Monday, September 24, 2012

Creative Caramel Apples

One of my favorite autumn treats is a caramel apple! My mother used to help my brothers and I make caramel apples for the neighbor kids as Halloween treats; this was back in the day before you had to worry about weird neighbors poisoning your children. Today, I made some caramel apples and used all sorts of treats to decorate the apples. I used twigs as the sticks for my apples as a simple and easy alternative. After washing the apples and trimming the twigs to size, I melted the caramels with a little bit of sweet and condensed milk to make the caramel a little more thin.  After dipping the apples I used little dishes of pecans, sliced almonds, sprinkles, crushed Oreo's, crushed Butterfingers, and Reese's pieces to decorate the apples. As a finishing touch I melted some milk chocolate to drizzle over some of the decorated apples. They turned out super cute and a very festive centerpiece for your table if you can resist eating them right away.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Some of my most favorite things in the world are the little collections that make me smile.

1. Aprons- I love spending my time baking, so it only makes sense that I also love aprons. Some of my favorite aprons are vintage finds from Etsy.

2. Cookie Cutters- Cookies are such a simple and easy treat to make any celebration special, I like having a large collection so that I am able to whip up cut-outs at a moments notice. I am always looking for unique cutters that aren't too difficult to decorate.

3. Dolls- I started collecting dolls after my Grandmother passed down several of her dolls to me. I love having a doll room in my house!

4. Sports Memorabilia- I have always been a sports lover. I can't remember my first piece of memorabilia but in college I bought a DWade print and my collection started growing. Now, for holidays and anniversary's, or birthdays, I usual pick up a piece for our collection. Josh's favorite gift was a Valentine's Day present in 2007 when I bought him a 'Miracle On Ice' print.

5. Children's books- I started collecting my favorite children's books when I was a preschool teacher, but my collection really grew when I started working as a nanny. I am excited to have my own kids someday to share all of these books with them!

6. Agates- I started collecting agates when my dad would bring them home for me from work. He taught me what they looked like and how to find the eye of the rock. They are so beautiful and if I had more time I would love to spend a weekend agate hunting. (I realise that to most people looking at rocks all weekend sounds like an awfully boring experience.)

7. T-shirts- I love vintage t-shirts! Josh attempts to make me throw one shirt away every time I get one, but I am pretty sneaky. I feel like t-shirts hold so many memories!

Cut-Out Cookies

Baptism Cookies
Football  Cookies

Baby Girl Cookies
One of my favorite things to bake is cut-out cookies! I collect cookie cutters, so chances are I have a cutter for just about any occasion.
 Here is one of my favorite cut-out recipes.
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
    Roll dough and cut out shapes as desired. Bake cookies at 350 for 7 minutes or until edges of cookies are golden brown.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    Pie in the Eye

    I feel like people my age don't know how to make pies without buying frozen pastry crusts!
    But it is so much more satisfying to make your baked goods froms scratch! Here is a simple and easy homemade apple pie recipe for you to make for friends and family.
    Begin your pie by making your homemade pie crust!
    Measure 3 cups flour, add 1.5 cups Crisco.
    Use a pastry cutter/mixer to combine the two ingredients to a course meal.

    It will be course but should have no large chunks.
     Next, add one beaten egg
    1 Tablespoon vinegar
    5 Tablespoons cold water
    and 1 teaspoon of salt.
    Lightly stir together and spilt into three sections.

    Place the sections in plastic wrap and use your rolling pin to form a small circle.
    Place in the freezer for as long as needed or at least 20 minutes.
    I like to prepare the rest of my pie ingredients while I wait.
    I have a pampered chef apple peeler and corer which makes my job so much easier!
     It almost feels like cheating!
     Peel and chop 8 cups of apples. 

    Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1/4 cup flour
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    3/4 sugar
    1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    Remove a section of dough from the freezer and roll pastry from center outward.
    Be sure to use flour to prevent sticking.
     Form into pie pan.
    Add apple mixture to the pastry shell.
    Remove second section from freezer and roll out to cover the top of your pie.
    There are so many ways to cover your pie, I like trying different and unique ideas.
    Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees.

