Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Look Who's 2!

Our baby turned 2 on October 28! 
As always, it's crazy how fast the years go! Brianna Joy is really a "joy" to our family. More often than not, she is happy, smiling, and laughing. People/strangers often comment that she is a happy girl and freely gives out smiles. She is just starting to talk (real words) when prompted and loves to "sing" loudly in the car. 
She's not really "into" anything at this age so I wasn't quite sure how to decorate her cake, but when I saw a full sized Care Bear at the store I knew that would be great for her. Last year for Halloween I turned one of her sweatsuits into a Care Bear costume and she was SUPER cute! And it was a little throwback to my own childhood of having a Care Bear and mom making my sisters and me matching Care Bear sweatsuits.

Here's some pictures of the Birthday Girl!
Happy Girl!

Not a bad family picture ;)
"Two" - Brianna is pretty good at saying the word two.
Plenty of gifts to open!
A new Lego set - she loves the car it came with.
Her very own Care Bear! She sleeps with it every night now. It also came with a short DVD and she has watching it MANY times already.
Here is a the picture of her as a one year old Care Bear - so cute!!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Rebecca turns 8!

Happy 8th Birthday to Rebecca on August 31!

She had been "planning" her birthday celebration for the last 6 months, but when it came down to the real deal, it was pretty low key. Her birthday was a Monday on which day both Dan and I had meetings at night, so we had a very early family meal together followed by cake and presents.
Rebecca picked the menu of chicken nuggets, potato fries, corn, and applesauce. She also wanted a watermelon cake (a strawberry flavored cake with mini chocolate chips in the batter and decorated like a watermelon slice) after seeing a picture of one on Pinterest.
Part 2 of her birthday celebration was 2 weeks later on a Saturday when we got together with Dan's family. Aunt Linda came to pick up Rebecca in the morning and they spent a good part of the day together shopping and eating out - generally spoiling Rebecca rotten, which she loved!! Thanks Aunt Linda!! At night, all the De Vries' came over to celebrate Rebecca's birthday and her cousins Brooke and Katie's 4th birthday. The younger girls wanted a Frozen cake, so I made a double layer cake that could be reversed for all of the girls. 
On the other side it says, "Happy Birthday Brooke and Katie" and we just turned the figurines around - worked perfect!
 All the birthday girls :)

 Make a wish!

Rebecca loved her new Legos, clothes, devotional, whiteboard markers, and few other goodies.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Award Winning Cookies

As promised, here are the recipes for the two cookies I made for Prairie Day's Grandma Marilyn's Chocolate Cookie Contest.

I've always loved to bake more than cook and I have a pretty receptive audience at home. If there are no baked goods in the house for more than a day or two, I'll hear about it :) 

The first recipe is for Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies that won first prize for the classic chocolate chip catagory. I found the original recipe in the Western Christian Cookbook, which I got from my good friend Cara for either a wedding or shower gift. At first I was a little hesitant to use it because after all, Western was our biggest high school rival, but after looking through it a few times I realized it is the best collection of "Northwest Iowa/Dutch pot luck" recipes. It's my go-to cookbook for hometown comfort food. 

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
2/3 cup oil
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups and 4 tablespoons flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

*you may need to add another tablespoon or 2 of flour depending on how soft your dough is. You want it to "sag" a little bit but not a lot. I have made this recipe almost 100 times and have learned from experience what the dough needs to look like.

Mix first 5 ingredients well and then add dry. Mix until combined and then add chips. Make cookies about 2-3 tablespoons - I use a medium cookie scoop. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Cookies should be slightly brown around the edges and still look a little wet/soft in the middle. Let cool completely (if you can wait that long :)

These cookies are so soft and will stay soft. I love to use this recipe to make ice cream cookies because even in the freezer the cookies stay soft. They will start to dry out a little after a few days, but they hardly ever last that long in our house!

Here is the recipe that won 2nd place in the catagory that allowed added ingredients to a chocolate chip cookie. I found this recipe on Pinterest while searching for recipes using dried cherries - I just happened to have some that I wanted to use up. The original recipe was from the Rachael Ray magazine and I changed it slightly. I actually made these for the first time the week of the competition, altered the recipe slightly, and made them one more time for the judges. 

Dark Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Cherries and Pecans
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
1 1/2 cups chopped dried cherries
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Mix butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients and oatmeal. Mix in pecans, cherries, and chocolate chips. Chill dough for at least an hour. Make cookies about 2-3 tablespoons - I use a medium cookie scoop. Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes. Cookies should be lightly browned on edges and top. (You don't want these cookies to be gooey in the center like the previous recipe). Let cool completely.

