Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Unique Homemade Advent Calendar

There's nothing like the first snow to encourage thoughts of the Christmas season. When I woke up a few days ago to the joyful shouts of my children ("Snow Mommy! Let's go play in the SNOW!"), I immediately had the itch to begin Christmas preparations, But it is not even Thanksgiving yet!! 

I have to hold off on the other preparations for a couple weeks yet, but I thought now would be a good time to make our Advent calendar so the kids can begin counting down the days until Christmas beginning with the first Sunday of Advent on November 30th.

Now, normally we buy one of those cheap advent calendars from the grocery store where you open little paper windows to reveal a "Christmas rhyme" and a tiny piece of chocolate. Now that we have two children, I really did not want to deal with either of these scenarios:

1) Buying two Advent calendars so each child can have his/her own.
2) Buying only one Advent calendar and precariously splitting the tiny piece of chocolate perfectly in half each morning for the two to share.
3) Not buying an Advent calendar (because I honestly like them as much as the kids!).

I also began thinking about how I would like the Advent calendar to do a better job of teaching my children the true meaning of the season. I began searching around for a better Advent calendar and saw that they can be super expensive. The only other option? Make my own. Easier to customize.

I saw an idea for a non-traditional Advent calendar in a parenting magazine during one of my prenatal appointments. The magazine detailed how to fold scrapbook paper into cute little "packets" that can be filled with treats. The packets are numbered and then placed in a decorative bowl. Each morning, the child opens one packet until Christmas Day. I liked the idea of making packets - I could adjust their size to put as much stuff inside as I want - so I decided to run with it.

I bought some Christmas-themed scrapbook paper and some peppermint Hershey Kisses to place inside. I also decided to compose a children-friendly version of the Nativity story and split it into installments. The idea is that each day my kids will learn a little more about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. By the end of Advent, we can read the whole story, start to finish. I also decided to include a simple activity for each day - most of the activities focusing on doing something special for other people. I'm really trying to focus on this being a season of giving - especially since Matthew has already been talking about what Santa is going to bring him this year. It's okay to be excited for presents on Christmas morning, but I want him to also understand that our hearts can be filled with joy and happiness when we give to others.

So, the construction of each packet went like this. Cut a 4" by 7" rectangle out of your paper.

Starting from the short side, roll into a tight cylinder. Make the cylinder has wide or narrow as you want, depending on what you are planning to place in your packet.

Secure with tape. I think a decorative tape like Washi tape would be great, but I couldn't find any that was Christmas themed. So I just used what we had.

Flatten one end of the packet and pinch together evenly. If you have a little overlap of paper, trim it so the paper is evenly together. (I don't know if that tip made sense - but it sounded good in my head) Secure with tape. At this point, fill the packet with items of choice.

Flatten the other end of the packet perpendicular to the first end and secure with tape. Ta-Da!

Fill out a little sticker label with the number corresponding to the packet - in this case "1".

Make about 24 more!

That's it! Easy, simple, and I think they look kind of cute. Ideally, I would keep these displayed on top of our piano, but I think I'm going to have to put them up in a high place once Emma realizes they are filled with food.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Malted Chocolate Candy Cookies

Maybe my kids are strange, but neither of them prefers the chocolate they received in their trick-or-treat bags this year. Both of them pick out the straight sugar: the Dum-Dums, gummy snacks, Smarties, Starbursts, or (my mortal enemy) the little boxes of Nerds. Now that they have eaten through all their straight sugar, they are not so interested in the chocolate that remains in their bags. I finally convinced Matthew to eat a mini Twix bar because, being my favorite candy bar of all time, I could not believe he hadn't enjoyed one yet. After painfully munching through it, he agreed that it tasted good. However, when I offered him another one, he quickly replied: "No thank you!"

Turning down chocolate? Politely turning down free sweets?! Who is this child? Certainly not mine. I've never been one to turn down chocolate.

So, while sitting here with many, many uneaten fun-sized candy bars I decided to make some cookies to give to friends that somehow incorporated the leftover goodies. I have had this recipe for Malted Whopper Drops bookmarked (literally) in my copy of Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours for months. Granted, I only had a few Whopper packages, but figured we could just chop up a medley of Crunch Bars, Musketeer Bars, and Milky Ways to make up for our deficiency.

