Monday, August 30, 2010

Life With a 19-month Old...

This is what my life has become. Yikes. All I can pray for is that the next house we own has a separate playroom. The toys are taking over!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

{Abbi-a-Day} Days 232-238

Bath time!

Enjoying a frozen yogurt pop

She got a new stuffed animal from nana and gump gump, and loves it like crazy!

Oh, such a big girl. She now loves eating cereal with milk, and won't eat just dry cereal anymore!

I brought her home a Cheerios book from General Mills in Minnesota, and she loved it!

My baby girl - dirty face and all

She loves to "hide" in the corner, and thinks it's so funny when you "find" her!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Baking with Betty

{I posted this on my food blog, since that is why I got invited, but it was so much fun and such a great experience that I wanted to post it here as well - because this is my version of a journal, after all! So most is just copied straight from my food blog.}

All of us!

First off, I have to warn you - I have a little bit of a picture addiction. If you have read my personal blog, you will know this, but this serves as a warning that there are TONS of pictures ahead! I really did narrow it down, and this is what I narrowed it down to. You're lucky you didn't see it before!

I was so excited when I received an email inviting me to join 30 other bloggers in Minneapolis to visit the Betty Crocker kitchens at General Mills. I was a little apprehensive since I didn't know anyone, and because it would be the first time I left Abbi overnight, but I was still so excited. Counting down the days until I went excited! It was really such a fun experience, not only to visit the kitchens and to learn more about some Betty Crocker products, but also to be able to meet some pretty amazing bloggers from across the country.

Before the trip, I did some google searching and found 3 other Utah bloggers that were also attending this event (Jessica from Utah Deal Diva, Jamie from Jamie Cooks it Up and Laura from Real Mom Kitchen). Utah had a good showing - no other state had 4 bloggers there!! I had never met any of them in person, but we decided to meet in the terminal before the flight. I didn't see them before the flight, but luckily, our seats were kind of close on the plane and we were able to spot each other out before the plane took off.

Once on the ground in Minneapolis, we met up with 2 other bloggers while waiting for our shuttle (Megan from Megan's Munchies and Amy from MomSpark).

from left to right - Jessica from Utah Deal Diva, Laura from Real Mom Kitchen, Jamie from Jamie Cooks it Up, Megan from Megan's Munchies

Once we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted by the PR agent who put everything together, as well as a bag of swag and lunch. We all sat down and got to know each other a little better.

A delicious lunch

The swag bag!

The boat that took us around the lake

After a brief rest in our rooms, we all headed out on a bus to Lake Minnetonka where a lovely boat awaited to take us on a dinner cruise around the lake.

Just some of the gorgeous real estate that lines the banks of the lake

The lake was gorgeous, and there were some A-M-A-Z-I-N-G homes on that lake. Apparently, once you make tons of money, you move to Minnesota and buy a house on Lake Minnetonka! (I actually did a little search and learned that the prices of the homes on the lake range between $500,000 and $20 million. There were definitely some humongous houses there!)

A beautiful sunset!

The night was beautiful, especially as the sun set and the temperature went down a little bit. The food was good, and the company was even better!

Amanda from I Am Baker and Molly from The Snyder 5

A mural in the lobby of General Mills

The next day, we headed over to General Mills. What an exciting day! On our way to the Betty Crocker kitchens, we got to see some of the history and memorabilia from years past.

Some of the General Mills history - top left - and old school Easy-Bake Oven (I want it!), top right - the first design of Cheerios (Cheerioats back then), bottom right - carved cheerios that are in one of the courtyards (sorry about the glare from the window), bottom left - a few different designs of the Wheaties box.

And then the kitchens. This view was from above, and I will tell you that you could look around and see the excitement on everyone's faces!

View of the kitchens from above

We were split into 4 groups and spent the day rotating through 4 stations.

Some of the kitchens off to the side, with women busy working

Off to the side were many more kitchens. It was interesting to look over and see other women busy at work, creating and/or testing recipes.

Myra from My Blessed Life and Kerri from Save at Home Mommy

Catching up on Twitter or Facebook??? Marla from Family Fresh Cooking (Photo by Matt Holland)

Most of my "baking group" (minus 2) from left to right - Jamie from Jamie Cooks it Up, Jen from 4tunate, Myra from My Blessed Life, the Betty Crocker cookie station worker, Joscelyn of Mami and the Multiples, me, Liz from Hoosier Homemade (Photo by Matt Holland)

Left to right - Nicole from Baking Bites, Marla from Family Fresh Cooking, Amanda from I Am Baker (Photo by Matt Holland)

Me in action! (Photo by Matt Holland)

We had all had quite a bit of sugar by the end of stations, but it was all worth it. I have to admit, it was over way too fast for me! After we finished baking, so many people had asked to see the photography studios that they took us on a little unscheduled trip through the studios and the prop room.

One of the food photo set ups

Can I say that I was just in heaven?!? I wanted to get home and ask my husband if he would build me a seperate room off the side of the house that I could turn into a food photography studio!! It was really interesting to see. You didn't see the photographer with his camera taking pictures like you or I would. Instead, they have these huge, commercial cameras that almost look like professional video cameras. But wow - do they take great pictures!!

They had shelves with dishes and settings set out for the day's photo shoots

I want them all!

Then we went through the prop room and everyone was drooling. So many bowls, plates, napkins, just about everything you could imagine or want. I seriously want that room!

Then sadly, the day was over and it was time to go back home. I'm so grateful for the new friends that I made, and I wish we would have had just a little more time so that I could have really gotten to know everyone! I have been inspired by Betty Crocker and already have many things to try on my list. Thanks to Betty Crocker and General Mills!!

