Back to the RMHC for Easter

Last year John and I woke up on Easter morning at the Ronald McDonald House. I had a small breakdown when I saw the Easter baskets at the bottom of the stairs, knowing our son was sedated and getting ready to undergo another surgery that day. Instead of going to church on Easter, we sat in a patient waiting room and had lunch in the hospital cafeteria. Even after great news that evening, John and my Easter supper came from the gas station and we crawled in bed at the Ronald McDonald House again late that night.

This year, we spent Easter at the Ronald McDonald House again. But this time, we brought Elijah.

After some serious thought about how we wanted to spend Easter, John and I decided we wanted to give back to the place that gave us a shower and a bed last year on Easter. I contacted the volunteer coordinator and asked if we could serve an Easter meal to the people staying there. The date was available, and we started making arrangements. We decided a menu: traditional Easter ham, mashed potatoes, beans, fruit, rolls, and desserts. We purchased the groceries, and we brought everything with us to Iowa City.

With the help of my parents and my aunt, we spent the day preparing food for 35 people. One of the requirements for serving a meal is that everything must be prepared in the RMHC kitchen. While the ham baked, we prepped the other food. Thankfully my aunt is a master potato peeler and handled 15 lbs to feed all of the guests. In between preparation, we utilized the amazing playground out back and took in the gorgeous weather with Elijah. He was a rockstar all day and contributed his cheesy smile to the guests.

The day was emotional, and hearing people’s stories was inspiring. I can’t say much more because of confidentiality, but I’ll tell you it was the best Easter.

Doctors In Concert

Saturday night’s date night was unlike John and my typical night out, thanks to my brother Matt and his girlfriend, Meredith.

For Elijah’s birthday, Matt and Meredith gave us tickets to Doctor’s in Concert. This event was a fundraiser for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. In addition to a gift close to our hearts, Matt and Meredith arranged their schedules to babysit Elijah while we attended the concert. In fact, they encouraged us to be gone as long as was wanted and they spent the night.

From the snaps I received, it was obvious Elijah loved time with these two chasing him around the house.

For us, our evening started with a reception at the Coralville Performing Arts Center before the concert. The show was put on by doctors at the university, and the event was hosted by Kirk Ferentz and his wife, Mary. Acts included anything from the University Faculty Pep Band to solo piano and vocal performances. Talk about talent!

Intermission included Scratch cupcakes, AND we made a detour to Hurts Donuts- Open 25 hours a day! just down the hallway of the performance center.

After a rough teaching week, it was just the escape I needed in every way.

“Lifting the Ban”

If you’re Catholic and Irish, the Lenten “obligation of abstaining from eating meat” may be lifted in your archdiocese tomorrow. While people including my husband are thrilled with permission to consume meat on one of the Fridays during Lent, I think it’s criticizable (and I’m Irish and Catholic).

If you gave up alcohol for Lent does tomorrow count? What if it’s green beer? Guinness?

I’ve blogged about my struggle with this “sacrifice” before, and my stance remains. 

If giving up meat on Fridays during Lent is supposed to be a sacrifice, why would the “ban be lifted” for a celebration. What about other celebrations that fall on Fridays during Lent? Just because other celebrations don’t come with the traditional corned beef and cabbage doesn’t mean they don’t include meat on their menus. Christians are told standing up for the faith is not easy, so wouldn’t this be an opportunity to ask Catholics to face this challenge and commit to their Lenten sacrifice in one of the tougher times within the season?

I’m not judging anyone who eats meat tomorrow or any Friday during Lent. My assumption and hope is that you’re doing something even more meaningful to strengthen your relationship with God.

Pumpkin…Everything

After making it through the first full week of school, John, Elijah, and I packed up to spend some time at my parents’ house for the Labor Day weekend. Our friends hosted a Pasture Party, and it felt like a fall weekend. A beef roast and a lamb roast, plus live music, and a bonfire on a crisp night made me thankful to live in a place where the seasons change.

September and fall weather officially mean pumpkin…everything.

The pumpkin cake donuts from Dunkin are my favorite calorie splurge this time of year. The DD that opened just minutes from my house last week has the best timing. If you haven’t tried these yet, add it to your fall bucket list!

Even though I love pumpkin, I haven’t gone overboard by purchasing pumpkin Oreos or pumpkin Cheerios. I’ll stick with embracing the flavor through donuts and coffee.

