Toddler Tantrums

Everyone says, "terrible twos." I honestly never thought I'd hit the stage. As a newborn, A cried all the time and would not settle down at all. However, once she turned 2 months it was an entirely new world. Until now ...

She is reverting back to her "younger" days. Insisting to drink out of sippy cups with handles.

Throwing tantrums on the garage floor. And yes, the outfit was to her liking.

Insisting she ALWAYS be carried and only on the right side of my body, not the left side, as she'll throw a full blown tantrum if she is carried incorrectly. She does the "up sign" frequently throughout the day as can be seen from her little car.

She even flares her arms and legs in the most unique way. I'm lucky we haven't had another bloody lip at the rate she's going these days.

And, that's a snapshot of our days lately. How long does this phase last?


Black Friday is for the Crows!

I ventured to BLACK FRIDAY deals this year. The ads lured me in, I'm not going to lie. And, having a toddler, toy discounts are so drastic during this time of year that it's hard not to buy toys at deep discounts like this. I intended on shopping at two places and had my list. Toys R Us and Walmart.

Seriously ... not worth getting up at the crack of dawn. I vow NEVER to do this again. Here's my story in a nut shell.

There were a few items at Toys R Us I wanted for Ava. Actually, Santa wanted to get for Ava. I set my alarm so I could be at the store for the midnight opening. I arrived and there were tons of people. I mean tons. The line was wrapped all around the outside of the store back behind 3 other stores and going into Costco's parking lot. If you can only imagine. I thought to myself and said (in my mind, or at least I hope I didn't say this outloud), "I decided, oh, what the heck. I'll just stand in line and see what happens. The store opens in 15 minutes. It can't be that bad, right." As I took my place at the end of the line a police officer pulls towards myself and a few others in line and said, "this isn't what I think it is, is it? Please tell me you people aren't all in line for Toys R Us?" That should have been my first clue.

I waited. And waited. And waited some more. The store opened at midnight and the line didn't move! Needless to say, I ended up waiting about 30 minutes in line only to continue to wait. The store was completely packed - full to capacity and they were only letting a person enter the store as one would leave the store. Great!

As I waited I began to people watch. I mean what better to do with my time than to see what the crazies of Sacramento were all about. I experienced random comments from the people in front of me asking me, "How many energy drinks did you have before you came here." Mind you, she was in flip flops and shorts on a bitter winter evening and shaking as she spoke. And, "Wow, people are really stupid if they come to black friday events alone. You have to get in line immediately upon entering the store and flip flop shopping with your friend." I knew I was among the crazies of the town. And, oh, I might add that I ventured this by myself and realized IF I even got into the store, I'd not only have to wait another hour to get into the store, but then I'd have to wait another 2 hours in line.

After hearing the comments and waiting in line for 30 minutes and barely moving, I decided to leave. The biggest waste of 1 hour in my life.

And, here's the kicker - I went back to Toys R Us and Walmart the following day - midmorning might I add - and they had everything I was intending to purchase the night before. No waiting, no lines, just a few simple transactions. Yes, the stores were busy, but I crossed everything off my list except one thing.

I will never stand in line like that again. Ugh. Makes me cringe just thinking about it.


Botox Injections?

Toddlers fall. Actually, I believe toddlers fall quite frequently. They are still learning about balance, attempting to run faster than their little legs will carry them and trying to understand why you can't climb on top of 20 books and not fall. It's a hard concept.

The Chef Family has more accidents with Ms. A when it comes to her lips. She'll fall and bite her lip. This has happened on several occassions, including once in the bathtub, leaving the Iron Chef and myself in quite a scurry trying to figure out if she knocked her teeth out our not.