The batter came together beautifully. The worst part was chopping all that candy and not eating it as I went along. I was chewing on a couple Kit Kat bars while baking because, let's be honest, those things are way too good to not enjoy on their own. I especially like the orange-dyed white chocolate ones they make for especially for Halloween. So festive and delicious!

Anyway, these cookies are certainly not pretty. They are pretty dark, ugly, and oddly-shaped. But they taste pretty good! You get a different candy bar in almost every bite that keeps things interesting. We brought a big batch over to a dear friend and her family who just had a new baby and they loved them. They kept trying to guess what type of cookies they were since their palates were getting confused by the caramel/chocolate nougat/malted chocolate/peanut/crispy rice flavors and textures.

Of course, my kids didn't care for them but that's only because they are weird and their food preferences are getting more weird with each passing day. They chose to forgo a freshly baked cookie in order to fight over a tiny package of Dots. Refined.

And the rest of the leftover chocolate? I think I'm going to recycle them for Christmas stockings. Maybe they'll like chocolate by then or at any rate it'll make their stockings look more full!

And in completely unrelated news, my husband joined the Age of the Phone because his work is making him carry an iPhone so he can be reached 24/7. He can now text, look up data, and do whatever it is people do with those fancy phones (I wouldn't know...my flip phone is from 2007). He has been glued to it ever since. Probably because it takes him an hour to send a single sentence text message.

Malted Chocolate Candy Cookies
adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours

1¾ cups all purpose flour
1 cup malted milk powder (we always have this in the pantry because Paul loves it)
¾ cup cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut up
⅔ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup whole milk
3 cups chopped candy bars (I used an assortment of Whoppers, Crunch Bars, Milky Ways, Hershey Bars, and Snickers)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Using a fine mesh sieve, sift the flour, malted milk powder, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl to remove any lumps. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. With the cold butter, you may need to turn up the speed a little bit, but your mixer can handle it. Add the eggs one at a time and beat each for a minute. Add the vanilla. The mixture may look curdled, but it will come together just fine when the dry ingredients are added. But it still won't look pretty.
Switching to low speed mix in about half the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Beat in the milk until smooth and then mix in the rest of the dry ingredients until incorporated.
Remove bowl from mixer and stir in the chopped candy. Scoop tablespoon-sized portions of dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time for 11 minutes or until the cookies are puffed and just set on the edges. Be careful not to over-bake.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the sheets for about 2 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Horrible Mother

No recipe today, just an honest post about something I've been mentally struggling with recently.

I love my children. I really do. I love them more than life itself and often think about how I would give anything to shield them from suffering and pain.

I've always had a bad temper - my hair color really should be red - and my temper is ultimately the reason I have so many moments of parental failure. In these moments, I am the cause of my children's tears - the source of their pain.  These are the moments that taunt me, telling me what a liar I am for thinking I love my children so much. If I did love, why would I ever hurt them? Sometimes I get so angry, so stressed, that my negative emotions take over and turn me into a gigantic ogre who yells, punishes, and just plain scares everyone.

These pictures have nothing to do with the post. They're just a random assortment from this fall.
Here, Matthew was helping me peel apples for applesauce and peeled his finger.
He hasn't touched a peeler since. All for the best - he was a bit on the slow side.

The other day was particularly rough. Emma has been refusing to take her naps, meaning I don't get as much accomplished as normal during the day and she turns into a gigantic grump around 4:30 - way too late to put her down for a nap. Plus, she's in an exhausting phase where she is into tearing EVERYTHING apart. Plus, I'm tired, hormonal, and irritable due to the pregnancy - not that I can play that card forever. On top of everything else, Matthew has been getting in trouble at school and I have had to chat with the teacher frequently about his behavior and it has been emotionally a little draining. Anyway, I managed to get the two of them playing with Legos upstairs and snuck away to make dinner and get it in the oven quickly and (hopefully) without being disturbed.

Well, wouldn't you know it - at an extremely critical time in the recipe - the part where you pretty much have to babysit the dish lest the sauce curdle or burn - the two little people decide to come downstairs to check in on me. They both begin whining about being hungry, thirsty, bored, in need of Halloween candy, etc. Emma grabs onto my legs as I'm trying to finish frying off the chicken and complains about the loud sounds of the sizzling meat (even though her crying about it was waayyy louder). Matthew then decides to get a drink for him and Emma - which is fine except that he's standing between me and the refrigerator and I'm really trying to finish everything off. Not that I could move anyway without Emma's grip pulling my pants down. While I'm whisking the flour and seasoning into my sauce, Matthew, unbeknownst to me, hands an unlidded cup to Emma filled to the brim with water. Of course, she dumps the entire thing all over herself and the floor and then proceeds to scream about it. At the same time, Matthew, turning to see what happened with Emma, accidentally knocks the bottle of oil off the counter. It crashes to the floor and the impact causes the cap to dislodge and oil spills everywhere.

