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)