Here's the story this time. Just as we were about to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner ... I was just begin to plate all of our dishes and the turkey was just about to be cut and served. Yes, Ms. A took a tumble. She thought she could walk on books. Shiny covered books from the library (with protective covers might I add) on hard wood floors are definitely not a great combination. She took a dive and feel lip first into the hardwood floor. The tears were a flowing and the lip was a swelling. Oh, this was a beauty and we took pictures to prove it. A's lips looked like a botox injection gone bad. They were seriously that big.

Her lip is much - much - much better today. The swelling has gone down and a few dried pieces of her lip skin are starting to flake off. Poor little thing. It's hard to be a baby (I mean toddler, yet I still want to say baby).


Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thankskgiving to all our friends and family. May you all have a wonderful Turkey Day celebration with family, friends or whomever you may gather with on this special day.


Cheese Ball

I'm not going to lie. I love help around the house. It always makes me feel better to know I have less work to finish. Like, the dishwasher for example. I love it. The quiet humming noise tells me that my dishing are being washed ... and not by me!

And, I especially love the help from Ms. A. Oh, what a helper. I know I've already mentioned this in a previous post. But, she is really getting into the "I think I'm a big girl phase" and wants to help with everything. She even has her own broom and dust pan and I'm working to find a cute little vacuum as well. Mimicking everything and helping me along the way.

Now for the cheese-ball photos. These photos were snapped in about 30 seconds and are definitely full of expression and goofy, cheese ball phases.

Ms. A helping me put the dishes away. "Say CHEESE," I replied. And she replied this.

... and then realized there was too much to carry in her arms (yet another awesome facial expression)

... so she was better off playing on the ground and making yet, another mess.


Another Tour ...

For the Iron Chef's birthday celebration, we didn't just visit the Jelly Belly Factory. We most definitely visited another California destination and had another round of sampling, too. Where did we go? The Anheuser-Busch Factory Tour - Budweiser Brewery. Jelly beans and beer go together well, right? Apparently we thought so.

I found it fittingly appropriate that I was touring a Budweiser plant for the first time as well considering I have (in a former life, of course ;) ) been a Bud girl in a parade or two. Sorry I don't have the pictures to prove it, but yes, I most definitely have budweiser paraphernalia to prove it.

Ms. A tagged along with us for this mini excursion, as this was old news for her as well, since she has already been on the authentic Miller Tour in Wisconsin. Aren't these all things a one-year-old needs to have crossed off their list? I guess the beer tours are up there on her list of places she's visited ... along with the Harley Davidson museum, too. :) Our daughter is so cultured. hehe.

Here are a few photos from inside the plant. LARGE vaults full of beer in the making.

Finally time for a little tasting. If you are wondering, Ms. A enjoyed a non-carbonated lemonade with pretzels to cleanse her pallet. She found her tasting to be absolutely delightful as well.

I definitely found my new favorite adult beverage (when it comes to beer). Have you ever tried Wild Blue? Seriously, this beer is delicious and tastes like a sweet piece of fruit. I never knew a beer could taste like this. I was pleasantly surprised.

Cheers to Budweiser for a great tour and wonderful samples.

Updated: A 28th Birthday Celebration ... Filled w/ Carrot Cake!

First of all, the birthday celebration. The Iron Chef turned the big '28' - Happy Birthday to him!

And now, time for the bigger celebration. The Cake. Carrot cake is absolutely delicious. To a carrot cake lover, that is. Carrot cake is a sweet cake with grated carrot mixed into the batter. Absolutely delicious. The Iron Chef and I have had many carrot cakes throughout the years, but somehow, during our 5 years of marriage, I had yet to bake one on my own. As the Iron Chef's 28th birthday celebration was approaching, he asked if I would bake him a carrot cake for his special treat.

I, being the Sous Chef, obliged and said yes.

A birthday cake for the Iron Chef and a new experient for myself. Sounded like a great plan! However, being in a new house and having recently used most of my staple baking supplies, my first step was to go to the grocery store and purchase all the staple ingedients to restock my pantry cupboard. It's amazing how expensive baking ingredients can be when you have to start from scratch to refill, but, with my Safeway card I was able to snag some great deals and save about 70 dollars from my grocery bill of $50. (I'll have to get more into the details of my bargain grocery shopping later. I even attended a Moms Club session on grocery savings and coupon clipping).

