Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup...Cupcakes

Y'all. These were so delicious. I have to share.

They were inspired by a recipe I pinned from an awesome feature on Babble, "15 Dessert Recipes in a Jar" (serious yumminess.) I really wanted to do a dessert in a jar, so I picked several of these for Luke to choose from for his birthday dinner. It was no contest: Peanut Butter filled, chocolate covered cupcakes? Sold. Here's the original recipe:

 However... After my Nutella banana bread disappointment, I was nervous. These were for company, and I didn't want an untested cake recipe. Also...the recipe makes 12, and I needed 15.

So... I went with a tried and true, family favorite recipe for Chocolate Bundt cake as the base (thinking this would also increase the amount, since the Bundt cake is bigger than a normal cake).

Then I used the concept of the cake in a jar, and the peanut butter/powdered sugar mixture for the filling, and the chocolate topping from the recipe above. And I got magic.

Here's the recipe I used:

1 Chocolate cake mix (I used Ducan Hines Devil's Food)
1 package instant chocolate pudding
4 eggs
1/2 c oil
1/2c water
8 oz sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

For the peanut butter filling:
1c peanut butter
1 1/2c powdered sugar

8-10oz dark chocolate (you need 1/2 oz for each jar)

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix together cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, and water. Fold in sour cream & vanilla.

In a separate bowl, blend peanut butter & powdered sugar. (I had to add some extra peanut butter - I added by the tablespoon until it wasn't crumbly, and I could roll it into balls.) Form into balls - as many as you need for the number of jars you're making (I'd recommend 12.)

 Spray your mason jars. Put 1/4c of cake batter in each jar. Then push a peanut butter ball into each jar. Cover with batter - because I was stretching my batter, I used my 1/8c measure, and I had to really scrape to get all of the balls covered. I think I'd like these even better if they were in 12 jars and the jars were a little more full.

Bake @ 350 for 25 minutes and then check, and continue to bake for 5 minute increments until the tops spring back when you touch them. I ended up baking mine for 35 minutes. I found that it was easiest to bake them on a baking sheet, so it was easier to take them in and out of the oven.

Once they are done, remove from oven. Place 1/2 oz dark chocolate on top of each cake. I used this:

If you're OCD like me, and you bought chocolate that has a seal or imprint, put that face down. Otherwise you'll obsess that it's not disappearing as the chocolate melts.

The original recipe says to place the chocolate on and then seal with the lid and ring (holding the jars with a towel, because they'll be hot). I don't know why you have to seal the jars, but it is fun to hear them pop and seal.

As the chocolate melts, swirl the jars around (using a towel again) so that the entire top of the cake is covered. I had to kind of shake and jiggle, but the chocolate did eventually melt and cover the entire top of most of the cakes.

You can store these in your fridge for up to a week. I made them the day before. Then stuck a candle in for our birthday boy and dug in!

I am in love with this dessert. The creamy peanut butter filling in the dense, moist chocolate cake, with that hard layer of dark chocolate on top? Delicious. If you don't like really rich, chocolatey desserts, then this is not the dessert for you. As an added bonus: Mason Jars. Love.

** I checked my pudding box, and it doesn't say anything about wheat or gluten. Assuming that's gluten free, using a gluten free cake mix as the base makes this recipe golden for my GF friends.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Necklaces! (AKA "Help us finish our adoption!")

3/18/2012 We are out of necklaces! Thank you SO MUCH for helping us get closer to finalizing our adoption - and I LOVE the thought of so many friends and family wearing a piece of Uganda!!

Anyone want a really cute necklace for a good cause?

We are cutting things pretty close financially after our trip to Uganda and all the associated costs. We're expecting that our tax refund will clear up the last of those costs (Matt is tirelessly working on finishing up our thankful that's not my job. I need to remind myself of that when I'm frustrated with all the things that *are* my job. See: laundry. And cleaning toilets. And changing poopy poops.)