And if you want to check out some amazing blogs - here are the gals that attended!

Amanda from A Few Shortcuts
Amanda from I Am Baker
Amanda from Fake Ginger
Amy from Mom Spark
DaMora from From My Kitchen
Deb from Frugal Living and Having Fun
Deborah from Taste and Tell
Jamie from Jamie Cooks it Up
Jacquelyn from Musings by Jacquelyn
Jen from 4tunate
Jessica from Utah Deal Diva
Joscelyn of Mami of the Multiples
Julie from Joy's Hope
Kerri from Save at Home Mommy
Laura from Real Mom Kitchen
Liz from Hoosier Homemade
Marla from Family Fresh Cooking
Marta from My Big, Fat, Cuban Family
Mary from Blogmania
Megan from Megan's Munchies
Melanie from Modern Mami
Melissa from Your Fun Family
Michelle from Gourmet Mom on The Go
Migdalia from Latina on a Mission
Molly from The Snyder 5
Myra from My Blessed Life
Nicole from Baking Bites
Nika from Nika's Culinaria
Sherri from The Adventures of Kitchen Girl
Silvia from Mama Latina Tips
Trisha from 24/7 Moms

But we can't forget the food!! Here are most of the recipes we were shown and were able to sample while in the kitchens.

There were 4 different stations, and we were separated into 4 groups, spending about an hour at each station. The first station I was at was the Cookie station. I managed to get a picture of everything they had to sample but one cookie bar. But I've decided that's ok, because it was one of my favorites, so now I have an excuse to make them! All of these cookies were made using Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix. So easy!!

Cranberry-Macadamia Bars (definitely a favorite!)

Next up was a about baking with kids. These all made me so excited to bake Halloween treats with Abbi!

I have to admit - by this point, I had already had a lot of sugar, so I only sampled 2 of the 4 treats in the next section - Brownies with a Twist. But anything based with a brownie is delicious!!

Brownie 'n Berries Dessert Pizza

The last station was all about different breakfast ideas you can make using Bisquick. I have to admit that Bisquick is not something I normally have on hand, but after this, I think I'll be buying some! I can't find the links online to the recipes of most of these recipes - but I do have a copy of the recipes so I may just have to make them all and post them!

Fresh Lemon Cream Crepes (Can't find the link to this one...)

Oven Apple Pancake (I can't find the link to this one either...)

Caprese Pizza with Crispy Pancetta (Can't find this link, either - but I'll be making this one soon!)

What great food! I can guarantee you I had A LOT of sugar by the time the day was over. But it was totally worth it!

Disclosure - General Mills paid for my travel and accommodations. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book #55 - The Hand that First Held Mine

The Hand That First Held Mine
Maggie O'Farrell

Blurb: Lexie Sinclair is plotting an extraordinary life for herself.

Hedged in by her parents' genteel country life, she plans her escape to London. There, she takes up with Innes Kent, a magazine editor who wears duck-egg blue ties and introduces her to the thrilling, underground world of bohemian, post-war Soho. She learns to be a reporter, to know art and artists, to embrace her life fully and with a deep love at the center of it. She creates many lives--all of them unconventional. And when she finds herself pregnant, she doesn't hesitate to have the baby on her own.

Later, in present-day London, a young painter named Elina dizzily navigates the first weeks of motherhood. She doesn't recognize herself: she finds herself walking outside with no shoes; she goes to the restaurant for lunch at nine in the morning; she can't recall the small matter of giving birth. But for her boyfriend, Ted, fatherhood is calling up lost memories, with images he cannot place.

As Ted's memories become more disconcerting and more frequent, it seems that something might connect these two stories-- these two women-- something that becomes all the more heartbreaking and beautiful as they all hurtle toward its revelation. (from BookBrowse)

Length: Medium - 341 pages

Notes: This is one of those books that I neither loved nor hated. The story was a good one, but it wasn't a book I just wanted to read all the time. There were some great motherhood moments that I could really relate to, and I liked how it took 2 separate stories, in 2 different times, and wove them together. There were many things that were predictable to me, but there were also some big surprises. It's not a book that I think I wasted my time on, but not one that I'd jump to recommend to anyone.

Random quote : "'Well.' She considers what to say. Should she mention the nights spent awake, the number of times she must wash her hands in a day, the endless drying and folding of tiny clothes, the packing and unpacking of bags containing clothes, nappies, wipes, the scar across her abdomen, crooked and leering, the utter loneliness of it all, the hours she spends kneeling on the floor, a rattle or bell or a fabric block in her hands, that she sometimes gets the urge to stop older women in the street and say, how did you do it, how did you live through it? Or she could mention that she had been unprepared for this fierce spring in her, this feeling that isn't covered by the word 'love', which is far too small for it, that sometimes she thinks she might faint with the urgency of her feeling for him, that sometimes she misses him so desperately even when he is right there, that it's like a form of madness, of possession, that often she has to creep into the room when he has fallen asleep just to look at him, to check, to whisper to him."

Recommend: Hmm, I'm middle of the road on this one...

Have you read this book? Share your feelings!

Friday, August 20, 2010

{Abbi-a-Day} Days 225-231

Trying to get some pictures in the mountains - but of course she won't look at me!

Checking out the new clothes grandma and grandpa brought her

Yes, she is in the swing the wrong way, but it's the only way she would get into it!

This little girl cracks me up. There is not a day that goes by that she doesn't tromp around the house in mine or Josh's shoes. I laughed hard when I saw her walking in my high heels!

Sneaking some of daddy's snack

I think she thought she could go swimming outside since it had been raining!

Her new favorite thing to do - Piggy Back. It's hilarious to hear her say it, too. I need to record her saying it, because she sounds so cute!