Friday, March 27, 2015

The quest ends: Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Right. If you know me or follow me on facebook, you know I can't make a chocolate chip cookie to save my life. It's kind of humiliating and more than a little humbling. BUT I DID IT. After literally hundreds of tasty (but abysmal failures) chocolate chip cookie flops, I finally found a winner. These are the things I'm attributing to my success.

1. New baking soda. My boss replaces her baking soda every 2-3 months. I found a box of baking soda in my fridge with a "best if used by date" of 2002 (which I have no idea where it came from because I was in college at that point and I don't think I would have willingly moved a box of baking soda 5+ times). Lance asked me if baking soda evaporated into the air .... like water? (My husband is smart, but common sense sometimes flees his brain). Please know that I store my cooking baking soda in an airtight container and don't use the same one that we use to freshen our fridge or do laundry.
2. These powerhouse baking sheets. Combined with silpat mats.
3. Name brand butter aka: Land o' Lakes. My boss doesn't necessarily believe this makes a difference but I had read on King Arthur Flour's blog that generic butter can have a higher water count. I don't know if that's true or not.
4. I barely softened our butter. It was probably out on the counter for 5 minutes and I threw it in the microwave for 8 seconds.
5. I used my KitchenAid stand mixer. My mom always mixes hers by hand but I don't have those kind of arm muscles :)
6. I used two kinds of sugar - white and brown.
7. No more nestle tollhouse recipe - I used the one listed below which calls for baking soda and baking powder.
8. I didn't refrigerate the dough after mixing. Yes, I am a rebel. But I didn't notice that the ones that were baked on the cold baking sheet did look nicer. Sometimes there isn't time like that.
9. This is a 100% butter recipe. I had been advised by several people to do a butter/margarine/crisco combo but this worked!
10. I erred on the side of too much flour. I think previously I had been stingy with my flour and very exacting about my "scoop and level" method but I tried to be more generous this time around.

Below is the recipe I used from "Love Taza"

Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/4 cups flour (give or take a little flour)
1 bag of chocolate chips
Cream butter. add in sugars, mix.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Mix the dry ingredients separately in a large bowl. Gradually add into butter/sugar mixture. Add chocolate chips.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen.
I told Lucan gleefully that I had made him chocolate chip cookies. He ate 2 for breakfast (because I'm a rockstar mom) and then proceeded to ask me if I had also made cinnamon rolls. Ungrateful brat.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

mo money, mo problems (Part 1 of our Debt Story)

We paid off the last of our student loans on Friday, March 13, a day that will forever go down in infamy (ha, not really. We’re not Pearl Harbor here). 

Let’s backtrack a few paces and discuss our debt.

  • We bought a new (new to us) Traverse two months after Lucan was born. While I’m super thankful that we have the Traverse and one vehicle that is bigger, it was still an expense.
  • I attended two private schools for my undergrad and graduate studies and did a study abroad semester in the most expensive city in the world (London, coming in at #1 according to a recent Daily Telegraph story).
  • We bought a house on our first anniversary. I was working in non-profit and am actually shocked by how little I was making at that time. At the same time, I had no idea how little that amount actually was and thought I was rich! Foolish 23 year-old. 
  • Approximately nine months into our marriage Lance underwent a fairly substantial jaw surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Cue: out of network hospital bill. While we were able to pay off his bill without too many tears, it was certainly pricey and an unplanned expense.
  • We were using our credit cards to pay for everything. We always paid off our bill at the end of each month, but I can recognize that we typically spent more than we should have by using our credit cards to make our purchases. (Side: we still use our credit cards and we have a Target debit card that we get 5% off with. But I will say, from a cash budget perspective it certainly complicates things. Lance is constantly having to ask me if I’ve moved money and I never can remember. He's typically annoyed with me)
  • Between the two of us, we’ve had three bouts of unemployment and have lived to tell the tale. And to pay off debt during that time! 

I hope that paints a pretty good picture of our finances. It’s not a pretty one, but I’m guessing it’s one that many of you can identify with. Student loans, credit cards, new cars and a baby! We are the "typical” Americans!

Stay tuned for more about our debt saga. It's a doozie. 
And just for giggles, a photo of the first time I met Lance. We were 15!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Why I’m Not a Hipster

Him. Layers upon layers. Hipster glasses. Fedora. Smirky.
Me. Clothes from the mall and mass produced.

