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Toddler Tuesday: Mom confessions

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A friend of mine recently did a post called, “Confessions of a Toddler Mom” and I just loved it so much, I’m totally stealing her idea for today.  I’ll be he first to admit I’m far from a perfect mother…

I don’t always (OK, hardly ever) use the safety strap on shopping carts. Or changing tables. And not always on the stroller, either.

Meet one of my son’s milk cups.

Speaking of beverage containers, I use my “cleansing bottle” I came home with from the hospital as his water bottle. Moms who’ve given birth the “traditional way” know what I’m talking about.

I make people uncomfortable by taking my son to watch them work outside at close range, just standing there and staring. Because he loves it.

I let our dog do the first rinse on his hands after a meal.

I also never wash the windows.

I let him make loud sounds at Petsmart and in public restrooms so he can hear his voice echo. I may even make the same sounds back at him sometimes. (All the time.)

I get annoyed when his nap doesn’t last at least an hour.

But when it lasts longer, I get anxious waiting to see his face again and catch myself continuously glancing at the clock.

When I need a break, I send him outside to play with Jessie.  If he’s content for more than five minutes, I generally find him smeared in poop or covered in dirt, but it’s totally worth it.

I have plotted evil things against the ice cream man, tree trimmers, neighbors, and relatives, for making noise during nap time.

I have done the following to get him to eat: let him run around free with it (i.e. food smears & crumbs everywhere), bribed him with sweets to get him to try something new, and shoved food into his mouth while he was screaming and crying.

On hard days I count down the minutes…and seconds…until bed time.

I’ve attempted to use the TV as a babysitter.  And really wished it had worked.

I let him jump on the bed, climb, explore, and destroy far more than I planned to.

I don’t feed him organic very often, and I use don’t eschew sugar.

I still hold him like a baby before nap and bedtime, and give him a sippy cup of milk just like I used to do with his bottle. I can’t. stop.

And sometimes (a lot of times), I just embrace the mess.

Quick Coconut Oil & Kahlua Brownies

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In looking over all the food photos I have in my “future blog” folder, I’m noticing a trend. Everything is baked in the oven! In the past, I’ve tried to save most of my baked recipes to share in cooler weather, but I just bake so much in summer, that’s really all I’ve got for you. Even the main dishes I’ve been making have come from the oven.  Am I the only one? Maybe I’ve got some Australian readers eager for baked treats & casseroles? haha!

So these are a box mix recipe which I know, is probably a food crime combining wonderful virgin coconut oil in conjunction with a box mix, but it’s really good! If you’re wanting a good from-scratch coconut oil brownie you might be able to just sub coconut oil in my favorite Fudge Brownies recipe.  But if you’re in a hurry, this one will do you.

My usual trick to make box mix brownies taste homemade is to sub melted butter for the oil, but I was out, so I used coconut oil. The slight coconut oil flavor mixed with the Kahlua (I used my homemade stuff) is pretty out of this world. Using the coconut oil changes the finish on the top and although it’s got that flaky crispy layer, it’s dull, not shiny. I also noticed they were harder to remove from the pan, but nice and fudgy and the flavor is much better than just following the instructions on the back. Enjoy!

Quick Coconut Oil & Kahlua Brownies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 fudge brownie mix
2/3 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup Kahlua, room temperature

Mix all ingredients and bake according to package directions.

Veronica’s note: You want the ingredients at room temperature to keep the coconut oil from hardening during the mixing. If it hardens, it will not mix evenly. Also, if your box calls for 1/2 cup oil, use 1/2 cup coconut oil, not 2/3 cup. Mine turned out pretty thin in a 9×13 pan so if you like thicker brownies, go with a smaller pan.

You can’t see in this photo, but he’s already holding a half-eaten brownie while reaching for another. These are definitely Joshua-approved. I served these to five other children and three adults besides myself, they were a hit all-around.

TILT: some more kitchen favorites

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Welcome to another edition of TILT: Things I Like Thursday.

