low & mix in the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Once combined, beat in the vanilla. I then just let it mix on high for about a minute so that it was nice & fluffy.

    I took half of the frosting & added about one teaspoon red food coloring to it and left the other half the original color. (white)

    I put both frostings in sandwich size ziplock bags, and snipped the corners to create pastry bags. Then I got to frosting- I did one ring of white, then one ring of red- alternating until the cake was covered.

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    I took a knife & ran it through the frosting- about 1/2 inch apart in horizontal lines. I ran it through one way, and then through the other way (hopefully that makes sense) to create a swirled pattern.

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    ^love how you can see the layers- with the chocolate crust, cream cheese filling & then frosting.

    I have to admit, I tried a tiny bit of the cream cheese filling, I always like to make sure things taste ok before I sell them. I do NOT even like cheesecake, at all, but obviously I could tell if it tasted bad. You guys, the filling in this is BEYOND delicious! I mean it was the PERFECT filling, in my opinion, not too cheesy or dense, but fluffy and subtle. I cannot wait to make just a standard cheesecake with this filling, my sister (who is OBSESSED with cheesecake) will LOVE it.

    As for the Salted Caramel Brownies, I used a recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen.

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    One thing I learned is that making homemade caramel is HARD. …and frustrating! I don’t know if there is another recipe that I could follow when making it that makes it a bit easier, but I was this close to throwing in the towel on these.

    I was able to use about half of the caramel I made (the other half had chunks of sugar in it- which happened AFTER I had melted the sugar), but one thing I can tell you is that homemade caramel is 1000 times better than store bought.

    I don’t normally like caramel, or things with caramel, but I had to try a piece of this just to make sure it was edible. Winking smile Oh my goodness it was SO good- so creamy & just melts in your mouth. I suppose all of that time making it was worth it!

    These brownies were actually for an engagement party, so I got to work decorating.

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    I couldn’t find my pastry bag for the life of me, so the letters came out a bit thicker than I wanted, but you gotta do what ya gotta do! Winking smile 

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    The little heart brownies were double chocolate brownies, just to add some variety.

    Now we have leftover brownies, from the pan that I was cutting the hearts out of, and we have officially overdosed on them. Every time we walk near the kitchen we find a reason to go in to have a little piece of one.

    Oh and while I was taking pictures of the food my little kitchen assistant could not get to the plates fast enough!

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    I have NEVER seen Gabriella crawl so fast. Speedy Gonzales!

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    She was mesmerized by the cheesecake. She kept trying to stick her little hand in there, but I quickly pulled her away. Smile

    Guess it’s a good thing I have a long run planned this morning after a weekend of sweets!

    Do you like cheesecake? If so, what kind? If not, favorite type of cake?

    Are you as in love with everything salted caramel like me?? (And it’s funny because I don’t like caramel. I have issues Winking smile)

    Friday Favorites

    Welcome to FRIDAY! Open-mouthed smile

    I don’t know about you, but this weekend is MUCH needed. This past week was kind of crazy, and it will be nice to have some family time. We need it!

    We actually have plans both Saturday and Sunday, and I’m really looking forward to them! Saturday we are planning to go to a friends’ house for a cookout & some pool time. And then on Sunday my Mom is coming down to visit!! She can’t get enough of us lately. Secretly I know it has nothing to do with US, but more to do with Gabriella. Winking smile

    I’m taking her to see Despicable Me Two, and we both are SO EXCITED!!

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    My Mom & I love the movie. She got me hooked on it a few years ago. I can watch it over & over again. And the funny thing is that it is the only thing that Gabriella will actually watch on tv. She is NOT into Baby Einstein, or cartoons, or any of that. But I happened to have it on one day & I caught her just sitting there staring at it.

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    What can I say?? She has good taste!

    Today I thought I would share with you a few of my favorite things right now. I’m still loving all of my favorites from a couple of weeks ago, these are just MORE things to add to the list. Winking smile

    1. Jam Jar Wine

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    If you like Apothic Red Wine, you will like this too. I guarantee it! My sister in law introduced it to me a few years ago, and I’m so glad she did! It is a sweet shiraz & PERFECT for sitting outside and unwinding at the end of the day.

    2. Summer Shandy

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    This beer is DELICIOUS! It is beer with a touch of lemonade. It is SO refreshing, PERFECT for the summertime. I promise it’s not a ‘girly’ beer. It was actually Craig that found it, he drank it in Kansas City when he was out there a few months ago. We have been on a mission to find it, and my Mom picked some up for us for the fourth of July- a six pack that was gone VERY quickly! Winking smile 

    Goodness, I sound like a little boozer, now don’t I?! Smile Love that my first two ‘likes’ happen to be wine & beer.

    3. Runner’s World Magazine

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    After my last post, I’m sure you can see I’m VERY much in running mode. Although I’m always in that mode, so it’s nothing new. I have been really enjoying my Runner’s World lately. So many good articles, training tips & new workouts to try. I actually really like their full marathon training plan, I’m about half way through it.

