White Chocolate Cranberry Pie

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year.  Mark’s brother and his dear family came down and spent several days with us.   We ate a TON, played games, explored the city, and went to the beach.  It was so very nice and relaxing.  I’m so grateful that we are now closer to many of our family members since our move.  It was nice to, once again, see my Thanksgiving table full of family.  Since the first year of our marriage, I’ve made big dinners with any combination of people apt to show up, but the last 3 years -with apartment living and then a newborn for two consecutive holidays- made things very quiet and simple.  Too simple for our tastes.  We like our big Thanksgivings.  :)

049

Our menu consisted of the usual fare, and then some new recipes.  The first thing I did differently is that I hopped on the turkey brining bandwagon.  It was a good decision!  I’ll definitely keep doing that every year.  I think Alton Brown (Food Network guru) started that craze a few years ago, so a lot of people use his brine recipe.  I went a little more simple with mine and I wouldn’t change a thing.  It was SO tender and juicy!  This recipe is similar to the one I used except I added some sugar and used poultry seasoning instead of all of those different spices (poultry seasoning us just a mixture of all of those).

I  made an incredible dressing recipe that combined regular stuffing and cornbread.  It was completely perfect for those of us with Northern roots and our Southern born and bred children.  It’s definitely a keeper for this house!  Mama’s Cornbread Dressing.  I also used her Brussels Sprouts with Bacon recipe for a side.  Totally yummy… but it has bacon, so what could go wrong?  I plan to make that throughout the year, too.

Now for the big dog, life-changer of a pie/tart that I found on Pinterest.    {Original recipe was found on Diet Hood}

White-Chocolate-Cranberry-Tart-1-@diethood-682x1024

Let me start by saying - I hate white chocolate.  It tastes like sweet wax or something and I think it’s gross.  So I was trying this recipe only to be nice to my family who, for whatever reason, adores the stuff.    But then… then… I took a spoonful of the filling just to make sure it didn’t taste completely wonky, and OH. MY. LANDS.  I then took another spoonful just to make sure it wasn’t a dream… then another…  Anyway, when the whole thing is assembled, it’s even better with the cranberries and pistachios.

I made a few modifications to the original recipe so that is what I’m posting here.  The big one is that I made it a pie (easier) rather than a tart using a pre-made pie crust.  I also changed the filling by whipping it, making it fluffy and more of a meringue consistency.  It was a TOTAL hit, and I will be making it again for Christmas, for sure!  The recipe:

 

White Chocolate Cranberry Pie

1 premade pie crust

1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries (reserve a small handful for garnish)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

12 oz white chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

2 tbsps. chopped pistachios

Place crust in pie plate and poke holes with a fork in the bottom to prevent bubbling.  Bake according to package directions.  Remove and cool.  Place the cranberries, sugar and water into a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes.  Lightly mash the mixture and then place into the fridge to cool completely.  Put the white chocolate chips into the food processor or finely chop them with a knife.  Combine chopped white chocolate with whipping cream into a bowl and microwave for 1 minute, then stir.  Repeat for another minute until the chips are melted.  Let it cool for a few minutes, and then whip it with an electric mixer until it is fluffy (about 5 minutes, give or take).  Place the cranberry mixture into the pie crust and then pour the white chocolate mixture on top of that.  Sprinkle the pistachios and the reserved cranberries on top (I sliced mine in half).  Place back into the fridge for at least 2 hours.  Enjoy!!

 

Thirteen

Some things defy explanation.  Like how we went from this…

mamajuju

…to this, in a mere blink of an eye.

mamajuju

My little girl blossomed into this wonderful young lady so fast that my head is still reeling from the whiplash.  Don’t get me wrong; I am loving this stage with her – the one where she is transitioning to woman from child – because as quickly as I admire those glimpses of the woman that she will one day become, I’m also still blessed with a girl who is, right at this very second, jumping feverishly on the trampoline with her little brother giggling for the entire neighborhood to hear.  What a blessed time.

We celebrated her grand entrance into her 13th year by having a Girls Only Day downtown with Nana.  We went to a museum that Juju has wanted to see since we moved here, and then we toured an antebellum home.  It was perfect weather.  We walked a lot and popped in on some of the little shops, too.  We went to a wonderful little café for lunch where we sat, talked and unhurriedly enjoyed each other’s company.

nanajuju1

 

nanajuju2

 

nanajuju3

 

nanajuju4

I couldn’t help but think of all that the future might hold with many more wonderful days like this with my girls and their Nana.  I kept thinking right at that moment that this, ~this~ is what fruit is.  My fruit.  Nana’s fruit.  My girl’s legacy… and even though it’s pretty bruised and dinged up in places, it’s sweet, and it’s good because God is all over it.

