Happiness Is…

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I have missed writing the past few weeks.  My new life is busier than I had expected.  And, in a way, the first three weeks of school feels much more like at least six.  However, it has been good in so many wonderful, amazing ways.  The littles are all blessed with amazing teachers, who are now all dear friends.  When I talk to them, I am able to give them my full attention because I no longer have a little one at my side, begging to leave or trying to interrupt the conversation in various other ways.  As a result, I feel like I get to focus more on the boys because I can connect with what they are doing in class in a much different way than I could before.  Do not get me wrong, I loved having that little one by my side every single day.  I am just embracing the transition and all that is wonderful about this stage in our journey, too.

Speaking of that little one…she thrills my heart every single day.  When I see her proudly walking down the hall with her backpack on her back, I feel like I am living another life.  She was on my hip or right by my side for the first four years that we walked down those halls, so it is quite surreal to see her there as a student now.  And, she acts just like I had hoped that she would whenever she sees me.  She squeals, says my name, and then patiently waits in line like an excellent school girl until I run to her.  Then, she throws her arms around me, hugs me, and smiles brightly, as if it has been days since we last saw each other.  I love it.

Happiness is going to work with my littles.  I have been blessed with many substitute teaching opportunities already, and I absolutely love taking my littles to work with me.

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Happiness is planning a birthday party for a very special little boy.  I think that eight will be pretty great for my sweet Ethan.

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Happiness is rain…especially when I get to sit and truly appreciate the moment, watching the littles jump in the trampoline and play.  They understand that rain is a huge, huge blessing, and they said countless times, “That is the best rain that we have received in months!”  Yes, it was, and we enjoyed every single drop of it.

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Happiness is good food.  Always.  While I have not been posting recipes lately, I have been taking pictures when I have the time.  And, one day, I will get caught up enough to share them with you.

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Happiness is walking in to wake up the littles and finding Gabriel and Summer all cuddled up. While they all have their own beds in their own rooms, they have chosen to all sleep together in the same room.  And, I must admit, it makes me very, very happy that they have chosen to foster their bond even more by spending that quality time together.

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Have a happy week!

Let Freedom Ring – Recipe: Strawberry Cobbler

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We had a fantastic Independence Day.

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It was about celebrations…and about food.  For the food part, I turned to some of my favorite bloggers for inspiration.

It all started with breakfast.  When I saw these adorable pancakes on my Pinterest board, I knew that they would be a hit at our 4th of July breakfast table.  Amanda at i am baker is simply brilliant, and I love how creative she is when it comes to turning something like breakfast into a special event.

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Since we had late mid-morning breakfast, I was not expecting us to be very hungry for lunch.  I put together some appetizers, which would not have been complete without Pioneer Woman’s Stuffed Jalapeños.  While they are still too hot for Ethan and Summer, Gabriel is starting to like them now, too.

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I had started preparing dinner 1st thing in the morning, starting with these amazing crockpot baked beans by Jessica at How Sweet It Is.  Her blog is one that I try to visit often because she has amazing recipes, and she always has a side of humor to go along with them.

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I knew that I wanted homemade macaroni and cheese, too, but I did not know which recipe to try since I had pinned more than my fair share on my pasta board.  I decided to go with Panera Mac and Cheese by Annie at Annie’s Eats.  I have professed my adoration with her before, and I continue to be amazed with her recipes each time I visit her sweet blog.

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Sean wanted to make pork ribs that just fell off the bone, and I am happy to report that he succeeded.  I will post the recipe later.  I know that everyone has their favorite rib recipe, and this one is now ours.  They were truly, truly amazing.

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Rounding off the dinner menu was some grilled chicken and burgundy mushrooms.

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Dessert had me stumped.  I just could not decide what to make.  So, I turned to Gabriel for help.  I asked him if he wanted cobbler or ice cream.  He appropriately responded, “Both!” and smiled.  So, of course, both it was.

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I made vanilla ice cream and strawberry cobbler.  For the cobbler, I kind of made it all up as I went.  There are so many different ways to make cobbler that I decided I pretty much could not go wrong, especially since it would be topped with a big ‘ole scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

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The meal part of our day was great because we were all able to sit down together at a red, white, and blue table, cheers to the day, and talk about what the day meant to us.  That is why I try to make every detail of these days memorable.  It is about so much more than the food.  It is about the memories.

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And, I will remember every minute of their fireworks experience.

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This is the first year that we went together as a family because it was the first year that they were all able to stay up late enough to attend.  Since we did not want to go into the crowds because of how loud and, well, crowded, it would be, Sean found us a beautiful spot overlooking the city.

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We were literally able to see fireworks from all over the greater Austin area.  It was beautiful.

