gallamore west: September 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Treasuring Time

I try to be positive, but some days I just look at my to-do list and it's hard to stay sunny.   I had one of those days this week.  After getting Sam to school, I had to take Jake and Luke to get my Jeep fixed the other day.  It was not an errand I looked forward to.  In fact, I called my husband at work and begged him,

"Can't you just do it for me?"

"But Luke's going to miss his nap!"

"Do you know how hard this is going to be for me to entertain them for hours and hours?"

Plus, I don't really have a back-up person yet to get Sam from school in case I got stuck and couldn't get back in time.   But my whining didn't work and I took the Jeep with Jake and Luke in tow.  

And you know what?  

Ten minutes after we dropped off the Jeep and were happily munching on our $8 pretzel and lemonade Jake declared it his "Best Day Ever!"  

By the way, I'm not cheap, but seriously $8 for one pretzel and one lemonade? Geesh!

I couldn't believe it... the day I dreaded turned out to be so much fun with my two little guys.    Sometimes it takes a reminder from my 4-year old to remember to slow down and enjoy the little things. Like sharing an overpriced pretzel on a sunny morning.  It probably didn't hurt that we were stuck here while our car was being fixed either :)

And out of all the stores we went to, this is what Jake really wanted me to buy for him...

When I asked him why he wanted it, he said,
"so Sam and I can use it for fake bamboo in our pretend zoo."

Awww, to be 4 again!  Well, that's never going to happen, but I can take a break from my grown-up life sometimes and look at life through my 4-year old's eyes.  

And being able to take a nap like a 4-year old would be nice too.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pumpkin Cookies with Caramel Icing

As sad as I was to say goodbye to Summer vacation, I am equally excited to say hello to Fall because I love baking, and especially with pumpkin {because that makes the recipe healthy, right?}  

I had leftover pumpkin pie mix and heavy cream from making these Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Butter Cream, so I went back to my "Fall in Love with Autumn" board on Pinterest and found a recipe for Pumpkin Cookies with Caramel Frosting from Let's Dish Recipes.

Just like with the pumpkin cupcakes, I was using pumpkin pie mix {canned pumpkin with spices already added} so I had to alter the recipe a bit.  

Pumpkin Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin pie mix
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Stir in pumpkin. In a medium bowl, sift together the baking soda, cinnamon, salt and flour. Add to pumpkin mixture and mix well.  Drop by heaping tablespoons onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.  

Just like recommended on the original recipe from Let's Dish Recipes, I gently pushed down each cookie while they were still warm because they come out so puffy, almost like little cakes.  They will still be plenty fluffy and it will be easier to spread the icing.
To make icing: 
In a medium saucepan, combine butter, cream, and brown sugar over medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture just begins to boil; remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool then stir in confectioner's sugar.  Spread frosting over cooled cookies.

These pumpkin cookies were a hit!  My husband does not have a sweet tooth like I do {poor guy}, so he rarely raves about a dessert, but he loved these cookies.  They are so moist and have just the right amount of pumpkin and spice.  Topped with sweet caramel frosting, these pumpkin cookies make these a perfect fall dessert.  This recipe is a keeper!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mama's Gonna Blow!

Or at least that's how we feel sometimes, right?  Like for me... it was this afternoon.  And yesterday afternoon too actually, but I'll just focus on today.  My mom came over and snuggled Luke so well for his morning nap that he ended up napping for hours and hours.  So long that there was no time for an afternoon nap.  And oh wow, did I pay for that all afternoon loooong. 

Here's what I looked like while making dinner tonight...
 {photo via}

Luckily, we have a great new plan around here.  My sweet hubs came up with this plan himself, probably on an evening when he came home to something like this...

{photo via}

Um yeah, because that's really what I look like when I'm tired :)

So the plan is that every Tuesday and Thursday night, I get a break to do whatever I want/need to do... 
run errands {hello, Ikea ALL BY MYSELF last week!}
catch up on whatever I need to do
Girls Night Out... 
Even sit on my behind at the computer and blog.  

And I love it!  But I have to admit, I hear the boys laughing in the tub down the hall right now, and I do hope they ask me to read them their bedtime story {we read every night on the porch, then lay on the grass to look at the stars}.  

Tonight, on my break "away" from the boys I want them to need me.   It makes me realize how true this quote is...

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” {Elizabeth Stone}

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Sounds delish, right?  Ohhh, they are. 

I pinned this recipe onto my Fall in love with Autumn board in Pinterest a couple of weeks ago, and couldn't stop thinking about these gorgeous cupcakes...
{picture from via pinterest}

Plus I go weak in the knees for anything that has "salted" and "caramel" in the same sentence.  Add in the word "buttercream" and you've pretty much given me a little slice of heaven.  

I made these for my Scentsy Open House on Saturday, and they were a hit.  Plus, since they have pumpkin in them, it makes it not only acceptable, but encouraged to eat them for breakfast too :)

I would've followed the recipe exactly, but since I wasn't able to find just canned pumpkin, I had to use canned Pumpkin Pie mix, which is basically canned pumpkin with all the yummy fall spices already added in.  So, here's my adapted recipe...