BUT then we have the cost of finalization. In Uganda, we were granted legal guardianship of Micah Marvin (praise God!) After 6 months, we'll be able to finalize, meaning that we'll formally adopt Micah here in the states. At that point, he'll officially and FOREVER be a Meyer, and an American citizen. We have a few attorney friends who've offered their services for this - again, PRAISE GOD. But there are still court fees, plus the cost of several post-placement visits from our social worker. We'd love to finalize as soon as possible - but right now we can't afford it.

I have a couple of ideas for my Etsy shop that I'm hoping will sell well. But we also have a BUNCH of lovely Ugandan paper bead necklaces that we bought in Uganda for just this purpose.
They are multi-colored lovely bright pastels, perfect for Spring. They are long - long enough to wrap around my neck 3 times, which is usually how I wear them, because I like the layers.

Here it is doubled & long... With a cute co-model.

My favorite thing: It matches everything. I rarely have anything that I *can't* wear with this necklace. Love it. I could wear it every day. My mom actually did wear a necklace like this every day I was in Uganda. Until we got our visa and were headed home, she wore this as a reminder to pray. She said there was only one day that she had to tuck it inside her shirt b/c it just didn't match. (side note: how precious is my mom to do that for us??)

One of these cuties can be yours with a $15 donation - Just click the "donate" button below (you're donating to our adoption/post-adoption fund, but it's not tax-deductible, obviously.)

Every bit helps!! Plus I love the idea of many of my friends sporting Ugandan handiwork this Spring.

** Note: If you want more than one, just click the donate button for as many as you want. Or contact me & I'll hook you up (you can email or facebook me, or just comment on this post). I've also had some friends ask how they can donate a little extra (for example, one friend wanted to donate $45, but only wanted 2 necklaces) - just let me know and I can help you out with that too. THANK YOU for blessing our family!!!

Capture Gratitude: Counting Gifts

“There is no event so common place but that God is present within it, always hidden, always leaving you room to recognize Him or not to recognize Him.”  Fredrick Buechner               ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
60. Running
We're coming up on one year of my being a (very slow) runner. I don't even know how to explain deciding that I like can tolerate running after 40 years of hating it, but I'm thankful. And at the moment, my time at the gym is one of the few times of the day when no one is screaming for my attention or crawling all over me. And I either am outside (weather permitting), or I get to watch Good Morning America. Heavenly.
61. Speaking of alone time...

I'm SO THANKFUL that Matt has a flexible schedule. He works many evenings, and because of meetings with college students, usually works until 6:30. That means he can stay with the two younger boys while I take Luke to school & go to the YMCA (see #60). He also works on Sundays. He is supposed to take a day off during the week. And on that day off he stays home with the little boys and I either meet with one of my college girls (on alternating weeks) or get time alone. Love time to journal, read, pray and blog in a coffee shop. I love my kids, and I'm always thankful that I get to spend my days with them. But time alone fills my cup.

As of yesterday, we have a 12 year old. I can't believe it. We are so proud of him and thankful to the Lord that he is ours. At his family birthday dinner (#63) we each shared things that we appreciate about Luke - a new family tradition that I am in LOVE with. It was so fun to hear Luke be praised by each person in the family (we had 15 people here). He was a little embarrassed, but the rest of us loved it.

63. Family
We had such a fun weekend celebrating Luke's birthday. His grandparents came in Saturday to spend the night, go to church and then see Luke's (last minute heartbreaker loss) basketball game. Then the rest of the family (minus the Texas folks, of course) came in for lasagna and fun family time. I didn't grow up regularly seeing my grandparents, aunts & uncles, or cousins. Love this time for my kids sake, and also really enjoy it myself.

And y'all. The dessert I made? The peanut butter filled cupcakes came out really good. Can't wait to share.

64. Specifically: The McCutcheon Family. Relationships that could be really hard, but instead are a GIFT.
These are the grandparents who came in early for Luke's birthday. Verle & Linda McCutcheon are Julie's parents - Matt's first wife, and Luke's first mommy (in case you didn't know, Julie died from complications of breast cancer just after Luke turned 3.) Next year they'll be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. So cool.
Meeting Julie's family was one of the scariest things for me when I was engaged  and getting married to Matt. I knew it would be hard and painful for them, and I knew they would be worried about someone else coming in to mother their grandson.