And so the mess began ...

One of the most crucial steps (according to the recipe giver, Ranae) is to let the grated carrots and brown sugar soak in together for 60 minutes. And, for those health concious people out there - this recipe called for 6 cups of grated carrots and 1 cup crushed pineapple - so if you think you aren't getting any healthy benefits from this cake, think again!

I eventually had to add the raisins to the carrot mixture and then mix the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.

Mixing the frosting together. I used my Kitchen Aid mixture for this one. Mixing the frosting in the kitchenaid mixture definitely makes for a super smooth, easy to spread frosting mixture.

This is my secret recipe tip. If you are frosting a large cake and need to frost all sides. Instead of trying to frost and layer the cake all at once, try this. Put a think layer of frosting on the cake, not worrying about flaking crumbs or pieces of cake in the thin frosting layer. Next, refridgerate cake for 15-20 minutes to make the frosting harden. Take the cake out of fridge and refrost using a heavier layer. Trust me, this works! You will end up with a better looking cake without crumbs in the frosting.

After frosting entire cake, dust off cake decorating tools and get a little creative with the birthday cake. If you do not have a decorators frosting bag, just put frosting into a ziploc bag and cut off the corner. A simple trick that works almost the same.

I even colored the frosting to go with our orange "carrot" theme by adding a few drops of red and yellow food coloring.

The results? Drum roll, please.

An absolutely delicious, moist, incredibly flavorful Carrot Cake.

Yum-O! Thanks, Ranae for this scrumptious recipe (please see below)!

Carrot Cake Recipe

6 cups grated carrots
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsps vanilla
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts

In a medium bowl, combine grated carrots and brown sugar. Set aside for 60 minutes, then stir in raisins.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 10 inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, beat eggs until light. Gradually beat in the white sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the pineapple. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and stir into the wet mixture until absorbed. Finally, stir in the carrot mixture and walnuts. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake for 45-50 minutes in preheated oven, until cake tests done with toothpick. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans. When completely cooled, frost with cream cheese frosting.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened (no substitutions)
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 package (16 ounces) confectioners sugar

In large bowl, with mixer at medium high speed, beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Beat in confectioners sugar until blended. Increase speed to medium-high; beat 2 minutes or until light and creamy. I usually use more than 16 ounces. Make sure you do a few taste tests to see if the frosting is of the consistency you want.

Makes 3 1/2 cups.


Jelly Beans 24/7

The Iron Chef LOVES jelly beans. I don't just mean around Easter or when a big white bunny goes hopping around the neighborhood. I mean, all the time.

Our family knows that Jelly Belly brand is his all time favorite. With a free weekend in sight and a 28th birthday celebration, the Chef Family was looking for something to do. What a better way to enjoy a birthday and have some fun, than to visit the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, CA.

Not only was this a sweet experience, but the entire building smelled of jelly beans and lots of sugar. This sugar smell was noticeable upon entrance and only became more potent as our tour continued. We were not able to take cameras during the tour - for fear we would steal their secret recipes - so we had to make do with a few pictures from the entrance and the gift shop area.

A really cool Motorcycle filled with jelly beans. Who wouldn't want to drive away on this thing?

The entrance to the 'secret' tour. Guess you'll have to come and visit us so you can go on the tour, too. One cool part of the tour was the tastings. Not just an actual jelly belly, but to be able to taste the jelly belly at all stages of production. Pretty cool. There aren't too many tours we've been on that you can taste the product during different stages of it being made.

And, here we are. The Chef Family at our best. Filled with sugar from our jelly bean candy sugar high. Revved and ready to go. Our lovely purchase from the gift shop. You'll never guess. 6 lbs of jelly bellys, which the Iron Chef told me will go in his jelly belly dispenser in his office.

