Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Another great combination, these pumpkin chocolate chip muffins got rave reviews from my co-workers. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I tend to be a bit of a stress eater and consequently that also translates into being a stress baker! It’s a combination of sometimes fixing a craving and I find it a good way to take my mind off of things. The fall is traditionally a very busy time for me at work, and this year is no different. Last week, I was craving something pumpkin, but not quite ready to make Grandma Ardi’s Pumpkin Bars, so these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins fit the bill. 

I found an initial recipe on Food.com and modified a bit from there to try to make them a little healthier. 

Ingredients: 

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 (15 oz.) can of pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup oil (I used grapeseed oil, but you can also use vegetable oil)
  • 3/4 cup applesauce*
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12 oz) bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (regular or mini)

* 3/4 cup oil can be used in place of the applesauce for a total of 1 1/4 cups oil.

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix eggs, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla extract, oil and applecauce in a large bowl until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together.
  4. Fold dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture, then mix in chocolate chips. 
  5. Pour batter into greased or paper lined muffin tin. 
  6. Mini muffins bake for 12-15 minutes. Large muffins bake for 16-20 minutes

This makes quite a lot of batter. I originally intended to make all mini muffins but I would have been baking a long time, so I ended up with 24 mini muffins and 18 large muffins. If you’re making all large muffins, this recipe makes about 30.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

These turned out great! A good mix of pumpkin flavor with the chocolate chips. When I make these again (and I will), I will likely use mini chocolate chips, but other than that I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

My Friday Five

I’m replacing my monthly wrap up with my Friday Five as a way to keep up on day to day happenings and favorite finds from the week. 

1. Stomping Grounds – We spent last Saturday at Simpson College, where Todd and I both went to college and where we met. We usually like to take Carter to one game each year. It was Homecoming and a perfect warm fall day to be on campus – beneath the whispering maples.

Simpson

2. More Fall Traditions – Sunday we spent at Howell’s Pumpkin Patch with my in laws. They added some new features this year including a mud pie making area. While Carter enjoyed the hay bales, the tire swings, pedal tractors, corn bin, and pumpkins, he could have spent hours making mud pies with rocks for chocolate chips and wood chips for oatmeal. 

howells

3. Furry Visitor – our neighbor got a new puppy and we enjoyed getting to let her out and come visit our house a few times over the last week. While we usually prefer bigger dogs, it undeniable this little ewok is adorable!

lucy

4. Too Fast for His Feet – Carter’s face met the playground this week. He was racing some friends at recess and took a tumble. Luckily he didn’t knock any teeth out, but we did have to cancel our family pictures for this weekend. It looks a lot worse now with the scab, but he’s just fine and milking the attention.

Carter-sadface

5. Multitasking – this pretty much sums up my week. This time of year is generally crazy at work, and this year isn’t an exception. Evenings after Carter goes to bed have been spent with my computer and sometimes a favorite show like Scandal or a new favorite How to Get Away with Murder. Luckily Todd is pretty understanding of my lack of communication skills during the week during these crazy weeks. TGIF!

multi-tasking

Have a great weekend! It’s going to be in the 70′s here and possibly one of our last nice weekends of the fall. 

Linked up at: High Five for Friday

DIY Custom Burp Cloths

DIY custom burp cloths are a great personalized baby gift. Using cloth diapers and fabric of your choice, these will be a new mom’s go-to for the diaper bag.

DIY Custom Burp Cloths

When I was expecting Carter, I got a tip from a few mom friends who said that the best burp cloths were cloth diapers. They are more absorbent and larger than most standard burp cloths. I took that advice and bought a few packages. One of the best baby gifts one of my friends gave me was a set of these that had been customized with some fabric matching Carter’s nursery colors. It was nice to have some burp cloths that both looked good and functioned better! Now it’s one of my go to baby gifts to make for others too!

I made this set for a co-worker whose family enjoys camping. I figured they’d appreciate this outdoorsy print for their new little guy.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Prefold cloth diapers
  • Fabric of your choice (I like a soft flannel or fleece).
  • Coordinating thread
  • Iron
  • Straight pins 

I made two different versions, one where the fabric covered the full burp cloth and one that the fabric covered only the middle panel. I’ll describe how to do both.

burpcloth-fullpanel-finished burpcloths-partialpanel

Prep: Prewash and dry your burp cloths. Then iron them flat and stretch them out so they are relatively even.

