Thursday, April 26, 2012

Peanut Butter Sheet Cake

I haven't had many food cravings or bizarre food aversions during my pregnancy. You won't catch me dipping dill pickles in vanilla ice cream, but there have been a few things that have sounded gotta-have-it-right-now delicious over the past few months.

During my first trimester, I couldn't get enough Posados flour tortillas. I wanted them every night, dripping with warm butter, my tool of choice for scooping up heaps of salsa. This craving was especially weird since I normally hate the sight, smell and taste of everything at Posados.

There was a hamburger phase. It's rare for me to eat a burger, and I never crave them, but I think at some point I polished off about three in one week.

My husband regularly catches me with the fridge door open, fishing out green olives from the glass jar. 

And lately, my cravings have directed me toward peanut butter. I find myself daydreaming about peanut butter foldovers or packing a PB&J for lunch. We always have peanut butter around the house, but I'm rarely the one eating it. 

Ty came home last night to find me in the midst of baking a Peanut Butter Sheet Cake that I pinned on Pinterest several months ago. My explanation, "I wanted something peanut buttery." He gave me "you're crazy" eyes. I don't think Ty fully understands the magnetic force that a pregnancy craving can wield over a woman. I'm rendered helpless by a simple jar of peanut butter.

After a little piece last night and another little piece this morning (breakfast of champions), this sheet cake is curing my latest craving. Even if you're not expecting and you simply classify yourself as a peanut butter lover, this sheet cake is a wonderful, tasty PB delight.

Peanut Butter Sheet Cake 

Mix in pan and bring to a boil:
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
Mix together the following and add to the above mixture:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp soda
Mix and add to the above mixture:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Stir well and pour into greased or parchment lined cookie sheet pan (jellyroll pan). Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.


Mix in pan and bring to a boil:
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 6 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
Take off stove and add:
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp vanilla. Pour over warm cake.
(Source: The Girl Who Ate Everything)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Shoe Fairy

We have a shoe fairy who frequently visits our house. You never know when to expect her, but she always leaves little "footprints" behind.

Yesterday, my husband found these by the back door next to his work boots.

This could warm the hardest of hearts.

Another time, she's left these for Tilly, along with a pair of espadrilles.

I adore these boots. It's great having a Shoe Fairy with such exceptional, stylish taste.

Another Shoe Fairy gave Tilly these when she found out Tilly was a girl.

I melt over these!

It's a sign of things to come. My sweet baby girl has four adorable pairs of shoes ... and we still have more than three months before she arrives!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Blueberry Fields Salad

{Photo courtesy of Southern Living}

This time of year, I find myself obsessing over spring mix salad topped with fresh fruit and tangy vinaigrette dressing. There's a million different varieties. You can take a simple approach by grabbing a bottle of vinaigrette dressing at the grocery store and tossing it in your salad with nuts, cheese and berries of your choosing. But I find bottled vinaigrette difficult. It's hard to find a good one.

The real home run comes when you make your own vinaigrette, which is very simple.

This Strawberry Salad is my absolute favorite. Make it and you will find yourself obsessing over its wonders. This is the only salad I've found to have such powers!

But this Blueberry Fields Salad is a close second. The vinaigrette is a little more tangy than the dressing used on the strawberry salad, but it pairs deliciously with crumbled cheese and nuts. And it's really pretty when it all comes together. This salad recipe uses some precise measurements, which I follow for the dressing, but otherwise, I find it suitable to throw caution to the wind and just toss the rest of the ingredients together.

Blueberry Fields Salad

1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup blueberry preserves
1/3 cup olive oil
2 (5.5-oz.) packages spring greens and baby spinach mix
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 small red onion, halved and sliced  (I skipped the onions)
1 cup crumbled blue cheese (I used feta ... pasteurized for my pregnant self)
  • Heat walnuts in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until toasted and fragrant.
  • Whisk together balsamic vinegar, next 2 ingredients, and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste in a small bowl.
  • Combine walnuts, spinach mix, and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle with desired amount of vinaigrette, and toss to combine.
  • Serve immediately with remaining vinaigrette.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Before & After: The Nursery

I'm having a hard time getting used to referring to our old guest room as the nursery. Why is this so weird to me? I stumble over my words most of the time and end up calling it the "guest room nursery."

That does not mean if you are a guest in our home that we will force you to sleep in a crib. It just means that, for me, the word nursery may be a little scary. Somehow, I manage not to freak out when I see my swiftly growing baby belly. I cannot put any logic behind what freaks me out and what doesn't.

