Tuesday, September 16

{Fresh} Peaches & Cream Dessert


I realize this may be a little late in the season for some of you, and I apologize.  These last six weeks have been busy with potty training, swimming, school starting, you know.....LIFE.  Quite honestly, I took the pictures when I made this dessert the last time and then I got busy with back to school and her party and I just forgot.

If you still have access to some fresh peaches (or nectartines--I've made it with both and it is yum both ways!), you won't be dissapointed.  My family (immediate and extended) gave it rave reviews--which, let's face it, if they won't be honest with you, then who will?

It is perfect for the hot summer day when dessert is in order, but baking something is not.  Which is how this recipe came about--I searched the internet high and low and couldn't find something that suited my fancy because:

1.  I wanted to make a fresh peach dessert, because I had several sitting on my counter that needed to be used.  
2.  It was 90+ degrees all week and I SO was not turning on my oven.
3.  A hot dessert in 90+ degree heat does not sound appetizing.  AT ALL.

So, what's a girl to do?  Blend about five different recipes together until it suits her purposes, that's what. 



 

{Fresh} Peaches & Cream Dessert


Crust:

2 cups finely ground graham crackers (I used about 1 1/2 sleeves of graham crackers and used my food processor to grind them up)
1/3 cup of melted butter

Mix together graham crackers and melted butter until evenly coated.  Firmly press mixture into a 9x13 glass dish or pie plate (and as I was editing my photos, I realized that a pie plate would have made an even prettier presentation. Duh, Jackie!)

Filling:

Whipped Cream~

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2-3 tbsp real maple syrup (you can use powdered sugar to taste as well)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp unflavored gelatin
2 tbsp water

In a small bowl, mix together the water and gelatin.  Let sit for about five minutes.  This will allow the gelatin to "bloom."  In a separate mixing bowl, mix together the whipping cream, maple syrup or powder sugar, and vanilla extract until soft peaks start to form.  Stop mixing and test your gelatin.  It should have bloomed, but it will probably be pretty firm.  Microwave it at 5 second intervals until it softens and becomes liquid (this shouldn't take more than 5-10 seconds).  If it becomes hot, stir it until it cools to room temperature.  Start beating your cream again and when it is nearly finished, pour in the gelatin liquid while the beaters are beating the cream, so the gelatin becomes fully incorporated. 

Please know that you can substitute in a container of cool whip if blooming and whipping so isn't your style.  Just proceed with the next stepsJust sayin.

Cream Cheese Mixture~

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3-4 tbsp real maple syrup (again, you can use powdered sugar instead)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream together the cream cheese, syrup and vanilla extract until mixture is creamy and incorporated.  Once it is fully mixed, fold in the whipped cream mixture to the cream cheese mixture until combined.   Spread evenly over the refrigerated crust and refrigerate about 2 hours or until completely firm. 

Peach Layer:

4-5 peaches or nectarines

Pit and slice peaches or nectarines and arrange in layers on top of the cream cheese layer.  You may serve immediately or if you need to refriderate, I would suggest adding the lemon glaze on top.  It makes it look all pretty and glossy and the lemon helps the peaches to not brown and get all icky looking. 


Lemon Glaze:

1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon

Mix together in a small sauce pan over medium heat, stirring often.  Sugar will dissolve and mixture will became thick.  Once the mixture can coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  Using a pastry brush or silicone brush, coat the peaches with the lemon glaze. 

Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Serves 8-12. 



 

Sunday, September 14

Surprise Visit

We had a surprise visitor this last week.

Well, "we" technically didn't, my parents did.  My sister was able to visit for the Peanut's birthday!  She hasn't been home in nearly two years and her sweet husband made all the arrangements so she could make a visit home.  It was such a special treat!  

They are hoping to move home next spring {sound familiar?} and we are praying that that be the case.  It was such a fun visit for the whole family.  It was super good times and super good food (thanks, Mom!). 


She got to love on my kids, so that was extra special as well.  We miss them so, and my kids miss their auntie and uncle so, so much! 



I am very hopeful that we are all blessed with their opportunity to move home in the next six {or so??!?} months.




Saturday, September 13

Six Years

Somehow she is six years old.

I just can't even.

And now, because she is in school, I don't even have the privilege of spending all her birthday with her any more.
 
Sigh.  


I tried to match her gift wrap in the pink/black theme of the pirate party, but I also kept it in true {My} Favorite Things fashion and some of her presents were brown paper packages tied up with string.

Giggle

To quote my husband, "You are such a nerd."

