Growing Out On A Limb


Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I made these cupcakes for Emery’s birthday party.  The cake was so moist and fluffy and the choice of cream cheese frosting, it is definitely a keeper and therefore making it to my recipe book (i.e. my blog).  The original recipe is from Joy of Baking, a site that I have used before for great recipes.


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp lemon or lime zest (optional)

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare muffin tin with paper liners (12 muffins).

In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.

Beat the butter until soft.  Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes).  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour.  Beat just until combined.

Evenly fill the muffin cups and bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.


2 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp milk, if needed

Garnish:  2 cups sweetened flaked coconut


Beat the butter until smooth.

Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth and well blended.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the icing sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy and good spreading consistency.  Add a little milk if frosting is too thick.

Pipe frosting on cupcakes.  Garnish with coconut.


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Grapevine Wreath Snowman

I saw this idea on pinterest last year but I either saw it just before Christmas and already had too much enough crafty stuff on my plate or after the holidays when I was all Christmas’ed out.  A couple of weeks ago I was reminded about it when a friend posted her version on facebook.  I needed something Christmas-y to hang right beside my door and this seemed like just the right thing – its look fits with my log home and it is pretty (for me) but is also just the right amount of fun for the boys.

I picked up the grapevine wreaths for a few dollars at a Walmart in the states and picked up the white lights on black friday for 3 sets for $10.  The scarf and hat were from my closet.  I like that it makes it look more snow-woman than snow-man because, frankly, there is enough ‘boy’ in this house!

I planned on wiring the lights to the front but once I started I thought it might not look so hot in the daylight, so I pushed the lights through the wreath from the back and wired the strand on in strategic places.  That made the project more time-consuming than originally though (and my fingertips sore) but I like the way it looks much better.

Here’s a picture using flash to show the details better.

And a darker shot to show the lights.  

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Another Fall Hike

I found these pictures on the camera and realized that I had never posted them.

On the weekend before Halloween, Papa, Ali, Aaliyah, the boys, and I went out to the camp and had a lovely hike in the woods.  It was a beautiful, sunny, autumn day and I’m not sure there is anything Oliver likes better than running through the woods.

Emery still needs a lift some most of the time.   

Lately Emery sees a camera and doesn’t sit long enough for the picture because he wants to see the pic … “Me see, Mommy!”

I like this shot of Oliver looking into the bare trees and the mountain beyond.  I like the woods this way.  

Serious looks for Emery.  I’m pretty sure the only real amount of walking he did was in the opposite direction, while I was chasing him.  Little stinker.  

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Emery’s 2nd Birthday

Dear Emery,

You are two.


I love this age – watching you as your personality takes shape, as you find your words and try to express yourself, as you figure out where you fit in our family.  You sometimes take a backseat to Oliver’s older and strong-willed personality but lately you are finding it easier to make yourself seen and heard (even if it means poking a grizzly bear sometimes).  You are fun and funny and your laugh is infectious.  You are (mostly) happy to just sit back and go with the flow… I love your laid back personality.

Here are some more things about you as you turn two:

  • It’s hard to understand you sometimes but you do have a lot to say!  You might have been slow to start talking but you’re putting two- and three-word sentences together like a champ now!
  • You will try pretty much everything your big brother does (which I think means that you really look up to him)
  • Speaking of big brother, you are learning very quickly how to hold your own against him
  • You like Mater (bay-tuh), McQueen (Meen), and Roary but anything with wheels will usually do
  • You can be very affectionate
  • You are a really good eater and are very curious about trying new things
  • You love being outdoors
  • You don’t have a lot of time for coloring but like playing with the train set, running cars around, and painting
  • You like books but are a bit less patient to sit through the whole book than Oliver was at your age

We brought our closest family together for a fun birthday party for you.  Hey, two is a big deal!  Here are some pictures from the party…

There you are, my sweet birthday boy.

We had coloring…

… remote control cars… 

… a table full of snacks… 

… a fun Papa… 

… and balloons!  

There were cupcakes… 

… dipsticks (chocolate-dipped pretzels) and traffic light rice krispie squares (momma had to keep with the theme!).  

It was baby Aaliyah’s first birthday party… 

… so she had lots of smiles (although she always does for crazy aunt Candice).  

You needed a little help blowing out your birthday cupcake… 

… but no help eating the cake.  

I have my eye on you, cupcake!

You got so many nice presents from so many nice people… 

… and you were pretty taken by the musical card that Nanny and Grampy sent to you.

When the presents were all opened you were a really polite little boy and said, “Tank yoo!” to the whole room.  Wow… you are so lucky to have such wonderful friends and family who care so much about you!  We are so lucky!  I think you enjoyed your second birthday as much as I enjoyed getting it ready for you.

Sometimes I find myself staring at you, just amazed at your happy little spirit and how you can often lighten a mood with just a smile.  You so often seem like just the thing our family needs.  Funny how life works  that way.

I love you, my sweet little chunk.


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Fun in the Kitchen with Oliver

A couple of weeks ago Oliver and I decided to make some pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.  Yum.

Oliver is more and more interested in helping me in the kitchen lately, which I love and welcome wholeheartedly.  I love that he’s interested in what I’m doing and wanting to help.