I lost it.

I started yelling at them to GET OUT! Why must you always be huddled around me?! If I'm cooking, and unless I ask for your help, you keep out of the kitchen! GET OUT! OUT!

They both burst into tears and moved themselves a generous 6 feet away and continued to cry as I tried to salvage dinner (it was beginning to scorch) and then proceed to clean up the oil-and-water mess on the floor. I don't think I've ever been so angry in my entire mothering career.

And then Paul came home. It must have been quite a sight. Me, with my hair piled into a messy bun atop my head, crazily wiping the floor while the children cowered on the other side of the room. I should probably also mention that there was a nice haze of smoke from the dinner I had burned in the process. Matthew ran up to Paul and declared: "Mommy scared us!" That made me lose it again. I started to cry and sob to myself as I continued to scrub the floors. I was a horrible, horrible mother! My children are scared of me! I don't deserve them. How can I bring a third child into this world if I can barely handle the two I have? And they are really great kids, despite what Matthew's preschool behavioral chart might indicate. They are sweet, loving, beautiful kids and I don't deserve to be their mother.

After I had composed myself, I apologized to each kid. I hugged them tight and said I was very sorry for yelling at them. I hugged Matthew tight and told him: "You're my favorite boy in the whole world."

He hugged me back and said: "And you're my best girl, Mommy!"

And with that, I knew I had been forgiven.

I can't blame hormones or exhaustion or anything else for losing my temper. I just simply have to be better - a better example for my children so that when they think back on their childhood they do not remember the times I totally lost it. I need to figure out another, more productive way to teach them not to push my buttons so much. In other words, no more being a horrible mother. I'm starting my own behavior chart - using Matthew's preschool behavior chart as inspiration - to keep track of my temper. Hopefully both of us will improve so neither of us flunks out.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Baked Ham and Swiss Sliders

I have been making these little baked sandwiches for quite a few years now. I first made them for a Superbowl game watch way back before Paul and I had children and we often hosted game watches with Paul's co-workers - including the night I went into labor with Matthew. I was upstairs timing contractions while Paul was entertaining his buddies downstairs. He offered to send them home, but I'm the one who told him to let the party continue. And it was definitely the right decision because it was a loooonnng labor. I still wonder if the guys thought it was weird that I never made an appearance that night.

Anyway...These yummy sliders always disappeared as soon as I took them out of the oven - oftentimes I would not even get the chance to eat one! We made these again for Matthew's 1st and 2nd birthday parties and they were always the first thing to disappear. They are popular, I tell you.

Then, I stopped making them and moved on to different party foods for the rare shindigs we would throw. The other day while perusing the bread aisle at the grocery store, I spied those delicious, addicting King's Hawaiian buns and instantly thought back to how much me, Paul, and everyone else loves these sandwiches.

I made a half recipe of 12 sliders the other night to pair with a creamy butternut squash soup. I knew the soup would not cut it for Paul as a main course and made the sandwiches mainly for him. He scarfed down six of them before declaring himself a pig. He's the one who said it.

The kids of course wouldn't touch them because they have issues with meat sandwiches. As in, Emma pulls every component apart and eats them separately. Matthew will eat the ham but leave the cheese and bread. So, we decided not to waste these on them and keep them just to ourselves. It was a wise decision.

If you have never tried these before, make them! Perfect for game watches, tailgates, or any occasion really!

Baked Ham and Swiss Sliders
adapted from King's Hawaiian

Note: I like to tripe or quadruple the recipe for a party, assemble them the night before, and just keep them in the fridge overnight. When ready to bake, all you have to do is slide them in the oven. I can't even begin to tell you how quickly these disappear.

24 small dinner rolls (I like the King's Hawaiian rolls but GFS carries a cheaper brand of "hawaiian rolls" that are fabulous)
1 pound deli ham
1/2 pound Swiss Cheese, sliced
2 tablespoons finely minced sweet onion
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey
1½ tablespons Dijon mustard
1½ teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoons poppy seeds

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil. Split the sandwich rolls. Layer each roll with a generous slice of ham and cheese. Replace the tops of the rolls and tightly bunch them together on the prepared baking sheet.