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My fireworks pictures were far from perfect, but when Gabriel sat next to me and told me, “Momma, you know the best camera is your mind, right?”, I knew that he was right.  I have taught him well, and he has been listening.

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It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Strawberry Cobbler

Strawberry Cobbler

Ingredients

Crust

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup butter

¼ cup cold water

Filling

2 cups strawberries, sliced

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups water

Instructions

    Preparing the Crust
  1. Mix the 2 cups of the flour, salt and sugar together lightly in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the butter cut into the flour using a pastry cutter or by mixing together with clean hands. The mixture should look like large crumbs and begin to cling together in clumps.
  3. Add the remaining ½ cup of flour and mix lightly.
  4. Sprinkle the water over the dough and continue mixing together with clean hands until the dough holds together.
  5. Spray a pie pan with cooking spray.
  6. For the bottom layer, I just took half of the dough and pressed it onto the bottom of the pie pan. It does not have to look pretty or be prefect because it will be covered up with the strawberry filling.
  7. For the top, roll out the other half on a generously floured surface. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes to add to the top. But, first add the filling.
  8. Filling
  9. Place the strawberries, sugar, and water into a pan and cook over medium high heat.
  10. Cook for about 15 minutes, allowing the liquid to reduce by half.
  11. Putting It All Together
  12. Preheat oven to 350.
  13. Add the filling to the top of the crust in the pie pan.
  14. Place the stars on top of the filling.
  15. Sprinkler the top of the stars with sugar.
  16. Put the cobbler in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.
  17. Remove from the oven and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
http://cookingformykids.com/2012/07/05/let-freedom-ring-recipe-strawberry-cobbler/

Weekend Fun – Recipe: Nonna’s Chicken Pot Pie

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As I mentioned earlier, we have our Winter Break this week.  I checked the boys out of school early on Friday so that we could get a jump start on our break.  And, we headed to one of our favorite places.

It is not fancy.  We did not have to get on a plane or a ship to get there.  We got in the van, put on a Pup Named Scooby Doo, and drove.  And, as we drove, I appreciated all of the beauty of a simple Texas drive – green grass, lovely trees, windmills, old barns, farm animals.  I wanted to stop and take pictures so many times.  But, I had three littles and a dog all being perfect, so, as any parent knows, I did not want to do anything to upset the apple cart.

When we arrived, we were at Nonna and Gran’s house.  And, they were prepared to pamper and spoil us for the weekend.  I so vividly remember when Ethan was so sick as a baby, going there so that we could swim, fish, and relax was a vacation to us.  And, it still is.

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The littles played outside.

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Made forts.

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Rode on the golf cart with Gran.

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Made cookies and biscuits with Nonna.

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Cuddled.

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Played on the treadmill.

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And, ate…a lot.

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One of the things that my mom made us was her amazing Chicken Pot Pie.  Gabriel requests it often.  It is one of his all-time favorite meals.  I love making it because you can make one and freeze one for later.  I have never been able to get a pretty picture of mine…it might have something to do with the fact that my mom has a talent for making food look so picture-perfect.  If you think that you are not a chicken pot pie lover, try this one.  It will change your mind.  Really.

Nonna’s Chicken Pot Pie

Nonna’s Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients

Pie Crust

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup butter

¼ cup cold water

Pot Pie Filling

1/3 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup flour

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 3/4 cups chicken broth

2/3 cup milk

2 cups boneless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped

10 ounces frozen mixed vegetables

Instructions

    Preparing the Pie Crust
  1. Mix the 2 cups of the flour, salt and sugar together lightly in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the butter cut into the flour using a pastry cutter or by mixing together with clean hands. The mixture should look like large crumbs and begin to cling together in clumps.
  3. Add the remaining ½ cup of flour and mix lightly.
  4. Sprinkle the water over the dough and continue mixing together with clean hands until the dough holds together.
  5. Divide the dough into two discs.
  6. Roll out and press into 2 prepared pan. I like to lightly spray my pie pan with cooking spray.
  7. Preparing the Pot Pie
  8. Blend butter, flour, salt, and pepper in saucepan.
  9. Cook over medium heat for 1 minutes, stirring constantly.
  10. Stir in chicken broth and milk.
  11. Cook until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
  12. Pour in chicken and vegetables.
  13. Remove from heat, and spoon into prepared pie shells.
  14. Top with remaining pastry dough.
  15. Seal edges and cut vents in the top.
  16. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
http://cookingformykids.com/2012/02/06/weekend-fun-recipe-nonnas-chicken-pot-pie/

Enjoy!

I shared this recipe at Add a Pinch, Delightfully Dowling, A Southern Fairytale, Homemaking Haven, Mrs. Happy Homemaker, Make Ahead Meals and Frugal Antics.