That first meeting was emotional and hard. But over the years, I've seen that the McCutcheons, instead of being a hard or awkward relationship, are one of God's biggest gifts to me. Verle and Linda, as well as Julie's sisters and brother have embraced me as their family. They encourage Matt & I as parents, and they've taken our younger 2 as their own grandchildren/nephews.

I'm sure whenever they're with us, they think of what could have been, but isn't. Coming to visit us, for them, means returning to the home where Julie lived. It means going to church in the room where Julie's memorial service was held. It means watching someone else love and mother Julie's son.

But they come, and they love us. Most of all, they love Luke so much and pray for him every day. We praise God for them.

65. Little Boys' hearts
I've been working with some friends on a project to bless a little girl I fell in love with in Uganda. She can't be adopted (either domestically or internationally), and my heart has just been broken for her. I was on my phone and facebook pretty continually for a bit discussing her with some friends and brainstorming what we could do, to Tobin's frustration (MM was napping.) I explained to him why I was ignoring him, told him the little girls' story and how I was hoping we could be a part of blessing her. He said, "Just a minute mom!" and ran upstairs. And came back down with this:

He offered the contents of his piggy bank to help her. I don't know how much 2 quarters, a silly band, and a My Little Pony hairbrush (??) will help her, but it still brought tears to my eyes. Thankful for his heart.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekend joy

This is from 2009, but I just saw it yesterday...from one of our family's favorite bands (you should check out Beautiful Things and Ghosts in the Darkness if you don't already have them.)

It made my weekend. Hope it makes yours:

"God cannot be bought, can't be put into a box..." Amen.

Friday, February 24, 2012

PINNED IT & DID IT: Nutella Banana Bread

Don't get excited, it didn't come out that great (user error??)

I've had this pinned for a while, and I was super excited to try it because it involves nutella. I love nutella

(** Pinterest question: Has anyone tried to make the homemade nutella that was pinned by every person in the world 6 months ago? My SIL pinned it and tagged me. And then zillions of people repinned it without removing the tag, so I got zillions of notices. And then I learned how to turn off email notifications, because who has time for that?)

Anyhow... Here's mine:

It looks lovely, doesn't it? And it really is too bad the iPhone hasn't developed smello-vision technology, because it smelled WONDERFUL.  But... it wasn't that great.

Basically it's a standard banana bread recipe. You remove about a third of the batter and mix nutella into it. then you layer them in the pan and swirl. I don't know if I just didn't split the batter into thirds accurately, or if I didn't swirl it enough.

But the Nutella-less part was over cooked and super dry (the top got very brown, almost burned.) The part with Nutella was an ooey gooey mess. A delicious ooey gooey mess, but it was liquid. Luke refused to eat it (he thinks undercooked banana bread has the consistency of bananas. And he thinks the consistency of bananas is disgusting.)

Next week I'm going to try again (assuming we have some soft bananas around to use - I used the last ones from the freezer in this, and our family EATS BANANAS now. By the bushel it seems. Blame it on Africa.) I'm pretty picky about banana bread recipes, and have a favorite (I think a lot of recipes come out too dry.) I'm going to use my standard recipe, and try to swirl the Nutella part in more thoroughly. I'll probably also separate out more of the batter so the Nutella part isn't quite as nutella-full.

Next on my pinterest to-do list is this:

I picked out a couple of desserts in a jar as options for Luke's family birthday party on Sunday, kind of hoping that he'd pick the molten lava cake option. But you can't compete with peanut butter & chocolate in this family. This was the winner hands down.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Making progress

Next week Micah Marvin will have been HOME for 3 months... And already he's been in my care for just over that. So thankful for how far we've come.

I looked in the fridge to see what we'd have for lunch today and realized we have quite a few leftovers that we need to eat up before they go bad. The problem: 1 serving of 3 different things. A few weeks ago, it would have driven MM crazy if he had something different to eat than Tobin and especially than me. If I was smart, I would have had him use his words and ask us to share, then given him a couple of bites of each of our food. And even then it would have bothered him. And there was a 50/50 chance that he'd throw a screaming fit before I even had a chance to offer to share... The reality is that I probably wouldn't have tried it.

