things i’m loving lately {october 2015}

Posted: October 8th, 2015

Evelyn Walking

This is big news in our house!  In the past week, she has gone from wobbling uncertainly around to full fledged walking, and it is adorable.  And she is so proud of herself!

My freezer

I’ve always appreciated my freezer–I’ve long stocked up on meat and chicken on sale and put it in the freezer, I always keep my nuts in the freezer, and of course, there is ice cream.  But feeding Evelyn has given me a new appreciation for my freezer because all kinds of things are going into it now…in fact, I may have to have a post all about this coming up!

The Great British Baking Show

Ok, I think I might be late to the party on this one, but I love this show, which is coming on PBS right now.  It is a British competition baking show, and I find it both fascinating and refreshing.  It’s so much less intense than American baking shows, everyone is so much nicer, and the baking information and challenges are so interesting.  (PS–I think you can watch episodes on PBS’s website, too.)

My car box

Recently Brittany over at A Healthy Slice of Life had a post about having a car bag instead of a diaper bag, and I thought it was genius!  In recent weeks I’ve felt irritated at lugging the diaper bag around…I so rarely use anything in it while we’re out except for a diaper and wipes.  But having a car bag/basket is perfect.  I’ve put things we might need (but don’t regularly need) while we’re out in it: extra diapers and wipes, a change of clothes, sunscreen, bugspray, diaper cream, a towel, plastic bags for dirty diapers, some extra waters, a rain jacket, and a blanket.  Then I just have to stick a diaper and a small thing of wipes in my purse, and for most outings we’re good to go.  (Not that the diaper bag is gone from our lives…there are still instances where we use it.  But I don’t need it every day.)

The Skimm

I recently subscribed to The Skimm, and I have to say….I really like it.  I have not been good about keeping up with the news recently. I used to watch the news all the time in the morning, but it has become too much for me to handle for multiple reasons.  I also used to listen to the news in the car in the morning…but I’m rarely in the car in the morning now.  Enter The Skimm…it gives you a brief overview of the main stories, explains the background to some of the stories, and does a great job of presenting what all sides are saying about issues.  It is perfect and exactly what I need so I don’t feel like I have my head in the sand.
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cookies and cream cake {+ our weekend}

Posted: October 5th, 2015

cookies and cream cake

After the week we had last week, I was feeling pretty depleted on Friday.  While Evelyn has learned how to walk, she has apparently forgotten how to nap, and so she and I had a week of lots of crying and stress and frustration.  Needless to say, I was ready for a weekend in which Gerrit would be home and I could pass naptime duties off to him.  That was really all I wanted out of my weekend, but it exceeded those expectations.

We had dinner with Gerrit’s parents and brother (who was home from college for the weekend) on Friday night.  Gerrit went to a late movie Friday night, which gave me some time to chill in bed and read and watch House Hunters, which if I’m being honest is basically my favorite way to spend a Friday night.  Saturday morning we had waffles for breakfast (thanks to batter I halfway prepped the night before…recipe hopefully coming soon once I test it out another time or two).  Then we got a few chores done, I iced this cake, and we went to celebrate my brother’s birthday at my parents’ house and spend an afternoon watching football, which was really the only thing to do on such a dreary day.
cookies and cream cake
Sunday I went to church to teach Sunday School (Gerrit and I have been leading the high school class, which we are loving), and left Gerrit and Evelyn at home to have a lazy morning/give Evelyn some nap consistency.  From the outside looking in it seems like I had the more involved task that morning (since I actually had to get out of the house and put my brain together for something), but there was nothing more relaxing than driving to church by myself, listening to a podcast, and not holding my breath waiting for Evelyn to decide she is upset because I’m not close enough to her (that has been the theme of our week, I think).  Then to add lovely to wonderfulness, Gerrit took Evelyn out of the house for the afternoon leaving me with time to get a few things done in peace.
And then it all ended with another slice of cake.
It was one of those weekends that felt both productive and relaxing at the same time, which are always the best kind.  And they are even better when they involve cake.
cookies and cream cake

cookies and cream cake

Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 18 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 50 minutes

Yield: Makes 1 large cake

What I, and everyone else who had this cake, love about it is that it is not too rich. It feels like a cookies and cream without being cloyingly sweet. Part of this is that the chocolate cake layers aren't too rich, but of course use whatever cake recipe you would like. What really makes this a cookies and cream cake is the frosting, which is really quite easy to make.