Doughmakers 15-Inch Large Pizza Pan

First up is the pizza pan I have used to make every pizza on my blog (here’s the whole list if you’d like it), plus many more.  This one was recommended to me by Laura Flowers, previously known as The Cooking Photographer, who is also the person who supplied me with the chocolate chip cookie recipe that won me a blue ribbon!  All that to say, I trust this woman, and her recommendation was spot on.  This pan bakes up perfect crusts, and has a pebbled surface that prevents anything from sticking to it.

Fun note: this is also the pan I used for the My Little Pony cake display. You can see the surface of the pan in many of the prep photos on that post, and it still looks new after five years of use.  It’s made to last.


OXO SoftWorks Can Opener

Next up is something very simple: a can opener. I was so fed up with can openers that didn’t last before I bought this little gem.  It was recommended to me by two different friends on opposite sides of the country, who’ve both had theirs for years (one more than ten, the other I believe was five), and it still works perfectly.  I haven’t had mine very long, but it already has impressed me. I had bought some higher priced ones that were already wearing out after a few months of use. This simple little gadget has made me very happy.


Gourmet Rolling Fresh Herb and Multipurpose Kitchen Mincer

This is what Teri uses to make her homemade noodles, so I bought one and have used it to make thousands of delicious noodles over the last four years.  While affordable, it is good quality, I haven’t had any trouble with it at all.  And of course, you can also use it to mince your herbs.

Last but not least is my beloved canning funnel.


Prepworks Regular and Wide Mouth Canning Funnel

I love that it fits most any size jar, and has an outer collar that keeps the funnel lifted off the counter when not in use, preventing contamination and minimizing mess if you need to sit it down while canning for any reason.  Also, the handle doesn’t get piping hot as you fill jars – no burnt fingers!  It also features headspace measurements for precise filling. I love it so much.

Thanks for TILT’ing it up with me today, folks.  You can check out last week’s TILT on USA Pans if you missed it, and if you are thinking about cloth diapering, check back next Thursday for some cloth diaper fun. :)

Full disclosure: I am not being compensated for these reviews, I just really love these things and think you deserve to know about them!  This post does contain affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you buy anything after clicking the links. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Potato, Onion & Spinach Hash

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This is something I threw together to use up a few things before they went bad, and ended up with a plate of magics. Weeks later, we are still eating this once or twice a week and is one of Joshua’s favorite meals.  I’ve never been very much of a potato person, but man, you can’t hardly beat crispy seasoned potatoes dipped in runny egg yolk.

Potato, Onion & Spinach Hash

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 medium potato
2 thick slices of sweet onion
1/2 cup fresh spinach
Extra-virgin olive oil
Garlic salt & pepper to taste

Pierce the potato through the middle with a knife and microwave for 3 minutes, or until tender all the way through. Meanwhile, dice the onion. Once the potato is cooked, put a skillet on medium-high heat, and cut the potato into small cubes, removing the peel if you wish. Once the skillet is hot, add a generous swirl of olive oil to the pan, along with the potato and onion. Stir to coat with the oil, then sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cook without stirring until golden brown on one side, then stir, trying to turn over as many of the pieces as possible. Allow to sit again until golden brown, then add the fresh spinach and cook for a few more minutes, until wilted and soft. Serve hot with eggs, or as a side dish.

Toddler Tuesday: Our July 4th

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Patriotic cousins.

This was the first ever 4th of July we’ve spent with Dennis’ family, and it was the best Independence day of my life! We are kind of sticks in the mud and usually don’t do a single thing for the holiday, not even a single firecracker or grilled piece of meat.  So this was a nice change of pace.  I’m thinking we’ll need to make this a tradition.

We got there Friday night and Grandma and Grandpa Miller had a surprise for Joshua, a Radio Flyer trike! It was in new condition, and Phyllis found it for only $1 at a garage sale. Joshua has been trying to play with the bikes in neighbor’s yards, and he’s is sooooo happy to have his very own trike now!