I can’t express how much I look forward to what He’s going to do with her in the years to come.  She loves Him and He loves her, so whatever it is, it will be beautiful.

 

Low Key

I love easy Saturdays.

When Daddy is home and everyone eventually wanders into our room to be lazy together.

 

 

Where breakfasts are big and spirits are light.

 

This weekend, I hope to pull out the Fall decorations and switch out our warm weather clothes for our cool weather ones.  There is a cold front coming through mid-week so it’s time.  I enjoy this season so much!

Happy Saturday, friends!

Summer ’13 Recap ~ Part 3

Well, we are at the third and final installment of the Westie Crew’s summer recap.  I’ve really enjoyed going back through these last few months.  It’s been nice to realize what a fun summer we’ve had!  Here are the first two parts in case you missed them:
We started the month of August off on a bit of a rough note.  This is not something you ever want to see:
This is a picture from the Department of Transportation, and that’s Mark’s truck right there in the middle.  Someone {who we strongly suspect was texting} rear ended Mark who was at a stop.  He hit him so hard that it spun him around and he hit the wall of the bridge which bounced him back out into traffic to where he was hit head on.  THANK GOD he was in a truck.  The girl that he hit head on was in the red car to the right and she was taken to the hospital.  Mark had the emergency brake come in and cut up his leg pretty bad, but other than that and some bruising from the air bag, he was fine.  The truck, not so much, though.  It was totaled.  However, I’ll take a totaled truck any day of the week as long as Mark is alright.  God really had his hand over him and we are so grateful.
Not even a week later, a car pulled out of a parking space paying ZERO attention and smashed into the side of my van.  The damage was cosmetic with that one, but ~sheesh~ countless years of owning these vehicles and within 2 months of living here they’ve both been hit.  Someone told us that Charleston was recently rated as having the highest accident numbers in the southeast, and you know what?  I totally believe that.  I won’t go into a full-blown rant, but I will say that it’s a beast out there and I’m not looking forward to my kids driving in it.  At all.  :/
On to sweeter things.
We spent a lot of time at the beach during August.  The kids got boogey boards and have enjoyed riding the big waves of the Atlantic.  The last time we went, a guy who was standing in the water VERY near to us caught a baby shark.  So that was a little disconcerting.. ha!  We’ve had a great time collecting beautiful shells and we’ve even found two sand dollars.  We bought a tent and a sun shelter so when we go, it’s like constructing the Taj Mahal just to keep the babies out of the sun and off the sticky, sticky sand.  I did find an AWESOME product, though.  It’s this mitt like thing that’s filled with powder and you can tap it and rub it on the babies {or whomever} and it gets the sand off/prevents more from sticking.  I’ll blog more about how we make our beach trips easier and some of the great products we’ve found later.  I can’t remember the name of the mitt right now…
Keeping babies hemmed up is A LOT harder when they’re doing this:
My Carah-bean all of a sudden decided to go from teeny little baby to pre-toddler in a matter of a few weeks last month!  She sprouted 2 teeth {we are notoriously late teethers around here}, and then started crawling fast, pulling up and then cruising, all within 2 weeks!  She’ll be 10 months old tomorrow and I bet she’ll be walking by this time next month.  Gracious!
August was the month of doctor and dental check-ups.  We ended up taking Isa to the allergist to be tested for some food and environmental allergies.  She was such a trooper during testing.
As I strongly suspected, she is has a nut allergy and an egg allergy.  She is also allergic to mold, which might have been why we dealt with eczema so much with her when we lived in Mississippi because our house was older and susceptible to it.  She’s had no issues here, but the house is only 6 years old and there are no signs of mold, thankfully {although I do miss that house with it’s gigantic kitchen and big backyard!}.  The good news is that the egg allergy will hopefully be outgrown and she CAN have baked goods and things with eggs baked into them.  It really breaks down the protein which is the crux of the allergen, and hopefully will expose her to trace amounts which might build her immunity.  The nut one, though, is probably here to stay, sadly.  It’s not an anaphalactic one yet, but could quickly go there, so we have to keep an epi-pen just in case she’s exposed and has a bad reaction.
On the dental front, we’ve got two about to be in braces and Andrew who has to have an appliance because of a cross bite.  We’ve become WELL known at our dentist/orthodontist’s office… ha!  Seriously, they totally know us by name now, and they should, since we are totally paying at least one salary with our contributions.  :D
At the end of August, Andrew joined a swim team.
He has had an absolute BLAST with it.  Mark and I were noting how much more subdued he is in the evenings after practice.  It’s very intense exercise every day, so he’s burning off some of that boy energy.  He’s also found a gaggle of guys his age on our street and has been playing basketball in the neighbor’s driveway each night with them.  What a blessing for him!!
The older 3 start, what I fully anticipate being, a fantastic co-op tomorrow.  I’m really excited that they will plug in there and find a good friend base.  Jake just went to his first musical theater practice/class yesterday and had an awesome time.  He really liked the kids there, so I’m sure it’ll be a great year as they gear up for their performance of Fiddler on the Roof in the Spring!  The cool thing is that they did Joseph, which was the same musical that Jake did last year.
We are really looking forward to all that this school year has in store.  We started on the 19th and while it’s a huge juggling act with the babies, we’ve been falling into some semblance of a routine and things are getting done.  Yay!
Well, I guess this brings us up to date!
****
Note:  due a server change over, this post was republished because it was lost, so if it’s showing up in your feedburner twice, I’m sorry! <3