  • For the cake:
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • For the frosting:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream, cold
  • 3 cups crushed oreos


  1. Begin by making the cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 8 inch cake pans. Or use my favorite method: spray the pans with cooking spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and then spray the parchment paper.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Add the sugars and beat for another couple minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated. Then beat in the vanilla. Lower the mixer speed to low, and mix in the melted chocolate.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (do the dry ingredients in 3 batches and the buttermilk in 2). Beat after each addition just until incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Still mixing on low speed, add in the boiling water.
  5. Toss the chocolate chips with the tablespoon of flour, then use a spatula to stir the chocolate chips in.
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the three cake pans, and if necessary use a spatula to spread the batter out in the pans.
  7. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, and then remove them from the pans and place them on wire racks to complete cooling. Once the cakes are completely cooled, wrap them separately in plastic wrap and place them in the freezer for at least an hour. (I like to do my cake layers days ahead of time and let them sit in the freezer for days.)
  8. To make the frosting, in a large bowl combine the cream cheese, salt, and sugar. Cream together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Then mix in the vanilla.
  9. In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream into stiff peaks. Then use a rubber spatula to gently fold the cream into the cream cheese mixture. Then fold in the crushed oreos.
  10. To frost the cake, place one cake layer on the bottom of your cake round or cake plate. Use an offset spatula to spread the top with a layer of frosting. Stack the second layer, then another layer of frosting, then the final layer. (It's best, if you can, to find the most flat layer for the top, and if your layers have risen quite a bit you can use a serrated knife to cut a bit off to make them flatter.) Then spread the top and the sides with frosting. To make the icing smooth, run your spatula under hot water and gently run it over the frosting.
  11. Store the cake in the refrigerator until serving. (It can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days, but is best eaten sooner rather than later.)


cake layers adapted from Baking: From my Home to Yours

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a month of meals {september 2015}

Posted: October 1st, 2015

a month of meals september 2015

Here’s what we ate this month.

{An explanation as to why I’m doing this can be found in January 2015.}

{Past months: January 2015 : February 2015 : March 2015 : April 2015 : May 2015 : June 2015 : July 2015 : August 2015}

Sept 1–Chick-fil-a (because I was sick and it was all I wanted)
Sept 2–dinner with my parents–salmon, quinoa, roasted squash
Sept 3–chicken and mushroom quesadillas (using some leftover rotisserie chicken)
Sept 4–dinner with family in Texas–Mexichef salad (and I used the components (i.e. the cheese) to make myself a quesadilla)
Sept 5–dinner with family in Texas–lasagna
Sept 6–out to eat in Texas

Sept 7–airport Chick-fil-a
Sept 8–dinner with Gerrit’s parents–pork chops and rice
Sept 9–dinner with my parents–korean short ribs, green beans, rice
Sept 10–out to eat with friends
Sept 11mushroom marsala pasta
Sept 12chicken and biscuit cobbler
Sept 13–scrambled eggs and toast

Sept 14–pan friend breaded pork chops, orzo pasta salad
Sept 15–dinner with Gerrit’s parents–arepas
Sept 16–dinner with my parents–fish (from the summer deep sea fishing voyage), cous cous, brussels sprouts with bacon
Sept 17baked chicken thighs, green beans with almonds, baguette with herbs and olive oil for dipping
Sept 18pot roast, rice, and snickerdoodles from my freezer for dessert
Sept 19–baked potatoes with leftover pot roast
Sept 20–more leftovers/sandwiches

Sept 21oven fried chicken, parmesan boiled potatoes, roasted broccoli
Sept 22–dinner with Gerrit’s parents–crock pot chicken with sweet potatoes and carrots
Sept 23–dinner with my parents–chicken poppyseed casserole
Sept 24whole wheat spaghetti with roasted cauliflower
Sept 25–out to eat in Auburn
Sept 26–tailgate in Auburn (I made monster cookies and pumpkin muffins)
Sept 27–sandwiches

Sept 28pizza with mushrooms and black olives
Sept 29–dinner with Gerrit’s parents–quesadillas
Sept 30–dinner with my parents–brunswick stew and leftovers


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pumpkin streusel muffins {updated}

Posted: September 28th, 2015

pumpkin streusel muffins

So it is officially fall (although really to me fall starts after Labor Day), but I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around it.  Usually I am ready to dive in to fall and the pleasant weather and the warm meals and pumpkins.  But halfway through September part of my brain still thought it was August, and I only remembered last week that I have fall decorations to put up in the house.

