Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Tony

Happy 35th birthday to the best little brother a girl could ever have!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sleepy heads

Bren and Zaye on the way home from Busch Gardens today.

As soon as Sean took the picture I woke them up to sit properly in their seat belts. I'm a freak about proper seat belt usage, and having a belt across the neck certainly doesn't qualify.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Spare bathroom remodel

It's been 2.5 years in the making, but it's finally done. We completely gutted it down to the concrete floors and studs, and then installed the 18x18 travertine tile on the floors, installed the new tub, fixtures and 8x8 travertine tiles in the tub, had a solid wood cabinet built, granite cut to fit, and new sink and fixtures for the sink, new toilet, paint, baseboards, crown moulding, pendant lights and curved shower curtain. Brian and I did 100% of the work, and I absolutely love how it turned out. The best part was that we did everything for under $2,000!




Thursday, June 25, 2009

Erin and Maddox

Tony has Maddox every other week, and these two have a blast together.  It's hard to get a picture of them together since Maddox is so active, but I managed to get one (finally).  Not great since I had to use the flash (hate using flash), but still cute regardless.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Outside fun

After dinner this evening Tony and I went out front with all of the kiddos (including Brendan's friend, Amanda).  It was a lot of bike and scooter riding going on.
Amanda doing tricks...
And Brendan doing tricks...
And Zaye, too.
Maddox just wanted to ride the scooter.



Then Erin and Maddox went on a search for lizards.  Maddox loves them.
Score!
Running around with lizard in hand.
After a few minutes he released the lizard back to its home.
Brendan hooked Anah's leash up to Zaye's bike, and pulled Amanda on the Rip Stick.
Maddox was still going on his scooter.
And then Tony couldn't resist the urge any longer.


Sweaty boy, and almost ready for bed.  But he had so much fun.

Greyson

I sometimes leave my dresser drawers open, and this is what I find shortly after.

Grandmother's Tollhouse Cookies

Another fabulous recipe from my friend Lori Breber, and once again I was thrilled with the results.  I have never made an oatmeal cookie that I was happy with.  They either turned out too flat, too hard, or too crispy, and I prefer my oatmeal cookies to be soft and chewy in the middle.  These fit the bill.  They are perfect.  This was her grandmother's recipe, and I'm so thankful that she shared it with me.  

Grandmother's Tollhouse Cookies


2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp hot water
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 (6 oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate chips (or more if you want)

Place all ingredients in a bowl, and mix with your hands.  Bake at 375º for 12-14 minutes.  If you use a mixer instead of using your hands the cookies may be more crispy (tip from Lori).  I used my hands, and they turned out exactly like I wanted them to.  I didn't have any semi-sweet chips on hand so I used 6 oz. white chocolate chips and 2 oz. milk chocolate chips.  Love them!

Thank you again, Lori.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

What a nice day. At about 3pm our friends L.T., Tina and Lars (Erin's boyfriend) joined us. Of course Brian, Tony, Maddox and Zaye are here, too. So we celebrated the four dads.

Erin got Brian a card and a gift card for www.mlb.com. I just adore the way that she is looking at Brian while he is opening/reading his card. You can just feel the love she has for him (click it to see it larger).

Although I didn't get a picture of it, Tony got a card and a gift card for P. F. Changs from Maddox and Zaye. It's one of his favorite restaurants. He wasn't feeling later in the afternoon, and I caught this picture of him snuggling/napping with Maddox in the den.

We grilled steaks:
Erin bought this for her daddy with the money that she got from the tooth fairy:
And I made these again, but added a lemon glaze:

Erin spent about two hours on the lanai filling up water balloons.

Then Zaye, Maddox, Erin and Lars played with the hose on the swing set (making a water slide with the slide).

Maddox had a great time making mud, and filling up a jar with his concoction.


Sean and Bren went with a friend to Busch Gardens at about 3:30, and I'll be going to pick them up when the park closes in a bit.

Hope you all had a great Father's Day!

Update on Tony

Tony has his bike accident on Thursday evening.  When he got up Friday morning he was in so much pain that he was nearly physically ill.  He slept for a lot of the day, and did what he could the rest of the time with ibuprofen and a few glasses of wine.  His face was extremely swollen.  Yesterday was a little better, but the pain has shifted, and now he's feeling a lot of pain in his neck from hitting the ground (head first).  The wounds will get better each day, but he's going to be in pain for a few more days.  Here's a picture from today.

Friday, June 19, 2009

DRUMS

Here he is doing a few of the beats that he has learned in class so far.  He just combined them so that I could get a short video of him.  Yeah, I would say that he's happy.  
video
And this is just a picture of him right after Raymond got them all setup.

He got it!

I met Sean back at the mall at 6:45am when the Apple store employees and mall security allowed the first group of people to wait in line inside of the mall.  They were lined up along a hallway, unable to see the entrance to the Apple store.  The line went down the hallway, and all the way along the mall outside.  At exactly 7:00am they came over and took the first few people from the line (the three in front of Sean were pre-orders, and they were taken separately).  So as Sean walked up to the store the employees in front were clapping and and yelling, and as he entered the store the 50+ employees inside went crazy-screaming, clapping, whistling, etc.  It was so cool, and he was beyond excited.  

(Sean in the khaki shorts-first one in)
25 minutes later we left with his new white iPhone.  He's sleeping now, and I'm sure he will be for most of the day. 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A long night

Where is Sean tonight?  He's here...(that's him on the far left standing up)

I dropped him off at 9pm in front of International Plaza, and he'll be there until 8am tomorrow morning.  He is 4th in line for the new iPhone 3GS, and he is BEYOND excited.  I'm going to go back around 1am to take him and the three guys in front of him some donuts and drinks.  He's got his lawn chair, sleeping bag, blanket, book, phone, and iPod. He's set.  