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 can (15 oz) Libby's Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pans with paper lines; set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the brown sugar, sugar, butter, and eggs.  Beat on medium speed until well combined.  Add dry ingredients, and mix on low until smooth.  Fold in the pumpkin puree.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway.  Bake until tops string back when touched, about 17 minutes, rotating pans once if needed.  Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  Recipe I followed said it makes 18 cupcakes... Mine were just the right size and I got 27!  Recipe also said to bake for 20-25 minutes, but at 17 I smelled something burning and pulled them right out.  One cupcake in the back had a black bottom, but the rest were just fine... I didn't rotate the pan.

Salted Caramel Buttercream
adapted from via {on Pinterest}

I just added an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup powdered sugar... here's the recipe with my little changes {because I was serving them to adults and kiddos, thought it might be a bit too salty for the littles}.

1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 sticks butter, 1 salted & 1 unsalted
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a small saucepan, bring the white sugar and water to a boil over medium heat.  Without stirring, let it boil until it reaches a deep amber color.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla & heavy cream.  Stir until smooth.  Let cool until easy to pour, but not hot {I put mine in the fridge for about 10 minutes}.  Meanwhile, beat the butter and sea salt in a stand mixer until lightened and fluffy.  Slowly add in the powdered sugar, scraping down the bowl and mixing until combined.  Turn off the mixer and slowly pour in the caramel mixture.  Mix on low until combined, t hen mix on medium-high for about 2 minutes, until fluffy and well combined.  If you pour your caramel in while it's still too warm, your frosting will be runny.  If that happens, refrigerate until firm enough to pipe on your cupcakes.

Made exactly the right amount {plus two small spoonfuls for my helpers} to pipe onto 24 cupcakes.

Delicious!  I love all the amazing pumpkin recipes out there for Fall... what's your favorite Fall treat?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember...

Like everyone who was old enough to remember that day, I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about the planes crashing on September 11, 2001.  

I was a new bride {married just 8 weeks earlier} and was in my car on the way to work.  I flipped on the radio and heard unimaginable words... planes crashing into buildings.  It didn't seem real.  I flipped the station, and heard the same news.  I kept pushing the buttons on the radio and EVERY station had the same horrible news.  I called my husband who was still at home and asked him to turn on the TV.  I remember saying, 

"There's something going on, and I don't understand what they're talking about, but it's on every station and I hope it's not for real because it's horrible."

There are no words to describe the mix of emotions we all felt as we watched these events unfold on TV... the heavy hearts, the initial fear for our family in Washington D.C. {who were all fine}, the overwhelming sadness, the shock, disbelief, and the anger.  I remember being invited to a housewarming party that weekend... we had already rsvp-ed "yes" but I remember not being able to go because I just wanted to curl up on my comfy clothes and stay inside.  There was no way I could go celebrate anything.  And the overwhelming knowledge that our world would never be the same.  Our bubble of innocence was more than burst... it was blown apart.

Ten years later, there are no words to describe the rawness of emotions that rise to the surface when thinking of September 11, 2001.  My heart will always hurt for those whose loved ones left this world that day.

I will ALWAYS remember these people,

and all of those who serve our country. 

God Bless America.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of School!

I can't believe it... 
after a long, fun summer my boys are off to school today!

Two new schools and...

-first time in a public school
-first time being at separate schools
-first time Sam's staying all day loooong
-first time packing a lunch... I feel like I packed enough for a week, but I'm still worried he'll be hungry
-first time dropping them off and not knowing a SINGLE person there

The pictures don't show it {except it was the most HUMID morning ever, excuse my shine!}
These adorable signs are by Lauren McKinsey... she made Luke's special for him :)

But this morning was a rough Mama morning to say the least.

 I'm sure my dreams last night didn't help...

I dreamed that our neighbors came over with a rowboat to get the boys to school down the walking path {yes, we're lucky enough to walk out our back gate and be AT Sam's school!}

I dreamed that I saw the elementary school mascot and it was a humungous overgrown creepy gopher peeking over our back fence.

I dreamed that my car broke down on the way to drop off Jake at preschool {that's before we come home and then walk Sam to school}

I dreamed that it was raining and we had to walk. Oh wait, that REALLY did happen! It never rains in San Diego... never, never, never. Except yesterday and today. I had to change out of my cute shoes into my rain shoes {flip flops} so I wouldn't slip on our row-boating, gopher-spying route to school.

But this is fun... Ben chopped down about 10 years of overgrown plants and weeds in this walkway to school, the same walkway I walked down to get to school many years ago, but he left this little tree tunnel for the boys.  
{oops... my umbrella is hanging down into the picture!  I had Luke strapped on me in the Ergo while walking in the rain... fun times here.}

But my boys, oh my boys, they were amazing! 

 All smiles, 
all excitement, 
no tears, 
no whining... 
just handsome, confident, sweet boys ready for a new adventure.