In a small bowl combine the minced onion, butter, sugar, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Microwave until the butter is just melted, about 30-60 seconds. Add the poppy seeds and stir until combined.

Drizzle the butter mixture evenly over the sandwiches. Let the sandwiches sit and absorb the sauce for about 10 minutes or, if making ahead of time, cover and keep in the fridge overnight. Bake in the oven until the cheese has melted and the butter mixture starts to caramelize, about 10-15 minutes. Serve warm.

Try not to eat the entire pan yourself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Singapore Noodles

I first tasted Singapore Noodles with Paul at a small, local Asian restaurant a couple years ago. The restaurant had just opened and we had eyed it several times when driving downtown but were always nervous to give it a try since we never saw anyone actually eating there. However, after a few recommendations from friends, we gave it a shot. We were pleasantly surprised to find that not only did this place have some of the cheapest (but yummiest!) sushi around, but they offered a wide range of Asian dishes not typically found on menus. We feasted on a smorgasboard of spicy coconut soup, many types of sushi, and a split order of Singapore Noodles. Ever since that initial visit, we have been back more times than we can count. It has become our favorite date night restaurant.

We actually first ordered the noodles as an afterthought. We had planned on focusing mainly on the sushi that night, but when we saw the table behind us (we are horrible about always checking out what other people are ordering) digging into a huge plateful of yummy noodles, we asked our server what they were and if we could please have some too. He seemed really unsure that we would be able to finish the plate of noodles on top of all the other food we had ordered that night. But he had never seen Paul and I eat on one of our date nights away from the kids. We feast!!

The noodles ended up being the best thing we ordered and I am pretty sure that just about every single time we have gone back to the restaurant, we have been unable to resist ordering them. They are that good. I dream about them sometimes. Seriously, I'm addicted.

When I received my new copy of Cook's Illustrated Magazine and saw that they had published a recipe for Singapore Noodles, I instantly dog-eared the page and filed it away under my "must make soon" recipe pile. Well, time got in the way and that recipe unfortunately got lost in the heap of other things that I wanted to make and I just about forgot about it. Luckily, I found it again during one of my menu planning days and resolved to make it that week.

I am so glad I did! While this recipe does not quite match my beloved restaurant noodles, it is delicious in every possible way. I took a couple liberties with the original printed recipe - mainly switching the shrimp with chopped chicken thighs and adding a little fish sauce. It turned out absolutely delicious.  My wonderful children loved it just as much as Paul and I - even though they kept calling it "spaghetti" (this frankly took something away from the whole experience because I kept envisioning spaghetti with meatballs and marinara sauce as I slurped up my soy-and-lime sauced rice noodles). I'm going to make this again for sure whenever the craving hits - and it will hit again. Next time, I will be trying the shrimp version because I'm positive the briny seafood will send the flavors of this dish even more over the top!

Singapore Noodles
from Cook's Illustrated Magazine July/August 2014

Note: I am sharing the original recipe with you. I used chopped boneless, skinless chicken thighs in place of the shrimp and just sauteed them until they were browned. I also added 2 tablespoons of fish sauce to the noodles and cut the soy sauce down to 1 tablespoon. The kids really enjoyed the chicken (shrimp would be such a waste on them) and Paul and I adore fish sauce. Also, because I'm *ahem* with child, we blanched the bean sprouts in boiling water just to be safe.

4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 ounces rice vermicelli (find it in the Asian section of your grocer)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
12 ounces large shrimp (26 to 30 per pound), peeled, deveined, tails removed, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 garlic cloves, minced to paste
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks
2 large shallots, sliced thin
2/3 cup chicken broth
4 ounces (2 cups) bean sprouts
4 scallions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving

Heat 3 tablespoons oil, curry powder, and cayenne, if using, in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Bring 1 1/2 quarts water to boil. Place noodles in large bowl. Pour boiling water over noodles and stir briefly. Soak noodles until flexible, but not soft, about 2 1/2 minutes, stirring once halfway through soaking. Drain noodles briefly. Transfer noodles to cutting board. Using chef’s knife, cut pile of noodles roughly into thirds. Return noodles to bowl, add curry mixture, soy sauce, and sugar; using tongs, toss until well combined. Set aside.

