DIY Updated vents

Kevin and I are lucky enough to live in his childhood home.  We absolutely love it here and love the fact that Luke gets to grow up in the place where we were married and where Kevin grew up.  In fact, there are marks on the doorway in the basement where Kevin's parents recorded how tall Kevin and his sister were each year...so cool!

Our home has lots of family history, and I love that, but with that history comes some small things that need updating.  We have been working on making this house our home the past two years and the work continues!  This past week I updated the air vents with a single can of spray paint.  I painted six small vents and two large vents with one can of Rust-oleum Oil-Rubbed Bronze.  It was a breeze to do and I'm glad I did it because it looks so much better and matches the other fixtures in our home.  And, for $7.50, you can't really go wrong.  

My project started with removing all the vents and cleaning them in the sink.  They were dirty; well, no, they were gross.  Really gross, I-should-have-cleaned-them-a-year-ago-gross.  Okay, moving on...after I cleaned the vents I took them down to the garage and put three light coats of spray paint on them.  I let them dry for about an hour and a half and then reinstalled them.  From start to finish this project took me Luke's morning nap to complete.  Pretty darn awesome.  

This project was an 'ah'ha' moment for me.  The things you can do with spray paint are endless and I find myself scouring the house looking for things to paint.  It's a fun game for me.  I'll let you know when I find my next project.  In the meantime, if your vents need an update, I highly recommend this easy fix!


Family time and Honey Bun Cake

There is nothing like having your family around.  God has blessed Kevin and I with amazing families and we cherish the time we get to spend with them.  My family made the trip from Ottumwa to spend this past weekend on the Trail.  On the agenda: swimming at the Quarry and lots and lots of food.  We definitely accomplished both with some added towel whipping fights, hot tub dips, and games of Apples to Apples thrown in there for extra fun.  

Now, I said we are blessed with amazing families, but that doesn't mean that we sit around conversing and eating fantastic family dinners quietly.  Nothing is done quietly with my family.  Three of Luke's cousins made the trip over and with them they bring light saber fights, cartwheels, and lots and lots of L-O-U-D-N-E-S-S.  But, what do you expect?  They're kids.  So, we embraced the loudness as best we could and Luke tried to get used to it.  Soon enough he will be running around with them making just as much racket.  

Luke's cousins get tired in a hurry and they are always asking for something to eat.  This weekend I made a few different sweets to spoil them rotten.  I made my Deep Dish Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie Bars for snacking and I decided to try a new recipe, Honey Bun Cake, from Plain Chicken for breakfast.  This Honey Bun Cake was gobbled up by the end of the weekend.  Everyone ate it for breakfast (who doesn't love cake for breakfast) and whenever they were hungry.  I also took some up for Kevin's parents to try.  I would say it was kid approved and the adults chowed on it, too.  I will definitely be making this when friends and family come in the future.  Hope you try!

Honey Bun Cake

1 yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup oil

1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 T cinnamon

2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

1.  Preheat oven to 350 and spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
2.  Mix together the cake mix, eggs, sour cream, and oil on low speed for 1 minute.  Mix for 2 more minutes on medium speed.  Pour into prepared pan.
3.  Drizzle honey and sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon on batter.  Using a knife, swirl toppings to blend.
4.  Bake 38-40 minutes.  Whisk together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla.  Pour on warm cake.  Let cake cool completely before cutting (about 20 minutes).

kiddos after honey bun cake and smoothies; poor Luke has to wait on cake until his first birthday


Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cookie Bars and August Cooking Club

If you aren't in a cooking club, you really ought to look into it.  I feel fat and happy after each monthly meeting and I leave with some great recipes and some tricks of the trade.

Our August cooking club theme was a 'Pinterest night' and was hosted by Diane.  Where do you even start with that?  There are so many options.  I cheated a little and chose dessert.  I mean, dessert is the easiest part of any cooking club (to me), but it is really effortless on 'Pinterest night'.

such a pretty table at diane's house

the napkins and tablecloth were from Afghanistan...where her and her husband taught; so unique!
I chose to make two desserts.  Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cookie Bars and gluten-free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk cookies that you can find here.  As you know, I am serious about peanut butter.  

The Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk cookies were a hit, even to the gluten eating women.  I agree, I might like them more than regular cookies.

Now, onto the star of the show.  The Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cookie Bars I found over at inside brucrew life were good.  How could these not be a slam dunk...peanut butter, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, cream cheese.  Yum.  