This is Joshua’s shy smile, he will look to the side and smile at you out of the corner of his eye. He did this while walking down the “runway,” along with running to and fro until Daddy reigned him in. 

We went to the park on July 4th, where they were having a big celebration with a Baby Beauty contest, frog races, turtle races, bouncy houses, free hot dogs, swimming, etc.  It was so hot we only stayed to do the Baby Beauty contest and the frog race, and Joshua bounced a little on the step going into a bouncy house, which was perfectly fine with him. Joshua didn’t place in the beauty contest, Dennis says because they didn’t have any “Grand Champion” ribbons, and his little frog didn’t win either, but of course neither bothered him. He was just having fun.

Auntie Joan introducing him to the frog he was entering into the race, courtesy of Uncle Richard catching it on their property.

There were horses all along the fence as we were leaving.  Being obsessed with horses, Joshua kept pointing and making noises indicating he wanted to get closer.  We stopped to watch a little girl bridling a horse and her Dad asked if Joshua wanted to sit on him. Oh yes, he did!  I didn’t catch his smile, but he was so excited.  First the bike, now the horse, all his lifelong dreams were coming true. lol

After his nap, Joshua cooled off in the redneck Miller swimming pool, the old sheep trough. Gotta love country living!

Jessie enjoyed the trough too.

Auntie Joan had gotten Joshua a flag tank top to match his cousins’ shirts so we had to get a photo of them together. She’s also responsible for her boys’ awesome socks. Would you just look at these handsome boys?

This photo was Grandma Phyllis’ brilliant idea, she wanted to get the “Biker Cousins” in a pic together.  Is this too much, or is this too much?

Too. much.

We had the most amazing grilled burgers (my contribution was CW’s Strawberry Shortcake), but I didn’t get a picture of them. Instead, I give you Joshua, who swiped Grandpa’s corn cob off his plate. He loves corn on the cob!

Auntie Joan took him on a trip on his fire engine (another of Grandma’s garage sale finds).

And we got down to business, cracking poppers, doing smoke bombs and snakes. Joshua loved it all!

Cracking Poppers with Uncle Richard.

This is the “Pooping Dog” – a snake comes out his butt lol.

A friend showed up on his motorcycle and Grandpa took Joshua to check it out. This kid is even more obsessed with motorcycles (and trucks and anything that goes vroom) than horses. Here he is working on his James Dean look.

And I’ll close with the last picture I took, of Joshua and his Grandpa watching the motorcycle leave. <3

See you next week for another, hopefully much less photo heavy, Toddler Tuesday.

Sweet Salsa Slow Cooker Meatballs

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Independence Day!  It was the best 4th of July of my whole life, and hands-down the best day Joshua’s ever had period. I want to share some photos but will be doing that tomorrow.

Today I have a simple crockpot meal that is great any time of year, because in summer, it doesn’t heat the kitchen, and in winter, it’s just nice to have something hot and ready at the end of a cold day.  I got this recipe from my friend, Holly, who actually had posted it in response to a mutual friend’s request for crockpot recipes on Facebook. I nabbed it and made it soon after because I’d just made my own apricot jam.  These were very satisfying and tasty.  Hope you enjoy, and stay cool!

Sweet Salsa Slow Cooker Meatballs

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 (26 oz) bag frozen meatballs
3 bell peppers in different colors, sliced (optional)
1 (24 oz) jar salsa
1 (18 oz) jar apricot preserves

Place the meatballs in the bottom of your slow cooker and layer the bell peppers over, if you’re using them.  Whisk the salsa and apricot preserves together in a bowl, and pour over the top.  Cover and cook on low until heated through, 6-8 hours. Holly suggests serving over rice or with mashed potatoes and green beans.

Recipe source: adapted from Holly W.

Things I Like Thursday: USA Pans

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I’m starting something new!  Things I Like Thursday. TILT.  I like it. :)  I hope you like it too.