FULL PANEL:

For the full panel, you’ll need to cut your fabric just slightly bigger than the size of the burp cloth, about a half inch all the way around. 

burpcloths-fullpanel-cut

Then turn your fabric over while laying it on top of the burp cloth to use as a guide. Fold and iron the sides so the size of your fabric is about the same or just slightly smaller than the burp cloth. Turn your fabric back over, so the right side is on top. Then pin your fabric to the burp cloth all the way around.

burpcloths-fullpanel-ironburpcloths-fullpanel-pins

Sew with your fabric facing up, a quarter of an inch in from the edge. First sew all the way around the edges. Then sew along the middle third area near where the prefold seams are sewn on the original burp cloth. You can use your iron to mark where you’ll sew. The burp cloths can sometimes be a little uneven, so I suggest using the iron “line” rather than the original line. 

burpcloth-fullpanel-finished

CENTER PANEL:

(I forgot to get pictures of all the steps using the same fabric, so you’ll see various patterns on this one between steps.)

Cut your fabric slightly larger than the center panel on the burp cloth. I suggest a half inch on each side. Then turn your fabric over and fold each side a half inch and iron down. 

burbcloths-sizing-middlepanelburpcloths-partialpanel-iron

Turn your fabric back over and pin it to the center of the burp cloth. Sew all the way around your fabric a quarter inch in from the edge of your fabric panel. 

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Then you’re done. 

 burpcloths-partialpanel-polkadotDIY Custom Burp Cloths

I gave these along with a coordinating custom made tag blanket (check out my previous tutorial). I loved the argyle corduroy I used this time around!

DIY Tag Blanket - great baby gift!

I actually did two different sets at the same time I made this one. The other one had a sports theme, which I’ll share soon.

I like to give these along with a gift card to where the new parents are registered. How about you, what’s your go to baby gift?

Star Wars Birthday Party Activities

Sometimes the craftiest of DIY mom’s has to cry uncle when it comes to birthday party planning and remember to keep it simple! Our Star Wars themed birthday party was just that – simple – but the kids had a great time. I thought I’d share some of the activities that kept them fully entertained for 2 hours!

We tried out a new location for Carter’s birthday party this year – the Raccoon River Nature Lodge. They had a choice between several themes including Animal Tracks, Pirates, and Star Wars. (They have girl themed choices as well). It’s no surprise Carter chose a Star Wars themed birthday party. The Nature Lodge has a great space for the party and they supply everything including themed activities, cake and juice for party guests. What did I say, it couldn’t be more simple than that! 

Star Wars Bingo – the bingo cards had images of different Star Wars characters and space crafts. 

 star-wars-bingobingo

When each kid got a “bingo”, they got to go on an asteroid hunt. The asteroids were pieces of candy wrapped up in tin foil.

asteroidhunt1 

Pin the Light Saber on Darth Vader – this time honored party game, with a Star Wars twist was one of the kids favorites. They all wanted to go through the line twice (and would have kept doing it if we let them) and they giggled so hard when their friends were far off the target!

pin-the-light-saber-on-darth-vader

Flying Saucer Throw – the kids each decorated two small paper plates with markers. Then the paper plates were stapled together and we went outside to see whose would fly the farthest.

flying-saucer-contest

Light Saber Duel – the kids then took turns dueling it out with light sabers. We went to a party a few years ago where the mom made light sabers for each of the kids out of pool noodles. Genius! We still have ours.

light-saber-duel

 Raccoon River has one of our favorite playgrounds, and the weather was nice enough to allow the kids to play outside for about 20 minutes of the party. 

Finally we had cake, and opened presents. 

star-wars-cake cake

TIP: If you’re doing presents, take a picture of your child with each friend and the present they received from the friend. This makes it much easier when writing thank you notes!

present-pictures

All in all it was a great party! I’d highly recommend the Raccoon River Nature Lodge. Aside from the themed party experience, they also have several animals like turtles, snakes, reptiles, rabbits and guinea pigs that the kids can touch and feed. 

