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  1. Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Hot Vanilla

    Today’s recipe involves drinking butter. Yep, you heard me. We are going to drink butter. And it’s going to be awesome.

    Every time I make bread pudding, I want to drink the milk mixture that goes into the recipe. So today I whipped up a variation of that milk mixture and drank it. And just like that ‘hot vanilla’ was born! (Okay, okay, maybe not born. I did a google search and turns out hot vanilla is not new, but whatever. I’m just pretending google doesn’t exist.)

    I am officially a fan of hot vanilla, especially my version (I know, so humble). It’s sweet, has a nice cinnamon-vanilla flavor, and the butter gives it a silky, almost-savory twist. Perfect for a cold winter day!

    Here’s to drinking butter!

    Hot Vanilla
    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Serves: 2
    • 2 cups milk
    • 1½ tablespoons butter
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • pinch of salt
    1. Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan. Whisk together over low to medium heat until butter melts and milk is as hot as you like it.

  2. Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Week 255 Menu

    When I was out the other day working on one of my Picture the Holidays prompts, I snapped this shot of someone’s front gate. I still can’t believe it’s already Christmastime!

    Our menu plan went way off schedule last week…we ended up with lots of leftovers to work with between our soup and a rotisserie chicken Nate picked up one night. My menu is very reminiscent of last week’s…sorry for all the repeats, but I figured I may as well not recreate the wheel if I don’t have to!

    Chicken Teriyaki with rice
    – Potstickers and a veggie

    – Work party that serves dinner

    – Barbecue Chicken
    – Corn bread and a salad

    – Leftovers

    – Eat out or something super easy like grilled cheese…we’ll be wrapping up a birthday party right at dinnertime!

    – Eat out (another birthday celebration that day!)

    – Fruit

    This week is both my girls’ birthdays, so I’ll be in birthday cake mode! Can’t wait to share what we come up with!

    Share what you’ve got planned for the week! I love reading through all your menus each and every week!

  3. Friday, December 9, 2011

    Picture the Holidays

    December is my crazy month. I mean, I know it’s everyone’s crazy month. But with both my girls’ birthdays just one week before Christmas, well, things get crazier than crazy. Each year I try desperately to plan ahead, so I can actually enjoy the season. I usually mostly succeed. Like this year, I sent Thanksgiving cards instead of Christmas cards. And I did all our Christmas shopping online early. But, of course, the rush of the season still catches up.

    When I found out that my friend Tracey Clark from Shutter Sisters was doing this cool Picture the Holidays thing with Paper Coterie, I decided I needed to get on board. Each day Tracey and Paper Coterie email the participants a photography prompt, encouraging us to focus on what matters and taking a few moments each day to get “creatively centered.” Sure, it’s kinda sorta adding another to-do to my list, but it’s the kind of to-do that should be on the list, you know?

    I’m planning on sharing some of my images with you. I hope you don’t mind. And, if you would like to share your own images, please share links in the comments!

    Prompt: Express yourself. This prompt was about checking in with ourselves, taking a second to breathe, check in, be still. And then communicating those feelings through a self-portrait. For my moment of breathing, I laid on the couch and stared at the Christmas tree. And, for me today, this is my most representative self-portrait. Not because it’s what I am (relaxed and enjoying the tree), but because it is what I am aspiring to be (relaxed and enjoying the tree). If I can get to that moment of relaxed peace just a few moments each day, that will be a good thing.

    Prompt: Every little thing. Quite simply we were to find one small delight. And did I ever find it. This morning, after changing Owen’s diaper, I couldn’t help but think how much I love the look of giant diapers on tiny babies. Nothing beats it.

  4. Thursday, December 8, 2011

    2nd Annual Busy Body Book Giveaway!

    This giveaway is now closed. But if you’re looking for a good calendar/planner…keep reading!

    Since 2012 is just around the corner (how did that happen anyway?), I thought we could talk calendars for just a minute. Plus, I have a cool giveaway attached to this little chat. Sound good?

    I LOVE my Busy Body Book. Love love love. I’m a paper girl all the way when it comes to my calendar and this organizer has been perfect for me. I picked my first one up at a blogger event a few years ago and have gotten one each year ever since. It’s the best! Cate was super excited at the beginning of the school year to discover that her first grade teacher also uses a Busy Body Book, which earned me a few extra ‘cool points’ in Cate’s book!