He’s a great little helper and wants to do everything himself.  He’s really good at watching me first, before diving in himself.  He even watched me crack an egg to learn how, then did his own with no stray pieces of shell … I was impressed!

He loves to stir.  He must be working hard if the tongue is out!  

Serious work!  

Dirty hands… 

And here it is, what I suspect is the real reason he likes to help:  

Licking the spoon and getting his fingers into the mixing bowl!

Hey, he is his mother’s son.


Halloween! (and some mommy frustration… )

This year we had a Halloween party/playdate on Saturday for some of our closest friends.  And on Halloween night we trick-or-treated our closest family – Nana and Papa, Grammie, Darryl & Gloria, Nan, and Gail & Miles.  It’s just the right amount of stops to get us home and in bed on time.

This year Oliver decided he wanted to be a robot for Halloween.  So I made him a traditional boxy robot costume, complete with foil-wrapped bowl hat.  He helped me decorate it with stickers and I taped glow sticks to it at the last minute.

Did he wear it?  No.  A vehement no everywhere we went.  This is the only picture I have of him in costume and that’s because I bribed him with a chocolate treat.  (More on that below).

Emery went as Woody this year, which was Oliver’s costume last year.  He played along well of course.  (Do you know how hard it was for me to give in to the idea that I wouldn’t have time to make two costumes this year?!)

Nana thought he was a pretty cute Woody!  

On Saturday we had a little Halloween party with a few of our close friends.  All of the kids looked so cute decked out in their costumes!  Notice Oliver was not wearing a costume there either (although he is pretty good at holding Aaliyah!).


Olivia is good at holding Catharine too!

The youngest party attendee.  Isn’t she cute in black and orange!

Emery was Woody that day too but he took a break to try on Oliver’s robot costume, complete with Nemo 3D glasses.  What a weirdo!  

We had a great time at our party and it’s always good to visit with other mommies!  I think we’ll make it a yearly tradition.

Now some mommy words about Oliver’s Halloween participation (or lack thereof).  I thought I did everything right – he chose what he wanted to be, he tried on the costume a few times before the party, he was excited about it, and he helped me decorate it.  I explained to him that he had to have it on when he knocked on doors but that he could take it off after he was given candy.

See, I know he doesn’t adapt well to new situations and I know he doesn’t care for a lot of attention but I did everything I thought I had to to work with his personality and ensure he would still have fun.

So when he threw a fit at Nana and Papa’s house, the first house and where I thought for sure he would be excited to show off his costume, I felt beaten down and defeated.  I felt like all that time spent on a costume that wasn’t worn was wasted, when I could have made something new for Emery.  I was angry that he was ruining the fun in the first five minutes of the night.

We all calmed down and had supper.  Should I have put him in the car, taken him home, and continued trick or treating with Emery?  Probably, yes.  It seemed really mean at the time so we continued on but he certainly didn’t learn anything by being allowed to act that way and continue trick or treating without his costume.  Hindsight.

While we were driving between houses, I asked Oliver why he didn’t want to wear his costume.  I knew what the answer would be.  He said, “I don’t want everyone to look at me and the sparkly things on the robot costume”.  This isn’t the first time he has given me that line, that he didn’t want people to look at him.  The first time was a couple of weeks ago when I told him he would have to put a winter hat on.  We finally got it on him but he cried the whole way to Jean’s, saying, “Emery, don’t look at me!”.

What is that?!  It makes me so sad.  As a mother my plan has always been to work really hard to make sure my kids have good self-confidence and self-awareness, but at three years old my child is already showing signs of insecurity.  I wish I could hit a rewind button and go back and see what moment, what words, what actions, what situation put that idea into his head and erase it from his mind.  I’m sure it’s a phase, like anything at this age, but it’s still very difficult to hear.

When Oliver threw his tantrum at the beginning of the night, I felt this wave of exhaustion come over me and I cried for a minute.  And then I wondered why every little thing is so difficult with him – what am I doing wrong to make even the simplest and most fun things such a struggle??  This is just one incident but I feel like we are constantly arguing with him about things as simple as putting his pajamas on, constantly thinking about how to carefully approach things to avoid a meltdown, constantly having to discipline him which leads to meltdowns of a different type.  It’s exhausting so when I think I’ve done everything right and the meltdown still happens… well, I feel like all the preamble was a waste, like there isn’t any hope in figuring him out, and, worst of all, like I’ve failed him.

Don’t get me wrong – Oliver isn’t the terror on the block or anything.  He really is a nice boy at heart and, along with the bad moments, we have very good times when he is agreeable and helpful and loving.  He’s just … “more”.  He has intense feelings and reactions, can be incredibly strong-willed, and very adamant when his mind is made up.  Figuring out how to deal with that and keep everyone in the house happy is difficult, especially since we share many of those personality traits.

So, even though we ended up enjoying the little visits with our family last night, I am left today feeling a little battered and bruised and wondering what I should have done differently (and what I will do differently) to keep us both sane.

Some day Oliver will read this but all of these hard times will be past.  If there is one thing I wish I could tell him now and have him understand, it’s this:  Honey, I love you more than you can know.  I am doing my best.  We will get through this.