Friday, September 30, 2016

Foodie Friday: Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Remember how we went apple picking and got pounds and pounds of apples? Ez pretty much devoured every last apple within a week. Except for a few tiny scragglers (picked by Declan) that he apparently deemed too little to be worth his attention. So what to do with those poor little apples that kept getting overlooked? 

Apple muffins, of course!

Nevermind that it was a hundred degrees outside when I decided to preheat the oven and pull out all the ingredients for a huge mess new muffin recipe. The calendar says it's fall, so we're going to do some fall baking. With the a/c blasting. #CaliforniaFall

Ez and I were going to make these while Declan napped, but Declan had other plans. He clearly knew we were up to fun without him and he wasn't gonna stand for that. So he joined us. Two little hands means lots and lots of flour everywhere. But they both loved stirring and pouring and banging bowls and spoons together so much that this may become a new weekly tradition. 

While the muffins were in the oven and the house was slowly filling up with warm cinnamony apple scents, Ez said to me, "Tank you moppy! That was so much fun!" Completely unprompted toddler gratitude. Basically the highlight of my parenting career ;)

A few years ago Courtney recommended this muffin recipe to us, and it really is fabulous in its original form. I can't resist a good crumb topping. Little buttery, sugary bits of goodness. But since I'm trying to feed the kids a little less sugar, and just overall healthier, I decided to change it up a bit. It would be fine as is, if Ez stuck with just one muffin a day, but he's a muffin fiend and one muffin a day just won't cut it. 

Even with a tad less sugar, and zero butter (or crumbs...sniff), Ez is a fan. I hear "Can I haz a mushie, Moppy?" all day long, until I finally tell him we're all out of muffins, and then he walks around muttering to himself, "No more mushies. We're all out of mushies." It's really sad and pathetic, but white lies are a part of parenting, amIright?

While the original recipe made jumbo muffins, mini muffins are much more fun (and less messy) for tiny fingers. This recipe makes two dozen mini muffins, or more like 25-26 if you don't eat any of the batter (but what's the fun of that, I ask you??)

- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsps. cinnamon
- 3 oz. plain greek yogurt
- 4 oz. unsweetened apple sauce
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tsps. vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk (we used almond milk)
- 2 small apples - shredded

- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- In a large bowl beat apple sauce, yogurt, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and milk together.
- In a small bowl whisk remaining dry ingredients together. Slowly add and mix dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Fold in shredded apple. 
- Spoon batter into a mini muffin tin, filling all the way to the top.
- Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes. Lower heat to 350 F and bake an additional 7-10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

We dove right into these fresh from the oven. They're perfectly light and moist, and chock full of apple shreds. I've been storing the rest in a ziplock bag at room temperature. The original recipe states they are good at room temperature up to 5 days, but ours didn't last that long. 

If you care about this sort of thing, here's the nutritional breakdown per muffin:
calories - 60, fat - 0.7 grams, carbs - 12 grams, protein - 2 grams, sugars - 5.5 grams, fiber - 1 gram

And if you don't care, add the crumbs and glaze! Mmmm, delicious.

What's your go to fall snack? We're always on the lookout for ideas to keep these growing boys' bellies full.

And just like that, one more fall activity gets crossed off the list:

Update - apparently Ez has decided the muffin tops are where it's at. I opened the trash and found this:

Any tips on baking just muffin tops??

Thursday, September 29, 2016

6 Fall Outfits

// 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 //
Fall is my favorite season to shop. I want all the cozy sweaters. Men's sweaters are my fave, because they tend to be less flimsy than women's. Nevermind that I already have way too many sweaters that sit in containers under my bed for 75% of the year, I still want more. This year I'm really making an effort to stick with what I already own, and I'm only replacing classic pieces that are either worn down or no longer fit well. I have so many forgotten items that have been sitting unworn for years - mostly because I've either been pregnant or postpartum for the past four years, so a lot of my favorites just didn't fit. I've made a pact that whatever seasonal items don't get worn this fall/winter are getting donated. I went in search of some outfit inspiration based around items that I already own: scarves, cardigans, sweaters, boots, maxi skirts, and, of course, my trusty denim jacket. I'm hoping this will help get me out of my style rut to branch out from the 10% of my closet that I wear on repeat. 