Obviously this post has lots of real depth to it. I jotted most of these reasons down while I was taking a “milk” break.

1. I’m Asian. Hipsters are primarily white. One giant strike for Kara. Can’t change this one. 
2. I like mainstream EVERYTHING. Starbucks, Target, Taylor Swift, Emily Giffin, The Bachelor.” If it’s Top 40, I probably like it. I’m super cool like that. 
3. I don’t own any black frame glasses. I do own glasses and need them, I just happen to enjoy the fuzzy world I live in without them. 
4. I have straight hair and no chunky bangs. Hipsters have beachy wave hair and Zooey Deschanel bangs. 
5. No tattoos. I can’t think of anything I want on my body that much.
6. I can’t really pull off hats. Especially wool slouchy hats.
7. If diaper bags can be considered messenger bags, I might have one point for Kara as a hipster.
8. I don’t really have the patience for thrift stores. There’s nothing organized there! It smells funny! Everyone knows I’m an imposter! 
9. I don’t watch indie films. I think the last “indie-ish” film I watched was “Blue Jasmine” or “Midnight in Paris.” Not really indie and Lance hated both of them. Last movie I saw and really liked “Chef.” Of course it was about food …
10. I know nothing about emerging music. Not unless it’s on the radio and endorsed by Ryan Seacrest. 
11. I think artisan food is expensive.
12. Layering clothes makes me really hot. I can’t take the heat of multiple layers. Perhaps I should invest in an open plaid shirt from Tommy Hilfiger. 
13. We own three cars. One is an SUV. Public transportation in the burbs of Des Moines just isn’t happening. Bicycling in our stage of live would be super impractical. I tried to take Lucan garage saleing (not even a real word) one time in the bike trailer and he kept throwing things out the side and I had to keep stopping to pick our stuff off the sidewalk. Again, I was a sweaty mess by the end.
14. My kids have kinda hipster-ish names. And if by hipster, I mean no one has ever heard of our kids names and wants to know how in the world we came up with them/why we would embarrass/curse our children like that. 
15. And the real reason I can't be a hipster - I had to google "how to be a hipster"

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

28 Things in February

I like and I dislike that February has 28 days. I like it in the fact that I can consistently remember that February has the fewest days out of all the months but I dislike the fact that when this February ends, it means that my maternity leave is over and that I’ve officially reentered the working world. Blar.

1. Lenten study

2.      Dental insurance. We would be most definitely broke without it.

3.      Pizza and conversation at friends’ house. Dinner doesn’t have to be a big production to be fun and worthwhile.

4.      Girls lunch with small group gals. Yum!

5.      Breakfast date with KlAnders.

6.      A husband who has a stronger stomach than I do. Let’s just say it involves poop and leave it at that.

7.      My super handy husband who fixed our water softener with a $2 part. Let’s not go into the fact that he could have fixed it three years ago …

8.      Lucan declared he liked mushrooms. AWESOME!

9.      Successful hip replacement surgery for my mom.

10.   Conversations on Mothering Bible study at church and getting to know more moms.

11.   Healthy 2 month well child checkup for Gracelyn.

12.   Mom playdates.

13.   5 babies born this month. FIVE!!

14.   Getting all of our Christmas cards finally organized and put away – dating back to 2010!

15.   Church scones.

16.   Molly coming over and spending time with us on her lunch breaks or on her Friday afternoons.

17.   The Bachelor and ridiculous conversations I have with my friends about the show.

18.   Crap-ton of snow. I loved it. Lucan loved it. Lance, not so much.

19.   Library storytime.

20.   Two trips to Goodwill to unload stuff we don’t need.

21.   ALDIS shopping trips. They have really upped their game lately.

22.   Gracelyn smiles and coos. She’s so smilie in the morning. Everyone always asks me if she’s this good and my answer is “yes” as long as she’s pooped recently and not confined to her carseat.

23.   Justin’s Vanilla Almond butter. This stuff is like CRACK.

24.   Downtown Abbey. So sad I have to wait until January 2016 for the next season.

25.   Lu is fully potty trained at night too. We talked about it and he decided that he wanted to be able to wear underwear to bed. Bam. Done.

26.   I’m really thankful for my 13 weeks of maternity leave. The end is really bittersweet.

27.   Mere Christianity

28.   My iphone. We got our first iphones in September and I love being able to capture life’s moments with the kiddos.
So happy!