I hope you enjoy these cookies!! I've already started searching out recipes to try for next year's competition. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

540 KWMT Feed the Farmer

540 KWMT radio station hosts a few Feed the Farmer lunches in the spring and fall and this week Dan was picked as the winner! Duane Murley came out on Friday, June 12th and did his broadcast live from our house. He came around 8:30 in the morning and did a few market reports. Then around noon he interviewed both Dan and I about our farming operation and life on the farm with our kids. It was pretty neat to hear a voice from the radio in our own living room. Rebecca also got to answer a few questions on the radio and Blake said,"Go!" a few times to get Duane started.
Duane Murley giving a market report. He would make a recording and then send it to the station and they would air it with in a few minutes.
Nice wheels Duane!

We also received lunch catered by Our Daily Bread Bakery and Cafe in Griswold. We invited a few extra friends over to enjoy lunch with us. We had a full house, but it was a great time!
Lunch included, beef and gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, salad, watermelon, and peach and apple pie. It was very good and thankfully there were a few left overs!
We had a full house and Duane just kept right on working as we all talked and ate lunch. 
This is Carl and Duane. Carl was the sponsor representative from Prairie Creek Seeds.
Here are Carl and Duane with Paul, another employee of the radio station, and his wife Carol. Paul and Carol were the ones who picked up lunch in Griswold and drove it to our house - about 2 hours. 

What a unique experience to have a radio broadcast right in our living room. Everyone we met was so kind and gracious. I even had a great chat with Carol (wife of Paul) who grew up in Sioux Center!
Thank you 540 KWMT for a great day with Feed the Farmer!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Summer is in Full Swing with Ball Season

We are loving summer, but I won't lie that I'm looking forward to the end of ball season. We have loved watching the kids have fun and be a part of a team, but keeping up with schedules can be exhausting. I like as little scheduling as possible in the summer :) One more week of games.
Rebecca played Rookies softball again this year and it's fun to see how she maturing and improving over last year. Blake is getting his first taste of organized sports with Bam Bam ball. He is loving it too!

Look at her form! (Better than normal because she saw me taking pictures :)

Two more games until the season is over. Hoping for some great hits!

Blake is all smiles the whole time he is playing.

He's so cute after running the bases! I always yell, "Good job Blake!" And he always replies with a huge smile and says, "Thank you!" 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tulip Festival 2015

I made it back home - Orange City, Iowa, for the Tulip Festival this year! It was the 75th annual Tulip Festival so they had a few extra things planned and a group of my high school and college friends were planning on getting together after far too many years apart. It was such a great weekend! I'm so glad my brother and his family still live in town so it still feels right to go back home and visit all my childhood favorites :) I also love just walking around town and seeing so many familiar faces. We even ran into a few college friends from Iowa State that we hadn't seen in years. 

The highlight was getting dressed up in Dutch costumes and taking some pictures with the kids and scrubbing streets at the beginning of the parade on Saturday.
The tulips were passed their prime, but there were still a few good beds.
Thank you to our friend Holly for outfitting the youngest two and me!

For as much complaining as I got from Rebecca while waiting to start, she had a great time once we got started!
Blake also loved filling his bucket and dumping water on the street. Making it clean for the queen and her court!
Blake was a little concerned his pants were getting wet :)
There are 2 parades each day and we watched 3 of the 6 parades. Blake wanted me to take pictures of his favorite things of course.
Pride of the Dutchmen Marching band - Blake says that the song they play is now his favorite song.
Budweiser horses and wagon.
Unity Christian High School float with a nice tractor (which is what Blake liked :)
This float has been around since I was a kid :)

Blake loves trains!
and boats!
It was also fun to see familiar faces from Pella. Here is the Pella Christian School Middle School band.
Some other fun things we did were go to the airport for a fly in breakfast and visit with old friends.
Great girl friends from high school and college. We got together at a friend's house, but also got to hang out watching a parade together.
Just some of our kids.
The rain in the morning kept the planes on the ground, but the kids still had fun looking at them.
Here are a few last pictures of our fun weekend in Orange City.
We grabbed a photo with Tulip Queen Cara while walking around.
Blake loved the car ride!
Rebecca was way more adventurous and road the Screamer twice!
The Screamer
The caterpillar roller coaster was also a hit with her.
Thanks so much for Tonya for hosting us. The kids had a great time with cousins Caleb and Deborah too!