Summer ’13 Recap ~ Part 2

Yesterday, I started to recap our summer since I haven’t had the chance to blog.  I covered what we did all through the month of June, so today I am going to give our July a shout out.  Then tomorrow’s post will cover our August, so we can be all caught up.  Here is a link to Part 1.

On the 4th of July we moseyed on down to Patriot’s Point to watch fireworks.  It is located right beside the Ravenel Bridge and in front of the U.S.S. Yorktown.  It was SO awesome to see the show next to all of that, and the water, to boot!  Truly, one of my favorite 4th of July’s ever.  We had to get there early because it the biggest show in town, so if you want a decent spot, you’re going to have some time to kill.  Here is Juju playing with our patriotic Care Bear.

 

Isa was killing time by taking everyone’s slushies and spilling…er…drinking them.  She charmed everyone within a 20 foot radius with all of her exuberant greetings.  She’s never met a stranger, that one.

After sitting on the ground and corralling the babies for a sweet forever, the show finally started.  I will admit, I was thinking by that time ”this better be pretty darn awesome to make it all worth it”, and it definitely was.  I’m not a fan of being in uber-close proximity with throngs of people, but once the show started and everyone got quiet, all of the collective awe at the display was incredible and even a tiny bit moving.

Back on the homefront (because we did actually stay home some, too!), I got bitten by the crafty bug.  I refinished an old tea tray, that I forgot to take pictures of, and I made this for our front door:

I’ve seen so many pretty wreaths on Pinterest, and burlap is on everything nowadays, so I drew my idea from those, and I have to say, I love it!  The bow was a cinch to make, which shocked me since there are so many tutorials on it!  I didn’t even watch one but had them in queue just in case I got hung up.  It’s really not a big deal at all, though, so I’ll probably make something else for fall that is similar.  If you’re into burlap and are at all intimidated, don’t be.  Seriously. {this just cracked me up.. intimidated by burlap… ha!!  oh well, i’m leaving it}

About mid-July, we took the kids to a Charleston Riverdogs game, which is the minor league baseball team here.   It was Dollar Drafts and Dogs {hot dogs} night so we ate and watched a little of  America’s favorite pastime.

We didn’t last the whole time though, because it got late and the princesses were rapidly turning into grouchy pumpkins.  We caught the rest on the news and called it a night.  It was fun!

In the middle of the month, we celebrated a whole decade of our Squeeze.   Ever since  before we left Mississippi, this fellow has been asking for a guinea pig.  He’d read every website and brochure that he could get his hands on and finally the day had come.  We took him to the pet store and he picked out the cutest little one there with a ton of personality.  He holds him constantly and even hand-feeds him his oranges… ha!  Introducing, S’mores:

 

After a few weeks with us, it was determined that little S’mores was utterly lonely and depressed, even though he had everything a guinea pig could ever want.  So we trekked back to the blooming pet store and brought home Guinea Pig #2 with the extra birthday money that Squeeze had acquired.  I don’t have a picture of Coconut, but he’s cute, and all of the world is right once again.  Except Julianna is very possibly allergic, but that’s yet another post.  ;)

Moving right along, we had been hearing all about how crabbing was something we should try our hand at since we love the outdoors so much.  We found this amazing park that we all instantly fell in love with, so we found an out-of-the-way dock, and the guys got to casting their nets:


It wasn’t very long before Andrew was enamored with all the teeny little crabs that were absolutely everywhere.  He  started to explore the rocks around the dock.