Wipe out skillet with paper towels. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add shrimp in even layer and cook without moving them until bottoms are browned, about 90 seconds. Stir and continue to cook until just cooked through, about 90 seconds longer. Push shrimp to 1 side of skillet. Add 1 teaspoon oil to cleared side of skillet. Add eggs to clearing and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Using rubber spatula, stir eggs gently until set but still wet, about 1 minute. Stir eggs into shrimp and continue to cook, breaking up large pieces of egg, until eggs are fully cooked, about 30 seconds longer. Transfer shrimp-egg mixture to second large bowl.

Reduce heat to medium. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in now-empty skillet until shimmering. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add bell pepper and shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl with shrimp.

Return skillet to medium-high heat, add broth to skillet, and bring to simmer. Add noodles and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add noodles to bowl with shrimp and vegetable mixture and toss to combine. Add bean sprouts, scallions, and lime juice and toss to combine. Transfer to warmed platter and serve immediately, passing lime wedges separately.

Monday, November 3, 2014

It's The Great Pumpkin Dessert, Charlie Brown!

This dessert is certainly nothing new or inspiring. It's a recipe that has been around for ages and I'm sure almost everyone has tried at least a variation of it before - probably under the title of "dump cake" which is certainly an unappetizing title. However, it is an especially sentimental dessert for me and my family.

Isn't it a beautiful thing to behold? I seriously love this.

My Mom would always make this "upside-down pumpkin cake" for Halloween night, occasionally for Dad's birthday or any other time that us kids could beg and plead her to whip it up. This dish is not only super easy to throw together, but it is also like two desserts in one. If you eat it slightly warm with a dollop of whipped cream, the cake is soft and gooey with the whipped cream melting perfectly into every bite. It's totally comfort food! However, if you let it sit in the refrigerator overnight, the topping develops a crunchy texture that is a delightful contrast to the pumpkin filling (which intensifies in flavor the longer it sits) beneath. I love it both ways! The chilled version is especially good for an indulgent breakfast.

This recipe is so dear to my heart that it saddens me that my husband hates it so much. He hates it, hates it, hates it. He can't exactly pinpoint why, but he just is not a fan. Don't let this make you think it's not delicious. He has some weird issues with textures and desserts. For example, he has made the claim that he abhors mousse and will never touch a mousse dessert. I call baloney on that because his favorite cake is this Chocolate Mousse Cake. I can only imagine that one of is eccentric preferences is preventing him from fully enjoying this. The kids and I love it, but we can't really finish up a pan by ourselves. Thus, I only make this dessert when we will be having company or if the craving just becomes to much for me. The craving won out on Halloween night and that is why I have a picture of my slice to show you!

This is by far the favorite dessert of my side of the family. I think we would all gladly sit with Linus in the pumpkin patch waiting for a slice of this dessert - although perhaps eating a pumpkin dessert is insulting to the Great Pumpkin? Make this - especially if you are a pumpkin lover - and I can guarantee that you won't be sorry! (Unless you're weird...like Paul)

Upside-Down Pumpkin Pie
recipe from my Mom

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs, beaten
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 box yellow cake mix (I love Pillsbury)
2 sticks melted butter (I never said this was healthy)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans (optional - but I never make it without the nuts!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat well the pumpkin, sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, and evaporated milk until well blended. Pour into a greased 13x9 glass pyrex pan. Sprinkle evenly with the cake mix. Gently and carefully pour the melted butter evenly over the top. Sprinkle with nuts.

Bake for about 55 minutes at 350 degrees or until the cake is set. Cover with foil if you think the nuts are browning too quickly. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled with lots of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween Week

We had a pretty full week of activities, parties, and other festivities in celebration of Halloween last week. Matthew was so excited. He had been looking forward to Halloween all month. Each night after prayers, he would ask: "Tomorrow is Halloween, right?" I am so glad that it has finally passed so we can move on to a different nightly question. I have a funny feeling I will be answering this question for two months straight: "Tomorrow is Christmas, right?"