Anyway, when we get to the end of this blog post and you see the after, you will most likely say, "big deal, that looks like a normal room." In fact, it is a big deal that the guest room nursery looks normal, because it used to look like this.

We also used to call this room the LSU room. Not hard to see why.

It was explained to us that the previous owners let their grandchild pick out the color scheme. The carpet was in excellent condition, but ugly as sin. And the wall color reminds me of one of those three pre-approved colors that campus housing allows students to paint their college dorm rooms. Overall, this room makes me feel very sad, and nurseries shouldn't be sad.

Ty and I always said that we would get to this room when we needed it for a nursery. I believe that looking back, Ty and I will always say that we wish we would have done it sooner. It's one of those "grass is always greener" scenarios.

Our plan was three-fold: new paint, crown molding (there was something in place, but didn't look right), new carpet.

The plan extended into the nursery bathroom that was also painted the sad dorm room yellow color. The bathroom has some really cute, old blue tile that we wanted to keep. But it needed a fresh wall color and some crown.

Whoever previously stayed in this room must have had some behavioral issues because it looked like the walls had been stabbed to death and then patched. The patch job was maybe worse than the original damage, so we got a painter in to retexture and smooth out those rough spots.

Then Ty and I began to paint.

We went with a very light greyish neutral color for the walls since all of our nursery furnishings and fabrics are more vibrant. The change at this point isn't very dramatic, but it is an improvement. I think it was good for me and Ty to be able to splatter as much paint on the carpet as we wanted. It was therapeutic to show that carpet just how much we hated it.

Finally, last week our carpet was installed.

It's so normal.

And clean.

There are beautiful, original hardwood floors under this carpet, but we decided to preserve those for later. Plus, the carpet will help to keep our nursery nice, quiet and peaceful.

As soon as Ty walked in the door, I had him help me move Tilly's dresser into her room.

This will make a great changing table and is the perfect size for her room.

I'm so glad to have a clean slate with this room. I hope it will be enough to erase those LSU colors from my memory! I can't wait to keep putting Tilly's room together and see it all once it's completed.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Landry Kathleen Hicklin

We added a new member to our family today! Miss Landry Kathleen Hicklin was born in Rogers, Ark., this afternoon to my cousin, Casey, and her husband, Josh.
This sweet little nugget weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces, and we were surprised she wasn't bigger since the doctor told Casey two days ago that Landry was measuring at about 9 pounds, 8 ounces.

She's such a pretty little girl. Just like her mom, born with a head full of hair and that deep olive complexion. It's more or less killing me that I'm not up there to meet my sweet new friend, but my cousin made me promise to stay put until I had someone who could make the trip with me. Apparently it is not wise to embark on a 6-hour solo journey when you're pregnant!

We'll be there to visit Landry very soon!

This day makes me think of lots of things, but mostly, it reminds me of all the joyful things to come. I hope our daughters, Landry and Tilly, enjoy each other's company as much as Casey and I have enjoyed being together over the years. We were inseparable throughout our childhood, and have remained close even when we weren't geographically very close.

We saw each other every Sunday at Nana's house for lunch, but that just wasn't enough. So for many years, we wrote to each other during the week. If we were quick to respond, we could get two letters back and forth from Shreveport to Bossier City before we saw each other the next Sunday. This gives me a good laugh now! We had such urgent things to tell each other.

When Casey got married, I was honored to be her maid of honor. I have such fun memories romping around in Dallas on the quest for her perfect wedding dress. Between me, Casey and my Aunt Robbie, we could always end up somewhere interesting.

When I got married, I was honored to have Casey as my matron of honor. Who else would have helped me take my shoes on and off about six times in one evening?!

My cousin has always been more like a sister to me than a cousin. I hope our girls have the same relationship because there's truly no greater bond than family.

We're so happy for sweet Landry's arrival, and in some crazy way (mostly just me being crazy), I think Tilly knew what was going on. Since last night, she's been non-stop wiggling and rolling and kicking, and once Landry arrived, my little girl has settled down tremendously!

What can we say for ourselves, we just can't contain our excitement!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Before & After: Our Home Office

For nearly two years, we've had this grubby little room off our kitchen.

This picture doesn't accurately convey the horror of this space. The walls you see are painted green, but the other walls were wallpapered green, as well as the ceiling. It's a design featured in three rooms of our home (dining, kitchen and office), for reasons unbenounced to me. It was a grubby little green dungeon that screamed "run for your life" rather than "welcome to our home."