This is what he was after:

When I say that they are everywhere, I’m talking EVERYWHERE.  In the trees, scurrying across the ground, along the shore… everywhere.  Here is a close-up:

They are maybe an inch in length and cute, as far as crabs go.  ;)

The girls and I went exploring and found a perfect little corner that is tucked away under a Spanish moss covered oak tree.  It has a wonderful wooden swing that overlooks the water.

I sat there with them and watched the cranes swoop and the fish jump just contentedly taking it all in, when a boat came by and, right behind it, playing in the wake, were two dolphins!  It absolutely MADE my whole day.  I wish we’d have gotten pictures, but by the time I fished the camera out of the bag that was hung up on the stroller, it wasn’t happening.

When I finally left my newly found, and dearly beloved perch,  I found that my fearless crabbers had indeed brought in the goods.  Look at this guy:

 

 

I know we’re talking crabs and all, but I think he’s simply gorgeous!  I love his colors, which, incidentally, turn the brilliant red that we are all used to when they are boiled.  We didn’t eat this guy because he was the lone ranger on this trip, but my guys went a few weeks later and had a very prolific catch.  I actually had a hard time eating them though.  I’m weird like that.  I could never be a farmer or I’d end up a vegetarian.  Anyhow, a great time was had by all on this day.

About a week later, we had some family down, so we went to the Tea Plantation here.  It was very neat to go through and learn the whole process about how tea is made.  It’s the only tea plantation in America, so that’s an interesting little tidbit.    I didn’t take very many pictures on this trip because I forgot my good camera.  What a shame because there were many beautiful things.  Here is a pic of my Crew, though, that I took with my phone.

This pretty much sums up our July adventures!  Tomorrow, I will wrap things up with Part 3 which should cover August.

Until then,

Summer ’13 Recap ~ Part 1

“Life is too deep for words, so don’t try to describe it, just live it.”

~C.S. Lewis

I guess this has unwittingly been my mantra this summer.  After moving on the first of June, we have been very busy simply living.  We’ve enjoyed this new city immensely as we’ve explored, tried new things, and dug our toes in the sand more times than I can count.  I’ve wanted to blog so many times, but the opportunities never really presented themselves.   I have no regrets because it has been a nice season for us, and I did take pictures so I’m not relying on my feeble mind entirely.  However, it is time to catch up!

These pictures are from Sullivan’s Island back in June.  The rocks are perfect for play and also for pictures, and if you go a little further over, you can get the Ravenel Bridge (beautiful!) as your background.  I’m hoping to do that soon.  Here is the Crew:

 Ft. Moultrie is also there, so it’s a great place for a little history lesson.  I ended up hanging out in one of the tunnels with the babies because it was HOT and the sun was a little too intense for wee ones’ skin.  Poor little Carah was working on her two bottom teeth so she was runny.  I promise, that tear isn’t from crying. :)   I bet there will be a lot of ear whispering between these two as the years go by:

She couldn’t help but give her sissy some sugar.

We all found a cool spot inside the fort to sit for a few minutes so Julianna grabbed the camera and snapped a picture of Mark and me.

She is really into taking pictures lately!  I can’t tell you the countless times I’ve uploaded the memory card only to find shots that she’s taken.  She’s got a good eye!  I’ll have to put some of her beautiful flower photos in another post.

We also bought a membership to the Aquarium here.  It is right on the Harbor and we love to go down there to walk around.

 

The jellyfish are captivating:

They also have a cool hands-on section that they kids really enjoy.

A few weeks later, I took Julianna and Andrew to tour the Sea Turtle Hospital.  It was so interesting!  We really took the time to study sea turtles prior to going and even made plans to head to the beach to help search for nests, but could never make it seaside by 5:30 a.m.!  Ha!  Maybe next year.  Sea turtles are very beloved creatures around here and we definitely fall into that fan club.

When they released two of the ones that were rehabilitated last month, it was attended by hundreds of people that came from all across the state.  It’s no wonder, as you can see, because they are amazing creatures.  Look at this one poking his head out the water for his cameo.. ha!

We’ve walked downtown…

And we’ve run amok in beautiful parks…

We even had the chance to perch right by the sea and watch the Super Moon 2013 make it’s appearance.  It was incredibly beautiful!  These pictures don’t even begin to do it justice (especially because they were taken with my phone).

What a fun way to jump into this new place!  Next, I’m going put up a post from July and then one more recap from August.  Hopefully, we’ll be all caught up and then we can keep on rolling in real time.

Simmer Down Now!