Saturday smiles.

Lu and his stupid penguin, Pete. Do you know how often Pete gets lost resulting in a 15 minute search and find for the tiniest stuffed animal we own.

Cabin fever.

Lu's Valentine's Day box for school.

Adorable onesie baby gift from Studio B yoga.

Doctor Lu.

Recorder serenading :)

My two favorite girls.

Beloved green blankie.

Hanging out in her crib. Not sleeping.

A little taste of summer with this super easy fruit salad - a dollop of honey and a splash of vanilla!

Christmas card organization for the pinterest win!

Two tiny minions.

We let him run around on all the booths at Red Robin. It was snowing and the place was empty. The excuses we make as parents, right?

Last day of maternity leave.

Quick note: see how many sprinkles are on the cookie he's decorating with his left hand? Woah.

Cat nap at Bible study.

Earning his keep. Thanks Erika for this idea. Start them young!


Lu wanted to take selfies.

Library storytime.

I love polka dots.

The snowman melted later that day. Sad :(

All of our kids will be roughly 9 months apart. Isaac is a sweet boy.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Week One Under My Belt

I’m tired, to say the least. And I don’t even have it terrible as Gracelyn will sleep through the night. But going from a solid 8-9 hours/night to 6ish is ROUGH. When I fall into bed at night and my head hits the pillow, I’m out. Thursday night Lucan woke up crying in the night. I didn’t hear him. Lance was the one who woke up and went to him. I only woke up when Lance went into the bathroom to get him a drink and I was back asleep before he got back into bed.
Gracelyn is … adjusting. Not say it hasn’t been hard, but she’s doing okay. Normally chickie boom (my nickname for her) will sleep a good long nap in the morning and some smaller naps in the afternoon. She’s used to quieter rooms and being swaddled which neither is happening at daycare.
On Wednesday she slept a total of 30 minutes. I was AGHAST.
On the flip side, she’s taking bottles now. I suppose if you’re hungry enough, you’ll eat from whatever is offered to you too.
I am beyond thankful that we kept Lucan in the routine of going to daycare while I was home on maternity leave. Lu does not transition the easiest and I’m glad this isn’t something we’ve had to worry about. Getting up and getting out the door every morning is second nature.
Below are my solutions for getting everyone where they need to be in the morning:
1.       Meal plan for the entire week. No one needs to be hangry and dealing with “what’s for dinner?”
2.       Meal prep for the entire week. I chopped all my vegetables and did all my meat prep over the weekend.
3.       Utilize your crockpot. We did two crockpot soups, two casseroles and one leftover night. This is not the time to be trying out new recipes or to need to sauté vegetables endlessly. Be smarter, don’t work harder.
4.       Pack everyone’s bags the night before. Bottles and parts for pumping stuff? Check. Lunches? Check. Bottles? Done. Check the calendar for any one-offs? Done.
5.       Make your kids sleep in their clothes for the next day. Gracelyn gets her new clothes at 10 pm the night before. Lucan loves his jammies, so he won’t wear his to bed. But Gracie has no vote! If I could wear my clothes to bed and not wake up wrinkled I would. Thus leading to …
6.       Decide what I’m going to wear the night before. Otherwise I stand in front of my closet staring bleary eyed trying to decide what to wear. I try to implement this in Lance too because I’m too crabby in the morning to answer “what belt do I wear this with?”
7.       Shower at night. I hate showering at night but where I have a 40 minute time investment of breastfeeding and pumping in the morning, this is a must. Season of life folks, season of life.
8.       Refill my water bottle. One of the things I learned is that most people wake up dehydrated in the morning. I make it my goal to down a quick 8 ounces before I scoot out the door.
9.       Plan your breakfast. If I’m having a smoothie (and there’s room in the refrigerator) I try and assemble the night before. And I set out my smoothie cup. If I’m having something else, I try and get everything packaged before bed.
10.   Meeting first thing in the morning? Grab phone numbers and have print offs ready ahead of time.
11.   I can’t remember to take my vitamins in the morning. It’s just one more thing on my list so I’ve moved vitamin intake to just before bed.

Those are my eleven tips for me being somewhat on time to work. You’re welcome.

5:00 PM the first day after daycare. PASSED OUT.

Wednesday night after only sleeping 30 minutes that day. Again, passed out.