It gave a horrible first impression of our home. The room serves as entry point from the garage, upstairs and backdoor walkway. But we've always justified its disgust by saying, "the people coming in through the back door are our friends. They don't care what the room looks like."

But it got to the point that we really cared. What a waste of square footage! Plus, with a little one on the way, this would be a great place to store her toys and let her play while I'm in the kitchen. I couldn't stand the thought of my sweet baby crawling around on carpet with murder scene-like stains all over it.

It was time for a fresh look, so we started by stripping the wallpaper.

It looks better already, but that funk-filled carpet had to go!

At some point, this room was converted from a porch to an interior room, so we decided to put down some plywood to keep the floor sturdy and in good shape for years to come.

The walls had to be retextured because of the wallpaper and new baseboard needed to be installed.

We painted the room in a light, neutral color. Because it is a small space, we wanted it to be bright and take advantage of the natural light.

This wood siding was the worst thing ever to have to paint. The fact that we were having to paint over extremely dark green didn't help with my sanity. I hope to never paint this siding ever again.
We finally had the carpet installed yesterday, and I think the change is so dramatic!

I picked up some storage bins, so this room could still serve as our catch-all, but without being such an eyesore.

I think the space is so fresh and happy and a nice clean slate moving forward. Ty still has to change out the electrical outlets and put on new face plates. Other than that and decorating, we're done.

But here comes the real challenge. ...

Keeping our little gremlins (dogs) off the carpet for a while! I already see Baxter eyeballing the perfect spot that he's dying to mark!

Monday, April 9, 2012

City Life Magazine: Pink or Blue?

(I write for a local monthly publication called City Life. I know some of you don't live near me, so I want to start sharing these columns with you here, too. You can click here to flip through the pages of the publication, or just read my article below. This was my column for April.)

Pink or Blue

It’s a girl.

On February 21, I heard those words for the first time. The three little words that forever changed my life. There would be no more blind guessing or Chinese gender charts to consult. It was confirmed. Our baby was a girl.

I tried not to be the woman who sobbed uncontrollably in front of the ultrasound tech, but I cannot deny that my eyes welled with tears and a lump formed in my throat, making each simple swallow feel like a gulp.

This was the first glimpse of what our family would look like.

My husband, Ty, and I walked back out to the waiting room with full smiles but quietly absorbing the news. We sat down to wait to see the doctor when Ty broke the silence.

“We’re going to be so broke.”

Spoken like a true Dad.

I reassured him that it wouldn’t be that much more expensive. Of course, there would be hair bows and cute shoes and smocked dresses, but Ty’s head filled with the natural concerns of any new father. This would only be the beginning. One day there would be prom dresses and the never-ending desire for new clothes … not to mention an entire wedding.

Leading up to our February 21 appointment, Ty and I were not bashful about what gender we were hoping for. We thought we wanted a boy.

Ty and I hoped for a boy for different reasons. My husband wanted a son to romp around in the woods with and take to the duck camp on the weekends.

I wanted a boy because that’s what I knew. I have an older brother, and although he could torment me unlike any other, I always knew if anyone else tried to do the same, he would look after me. Part of me wanted the same protective older brother if Ty and I ever had a girl.

But if I’d thought beyond the surface things, perhaps a greater part of me wanted a girl. Having been raised primarily by my dad, I never had the opportunity to experience the special bond between a mother and daughter.

I had a wonderful childhood, filled with love and support from so many people who treated me like their own, but a mother/daughter relationship has always been the missing piece. It’s something that’s always tugged at me when I’ve watched my girlfriends with their moms. It was one thing I never had.

Having a boy may have been the most familiar to me, but having a girl is God ordained in my life. Hearing that we were expecting a girl was the first gift of many.

In the past several weeks, my mind has regularly flashed forward to all the gifts still to come. I think about all the things I wish for her life. I hope that she’s not afraid to get dirty and will love spending weekends with her dad at the duck camp. Even though I may not be her favorite person at times, I hope one day we will be great friends.

I hope I can be a strong example in her life and provide her a loving home. I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes in her life. I hope she loves her Dad as much as I love mine and has a close relationship with him. I hope one day she reads this and knows how much I loved her even before she was born.

Many years from now, Ty and I will watch her get married and this will feel like ages ago. I hope on that day, I can look back know I gave her my very best as a mother.

On February 21, I realized that I’m not just having a girl, I’m having a daughter. This relationship will be new to both of us, but I can’t wait to meet her and experience this world by her side.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Honey Balsamic Roasted Carrots

When it comes to vegetable sides, it's not really something I want to invest my time and effort into. Who wants to toil over a side of peas when it's never going to be the star?