    Speaking of running, anyone out there know what could be wrong if the top of your foot (like near your ankle) just KILLS when you put your shoes on? A friend of mine is having issues with it, and my first thought was that she may need new shoes. Which she does, but just wondering if anyone else has had this issue?? And was it your shoes? Or something more serious?

    4. Julie’s 8 Minute Ab Workout

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    My friend Jenna told me about this and it is AWESOME!! I was doing 8 minute abs everyday from YouTube, but was doing modifications to the exercises to make them harder. So when I saw this, I couldn’t wait to try it. I felt the burn & I LOVED it. Open-mouthed smile I will do the whole thing (along with the YouTube 8 Minute abs video), then add a minute plank at the end. KILLER. Those spiderman planks are now one of my very favorite ab exercises!

    5. Jeremiah’s Italian Ice

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    This is nothing new. Winking smile But let’s get real and show you what I REALLY order from Jeremiah’s.

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    See that big container? That would be MINE. ALL MINE. I order a quart of Cookies n’ Cream (just the ice, no gelati) and then eat it over the next 3-4 days. It has taken over my favorite dessert- above frozen yogurt! GASP! I know.

    I blame it on Gabriella, she’s a bad influence. Winking smile

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    (that’s her on the counter ordering Mommy’s Italian ice)

    …and last but certainly not least…

    6. Big Brother!!!!!!!!!!!

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    I have watched this show since the first season, and when I met Craig I got him hooked too. I have NO idea why I like it so much, but every summer I look forward to it. I am BEYOND glad to see the ‘Moving Company’ completely torn apart. Gave me a laugh. And I have to say, I’m rooting for Howard AND Elissa. Yep, as much as she is just like Rachel, I really do like her!

    7. Starbucks Orange Spice Iced Coffee

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    Ok, I know it SOUNDS odd. But it’s actually REALLY good! It has more of the spice flavor (cinnamon) than the orange flavor, but overall I really like it. I think next time I will see if I can get additional orange flavor. How weird does that sound…orange in my coffee?? Hmm. But I tell ya, it’s a good combination!

    And that’s all I have for now. Smile

    Have a WONDERFUL weekend! Catch up with ya on Monday!!

    Tell me some of your favorites right now!

    Any other Big Brother fans out there? Favorite person so far?

    Favorite Starbucks drink? I’m a die hard iced coffee lover. I have it every morning. Addicted much?! Winking smile

    The Post ALL About Running

    Race season is only a few months away & I CANNOT WAIT.

    I have already started adding races to my calendar, and I know that the number will only increase. I swear it’s like a drug, once you sign up for one you just can’t stop signing up for more. I’ve been bit by the racing bug. Winking smile

    So far, this is what I have in the line up:

    September 21st: Miracle Miles 15K– Orlando, FL

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    November 10th: (Gabriella will be a YEAR old by then! OMG) Baldwin Park Half Marathon

    December 7th: OUC Half Marathon

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    I emailed Craig the dates and said ‘I have races these dates.’ He wrote back & said ‘races?’ To which I responded ‘Halfs.’ I just got a response of ‘?’ I went on to explain that I was planning my races out, and that these were what I had so far. And that ‘halfs’ meant half marathon. 

    Isn’t it funny how, as a runner, we just assume what other people know what we are talking about when we use our ‘running lingo?’ Like when I have said ‘PR’ before and people look at me like I’m crazy. Or my favorite term has to be ‘fartlek.’ I LOVE people’s reaction to that one. I feel like they are anticipating having to hold their nose. Winking smile 

    Now for some other races that I’m looking at potentially running, it will just depend on our schedules. Trying to coordinate three different people’s lives can be tough sometimes, even if one is only 8 months old. Smile

    Tour De Pain – 3 races, 2 days, back to back (4 miles Friday night, 5K Saturday morning & 1 Mile Sizzler Saturday night) This one will just depend on Craig’s travel schedule, he MAY be out of town the following week, so I would feel bad for going to Jacksonville for the weekend if he were to leave the following Monday.

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    Jacksonville Marine Corps Half Marathon

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    Jacksonville Bank Marathon  (I REALLY want to do this one, it will just depend on if we have any plans for New Years, only because this one is December 29th)

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    U Can Finish 5 miler & 2 miler (Distance Challenge)- at UCF- YAY! Go Knights!
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    After confirming some dates with Craig and letting him know that I still had a few more that I wanted to register for, he thought I was off my rocker. So I had to explain it in ‘Craig terms.’ I said that running & especially running in races was like my form of football. I LOVE it, I live it, I breathe it…and if you know me I talk about it…a LOT. Open-mouthed smile (If you’re a runner you know what I mean)

    Once I phrased it that way, he totally understood. I also said that all of my running really does have a reason- a method to my madness. He just replied with ‘make sure you are eating. A lot.’ Smile

    So I wanted to find out from you, what races do you have planned?? Anything this fall?

    Any favorite races out there? Any that you would say are MUST RUNS? I MUST run the Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon at some point in my life…I’m HOPING that it will be next year. (It’s in the spring)