What are your fall fashion staples? Any other sweater hoarders out there?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Declanisms - 15 Months

Declan's distinct personality has been shining bright since he was a tiny little baby. He's bubbly and cuddly and sweet, but he's also my little daredevil. If there is unseen trouble lurking anywhere nearby he will find it in 2 seconds flat. Last month we spent an afternoon at my sister's pool and he walked up to me with a black widow in his hair. Several hours in the ER, and a day and a half of fussiness later, we realized just how lucky we were that he hadn't been bit, but oh my God, that was a rough day and a half just waiting to see if any symptoms showed up. This week he dove teeth first into our metal bed frame and now one of his front teeth is slightly shorter than the other. Again, we're lucky that he didn't knock the whole thing out, but if I had to nominate which one of my kids was gonna give me a heart attack, I'd choose Declan. I love you baby boy, but you gotta give your mama a break.

Yeah right.

Here are a few more classic 15 month old Declanisms:

"GET down!" He either screams this at us right before he knows we're about to yell it at him, or he politely asks us "get down?" when he wants out of his high chair. He also says get down when he wants to be picked up, so apparently it's just a universal phrase for him.

"Goooo!!!" when he's playing race cars/motorcycles/planes, or when he's being carried and wants us to go faster.

Vroom vroom engine sounds, also when he's racing cars.

"Deh-ckles!!" when he's doing something he knows he shouldn't, especially messing with the remote control. 

"Goo ja" (good job) followed by clapping, usually also when he's doing something bad. I think he's trying reverse psychology on us.

We've officially removed the child safety gate from the stairs because Declan figured he can just lay down on his stomach and rapidly slide down the stairs, screaming like the house is on fire the entire time.

If there's music playing within a five mile radius you can bet Deckles is dancing. He LOVES dancing. Especially if we join in with him. The hotdog dance practically turns into a riot in our house. Lots of screaming and stomping and running and yelling.

"Baaahhh!!" followed by a charge to the kitchen whenever he's demanding milk.

This kid has mastered the playground. I was still helping Ez climb stairs and slide slides when he was two, but my little fifteen month old doesn't even need me anymore.

He's a biter. I don't remember Ez doing this, but he grabs the comforter, or pillows, or my knee with his teeth and shakes his head back and forth like a little bulldog.

He's also a barfer. Ez has barfed once in his entire life, and that was when the stomach flu swept through our house about a month ago. Declan barfs once a week. And almost always on me. The doctor says some kids just throw up a lot, and have sensitive gag reflexes, and lucky us, we've got one of those kids ;)

If we happen to feed him anything he doesn't like (which is basically everything) he'll spit and shake his head no for the next 10 minutes like an angry little camel.

When he has too much pent up energy that he doesn't know what to do with he'll run in circles with his head tilted to one side like he's literally gone haywire.

His classic running form is to swing one arm really fast with his head bowed forward while his little feet move as quickly as possible.

Blowing spit bubbles is his new favorite thing.

Bath time continues to be a favorite, and he comes running in the bathroom to pound on the sides of the tub while screaming like a little frat boy as soon as I turn on the water. He's been doing this since he could walk at 9 months, and apparently it never gets old.

"Caaaattt!!!" whenever he sees a cat. Obviously this makes cats love him. <sarcasm>

He says "ba" and waves, whether he's saying hi or bye.

He blows me kisses and it's pretty much the sweetest thing ever and instantly negates whatever craziness he's already gotten into that day.

And just for fun, here's a better glimpse at Declan's craziness, condensed into a three minute highlight reel:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Apples, Bees, and a Tortoise

I've mentioned more than a few times that Ez's love of apples runs deep. Like if you offered him a brownie or an apple, there's a good chance he'll choose the apple. And then eat the brownie after. Of course. We actually have to limit his consumption otherwise he wouldn't even eat real food. Clearly apple-picking is a must-do fall activity for us. That or we should just save ourselves some money and plant our own orchard.