Not me.

I like veggie recipes that are simple, quick and easy but still yummy and help the star dish shine.

Last night, our star was roast and mashed potatoes. A nice rib-sticking meal for my birthday boy. Some people like to cook their roast, potato and carrots in one dish.

Not me.

I like my roast with mashed potatoes and a cozy hole for some savory beef au jus. Au no jus didn't!

Au yes, I did.

That was so corny ... and here you thought I was going to talk about carrots.

That was corny, too. I will now attempt to focus on the post at hand.

So, even though I prefer my roast with mashed potatoes, I don't know if there's a more perfect veggie side for a roast than carrots, and this carrot recipe is simple but jazzy. It's savory with a hint of sweetness and will have you kicking those canned carrots to the curb.

The best part about this recipe, there's no washing and peeling since you use baby carrots for the recipe. You literally opened the bag of pre-washed veggies and dump them onto a cooking sheet. You do a little drizzle (no measuring needed), one good toss during the cooking process and have an amazing side of carrots that's neither overly crunchy or soggy.

Honey Balsamic Roasted Carrots

1 bag of baby carrots
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
  • Place carrots on a cookie sheet and toss them with olive oil and seasoning of your choice (I used salt, pepper and garlic powder).
  • Roast for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
  • Remove carrots and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of honey and about 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
  • Put them back into the over for about 5 minutes. 
  • Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ty!

{I know I've posted this photo no less than four times, but it seems fitting for the day! And I just can't get enough of the sweet little boy!}

Today is my husband's 31st birthday. Happy birthday to Ty!

Last year, we had a big to-do for Ty's 30th, complete with adhesive mustaches, so this year he insisted on not doing much of anything. He told me he didn't want a fancy dinner and he didn't want a gift. So, naturally, I arranged to do both of those things!

We're going out this weekend for a nice dinner, but I wanted to do a few things today to let him know how special he is to me.

I woke up extra early this morning and whipped together some blueberry muffins and a pot of coffee for Ty. We are the kind of people who roll out of bed and go to work, so this took some effort on my part. Especially since I started sleeping with a pregnancy pillow about a week ago and each night I enter into some type of delicious REM coma. 

I poured Ty a cup of coffee and walked to the bedroom with his cup and a card that held two tickets to the upcoming Hank Williams Jr. concert. He may not want a gift, but I know he would never have the will power to turn those down!

It wasn't much, but it was a little something for the person I love more than anything. And really, it's the little somethings that count.

Interesting Birthday Factoid: We read in Ty's baby calendar this week that it wasn't until April 6 that Ty was actually named Ty. Butch and Margaret spent two days mulling over names and their favorites included Eric, Christopher and Lane. They landed on Ty just before the hospital sent them home. I can't imagine him with any of those names!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Nursery Wall Decor

I've been working on some ideas for the walls in Tilly's nursery. I would say that so far, the room is somewhat non-traditional. By that, I mean that it's not exactly sweet and baby but more bright and playful.

Actually, right now the room has paint-splattered purple carpet and is more or less a construction zone. But in my head, her room is very bright and playful and little girlish.

Once the old carpet is pulled and the new carpet is put in, it will start to resemble what I have in mind, and in the meantime, I've been gathering some goodies for the walls. Pinterest has been a great resource for inspiration.

Before I knew the gender, I saw this quote and thought I would like to use it in a little girl's room. I think the first four lines (not necessarily the last four) sum up all the energy of a sweet little girl.

I may be projecting my own personality somewhat into this idea of my daughter. After all, the largest trophy I ever won was for a reading contest in first grade.

Everyone is good at something. My something was reading.

Since my favorite thing was reading, I thought these framed Shel Silversteen poems would fit perfectly into her literary inspired room.

Ty and I read through "Where the Sidewalk Ends" last night and laughed at some of the poems. We ended up settling on six of them that we both enjoyed, whether they be sweet or funny, that we'll frame for Tilly's room.

But it's not all words! I came across these beautiful watercolor prints on Etsy at Birds of Ashmae's store and thought they were sweet and girlie without being too serious. She has lots of cute animal prints. I love her hippo, rhino and giraffe. But I fell in love with her florals.


And lilac.

I think these will be adorable in her mostly blue and green room, and bring in some extra splashes of color.

Hopefully, we'll have our carpet in this week and can actually start moving her things into her room. I'm running out of space everywhere else!