First off, I’m a thrifty person, as we are a family of four (don’t forget the dog – she is almost as expensive than the toddler!) living on one small income, so I try to buy things that are lower in price.  However, I am also willing to save and pay more for something that is really good quality because I’ve learned over and over, the hard way, that you almost always get what you pay for.  Not always, but usually.  And you actually do end up saving money, and getting better results, by paying more for high quality pans that last a lifetime than paying for $5 pans over and over and over.

Which leads me to my favorite pans.  I have bought a lot of cheap pans and the results I got with them were OK, not great, but I’m a good baker, so it wasn’t terrible.  I finally decided, after the state fair judges told me for the millionth time not to grease the sides of my pans (and finally disqualified me for doing so after many warnings), that it was time to buy some really killer pans that baked goods would actually come free of, even if I didn’t grease the sides.

I did some research, comparing different brands, and I was swayed by the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon for the USA pans.  So despite them costing more than I’d usually like to pay, I used some of my state fair winnings money several years ago to purchase a loaf pan and two muffin pans.

USA Pans 6-Piece Bakeware Set

Oh my wow, people.  These pans are amazing.  I actually had previously purchased an even higher priced Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Nonstick Loaf Pan with a gift card I got for a birthday, and these pans beat the pricey Goldtouch pans out of the park.  Yes, the Goldtouch pans are nicely nonstick, and they give breads and muffins an excellent rise, but they also consistently over-browned the sides and bottom of my baked goods.  And dark brown on the sides, golden on the top is just not a good look for baked goods.  State Fair judges are definitely not fans of that look. The pans also tend to collect yucky stuff in the corners that was a lot of work to get out with a toothpick.


USA Pans 9 x 5 x 2.75 Inch Loaf Pan, Aluminized Steel with Americoat

The USA Pans are not only fabulously nonstick, and give your baked goods an excellent rise, but they do not over-brown the bottom and sides of your baked goods, and do not collect gunk in the corners.  I have also had no problems with rust, and my pans are still in the same condition they were when I bought them two years ago.


USA Pans 8.5 x 4.5 Inch Aluminized Steel Loaf Pan with Americoat Loaf Pan

I can now present my quick breads to the judges without having the “fry line,” as they call it, on the sides, and last year I was not disqualified.  In fact, my Black Walnut Banana Bread got third place. (Yes, the blue ribbon STILL eludes me! One day, people, one day. Here is the main part of my Banana Bread adventures if you’re unfamiliar with my epic quest for a blue ribbon and want to catch up.)

USA Pans 5-1/2 by 3-Inch Mini Loaf Pan, Set of 4

I will say that the one drawback with the muffin pans is that they won’t fit side by side in a regular-sized oven if you want to bake two dozen muffins or cupcakes at once. Which I often do.  It hasn’t slowed me down though, I just put one in the middle rack on the far right, and one on the very top, far left. The bottom one gets done first and I move the top one down to finish, or sometimes just leave it up there to slowly finish.  It really upset me when I discovered they wouldn’t fit side by side, but I don’t mind it at all now.  Since it bothered me so much, though, I wanted to make sure to mention it so you guys don’t have any surprises if you decide to buy them!  They are definitely my favorite muffin pans, even with the unfortunate size problem.


USA Pans 12 Cup Cupcake/Muffin Pan, Aluminized Steel with Americoat

I highly recommend USA pans to anyone that enjoys baking.  They are definitely “Things I Like.” :)

Check back next Thursday for another kitchen edition of TILT! After that I might get all wild and crazy with posts on cloth diapers and essential oils. I be so crunchy! :D

Full disclosure: I’m not being paid to provide this review, nor was I provided with anything free to do it.  I just really LOVE these pans and want to spread the word.  There are affiliate links contained in this post, and I will earn a commission if you decide to purchase any of these items through the links I provide, but again, the thoughts and opinions stated here are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting my blog! :)

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