Southern California doesn't have a ton of apple orchards, and sadly a lot of them have been destroyed by fires in recent years, so I was incredibly happy to discover that there are quite a few orchards in Central California. Last year we went to Swanton Ranch, which is owned by Polytechnic University. When we got there, I believe Joe's exact words were, "Is this it??" I mean, it was nestled into the side of a hill, and the scenery was beautiful, but it was literally just a bunch of apple trees with a little hut that had a scale and some bags and a box for money. You weighed your own apples and paid using the honor system. That being said, it really was a lovely apple-picking experience. No fuss, the weather started off nice and cool, and they had tons of varieties of apples at the perfect ripeness. Ez LOVED it. He basically ate an apple off each tree and was in heaven as we rolled his little apple stuffed self out of there. 

This year I was going for a little more of that barnsy experience, so we went to Clearview Orchards, where I was pretty much sold as soon as they mentioned they had apple turnovers. They had a barn store with apples, dried lavender, coffee, honey, and said turnovers for sale. They also had a tortoise roaming around a fenced in area that was a huge hit with the kids. Declan took his apple picking very seriously, and had a constant look of stern concentration on his face as he tugged and tugged at apples, eventually growing frustrated that they weren't budging for him. Meanwhile Ez picked up every discarded, past-its-prime apple off the floor and spent the entire trip happily chomping away on dozens of apples. 

Unfortunately I think we were just a tad bit late for this season (even though we came almost exactly a year after last year's trip). A lot of the apples were getting brown and mushy. And it turns out brown, mushy apples attract bees and wasps. And bees and wasps repel this here mama. Like, a lot. So certain parts of the orchard were just completely off limits for me. We wound up getting lots of apples from the barn though, so we got what we came for. We also did plenty of roaming and selfie-taking, though we somehow failed miserably at getting a good family shot (see below). Joe and I were sweating our a**es off in the 80ish degree weather as we traipsed up and down the steepest of hills (usually with a toddler in our arms). By the end of the trip we were all hot and dirty but we enjoyed the experience. We'll just make sure to come earlier next year, and hopefully on a cool day. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Two Exciting Announcements

Please tell me you didn't think this was a pregnancy announcement. Nope, get those thoughts right out of your head! There's none of that going on around here ;) But I do have two very exciting blog-related announcements to share with you today. 

First: I'm sure you're all familiar with the lovely Whitney over at Work It Mommy. If not, head over there immediately and get to know her adorable family. She was so kind to invite me to her blog to share all about my experiences expanding our family from three to four. If you'd like to hear more about my honest, never before shared opinions on the matter, hop right on over here to check it out. 

Last, but not least: It is officially the most wonderful time of the year. I'm talking about holiday season. I know you've all already raided all the Halloween goodies from Target's Dollar Section, and you're stocked up on fall decorations and crafts and pumpkin candles, even if the weather has not shown any signs of cooling down, am I right? That's why I love you, ladies! 

For the fourth year in a row, and third year co-hosting, I will be taking part in a 31 Days to Halloween Countdown, and we're inviting you all to join in on the festive fun. Everything fall related is welcome. From decorations, to treats, to fashion, and family fun - I can't wait to see everything you and your families are up to this season. This is hands down my most favorite time of year to blog because I love reading (and stealing inspiration) from all of your photos and posts. So mark your calendars because each Wednesday in October, starting the 5th, we'll be meeting back here to count down to Halloween. Just grab a button below and join us for the link up!

  The Joni Journey

Something tells me these ladies need no introduction, but in case you haven't been fortunate enough to come across my Halloween-obsessed co-hosts before, please read on below, or better yet, head on over to meet Courtney, Jamie, and Liz.

Cheers to another fall!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fall Traditions

Happy 1st day of Fall!!! 

What I love most about fall is all the traditions we've established as a family. The familiarity of visiting pumpkin patches and corn mazes and harvest festivals, no matter where we're living, each and every year, just gives me all the warm and fuzzies. Throw in some cooler weather and baked apple goods and I'm a happy girl.

This year we won't be able to attend Mickey's Halloween Party, which is a bummer because nothing says fall like the Haunted Mansion done up Nightmare before Christmas style. To compensate I found a few other local activities to take its place. The kids may wind up loving
Thomas the Train's Halloween Party even more than Mickeys anyway. Winchester Mystery House is something Joe and I have wanted to do ever since we moved here, and somehow, even though we only live a few miles away we never seem to make it over there.