The truth is that aside from almost forgetting that fall decorations existed in my house, I have been logistically ready for fall.  Evelyn has several cute fall outfits (which makes me ready for the weather to cool down a bit more!).  I’ve made a list of a few fall activities I want to do as a family.  I’ve even planned Evelyn’s Halloween costume (costumes completely intimidate me, so I knew I needed to start early).  But I just can’t emotionally catch up with how fast the seasons are moving.  I’ve been told this has something to do with having a kid. ;) Read more »

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the hardest decision

Posted: September 23rd, 2015

It occurs to me that although I write about a lot of things in life on my blog, there are also a lot of things I don’t write about.  And while I hadn’t written about this one, it occurred to me that I probably should since it is kind of a major life change.  I wrote this essay several weeks ago, not really sure what I was going to do with it.  But…well…here it is.

When we moved back to Huntsville several years ago, my dad called me out of the blue right after I had quit a new job that I hated and was wondering what on earth I was going to do, and he asked me if I could come into his office to help him with something for a couple of hours.  It was just one thing; he is a CPA and he needed someone to do a bit of data entry for a tax return.  Just one simple thing he needed to outsource.

But that one thing grew into another. Here’s another tax return like that one.  And here, let me show you how to reconcile these bank statements.  And a few years later, I ended up here, doing basic bookkeeping work and filling out tax returns and running payrolls.  I, who have always been good at math but never thought I loved it, have run adding machine tape miles long and dreamt of spreadsheets in my sleep.

Last year, when Evelyn was born, I was able to take her with me to the office.  She slept and I worked and my dad would rock her when she was being fussy.  As she got older, I set her up on a blanket with toys and she would play next to my desk.  And then, she started crawling, and a play pen went up.  But the older she got, the less happy she was about this (and the less happy I was about this) and it became clear–this is not going to work anymore.

I love my job.  I love working for my dad and getting to see him every day.  I love the things I’ve learned to do and that I am no longer completely intimidated by tax forms.  I love feeling good at my job and being useful and knowing exactly what I am contributing to the office.

So it is really hard, probably more hard than it would be since my dad is my boss, to leave my job.  Even though it is what I asked for, it is really hard for me to know that someone else has been hired to take over the work I’ve been doing, that someone else is learning the ins and outs of all of the clients like I did.  It is really hard for me to know that when something needs to be done, my dad won’t be calling me to ask me about it anymore.  (Although, this is also a relief.)

I have cried a lot of tears over this.

But the truth is, that if I was staying at my job it would be really hard, too.  It would be really hard to have so much time away from my daughter while she is learning and growing so quickly.  It would be really hard to figure out how to make childcare work financially.  It would be really hard to go through another hectic tax season feeling like the office is consuming me.  It would be really hard to feel constantly stressed about the balance between work and life and to lose something of myself in the crack between the two.

I would cry a lot of tears over that, too.

So it has been the decision about what kind of tears I want to cry.  And while I have loved being there for my my dad as his daughter these past years, I know that the right decision for me right now is to be here for my daughter every day.

And now from today, 9/23: I’m still going to the office on average one afternoon a week just to help out with little things.  But I’m home with Evelyn the majority of the time.  The truth is, that after we got through the first couple of weeks, I’m feeling adjusted and there aren’t as many tears.  In fact (and perhaps I shouldn’t say this  out loud because it will come back to bite me), it’s been nice to feel like I am semi-on top of things in life…comfortably treading water instead of feeling like my head is about to go under from the stress of work/life balance.  I know it is just the season of life right now.  Things will for one reason or another get more stressful down the road I’m sure.  But right now I am savoring it.

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