    Here are the top reasons I love the Busy Body Book:

    • The grid layout is super handy
    • I can see a week at a time and there’s plenty of room for notes/lists/appointments/etc
    • The cover design is super cute and has a thick plastic cover, making it nice and sturdy
    • It’s spiral bound
    • There’s a bookmark that you can move from week to week

    I shared Busy Body Books with you last year and I’m doing it again because I love supporting them. Plus, they are doing another giveaway here on TWFD to help you get ready for 2012! Yippee!

    THREE of you lucky, randomly-selected people will each win a Busy Body Book for 2012. Simply leave a comment on this post by Midnight PT on Tuesday, December 13. The three winners will be announced on Wednesday, December 14.

    And since it’s the season of giving, this is definitely a great gift idea for the busy people in your life!

    Good luck with the giveaway and happy organizing!

  5. Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Pumpkin Rocks

    I know, I know. It’s December. Everyone’s moved past pumpkin. Pumpkin is so November. But whatever. I’m not that stylish anyway.

    I haven’t made Pumpkin Rocks in about ten years. I needed to make a treat for Anna’s preschool’s Thanksgiving Feast and thought these would be quick, easy and yummy. I was right. I forgot just how stinkin’ good these cookies are. And both of my girls could not stop eating them. I had to inform my sweet little piggies in no uncertain terms that man (or little girl) cannot live on Pumpkin Rocks alone. They didn’t agree.

    A quick note: despite the name “rock,” these cookies are actually light and cakey. And addictive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Pumpkin Rocks
    I got the original recipe from Tassie Earnest, someone I knew in Boston a bazillion years ago”¦I’ve modified it some.
    Recipe type: Dessert
    • 2½ cups flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • ½ teaspoon ginger
    • ¾ teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1 stick butter, softened (4 ounces)
    • 1 cup sugar
    • ½ cup dark brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
    • Mini chocolate chips – as many as you like, the more the merrier. Regular chocolate chips are fine, but I like minis for the texture and distribution. I use a 10-ounce bag of mini chocolate chips.
    1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
    2. Cream butter and both sugars together. Add eggs. Add pumpkin. Add dry ingredients. Add mini chocolate chips.
    3. Bake at 375 degrees F for ~18 mins. Makes around 40 cookies if using a 2-tablespoon scoop.
    4. The dough is quite wet”¦it’s best to use a scoop to make the cookie balls. If you use your fingers, they “rocks” will probably be funny shaped (think porcupine), but they will still taste just as delicious!
    5. Also, when I make these, I mix the wet ingredients in my KitchenAid as described above, then I mix in the spices and salt, then I mix in the baking powder and baking soda, then the flour. I’m lazy. I don’t like washing an extra bowl for the dry ingredients. And, honestly, everything comes out just fine!


  6. ‘Make and Takes for Kids’ Giveaway Winner!

    And we have a winner! The lucky person who will receive a copy of Make and Takes for Kids is…

    Suzanne, who said, “This looks like tons of fun!”

    You’re right Suzanne, this book is tons of fun!

    For the rest of ya, more giveaways coming. Plus, you should just go buy Marie’s book. You know you want to.

  7. Sunday, December 4, 2011

    Week 254 Menu

    Today we’re taking the girls to the Nutcracker, thanks to Mimi and Grandpa Herms! The holiday season has officially begun!

    I am absolutely loving having all these meals in the freezer…it really, truly makes life so much easier. Almost makes me want to do what my blogger friend Tricia does. But yeah, I have no illusions I will ever be that organized!

    Butternut Squash Soup (we didn’t get around to it last week)

    – Chicken Teriyaki
    – Potstickers and a veggie

    – Barbecue Chicken
    – Corn bread and a salad

    – Leftovers

    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas
    Guacamole and chips

    – Eat out

    Swedish Pancakes
    – Fruit

    Your turn! Bring on the menus!!!

  8. Friday, December 2, 2011

    Kitchen Tip: Keeping Your Brown Sugar Soft

    I’m doing something I’ve never done on my blog before…reposting a post! But I have a very good reason: this Kitchen Tip is awesome. I almost wrote about it today thinking I hadn’t before, but then I did a quick search and found that I had! The post is over four years old, so I figured I could bring it back. And I really want to make sure you all know this little bit of knowledge, so here we are! (And, eternal editor that I am, I made a few tweaks to the original copy. I just couldn’t help myself.)