Yep.  Indeed I am!


She was a busy girl on her birthday with waking up bright and early for school and then coming home to open presents from Mommy, Daddy and her brother, then off to a BBQ at Grandma and Grandpa's.   She had a fun filled day to be sure.



We sprung for a cute, girly Chargers hat so she could be an athletic supporter (name that movie!) like her Daddy and brother.
 
I'd say she liked it.



'Cause I know her daddy was proud.

Happy 6th Birthday, my dear, sweet girl. 



Thursday, September 11

Girly Pirate Birthday!

Yep, because that's my girl.  She's the girl who would gladly play in the dirt.....while in dress up heals and a princess dress.  She's a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.  And while I don't love having to stain treat her clothes, I LOVE that she is her own person.

Except when it comes to minding her mommy and daddy, then I want the perfect little soldier.  

But I digress.....


I gave her a couple different party ideas earlier this spring and she landed on the pirate theme.  I may have even done several different design boards for the party theme suggestions.  You know, so she could make a fully informed decision.  Ahem.

I know, I know, who does that, right?


Her only request with this party?  She wanted a piñata.  Because nothing says pirate party theme like piñata.  I guess we'll get to appropriate entertainment for corresponding party themes next year.

Honestly, though, I can't complain, because the Peanut is pretty easy to please.



And thanks to Oriental Trading (not an affiliate link), they have any and all pirate wares available.

Even treasure chest piñatas.

Once again it was a HOT day for the day of the party.  Topping out at a whopping 96 degrees!!!  But at least it's didn't rain, right?  Thanks to my parent's pool, some shady trees, and a killer mister fan, I think most guests stayed somewhat comfortable.



My dear sweet husband made my request of making a treasure map into a reality.  He stayed up late on more than one occasion {during his vacation!} to get it all done.  I think it turned out pretty awesome.




The kids had to complete a treasure hunt with different riddles leading them from clue to clue, which finally led them to their pirate gear/gift bags.


I also learned my lesson from the puppy party and the cupcakes DID NOT get covered in the refrigerator--and the result?  The pretty sugar balls held up beautifully, as did the tasty cream cheese frosting. 

Score!








 I think our favorite little pirate had a great time!!!


 

Wednesday, September 10

Fading Into the Sunset

Straight out of camera
With school starting, it feels like summer is over. But according to the almanac, we have 13 official days left and with the 10 day forecast including several 90 degree days this weekend, I know summer will be going out with a bang.

I took this on the way home from my parents the other night.  This photo doesn't even do the sunset justice, as the colors were WAY more vibrant than this shows.  I was in the passengers seat and my camera was in the back of the car.  I asked the Hubs to stop so I could get out the camera and take a picture of said sunset. 

Adjusted lighting curves in PS CS5
So he did. 

In the middle of the road.  

Even as I was adjusting the settings on my camera, a car slowed down behind us and I waived them on, showing them my camera.  They just gave a big smile as they passed us and drove on. 


Have I mentioned I love small town living??!?





Friday, September 5

First Day of Kindergarten

I'm not anything but predictable.....



After fin.a.lly getting her to eat 3/4 of her breakfast, we went outside to take the obligatory first day of school pics. 

After I finished, Daddy was putting the little brother into the car {yes, we made the first day drop off a family event}, Peanut begged to have a picture taken with her brother, "because she was going to miss him so much."


I think that last one pretty much sums up their relationship. 


Sigh.




 

Thursday, September 4

A New Chapter

Her lunch is all packed, and her uniform is laid out for tomorrow and she is FINALLY asleep.  She usually doesn't go down at night without a fight and tonight was no exception.



The first day of school butterflies, to be sure.  But whether or not they are jitters or if it's just all around excitement, I don't quite know.  When I was her age, it was jitters all the way (even through my first days of new classes in college!), but thankfully not much seems to make this girl scared.  I certainly don't want to plant those ideas of nervousness in her head, so I don't ask if she's nervous.  I ask if she's excited, and I get all sorts of yeses combined with jumping up and down.

She starts school Friday and yesterday, we fit in a last minute trip to the coast.  We've been talking about it for awhile and the days and weeks just seemed to be getting away from us, so it hadn't happened yet.   My mom encouraged us to make it happen, so we did.  And I am so glad we did.


Because they had SO much fun.  My one regret is not packing their swimsuits.  I am sure you are thinking you went to the beach and you didn't pack swimsuits?  But hear me out.  This is the Pacific NW.  The high for the day was supposed to be 65*.  And our ocean water?  NOT warm. At all. (It hovers around the high 50's this time of year, which to me sounds absolutely miserable!)