Well, it wasn't as slam dunkish as I thought at first.  As I brought out the pan of bars after an amazing cooking club dinner that included a yummy cucumber appetizer, parmesan chicken, corn and avocado salad, potato and bacon dish, and passion lemonade tea, I couldn't cut them.  I really couldn't cut them.  I kept thinking...it's okay, the cookies will suffice.  As I tried two different knives, I finally got a serrated one to cut through.  Thank goodness.  I was still a bit worried, as hard bars are never a good thing.  It turned out that being in the refrigerator just made the bars a bit hard, but didn't affect the taste.  They were scrumptious, the cream cheese middle being the best part.  These bars are tall and thick, making it easy to have just a small piece.  Well, maybe not.

Please don't shy away from these bars because of the 'hardness'.  It's actually not a bad thing and you will not regret the time and effort spent on this recipe.  

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cookie Bars


Cookie dough
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup chocolate chunks or chocolate chips

1 8 ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup peanut butter chips
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening

1.  Cream butter, shortening, and sugars until fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla, salt, baking soda and cream again.  Slowly add flour.  Stir in chips and/or chunks by hand. Press half the dough into an 8 inch pan.
2.  In another bowl beat cream cheese and sugar until creamy.  Add egg and peanut butter.  Beat until smooth then pour on top of cookie crust.
3.  Press small pieces of cookie dough on top of cream cheese layer.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely.  Cut in bars NOW!
4.  Combine chips and shortening.  Heat in microwave at 30 second increments until mixture can be stirred smooth.  Spoon into plastic bag, cut corner off and drizzle on bars.  Store bars in refrigerator.  

Thanks for another wonderful cooking club girls...I can't wait until next month!
one of the ten pictures my camera took


Visit from Great Aunt Gerianne

Last Friday Kevin's mom and Aunt Gerianne came over for lunch.  It was great to see them and they loved getting to spend some time with Luke.  

Luke completely hammed it up for this lunch date.  He always thinks he is the star of the show, but on this particular day, he took it up a notch.  During lunch he smiled his biggest smile at Gerianne; peas, pasta salad, and all, and Gerianne smiled right back.  That was his cue that Aunt Gerianne was going to play with him and, boy, did he take advantage.  He then started this cocking his head to the side thing and grinning from ear to ear.  It was pretty fun for Luke, especially because Gerianne mimicked him.  Luke thought this was the best game ever!  He would cock his head, Gerianne would cock her head, Luke would cock his head, all the while I was trying to grab some pictures of this adorable interaction.  The game finally ended when lunch was over and it was time to play on the floor.

the start of 'the game'

Luke showed off his throwing and climbing skills.  Gerianne then read him a book she brought him for his 9 month birthday...Curious George and the Puppies.  This book is a perfect gift from Aunt Gerianne because she is married to George and Gerianne trains dogs.  It was so thoughtful!  Luke cuddled right up to her and sucked on his two fingers while she told the story.  It was so sweet and I'm so happy I got to witness this perfect little afternoon.  

We are so blessed to have so many people that love our little guy and take time to visit.  Thanks Great Aunt Gerianne and Grandma Diane for spending the afternoon with us!


Skinny Peanut Butter Brownies

Well, hello there.  Remember me?? It is half way through August and I constantly feel like I'm running a marathon that is never-ending (in a good way).  Does anyone else feel that way out there?  

This summer has been a blur of weddings, get togethers, pregnancies, babies, playdates, and lots of fun in the sun.   It has been a summer to go down in the books.  That being said...I am ready for fall and for things to slow down a bit.  Anyone else with me?  

I am bringing back Peanut Butter Wednesdays and this recipe is one for all you people out there trying to cut some calories.  I found these over at sally's baking addiction and they are scrumptious, especially when you know they are skinny, so that means you can eat just. one. more.

Our friends Todd and Kara invited us over for dinner one evening and they had the yummiest burgers, fries, and corn on the cob...a perfect summertime meal.  I brought these brownies and they were quite a hit, until I told them they were skinny brownies.  Big mistake.  I mean, who really wants to eat skinny brownies?  But, after a bite, no one seemed to mind.  Their daughter, Amelia, gobbled the last brownie up the next day when she was over for some playtime with Luke. 

Hope you get a chance to try these.  If you do, let me know what you think! 

Skinny Peanut Butter Brownies

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
6 oz. low fat vanilla greek yogurt (I love baking with this!)
1/4 cup skim milk
1 large egg
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1.  Preheat oven to 350 and spray an 8x8 pan with cooking spray.
2.  Put all wet ingredients besides peanut butter into a blender or food processor and blend.  (I used a blender and it worked wonderfully!)
3.  Add dry ingredients to blender and blend.
4.  Pour batter into pan.  Microwave peanut butter for 30 seconds.
5.  Drop peanut butter onto brownies and swirl gently with a knife.  Don't over-swirl!
6.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.
7.  Let cool completely or pop in the refrigerator for 2 hours.