How old are you?

Tony was outside riding bikes with Bren, Zaye and one of their friends this evening.  He was doing tricks (yes, he's 35), and the front tire apparently turned, causing the bike to flip rear over front.  Tony went face first into the road.  His face is pretty badly torn up, his bottom teeth went into his upper lip (it's swollen and black on the inside-he may lose a tooth or two), he lost skin on his shoulder, both hands, wrists, and knee.  He hurts.  Badly.  Within an hour he had taken pain meds (prescribed from a previous back problem).  

Here's some of the damage.  He hurts now, but wait until tomorrow morning.  Yikes.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Signature-Stamped Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of my newest finds is www.conversationswithacupcake.com and I love it!  I'm always looking for new recipes, and these are fantastic.  Tonight we made her chocolate chip cookies, and they are wonderful.  Everyone in the house agrees that they are one of the best chocolate chip cookie recipes I've tried (and I've tried a lot of them). With only a few ingredients these are so easy to make, too.

Signature-Stamped Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe here.


Chocolate Crackletops

I've made these several times over the years, but this time I added white chocolate and semi-sweet chips instead of the mini-m&m's.  They are great both ways, but the kids enjoy them more with the m&m's.

Chocolate Crackletops


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
4 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened baking chocolate
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups M&M's Chocolate Mini Baking Bits
Additional granulated sugar

Combine flour and baking powder; set aside.  In 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine 2 cups sugar, butter and chocolate, stirring until butter and chocolate are melted; remove from heat.  Gradually stir in eggs and vanilla.  Stir in flour mixture until well blended.  Chill mixture 1 hour.  Stir in M&M's; chill mixture an additional 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line cookie sheets with foil.  With sugar-dusted hands, roll dough into 1-inch balls; roll balls in additional granulated sugar.  Place about 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes.  Do not overbake.  Cool completely on wire racks.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.
Recipe courtesy of "100 Best Chocolate Recipes"

Two beautiful birds

On a trip that I took with Sean and some of his classmates to the Florida Aquarium last month we saw these two beauties.  I can't remember what the pink bird is named, but it sure is beautiful, isn't it?  


Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer is in full swing

Sean, Bren and Erin finished school on June 3rd, and they have been busy bees ever since.  They all three have annual Busch Gardens passes, and since it is less than a mile from USF I just drop them off on my way to school and then pick them up afterwards.  They have been having an absolute blast.  They went every single day this week, and a couple of days Brendan brought one of his friends, too.  

In addition to daily visits to Busch Gardens Brendan got a huge surprise yesterday.  We told him that he was going to go watch his drum instructor play a show, but instead we followed him (Raymond) to a place where we purchased an 11 piece drum set!  You should have seen how excited he was.  Raymond brought everything back to our house in his truck, and he'll be coming by tomorrow to get it all set back up.  Brendan is chomping at the bit to get in there and play, and I can't wait to be able to watch him  more than once a week.  I'm so excited to have the piano at home for Sean and Erin, and now to have the drums here for Bren.  I love hearing each of them play music in their own style.  I'll post pictures of Bren with his drums all set up tomorrow after Raymond leaves.  I'm sure you'll be able to see a huge smile on Brendan's face, too.

So with this school year behind us I now have one in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary school.  The middle and high schools are on the same campus (less than two miles from our house), and Erin's school is at the back entrance to our neighborhood, so nobody is far.  It's just going to be interesting coordinating the school events with three different schools next year.  

School is still going great for me (in the midst of summer term right now).  The closer I get to finishing pre-med the more excited I get about medical school.  This whole experience so far truly has been a blessing for me, and I am so happy that I took the chance 3.5 years ago and decided to go back to pursue my dream.  As with most events of my life there are no regrets, and I smile as I think about what the future holds for me.  

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Orange Brownies

These are my favorite non-chocolate brownie, and probably my second favorite overall.  Since we are in orange heaven here, and have access to fresh, tree-ripened oranges for so much of the year these are perfect.  My recommendation is to let them cool in the refrigerator overnight when you make them before cutting and eating. The flavor intensifies tremendously after chilling completely.  They are dense and decadent, and a wonderful divergence from chocolate treats.

Orange Brownies

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 eggs
2 teaspoons pure orange extract
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 recipe Orange Cream Cheese

Stir together flour, granulated sugar, and salt in a bowl.  Add butter, eggs, orange extract, and orange zest.  Using a handheld mixer (or KitchenAid), beat until well blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for 30 minutes, or until light golden brown and set.  Remove from oven, allow to cool.  Spread the Orange Cream Cheese frosting over the completely cooled brownies.  (Chill overnight-or 4-6 hours)  Cut into squares.

Orange Cream Cheese frosting

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softenend
4 tablespoons softened butter
1 (1 pound) box confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

In a large mixing bowl, whip the butter and cream cheese together.  Gradually beat in the confectioners sugar until it is all combined and smooth.  Beat in the orange zest and juice.  Spread over brownies.

Recipe is courtesy of Paula Deen, 2007

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Raspberry-topped lemon muffins

I'm a lover of all things lemon, so when my wonderful friend Lori Breber sent me this recipe I knew that I had to try it (sooner than later).  Talk about a hit here!!  I made the mini-muffins (a total of 48 muffins) this morning, and there are 14 left (10 went to my neighbor).  I made half of them with fresh raspberries, and the other half with fresh blueberries.  They both turned out delicious, and this recipe has been added to my "favorites" pile.

Raspberry-topped Lemon Muffins
Recipe can be found here.