I had to leave the details to someone else this year, but I ran across several amazing ideas as we were thinking about the theme. Check out my Pinterest board of my favorite Star Wars themed birthday party ideas. If I had more time, I would have loved to do a photo booth or some DIY masks for the party, but I didn’t – and the kids still had a blast! 

Lego Star Wars Stormtrooper Birthday Shirt – (Free Printable)

The birthday shirt tradition continues! For Carter, Lego and Star Wars is a combo much like chocolate and peanut butter is for me… perfection! This Lego Star Wars Stormtrooper birthday shirt was a big hit for his 6th birthday!

Lego Star Wars Birthday Shirt (Free Printable)

 A search for Lego Star Wars shirts brought me to a post on a Star Wars birthday party by Rae Gun Ramblings. She shows lots of great party ideas, but I really loved her shirt design. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a stencil anywhere, so I decided to make my own by tracing a blown up image of the shirt she made and then scanning it before manipulating in Photoshop and cutting my design on my Silhouette Cameo.

stormtrooper-silhouette

I used heat transfer material to put my design on a plain t-shirt I bought at Target. If you’re doing heat transfer, don’t forget to reverse your image. If you don’t have a cutting machine, check out my tutorials for other techniques for creating custom shirts. (Link to PDF version of the stencil is at the end).

Fabric Paint T-Shirt Designs

Bleach Pen T-Shirt

Once I got my design cut and weeded, I heated up my iron and placed the design on my shirt. I always get a little nervous about getting it on straight. 

photo-2

 A few minutes with a very hot iron, and Carter’s shirt was finished! I wish I had cut the design just slightly bigger, but it still turned out great. Carter deemed it “super cool”! I realize it likely won’t be too many more years where he will wear custom birthday shirts (#pleaseslowdown), so I’ll enjoy it while it lasts!

photo-5

To make life easier for you, if you too have a Lego Star Wars fan in your life, I created printable versions of the stencil for years 1-9, click here to download or click on the image below. If you have a Silhouette and want the cut file, just comment or message me and I can email it to you.

stormtrooper-with6

Carter is having a small party with friends this weekend. I’m trying to refrain from doing many DIY projects for the party as I’m short on time this year. Sometimes I just have to show some restraint on not over-committing myself, we’ll see if I’m successful.

Linked Up At: Think Pink Sunday; Creative Collection; That DIY Party; Made By You Monday; Monday Funday; Create Link Inspire

Best Parks in Des Moines

Now that the weather is starting to change, we’re trying to squeeze in as much outside time as we can by visiting some of our favorite parks at least one last time before it gets too cold. Here’s our list of the best parks in Des Moines. 

5. Legion Park, West Des Moines

Why it’s a favorite: This is a newly redone park near Valley Junction. They have a new playground area with two playsets for a variety of kids ages, a merry go round, and swings. They also have a small splash pad. 

legion-park park

4. Jester Park Natural Playscape, Granger

Why it’s a favorite: I had heard a lot about this play area, but we only visited for the first time this month. When we first walked up I didn’t think it would hold Carter’s attention for long. They have a little natural wading area with fountains and plenty of rocks, Wood blocks for building, A fallen tree trunk for climbing on and through, and a few viewing areas to see bison and elk.

Carter played in the water area for most of the time we were there. He wasn’t happy about leaving and we’d been there 2.5 hours. 

JesterNaturePark-01

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3. Walker Johnson Park, Urbandale

Why it’s a favorite: They redid this park area a few years ago and put in a wooded play structure with cargo ropes, foot bridges and lots of places to climb. It’s quite large and in a fairly shaded area.

 2013-07-20-WalkerJohnsonPark-03 2013-07-20-WalkerJohnsonPark-02

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2. Union Park, Des Moines

Why it’s a favorite: Two words: Rocket Slide! And it’s FAST! This was first erected in the early 70′s and I remember visiting it when I was a kid. It was refurbished in 2011, much to the delight of kids all across Des Moines. The slide is best suited for kids over 4. They have two other playground areas nearby for smaller children. They also have the Heritage Carousel which costs just $.50 per ride, a nice wading pool, two other playground areas and several shelters and picnic tables. 