Luke is 9 months!

Luke is one old baby...he has passed the 9 month mark!  This post is a little late, as this summer just keeps getting busier and busier.  Here is what Luke has been up to this past month:

  • Luke continues to sleep twelve hours at night and takes a morning and afternoon nap.  He enjoys his zzzz's!
  • Eating is one of Luke's favorite things.  He eats whatever Mommy and Daddy are eating as finger foods.  He loves feeding himself.
  • Luke is on the move!  He is crawling everywhere and can even pull himself up to the standing position.  He thinks he is big stuff.
  • Luke loves pool time, his 'new-to-Luke' (which means hand-me-down) trucks and xylophone, and his legos.
  • Luke's favorite thing to do is grunt.  He grunts to get our attention, he grunts when he takes a big bite of food, he grunts at random strangers.  It's his thing. Oh yeah, and he's grunting at random strangers because he thinks everyone should ogle over him the way Mom and Dad do.
  • Luke eats just like his Daddy eats popcorn...by the fist full.
  • Hair is sprouting from the top of Luke's head.  He isn't going to be a baldy for life after all.
  • Luke enjoys throwing...balls, toys, paper, food, pretty much anything.

Our little two-finger Luke is growing up so fast and as much as I love to watch him learn and grow, I just wish time would go a bit slower!


Kathryn Lynn

I am an aunt again!  I have a brand new beautiful, little niece.  She is perfect.  My sister-in-law gave birth to Kathryn Lynn Hughes on August 1, 2013 at around 7:15 in the morning.  What a perfect birthday for a perfect little girl!  Kathryn (or Katie or Kate) weighed in at 8 pounds 3 ounces and has the most adorable sandy red hair, just like her Daddy.  She was much bigger than everyone expected, as her Mommy, Hillary, is very petite.  She has the cutest, chubbiest cheeks you have ever seen.  Check out the pictures to see for yourself!

Kevin, Luke, and I headed to Cedar Rapids as soon as we knew there was a baby on Thursday morning.  Luke did well in the car on the drive over which meant fewer stops.  Thank goodness, because we couldn't wait to get there and hold that baby!  

When we arrived, Kathryn was in the NICU because Hillary had a slight temperature when Kathryn was born.  The doctor was worried that there could be a possible infection, so they monitored her closely, just to be on the safe side.  Being in the NICU meant Luke couldn't meet his new cousin.  Although I know he was sad about this, it meant extra play time with Grandma and Grandpa while Mommy and Daddy visited the baby.  It was so sweet to hold and cuddle with Kathryn.  The cuteness was completely overwhelming.  We stayed until Friday afternoon and then reluctantly headed home with pictures and memories of Baby Kathryn to keep us happy until our next visit.

John, Hillary, and Kathryn were able to go home on Saturday, much to everyone's delight!  Congratulations John and Hillary!  You have an amazing blessing in Kathryn and we can't wait to see you all again soon!

kathryn lynn 
uncle kevin and kathryn
the proud parents! 

kevin and i with sweet kathryn
i told you...look at those cheeks!


Wedding Season: BR Gets Married!!

My very good friend, BR (Betsy Reynolds) married her best friend, Travis Boetger, a few weeks back in Sioux City.  Kevin and I attended the event Luke-less.  It was our first full night away from him and it was strange, sad, and exciting all at the same time.

We headed up in the morning after my mom arrived from Ottumwa.  We checked into our hotel and then Kevin insisted on making a Lu Juanita's stop before the wedding.  La Juanita's is a quaint little mexican place that serves the best burritos.  Kevin wasn't able to eat his burrito before the wedding, as we arrived at the wedding just minutes before it started.  It was a packed church, but we ended up with a perfect seat right at the back with some of our friends.  After the wedding we headed to one of my favorite places, Rebo's, for some chat time before the wedding.  It was great to catch up with some of the girls and it made me miss them so much more.  

The wedding reception was a blast with dinner, dancing, drinks, and an over-the-top popcorn bar with every flavor of popcorn you could possibly want.  The bride looked absolutely gorgeous in her one shoulder floor length dress...which fit her just perfectly.  It was a beautiful day for a wonderful couple and I'm so happy Kevin and I were able to help celebrate with them!  

the beautiful bride and i

so great to catch up with this girl!!


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