I'd never complain, because as far as food issues go, MM is on the very mild end. The hardest thing is that sometimes I'm just sitting down to eat (after taking care of everyone else), and he's already finished and demanding my food. Hard to be patient.  And hard to know where to meet his need for food (wanting him to learn to trust that we will always provide for him), and where to teach him boundaries.

But today? He didn't blink an eye. He payed no attention to Tobin's food, and looked at mine and said, "Mommy's food?" Then happily ate all of his. Hallelujah.

Even better...Yesterday I was disciplining him** for spitting on Tobin (Tobin wouldn't hand over something that Micah wanted...being 2, if MM sees it, he thinks it's "mine.") As I put him in the time out chair, he waved his arms around, but was careful not to hit my face.

I stopped in my tracks. It's been over a week since he's hit me in the face.

I mean, the spitting is kind of a new adventure (he started that a couple of weeks ago, and has spit in my face a couple of times when I was telling him "no".) But I'm really happy that his first response has moved on from hitting. And yesterday it really looked like he made a conscious choice to control himself.

I fully realize that these behaviors are cyclical and will likely show their lovely faces again at some point. But I'm CELEBRATING that they're not constant anymore. And so thankful that we get to be a loving safe place for Micah Marvin to learn what it means to be in a family. Totally worth it.

** In case any one wonders what we do for discipline.... The first month and a half or so, we just did time ins (meaning we held Micah firmly but gently, restraining his arms and legs so he couldn't hit - this was almost always in response to fits, which were usually in response to being told no.)

We've moved to time outs, in a specific location, and always with me in sight and often just a few feet away (we don't discipline him ever by removing him from our presence, because we want him to know we'll always be here. Although if he's hitting or spitting I step away from him immediately.)

My favorite moments: He has learned that saying "I'm sorry" will always get him a hug & kiss and an excited "I forgive you!" Now after he says "I'm sorry", he gets super excited and says "I forgive you!" with me. So cute.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

PINNED IT & DID IT: Blow art monsters

We've done a couple of pins over the past few weeks, and I'm excited to share this one (the other one wasn't so much of a success. And it involved Nutella, who could have seen that coming?)

But for now, I'll show you this fun kids' craft from

Super easy: All you need is paper, tempera paint, water, straws, glue and googly eyes. And some means of getting the paint onto the paper. Lucky for me we have a surplus of medicine squirters, after strepathon 2012.

We used stuff we had on hand, so it was free (well. It didn't require a trip to the store or extra expense. But we did almost use up the tempera pain I bought several years ago.)

To start, you water down tempera paints. The original tutorial said to water it down considerably. I thought I'd watered the paint down too much because it was pretty runny and some of our monsters bled together.

But when I tried a mixture with less water, it really didn't blow much. And it made the paper more wrinkly.

The paper does get really wrinkly. I was disappointed in mine, but now that I'm looking at the picture I had pinned, I realize that her paper is wrinkled too. This would be eliminated by watercolor paper, which is thicker - but I wanted to be able to use things I have on hand.

I dropped paint on their papers and they blew away.

After the paint dried, we got out the googly eyes and Elmer's glue. I put dots of glue on Micah's paper and let him put the eyes on. For Tobin, I put glue on a paper plate and let him dip the backs of the eyes in the glue and then place them himself.

And then I drew on mouths with a sharpie.

The bottom line: The boys LOVED this craft, and both younger boys were able to do it (Luke probably would have enjoyed it too, but he was at basketball practice.)

My only issue was that they both wanted to suck the paint up into the medicine dropper and squirt it out themselves. And I wanted to be in control of the paint. Always a struggle to balance their need for independence and creativity and my need to not have to clean up a disaster area.

But Cute:

You should do this, it's simple, easy and really fun!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Capture Gratitude

“There is no event so common place but that God is present within it, always hidden, always leaving you room to recognize Him or not to recognize Him.”  Fredrick Buechner               ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I missed last week & don't want this to be terribly long, so I'm going to go wordless. Well. I can't go wordless. But fewer words than usual? I hope?
They don't often look like this (usually M& L have basketball practice, so I'm home alone with the littles), but it sure is nice when they do.
Again, brotherhood doesn't always (often?) look like this... but I'm thankful when they enjoy each other. Although I'm learning that brothers getting along is sometimes louder than brothers fighting. But I like it when they get along.