You know how right before you wake up in the morning when you are between that deep sleep stage and full consciousness?  And you know how sometimes you can sense, in that brief time, that it feels a little too quiet for the amount of light that is streaming into the room?  And then, in the blink of an eye, you are flinging covers and running full tilt, screaming like a banshee, for your oldest to  “WAKE UP!!  WE’RE LAAAATE!!”?

And then maybe you’ll go out to quickly get the coffee started so that everything isn’t lost (priorities, people)  then, with the speed of lightning, grab a shower only to come out to coffee all over the counter and floor?  And then maybe you’ll  feel like you’re surely going to lose your mind (because, on top of all of it, your husband’s been out of town all week), but you leave the mess and all the rest of the sleepy people behind to make the 2 minute ride to your oldest’s classes, only to come close to certain death on the ride home because some woman is texting and is halfway in your lane?

And then maybe the 15 month old greets you with a stench that would choke a maggot as soon as you walk in the door,  so you go to change her…

And then you see this…

Quiet, Calm, Serene….

And then maybe you chill and realize that you are one blessed lady, indeed.

Thank you, Father, for the million blessings even in these harried moments.  

Love and Chocolate

Today, on this Eve of Valentines Day, I grabbed Julianna from her math lesson to help me with the trillion cupcakes that I was elected to bake for a party tomorrow.  She’s such a good sport for just jumping right in with no questions asked… or perhaps it was the avoiding math thing?  One can never know.

She even helped me with the clean-up which was nice because we made a decent mess.

However, they say “many hands make light work” and it’s true because we were done in no time at all.  Plus, it’s nice when you really love the person you’re working with, and it’s even more sweet since it was all about Valentines preparation, I suppose.

Isa always loves to watch the happenings in the oven since it’s right at her eye level.  I had to stop the cupcake machine for about 20 minutes, though, to pop in some lunch for us.  She paid close attention to make sure everything was rising properly. :)

And even though Carah Cate was napping during the cupcake extravaganza, I did get a picture of her earlier this morning in the exersaucer that we very recently brought out for her.   I believe that if she could speak, she’d say that it is her Valentine this year.  She hearts it.  A lot.

Now the kids are outside rescuing a caterpillar from untimely death because the temperatures have dropped so much.  At least that’s what they think anyway.  ;)   I’m about to go make a hot cuppa tea and sit down to tell that caterpillar that he should thank his lucky stars that a couple of kids decided to love him today.  I have a feeling he might not feel that way though.  :D

Hurricanes and Happy Boxes

This Monday finds the Westie Crew battening down the hatches in preparation for a certain Tropical Storm that has everyone on alert from our area of Mississippi down to the coast.  And rightfully so, I might add, because Katrina beat the snot out of our town 7 years ago.  We didn’t live here, but Mark was here for work, and it was bad.

After Mark and the boys got home from their Boy Scout campout yesterday, they secured a few things outside and then we went and bought extra tanks of propane and plenty of water should we lose power.   My biggest concern is all of the very, very tall pine trees that are around our home.  We had one come down last year during a tropical storm, which ruined a section of the back fence, but thankfully came no where near the house.   Prayers that our trees stay put this time around would be fantastic if you think about it! :)

In other news news we *finally* got the box of curriculum that we’ve been anticipating the most.   My kids loooooooove when boxes come!

You can tell how fast they are tearing into things in their excitement.  Speaking of excitement, I am really happy about doing Apologia’s Anatomy this year.  Biology is my favorite science hands down, so of course, I’m happy when it rolls around.  Give me blood and parts and SYSTEMS and I’m one happy girl.

Physical Science, on the other hand, is my least favorite.  If you’d prefer to give me a headache, start yapping about levers and pulleys and electricity.. blah, blah, blah.  This is what Jake is having to take this year.  Can you feel the excitement??  :D

Alright, I’m rambling now, so I’d better go.  Supper isn’t making itself!  Hope you’ve had a good Monday…

First Day of School

Last night was the Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics and, even though I lost interest after the swimming and gymnastics were over, it’s always kind of a sad thing.  Mark and I were talking about how different things will look in 2016 for our family:

*Ty will be TWENTY YEARS OLD.  Oh my…

*Jake will be an official adult himself at 18!  That’s 2 grown children, folks… where’s my brown paper bag??

*Juju will be driving

*Andrew will be a teenager

*And the babies will be starting school.

Just four short years and that will be the way our picture looks, Lord willing.  I’m glad Mark and I  had that conversation last night because it causes me to love and appreciate the here and now even more.  Especially today, as the Westie Crew starts their 12th (yes TWELVE… man, I’m getting old!) year of homeschooling.  I really love this gig.  Even when it doesn’t go the way I’ve planned… which is pretty much always…  it’s still such a blessing.