But I forget my kids are not my kids when it comes to water activities.  They are their father's children through and through, loving any and all water related recreational activities.  Like I said, that is so not me.  My idea of good recreation is a Netflix marathon.

You think I'm kidding. 

It ended up being such a nice day and the kids were taking off their overprotective mom gear (rubber boots, socks, sweatshirts....) and rolling up their pants within minutes of getting out on the sand.

To put it simply, they played for hours.  And thankfully they have a daddy who loves it just as much as they do.

This mama was content to take pictures and try and record as many memories as possible.  In other related news, I was also the pack mule, carrying my purse (never leave it in the car anymore, not after having my car broken into and my purse stolen from said car) and their shoes and sweatshirts and camera bag.

Thankfully I had a decent excuse for not taking off my boots while on the beach.  Not really--I tripped the other day and ripped off half my big toenail.  Ouch!!! It's still very much in the early healing stages, so I was not about to get all kinds of sand in it.  So for me, the boots stayed on.

I wanted to get a fun jumping up and down picture of all of them.  They gave it their best effort to be sure, but the timing was never quite right.  However, lots of laughs were gained in the process--and that was priceless!!

It was a great bookend to our summer.

As for tomorrow, it's a new beginning......




Saturday, August 30

Summer Is Nearly Over

I just can't even.

Here we are at the last official weekend of summer.  Let me tell you, it's been a fun one.  We've been blessed with some amazing weather and even better company.

Peanut had such a good time this summer with her cousin that is two years older than her (my favorite cousin's little girl......can I say that?  Well, I just did).  Peanut also got to know her other cousin (who is about a year and half older than her) better this summer, as little S got to stay with her Grandma and Grandpa all summer.


(Just for the record, these are both actually second cousins.  In case it seemed confusing--for simplicity sake, I refer to them as cousins.  I also think "second cousins" sounds so distant and formal....and these relationships are anything but!  But I digress.....)

There was lots of giggles, lots of swimming, lots of sunscreen, lots of ice cream sandwiches, and lots and lots of good times.

Our sweet boy has had a great time too, although at just past two years old, I don't know that most of it will make it to his memory arsenal.  Sigh.  But that's what pictures are for, right?   Although he ended up loving the pool, he loved water fights even more--the most?  Could be that he's a little obsessed with cops (otherwise known as our local law enforcement, one of whom lives in our neighborhood and my boy grins from ear to ear when we drive by and the officer is off duty, as evidenced by the police car in the driveway).  Anyhow....he carries his water pistol around the yard in a way that would even make Detective Stabler proud.


So, yeah, he's had lots of fun too. 

My mom and I have talked about it on several occasions, and we think Peanut will definitely remember this summer.  Hopefully it will be up there as one of her fondest memories from her childhood.  Last year, I read BooMama's A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet and she's writes of her sweet  memories spending time with her cousin at her grandma and grandpa's each summer.


Be still my heart......because that is exactly what I want for my children. 

Lots and lots of  wonderful memories of carefree summers spent at Grandma and Grandpa's where she can swim and pick fresh blueberries and eat them right of the bush, swim some more, drive her car, have a tea party, wonder around "helping" Grandpa on his projects, dive for pool toys, and point out animals in the fluffy white clouds above.  Too me, it's just doesn't get any better. 


I hope Peanut will feel the same way.  I think she will, because she has told more times than I can count, "Mommy, I just LOVE summer."

I think it's safe to say that memories are being made!



 

Friday, August 8

I Think We've Turned a Corner

So back at the end of May, I mentioned we were going to attempt potty training the little brother.  And then a week later, I decided to throw in the towel, deciding he wasn't as ready as I thought.

I don't know......I can't read his mind?

Anyhow, fast forward to this past week (Peanut was completely done with swimming lessons, so we could be housebound by choice once again) and we decided to give it another go when we used the last of the diapers.  

A week ago Thursday was good, Friday not so much, Saturday not so much and Sunday was meh.  I mean, I didn't even really try that hard on Sunday because we had Sunday Family Dinner at my parents.  In fact, it was so unremarkable, I actually went to pick up some more diapers while the boy was down for a nap at my parents.

But then Monday morning, he awoke bright and early declaring he had to go potttttty!  And so we were back at it once again while Daddy watched him and kept an eye on him while I ran errands in the mornings (giving me a break, let's be honest!) before he had to go in to work.  Daddy even achieved a #2 victory with him while I was out and about.  Daddy for the win! 