Also on our list is a mini honeymoon. We may or may not get around to a bigger one next year but for now I'm very excited to do a Tahoe getaway with the hubby, sans kids. If we happen to have it timed right to see all the trees change color that would be icing on the cake. 

One more newish tradition that I'm very excited to announce is the 31 Days to Halloween Countdown linkup. Seeing what kind of fall fun you're all up to adds so much to the festivity. Look for a formal announcement next week.

Oh, and spoiler alert: I couldn't help myself and we've already crossed one of these items off the list. For once I'm not procrastinating ;)

What traditions do you most look forward to each fall?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Goodbye Summer 2016

Another amazingly eventful summer comes to an end. I'd even venture so far as to say that this was the best summer ever, because...we got married! Hard to top that. Looking back the beginning of summer feels like so long ago because we crammed so many things into the last three months. Here's the highlight reel of a few of my favorite summer moments, and my official goodbye to summer and, I hope, the heat. I've loved summer, it's birthday season for three out of four of us after all, but bring on sweaters and pumpkin patches and long, cozy nights. I'm ready for you fall!

1. Splash pad fun: I was really hoping to fit in some more visits, but, you know, life.
2. Soccer at Stanford.
3. Motocross at the fair: quite possibly Ez's favorite moment of all time. That look on his face gets me every time. Pure joy.
4. 4th of July: We capped off the day with a hike and ended with fire works at the park.
5. Monster Trucks at the fair: Ez didn't have the same look of joy as he did with motocross, but he did talk about this event longer, so maybe it's a tie for best moment of all time in his three year old life.
6. Girl's trip to Lake Tahoe: my bachelorette weekend was basically a good old fashioned sleepover with some gambling and booze thrown in. Perfection.
7. Birthday weekend in Pinecrest: This was our best birthday getaway yet. I'll probably say that every year, but I'll mean it every year too ;)
8. Declan's 1st birthday: The cake was a letdown, but thumbs up for presents and lots of adoring relatives. I think he enjoyed himself overall.
9. We got married!!! I can't write that without exclamation points. I'm sure the novelty will eventually wear off, but hopefully not anytime soon.
10. Wine tasting in Sonoma with ALL the sisters. Five of us. So. much. FUN.
11. San Francisco day trip. We actually did several of these this summer, and sometimes I still pinch myself that we're close enough to visit this amazing city for the day whenever we want.
12. Berkeley with my sis. Thankfully she enjoys wandering around random campuses just as much as we do. Don't knock it till you've tried it.

I thought a few of these were far fetched, but it turns out we did a pretty good job crossing almost all the items off our list. I deliberately held back on the caricatures because I wanted a wedding themed one instead. We had several wonderful kid-free date nights and I'm hoping to continue that trend into fall. Declan's 1st birthday was a tad bittersweet, but overall the best celebration of my littlest man. Ez did great at his first movie theater experience, and Nemo and Dory continue to be his most beloved characters, as well as Declan's. Getting married is obviously my most favorite item on this list, and part of me still can't believe that after all those weeks of anticipation it's already come and gone in a blur of jitters and excitement and pure happiness. Now we get to settle into the best part of the wedding - marriage. So far it feels a lot like our old life, except now Joe wears a ring too ;)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

12.5 Miles in San Francisco

I know, I know, another San Francisco trip. Old news, right? But this time we got to visit with my sister so it was a brand new experience. The weather was sunny but chilly, very fall like, which made my heart happy. We stuck near the piers, as we tend to do, but we still managed to wind up in a new to us place, and wandered around Fort Mason taking in the foggy views of the Golden Gate Bridge and running around the park for a bit. We also hit up Pier 39 for some souvenirs, and Pier 1 for brunch. Somehow we even managed to time our visit with the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, though we didn't take advantage nearly as much as we should have. Other highlights included seeing not one, but two beetle buses. Ez happens to love them as much as I do, and one of them was in the Wax Museum entrance, so you could actually explore inside. Ez climbed right in and was ready to live there. Afterward we drove to the Golden Gate Bridge for some pictures, and then headed to Palo Alto for some well-earned dinner and sweets. We'd walked 12.5 miles by the end of the day. You'd think we'd decide to take a break the next day and laze around, but nope. Spoiler alert: we walked another 7.5 miles around Berkeley on Sunday. Joe is a slave driver ;)