Strapped in the car 
{that thankfully did not break down like in my dreams}

Since finding out on Friday that Sam got a MAN teacher {read here if you want to know what kind of teacher I requested}, I had to go to Plan B for teacher treats and  decided to bake cookies instead of bringing flowers.  So, the boys brought freshly baked cookies for their teachers, 
kind of...

By the time Jake's made it in the preschool door, the ribbon and tag were no longer attached.  But Sam's, in our efforts to get out the door on this rainy morning, 

his cookies were forgotten at home {my fault}.  Good thing Sam had written this sweet letter to his teacher and remembered it so he didn't walk in empty handed :)

All the kids at Jake's preschool gather in one room for the first hour {not his room} and his teacher gets there a little after he does, so I don't have any pictures of them together yet.  Here he is, all smiles and ready to play with new friends.

And Sam... oh wow, am I proud of him!  Going from a small private school {since he was just 2 years old!} so a HUGE public school and he didn't even blink an eye, unlike his mama...

Sam's so excited to have "A Mister Teacher!"  

I have to say, the verdict is still out because I don't know anything about this teacher.  Today I already saw that he is NOT a cutesy 1st grade teacher and he expects the kids to be independent, which are good things... I mean, the boys DO get enough "cutesy" at home, right?! :)  

Last night we read The Kissing Hand, and today in their lunch they have special kissing hand cookies {I couldn't find my hand cookie cutter so I traced Jake's hand... it's so cute!}

I'm off to prep their special dinner now... and cry a little.  Because I'm really so sad that they're gone.  And Luke's napping.  I NEVER have a quiet house like this.  Target was going to save me, but it's really raining so I'm staying in.  That is until I have to hop in the rowboat and row past the wild gopher to get my boys :)  

Hope your kids had a GREAT 1st Day of School too!  I cannot wait to see these two and hear all about their days.  

This was yesterday morning... after the summer of the ZOO, it was only fitting that we spent our last day of summer there too {Jake's pretending to be a lion}.  

And this picture holds special meaning to me...
since I too was a Roadrunner all those years ago!  
Luke's waving to you :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Soaking it in...

It's our last few days of summer and we are packing in the fun.  I mean, it's almost like we think the San Diego Zoo is going to disappear from the surface of the Earth once school starts.  Because really, who goes there THREE times in just 5 days?  Ummm, that would be us. 

Notice all the different shirts the boys are wearing in these pictures, and you'll see... I'm not kidding.  They almost made a cage for us so we could just stay the night in the Zoo.
 {Jake loving on a mammoth tusk}

 {Playing in the Children's Zoo}

 {Sam and Nani being Zoo Keepers}

 {Jake being silly at the mammoth statue}

 {Watching the "Chi-E-na afro bats"... Boys, do not try this at home!}

 {A hideous pic of me, but Sam and Jake look cute... Luke was crying.  Oh, and stilt walkers!}

 {Probably my favorite picture of the whole summer... Jake feeding the giraffes}

 {Sam on the mammoths... they love all the animals you can climb on}

 {Sam and Papa on the "sky buckets" with Jake, whose head is hiding}

Today we took a break from the Zoo and headed to Sea World instead.  It was a gorgeous day, no crowds, and we even got to pet two baby kangaroos... don't ask me why there are kangaroos at Sea World.  I have no idea why, but they are so, so cute!

{Luke was sleeping... someday I'll get a good picture of me with ALL three boys at once!}

 {Jake LOVES his milk!}

 {Oh, there were some animals there... I take a ridiculous amount of pictures of my boys.  Can't help it!}

 {Enjoy that "hotton candy" boys... it's your LAST until next summer!}

 {Playing outside of the new Turtle Reef}

 {That's a baby kangaroo!}

 {Digging for fossils in our favorite secret place at Sea World}

{Sam's a great photographer!}

 {Don't tell anyone about the Garden of Discovery because it's gorgeous, and almost always empty.}

Tomorrow we find out the name of Sam's 1st grade teacher.  He's SO excited!  Although finding out the teacher's name doesn't really matter at this point because we know nothing about any of the teachers, but I was pretty specific on what kind of teacher I think would be best for him.  
{image via pinterest}
I specifically requested someone is positive, loving, energetic, who leaves a trail of glitter as she skips around her adorably decorated classroom and who smells like freshly baked cookies, so we'll see :)

{image via pinterest}

With my boys starting later than most {I think they're the ONLY ones in San Diego who haven't started yet... which is great for all of our Zoo and Sea World outings lately} I've had plenty of time to "pin" adorable teacher gifts to make for the 1st Day of School.

I love the pencils on this one...
 {image via pinterest}

 but I'm hoping to find some pretty red flowers like this one {or maybe just a red ribbon}.
{image via pinterest}

Simple and so cute {plus they'll double as centerpieces for our Back to School dinner the night before school starts!}

Sam better not have a man for a teacher because so many of my cute gift ideas will go out the window.  Oh wait, I really did specifically request a female teacher, glitter optional :)

I'm linking up here!


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