    Saturday, September 8, 2012

    Apple Picking

    My Saturday was filled with blessings. Let me start by saying that sleeping at my parents house is the most relaxing feeling in the world. I love having the windows open and the breeze flowing through the house without having to worry about my husbands allergies. While days start earlier at the Van Donsel house, they are filled with much more fun than any day in the city. I love skipping the blow dryer and flying down a trail on the ATV to get the same job done. I love home so much, that if it wasn't frowned upon for a young married couple to live apart, I would move back home! :)

    Today, my amazing husband and brother-in-law came with to take my Grandma to lunch and apple picking. I am so blessed that I have such wonderful, loving men in my life. It has not been a great apple season but we had fun picking a lot of Haralson apples, which are great for baking. We also made a stop at a local homegrown stand and picked up a ton of squash!

    Tonight, we had our friends over for dinner, it was nice to share drinks, laughter, and friendly conversation with people who mean so much to us. And did I mention I was able to snuggle with my adorable God-daughter? She is such a precious angel.

    Friday, September 7, 2012

    IMPERFECT: An improbable life.

    Imperfect is the story of Jim Abbott, the Yankee pitcher who threw a no-hitter in September of 1993.
    Jim was born without a right hand, in Flint, Michigan, where he learned to live and prevail with his circumstances.

    This book was inspirational!  Jim Abbott and his family did not look at his lack of a hand as a disadvantage in life.  He could still get most everything done by himself and honestly felt that he wasn't any worse off than those around him. After a hospital trip where the family had seen some truly disabled children Jim's dad made the decision that he was not one of those kids. He would be just fine. And after that, at 6 years old, Jim received his first baseball glove.

    Of course,  I love the relationship between pitcher and catcher, and that day Matt Nokes, was just the inspiration Abbott needed. I love that at one point when Ramirez was up to bat, Nokes went to the mound and said something as simple as, "Hey, the stuff is good, let's go after the strike zone."

    The book bounces back and fourth between the play by play of Abbott's no-hitter and the young life of Jim growing up in Flint, Michigan during the some of the city's roughest days. His childhood was spent outside teaching himself how to play baseball and basketball. He was a natural athlete, as were many of the kids around that area.

    I had to smile when Abbott wrote about baseball gloves on his bike handles, it made feel nostalgic. I was that kid, as were my brothers, and pretty much all the kids in middle class American neighborhoods. I can remember coming home as the sunset, riding bike as fast as possible to try to avoid trouble with the parents, or missing supper. Baseball was the first sport I played. It was natural to have a glove in my hand. My dad taught my brothers and I everything to know about baseball, he was our first coach. I remember all lines he'd repeat over and over as he pitched buckets of balls to me, "keep your eye on the ball, "choke up, elbow up!" The boys and I were on the baseball field in our yard all summer long and when we moved we spent our days across the field at the neighbors freshly mowed diamond. There are so many glorious moments that I remember, and a few mishaps too!  I will never forget when my dad dove for a ball and landed in my kitty pool! His arm came out of the socket and he was in serious pain, but we all thought he was a hero.

    Overall, I loved this book, it shared the wonderful message of strength and perseverance. I feel like kids don't get enough messages like this anymore! I also feel like this book captured what it was like growing up in a city where sports were everything. Today, Jim Abbott is a motivational speaker and sometimes is a guest instructor at spring training camps. He is also a very loving husband and father, as evident by the way he talks about his wife and children in Imperfect.

    I see great things in baseball. It's our game - the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us. ~Walt Whitman

    My parents took to us see the Minnesota Twins every 'bat day' when we were young. It was such a thrill to make a sign, pick out our favorite Twins clothes, and pack up our gloves with the dream of catching a home run ball.

    This is one of the signs we made when we were little. I love the horrible bubble letters and numbers, and that we wrote: Chuck, Shane, Greg, Chili, on there too :) Thanks for saving this Mom!  Also, Mom and Dad, thank you for teaching us this wonderful game, and taking us to the ballpark as kids! We were soo lucky to have you both!

    Tuesday, September 4, 2012

    One Month!

    Today, marks one month without my little love bug. It has been way more difficult for me than I had anticipated. I have been terribly emotional the past two weeks when it comes to missing him! I think the first couple weeks I was just enjoying my time off and now it is really sinking in that he is gone :( I wish I could give him a hug and tell him how much I love and miss him. I am hoping to be able to Skype with him this week and hear his sweet little voice without crying!