Thankfully Valentines Day is easier on my than New Year's Eve. But I still feel the temptation to self-pity and unreasonable expectations. Thankful for any day I don't give into those 2 enemies!

Matt & I haven't had any time out together (alone) since before we left for Africa - so since sometime in October. We've made a concerted effort to focus on each other and our relationship - we have frequent couch dates after the kids go to bed, and have worked hard to remain connected in every way through this transition. But it was AMAZING to get off the couch and actually go out. Coffee & conversation, and a good movie (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - is that right? We kept calling it "Extremely Loud and Very Something Else". It was good. Although one of my facebook friends pointed out that maybe we had enough Extremely Loud in our life already??)

(In the interest of keeping it real, I felt very thankful and took this picture at the beginning of our game night. And I AM really thankful for a family that enjoys being together, we are COMMITTED to enjoying one another. But by the end of this particular game night, the sheer volume of not-being-listened-to from the older 2 boys and the whining from the younger 2 boys had both Matt & I ready to throw all 3 in their beds and call it a day.)

I'm having a hard time this week with the constant touch and wanting-to-be-near-me that fills the life of a mom to littles. I CHOOSE to give thanks - these days will not last forever. So I can get ready for church whilst the littles make a tent in the bathroom directly under my feet, bumping into me and running toy cars into my feet every few minutes. At least they weren't wanting me to "hold you" for a few minutes so I could blow dry my hair...

Besides, they sure are cute, no? As I blogged and worked on other things tonight, the littles played happily together (Matt & Luke were at Basketball practice). And came out to show me that they were "piwates!" I do like seeing Micah welcomed into Tobin's imaginary world of pretend and dress up. Happy.

Friday, February 10, 2012

PINNED IT AND DID IT: Easiest Hairpins EVER (30 minute craft!)

First of all, thank so much for all of the encouragement about my funky mood yesterday. It's amazing how much just writing it out helps me, and it sure is nice to receive so many kind words. I'm still thinking about the whole concept of keeping it real, so I may have more to say about that at some point (mainly: Do we think keeping it real = complaining and happiness = fakerpants?)

But in the meantime, I have another PIN accomplished this week. YAY! My main goal behind this is to do crafts with my kids - and we did one tonight while Matt & Luke went to basketball practice. But it's still drying and we'll finish it tomorrow, so you'll have to wait on that. I'm sure you'll all be on the edge of your seats to find out what we did (it involved paint and straws and only a little bit of paint drinking.)

So what I'll share this week is from my "TO MAKE FOR ME" board: Easy Peasy Hairpins, from I Am Momma Hear Me Roar.

These are just as easy as promised... Definitely finished a bunch of them in one episode of Blue's Clues (thank you Netflix!)

All you need is strong glue or adhesive, bobby pins (I bought special ones with a place for a charm), and something cute to glue on. I planned on using buttons, but all of the buttons I liked had loops on the back and I wasn't sure I'd be able to snap them off. So I found other things I liked.
I couldn't find any of the glue she used in the tutorial, and I had some E-6000, which is amazing, so I used that. It worked great on the charms I picked up at Hobby Lobby. But I also tried some beads that I already had from another project...didn't work so well on those (too shiny, I think. If I try again, I'll see about sanding off the back of the beads. But I wasn't in the mood for that this time around.)

So now I have some cutie red roses...

 And some bling.

 This would be a fun craft to do with a friend or a group - especially since the bobby pins and baubles come in packs of at least 2. I only need/want one of each kind, so I'll be giving the rest away.

I wore the aqua one this week, and tried to get a picture to share... In this one I'm either thinking, "Hmmm. I don't think the camera is supposed to be in the picture." OR "Hmmm. I feel kind of like an idiot."

"Maybe it would be better if I smiled?"
 "We'll just go in for a close up."
Super cute (I think!) and super easy! Make some today!

Happy to move this one off of my "to make" list and onto my "MADE" list! Next week will be a kids' craft!