Matthew resurrected his costume from last year and dressed as a T-Rex again. At least he claims he is a T-Rex. The actual costume is that of a dragon because I couldn't find a dinosaur costume on sale last year. He causes confusion wherever he goes because almost nobody can guess what he actually is. While trick-or-treating this year, he was called a crocodile, lizard, iguana and "strange winged reptile" by one particularly confused older gentleman. On occasion, someone would say "dragon" but unfortunately Matthew pretty much always had to correct: "No! I a T-Rex! ROAR!!!"  The "roar" apparently seals the deal.

And Emma was a duck. Or "duckie" as she called it. She really loved her costume.

We started out the week by going to the ZooBoo. We go to this every year, but it was particularly tricky picking out a day to attend this year when we weren't going to be rained on or turning into ice cubes after we paid fifteen bucks to stand in line next to a bunch of empty animal cages for a couple pieces of candy and a toothbrush. The kids always enjoy it even though they seem to have fewer and fewer actual animals out to look at each year. This majorly disappoints our kids because they actually would like to see the animals. Still, they enjoy the decorations and being able to walk around the zoo while it's pitch black out. And of course, there is always the annual train ride that Paul loves going on. We waited in line about an hour for that ride this year - but the smile on Matthew's face meant he certainly thought it was worth the wait!

Somewhere behind that dirty, dirty window is a giraffe.

They hate taking pictures with their mother. Seriously, they can't wait to get away
from my loving arms. Yet, when I'm trying to make dinner or do something productive, 
they are glued to my legs. What gives?!?!

Matthew has been looking forward to this train ride all year.

The next day, we attended a storytime featuring some Halloween-themed tales for the little ones along with a snack and a craft. For the craft, the kids glued eyes and faces on tiny pumpkins. The kids were pretty excited to make them - Emma actually did a really good job decorating hers and Matthew made a cat face on his pumpkin. They both looked really awesome and I had planned to take a picture of them except on the way home the kids decided to rip a single eye off their respective pumpkins - so now we have two cyclops pumpkins. Not quite as cute.

Later in the week, we carved a very large pumpkin with Paul. Well, rather, Matthew and Emma munched on cookies while Paul carved the pumpkin. They were no help this year. Then we watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the kids loved it.

Matthew's preschool held a Halloween parade and a party on the same day. Emma and I got to come to his school to watch all the children parade around in their costumes. It was really cute, but for some reason I couldn't find my Matthew. He told me he was there and didn't see me either. I must have missed him! Later in the day, he came home with a ton of treats from his party. I was a little overwhelmed by the bounty of sugar especially because we were scheduled to go trick-or-treating a little later that night. More sugar! Emma was very jealous of all Matthew's treats, but he generously bequeathed her a Musketeer Bar (he hates them). That made her happy and sticky. I couldn't wait to collect more candy for her to smear in her hair.

After Paul got home, we got the kids back into their costumes (they had been wearing them pretty much all day - except when eating) and dressed in warm clothes ourselves. The weather predicted very cold temperatures and rain, so we were prepared for the worst! We took a couple pictures with our trick-or-treaters before heading out. They were less than cooperative.

Seriously. Never happy when taking a picture with their mother.

Thankfully, the weather held and we had a blast trick-or-treating. I was especially proud of my happy little duckling for carrying her own bucket up to each doorstep and clearly saying "thank you" after receiving her treat. One older lady even gave her a special treat: a stuffed bear dressed as a pumpkin. She told Paul that she gets one special gift to give out to her favorite trick-or-treater each year and this year she chose our Emma. Emma felt pretty special but definitely lost interest in collecting more treats after that. She just wanted to hug her "pumpkin bear".

By the end of the night, Matthew had collected a ridiculous amount of treats. After surveying his loot, I have to note that both M&Ms and Snickers were by far the most popular candy of the night. We ate some chili for dinner, watched Matthew patronizingly hand out candy to the last couple trick-or-treaters, and then tucked the little ones into bed. Paul and I then settled down to watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (you know, because we're 90) by the spooky glow of our carved pumpkin. That classic film was almost a bit too scary for Paul. I wish I was joking but I have a sad history of watching mildly scary films with him. Last year, I tried to show him the not-all-that-spooky Vincent Price classic The Haunting but had to turn it off part way through because he couldn't bear to watch any more!

And with that, we've wrapped up October and now have all the festivities that November and December bring us to look forward to! And stay tuned for a recipe that uses up some leftover Halloween candy. Because, as I'm sure you're aware, it is much healthier to chop it up and throw it into a batter full of butter and sugar than to eat it straight! I'm all about health.

Okay this one's not so bad.