    The other night I was thinking that it’s been a while since I did a Kitchen Tips post”¦then later that evening a friend stopped by to borrow some brown sugar and was excited about the piece of bread inside my brown sugar container. Tah-dah! A post!

    Want soft brown sugar? Just throw a piece of bread in the container. That’s it. Simple, easy, cheap. I change it out, oh, I don’t know…hardly ever. I use whatever sandwich bread I happen to have lying around. The bread never gets moldy (seriously, it doesn’t) and the brown sugar always remains a perfect, soft consistency. Just a little something I learned from my mama at a very young age.

    My friend Adrianne’s scientist husband tried to explain why it works to us…he said the explanation really wasn’t complicated, but I think Adrianne and I only caught a couple words, like “the bread won’t go moldy” and “there’s a scientific reason it works.” Good enough for us cooks!

  9. Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    ‘Make and Takes for Kids’ Book (and Giveaway!)

    This giveaway is now closed. But keep reading. This book is awesome.

    Marie is one of my peeps. Like sister-quality peep. We’ve worked together, run together (okay, I did the driving, she did the running, but who’s keeping track?), played together, eaten together, slept together (one of the best conference roommates ever), been pulled over for drunk driving together (no one was drunk, and the cop thought he was a real funny guy…he wasn’t…see “Incident #2” on this post for details). You get the drift. We’ve done a lot together. And I love her to pieces. So I am SUPER excited to share some Marie-ness with you today.

    On top of being a totally amazing person, Marie has an amazing blog. And now she’s taken that amazingness and put it in a book! That’s right, Marie just published her first book! I’m so happy for her! Yea Marie!!!

    Make and Take for Kids published by Wiley is Marie’s new book and it’s just as great as I was expecting…and I am not just saying that because I love Marie. It really is fabulous. Case in point: after my copy came in the mail last week I set it on the coffee table. It was the first thing Cate noticed when she got home from school. She immediately picked the book up, perused her way through all the fun projects, and sat down to make a turkey. Not kidding, within five minutes of opening the book she was already in the thick of a great project, without any help from me.

    Cate’s Crafty Turkeys…Thanks to Marie’s Inspiration!

    The projects are perfect for kids of all ages and are organized by month, so they are seasonal as well. Everything is clear and organized well and the photography is great. There are also fun food-related projects! Yum, yum! Given that it’s the holiday season, this would be a great gift for the anyone who likes crafting with kids…parents, teachers, grandparents. In fact, I think it would even be a great gift idea for the kids themselves!

    Since the holidays are all about giving, Marie is offering up a free copy for one of you lucky people! As always, simply leave a comment on this post by Midnight PT on Monday, December 5. The randomly-selected winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 6.

    If you are in the thick of holiday shopping or are just dying to get your hands on the book NOW, Marie’s book should be available at all major bookstores or you can find it online at Barnes and, and

    Good luck with the giveaway!

  10. ‘Cook Without a Book: Meatless Meals’ Giveaway Winners!

    And we have the three lucky winners for the Cook Without a Book: Meatless Meals giveaway! Drumroll please…

    Winner #1: LONG time TWFD menu-poster Soybeanlover, who said “Ohhh, a bookless cooking style is right up my alley. We like to skimp on the meat here for environmental reasons as well. Thanks for your help with the mashed potatoes!” (She was wondering how to make dairy-free but still delicious mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and a few of you provided some great tips in the comments…I love you people and all your helpfulness!)

    Winner #2: Carole, who said, “This book looks great! I would love more ideas for meatless meals.”

    Winner #3: Renee G, who said, “Would love to check out this cookbook.”

    Congratulations, ladies! You’ll love the book!

    For the rest of you…go buy the book, or at least put it on your Christmas list! And, don’t forget, where God closes a giveaway door, he always opens a window…i.e. I have another book giveaway for you later today! (Yeah, I know, that was a dumb reference…but it’s on my mind with all the funny Bloggess stuff going on…)

    Big thanks to Three Many Cooks for this wonderful giveaway!