It's so funny too, because like each of our children, the potty training experience has been completely different each time.

With Peanut, she learned early on to tell me when she had to go.  Like every two minutes we were in the bathroom while she relieved herself of the one sip of water she had had ten minutes prior.  And so it went for probably a week (a month?) before she started to figure out she could hold it long enough to relieve herself of the entire sippy cup of water all at once.

With our boy, he instead learned from nearly the beginning that he could hold it.  But then, he didn't quite figure out that he needed to tell me when he needed to go.  So I've been cleaning up lots of messes this week.  Ahem

We've went through a ridiculous amount of gummy bears this week--don't judge.  His goal of course, was no wet underwear--meaning he goes all in the potty and not half on the floor in the living room before telling mommy.  Each time he achieved this, I would hand him a gummy bear and his response would be "Sissy gummy bear?  Mommy gummy bear?" meaning he thought his sister and I should get one as well.  It was kind of like he declared "Drinks Gummy bears are on me!" at our {breakfast} bar.  He is so funny!

So it's been an emotional week of highs and lows to be sure.  And really, potty training shouldn't be this emotionally draining.  {Maybe it is for everyone??!?!}  I said as much to the Hubs and his response was, "This reason it is for you is because you can't control it."

He's so right.  

Because not controlling it is really hard for this self-admitted control freak.






Wednesday, August 6

Preserving Cucumbers

I love me some fresh cucumbers.  It's funny too, because I've really only learned to appreciate cucumbers in my adult life.  I pretty much avoided them like the plague all through my childhood and throughout high school. 

However, I've always loved pickles, so go figure!  I guess a lot of people do that though, so it's probably not entirely strange. 


Anyhow, I don't know if there is anything better than fresh from the garden produce.  It just tastes....better.  I buy cucumbers here and there throughout the year (yes, I realize that's not buying seasonal!) for our green salads and there's nothing like biting into a fresh from the garden cucumber to remind you the ones you've been buying from the grocery store pretty much have little to no flavor. Plus, you appreciate the garden your dad plants for you all the more. 

Even as much as my family (yes, all three of them!) and my parents like fresh cucumbers, you can only eat so many.  And as much as I wish there was a way to preserve the cukes in their natural state, you really can't.  So making refrigerator pickles and sweet relish it is.   

And before all you sweet cucumber haters click away, let me tell you too, my husband CANNOT stand bread and butter pickles OR sweet relish.  And he raves about both of these to whoever will listen. They are both that good. 

Our former favorite landlord blessed me with both of these recipes about a year ago and I can't thank her enough. 


Easy Refrigerator Pickles 

6 cups thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (my dad planted English cucumbers and they worked just fine)
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, sliced

Place 3 cups of cucumbers in glass crock/bowl (I used canning jars); top with 1/2 cup of onions and repeat.  Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in small saucepan, stir well.  Bring to a boil for 1 minute.  Pour over cukes/onions.  Let cool.  Cover and chill for at least four days to allow flavors to meld (my husband usually can't wait longer than day!).  Pickles may stored in refrigerator for up to two months. 

I've definitely stored some longer, but as always, use your best judgement.  If they smell or look or taste off, time to toss 'em. 

I know this next recipe sounds like a crazy amount of veggies, but you let it sit in a salt solution to extract much of the water out of it, and in the end it made just 7 pints of relish.  More than enough to last until next summer and even some to give away!  

Sweet Relish

Combine in a large pan/dutch oven:

8 cups ground cucumbers
1 cup ground red pepper
2 cups ground green pepper
6 cups finely diced celery
1/2 cup un-iodized table salt (I used sea salt)

Cover with tap water and let stand at least four hours.  After sitting for four hours, drain as much of the liquid out as possible.

In a seperate saucepan combine:

3 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups white vinegar
2 tbsp celery seed
2 tbsp mustard seed

Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar and then add to strained veggies and bring the mixture to a boil.  Boil for ten minutes.  Pour into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space.  Screw on lids and rings and place in water bath.  Water bath can for 10 minutes.  And remember, that's 10 minutes once it's reached a rolling boil.

Here is a great set of canning instructions if you've never canned before.  

My parents let us borrow their outdoor burner to process the water bath on.  We have a glass top stove top and I've heard that you are not supposed to use those for canning?  Anyhow, this is such a nice alternative because it can be done outside and avoids heating up the house on warm summer days! 






 

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