Fruity Rice Krispy Treats

img_3035Who doesn’t love Rice Krispy Treats?

Thanks to Pinterest for another non-chocolate win in our house. The standard Rice Krispy Treat recipe calls for six cups of Rice Krispys. Cut this to three cups and add in three cups of Fruity Pebbles. Everything else remains the same.

INGREDIENTS:
3 tablespoons butter
1 bag of marshmallows
3 cups Rice Krispie cereal
3 cups Fruity Pebble cereal

Yes, I ate these for breakfast.

Our New Place

If you’ve been reading my blog very long, you know Bill’s was a place John and I frequented for popcorn and Guinness. Bill’s served as a mid-week break during many busy semesters of grad school, and it was a perfect meeting place with family or friends on Friday evenings when we wanted to do something but didn’t feel like going far from home. Unfortunately, Bill’s closed a few months ago. I blame an establishment around the corner that also serves a full menu of food, plus popcorn and Guinness. While this new establishment is great for our small town, John and I have found ourselves trading the popcorn for chips and salsa.

IMG_0466You’ll find us at La Cantina at least once a week. This Mexican restaurant opened just last year and is even closer to our home than Bill’s. Plus, they have a great patio. We’ve already talked about how easy it will be to push a stroller to this location and enjoy dinner dates outside with Baby W. this summer. My order is almost always the same, a veggie quesadilla with guacamole. It never disappoints and even provides leftovers. The only thing better will be adding a margarita again.

P.S. It’s National Margarita Day! Have one for me, please!

Salted Caramel Blondies

IMG_2006You can’t go wrong with cookie dough and caramel.

This recipe makes a 9×9 pan, which seems perfectly acceptable for two people to devour. Right?

(Adapted recipe from http://www.addapinch.com)

Preheat 350 degrees

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Half a bag of Kraft Caramel Chips

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, vanilla, salt, and flour.

Mix in (most of the) caramel chips. These unwrapped caramel baking chips are such a time saver compared to unwrapping and cutting up pieces of carmel.

Bake 20 minutes

Once cooked (don’t overcook!), melt some of the caramel chips in the microwave, stirring occasionally. Cover the blondies with a coat of sweet caramel.

John enjoyed these with vanilla ice cream. I plan to make these again soon.

Fall Food

Before and After

IMG_1985 IMG_1989

Thanks to my mother-in-law for the bags of apples from the orchard, I needed to get baking before they went bad. Our house smelled heavenly tonight. Here is the apple crisp recipe I used.

IMG_1974Over the weekend I tried out a Pinterest recipe for pumpkin donuts. So easy!

  • Mix 1 box of Betty Crocker yellow cake mix
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.

Grease donut pan, add batter, and bake for 9 minutes at 350 degrees. Top the finished donuts with a little pie spice and sugar.

Who doesn’t love Fall baking?

Pumpkin

IMG_1875Everyone who enjoys fall knows it’s officially the season when Starbucks starts serving Pumpkin Spiced Lattes. I’ve actually only had one (decaf) PSL this season, but I’m getting my pumpkin fill from Dunkin Donuts. If you haven’t tried their Pumpkin Crumb Cake Donut, you haven’t tasted Fall. I suggest going early in the morning so your breakfast is fresh and sometimes still warm. Once you taste one, you’ll be dreaming about it all season.

My recent non-edible pumpkin related purchases include a caramel pumpkin candle from Bath and Body works, and real pumpkins for our front porch. I’m not into decorating for Halloween IMG_1918(although there are some all natural cobwebs taking over my front door), so pumpkins and mums are it. Aren’t mums the best looking plant? Our neighbor has roughly a dozen different colored mums around her front porch, and I love that I get to enjoy her decor from afar.

Speaking of pumpkins, look at this little cutie! We celebrated Colin’s 1st birthday on Sunday. Who needs cake when there is frosting?

Mini Garden

IMG_1692Before I try my green thumb at a full garden, I decided to just grow tomato plants this year. My count was up to seven tomatoes the last time I checked! I can’t wait to eat them knowing they grew right outside my kitchen door.

I love tomatoes and growing them requires minimal care. What other vegetables are this easy to grow? Maybe I’ll plant a variety next spring.