We also learned that Buttered Popcorn ranks among one of the top favorite flavors.

What is your favorite flavor?


Another sneak peak

I know I've already said it before. The updates on the Chef family have been a little slow lately. Especially updates of Ms. A. However, another sneak peak of our new community in California and the sparkling pool area we will be enjoying this summer.

Just a little teaser for everyone. It's beautiful, isn't it? We are definitely enjoying our subdivisions club house thus far and simply cannot wait until summer. We're just waiting for visitors this summer so we can all enjoy it together. And think we are on vacation every time the Chef Family will be relaxing in the sun.


The craziness

Moving is crazy. Just plain and simple. It's CRAZY. There is so much to complete and so much to do. From a new drivers license to figuring out where to put your plates and silverware in the kitchen cabinets. It takes time to finish everything on my list and, yes, life is just crazy.

The Chef Family is slowly become adjusted to our new environment and loving every little bit along the way. Ms. A and I have already joined a new Stay at Home Mommy group, we had our first CA playdate this week and we've met a few other friends at the park as well. It's very reassuring to know there are so many friendly faces and places in our area.

I'm truly blessed to be able to stay at home with Ms. A during this time of her life. First of all, I cannot imagine moving, getting adjusted to a new life, working and having a toddler running around like crazy. Life has been much easier because I am able to focus on our life at home and making our house warm and cozy.

But, with that being said, the blog updates have been very s-l-o-wwwwww lately and the Chef Family apologizes. More updates to come when life settles down a little bit. Tomorrow is a big day at the DMV ... and a guaranteed wait of probably 2 hours or more. This is definitely going to be an interesting "field" trip with a toddler than loves to explore. I'll be bringing many snacks and entertaining toys to occupy her while I take my tests, complete paperwork, have my car inspected, etc. A fun and long day.

Yes, the craziness continues.

However, with all the craziness and adjusting to our new life, I can certainly say that the Chef Family LOVES the warm weather. We are outside everyday and have been able to visit the park on a regular basis. Thank goodness we are within walking distance to one of the best parks in the area.

More craziness. More updates to come. Thanks for being patient.


Halloween Fun

A little late, but better late than never. Halloween this year was an ultimate blast. As a family, we had seriously, just moved into our new house in California and had seriously close to nothing in our house. We were sleeping on air mattresses and eating/sitting on a card table and chairs. It was pathetic. However, nonetheless, we headed to Sams Club and stocked up on candy (not knowing how many trick-or-treaters we would have) and were ready to enjoy the evening.

The weather was absolutely beautiful. The Iron Chef and I prepped Ms. A in her oh-so-adorable penguin costume and headed out in our new subdivision for some fun.

However, before our trick-or-treating began, Ms. A decided it would be best if she would stock up her bag with candy BEFORE leaving the house. Yes, our makeshift candy table ... she didn't care one bit. And, learned to know that sweet treats were kept inside those bowls.

After going in an out of the house a few times, trick-or-treating a couple times as well, she was finally set and proud of her "loot" for the evening. Definitely grinning ear to ear.

After this picture Ava headed out to see the kids dressed up in costume. Although she loved this evening, she was very scared of scary costumes and masks (the Iron Chef and I hid her from most of this) however one scary masked man was walking down the street and scared Ms. A half to death. She grabbed hold to her mimi (my mom, grandma) as fast as she could and was definitely done for the night. Although one incident of scariness - she loved the evening and enjoyed her costume as well.

After Ms. A went inside to wind down ... the Iron Chef and I enjoyed an evening outside in the California fall air. We pulled our lawn chairs in our driveway and passed out candy in our yard to all the kids dressed up. We met a few neighbors along the way, munched on a few pieces (okay, more than a few pieces) of candy ourself and counted down to the arrival of our household items (which arrived the following morning).

All in all, a great holiday. A memory once again.