rocket-slide

rocket-slide2  carousel 2013-06-16-UnionPark-17

1. Raccoon River Park, West Des Moines

Why it’s a favorite: This is a huge park with a great playground area. It has two separate play areas for different ages, a big spider web climber, a small splash area, and a lookout tower. That’s just the playground! The beach is just beyond the playground area. They also have a 3 mile walking trail around Blue Heron Lake, a fishing area, a dog park and lots of open areas. We may be a little biased because this one is pretty close to where we live and we often ride our bikes there.

playground_sm

climbing-net_sm

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We love our neighborhood parks too, and we’re lucky to have two within walking distance of our house. We frequently stop at other parks  when we’re out and about and have a few minutes to play. Any favorites in the metro area you’d add to the list?

Peanut Butter Bars

I forgot how good these peanut butter bars really are! I’ve been craving them for a few weeks, in a way that Reese’s Peanut Butter cups just couldn’t curb. Made with ingredients I already had on hand, these quick and easy to make treats were a big hit at an office potluck last week. 

Peanut Butter Bars

Peanut butter and chocolate, oh how I love thee together! In a raving sweet tooth moment (or stress induced eating), I’ve been known to do this… Don’t judge!

sweettooth

My mom used to make these peanut butter bars when I was a kid. I haven’t made them in a long time, but now that I’ve had them again, it won’t be long before I make them again. I made them for a work tailgating potluck last week and they disappeared pretty fast.

Ingredients – Bottom Layer:

  • 3/4 cup salted butter (melted)
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup peanut butter

Ingredients – Top Layer:

  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 5 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter

Directions: 

  1. For bottom layer, combine butter, graham crackers crumbs, powdered sugar, and peanut butter in a medium size bowl. Spread evenly in a 9×13 pan. 
  2. Refrigerate layer for 20-30 minutes.
  3. For top layer, melt chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter together in microwave safe bowl for 1-1.5 minutes. Stir every 30 seconds until fully melted and combined. Spread evenly over peanut butter layer. 
  4. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes before cutting, makes 24-36 depending on how big you cut them.

I prefer serving/eating these slightly chilled. I find they set well, but on a warm day they will melt pretty quickly. At room temperature they hold up fine for a few hours. I use both milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips. You can use all of one or the other to your taste though (or what you have on hand). 

August Wrap Up

Well, here we are almost a third of the way into September and I’m just getting around to a wrap up for August. Life as a working mom is catching up to me these days. There are just not enough hours in the day most of the time it seems. When that happens, my time for being creative and doing projects (and especially writing about it seems to go by the wayside). Anyway, back to August…

We started out the month with Todd’s family reunion. Carter and I took a quick break in the festivities to walk around the state park it was held in and find maybe the best climbing tree ever!

tree-climbing

My team holds a scavenger hunt at the Iowa State Fair each year. This year we also did one with some out of town co-workers and vendors. It was a warm day, but a fun one! Here’s a picture of my team for the day in the cattle barn.

fair-barn

I spent quite a bit of July and August helping to organize the Have a Heart 5k which raised money for local charities that support families affected by childhood cancer. One of my best friends has a daughter who was diagnosed with leukemia a year and a half ago. She’s currently doing great with her treatment! We also had a kid’s fun run at the event. I’m not sure if Carter was more excited about his 2nd place finish or his crocodile face painting.

haveaheart

It’s hard to believe we’re already at this point, but Carter started Kindergarten this year! He was so excited and is really enjoying it so far. I wrote a post about the Best First Day of School Printables

firstdayofkindergarten

Here’s Carter and Todd in his classroom the first day of school.

kindergarten

Todd and I went to the first Iowa Hawkeyes football game of the year and enjoyed tailgating and catching up with good friends. 

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I managed to try my hand at some Iowa Hawkeye Nail Art. 

Iowa Hawkeye Nail Art - Using Silhouette Cameo to create nail art designs

I did manage one major project of getting my craft supplies organized in a new Urban Classic bookcase. I’m happy to say my supplies are still all in their appropriate places. Let’s hope I can keep it that way as I start to work on projects again this fall!

Urban Classic Craft Storage

I hope your September is going well. I always love this time of year with the beginning of fall weather AND new tv seasons getting ready to start. How about you, what do you look forward to with the change of seasons?