I Heart Faces: Blue

One of my favorite blogs to visit is

They have a challenge every week and I am finally entering!

The theme this week is blue, and one of the first pictures that came to my mind was this picture of Kate playing in Lake Tahoe this summer. It is one of my favorite pictures of her.

If you are a native Californian, you know the slogan:
"Keep Tahoe Blue"

And look how Blue it is:


Apple Cake {with homemade caramel sauce}

Happy 1st day of Fall!
Too bad it was 102 degrees out today. And, it is supposed to stay in the 100's all week.
I call that a Fall FAIL.
Fall weather doesn't really start in California until October, so I have a couple more weeks of warm weather & then it will be Fall!
Fall is my FAVORITE season. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!

You can read my Top 10 reasons for loving Fall HERE.

Since we get so many APPLES from our tree in the fall, that means I get to doing a lot of baking with our apples. My aunt is the apple pie master, so I don't even attempt to replicate it. I stick to making apple crisps & apple cake. I may even try applesauce this year!
The first time I had this apple cake was about 6 years ago. I found the recipe in one of our church cookbooks. This cake is delicious & one of my favorite things to make in the fall, so I thought would share it here! When it bakes, it fills your house with an aroma of fall, so even if it is 100 degrees outside, it smells like fall inside!
I think I mostly like this cake because you make a homemade caramel sauce to go with it. Who can resist a good caramel sauce?
Apple Cake with Homemade Caramel Sauce

Here is what you need for the cake:
1/2 cup pecans
1 stick of butter (at room temperature)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 apples (peeled, cored & chopped)
Whipped cream for garnish

First, peel the apples:
Chop & Dice the apples:
In a food processor/blender, finely grind the pecans.
In a large bowl, cream the butter & sugar until fluffy.
Add the eggs and beat until well blended.
In a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon & nutmeg together.
Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture just until blended.
Fold the apples & nuts until blended.
Pour into a 9 inch greased round cake pan.
Bake at 350 for 50 minutes (or until center is cooked through).
Let cool for 15 minutes in pan, but place pan on a cookie sheet.
Carefully remove cake from pan to a plate (or cake stand)
While the cake is baking, you can make the Homemade Caramel Sauce!
Here is what you need for the Caramel Sauce:
1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup evaporated milk

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together over medium heat while stirring. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla & evaporated milk. Set aside & keep warm.
(If making ahead, the caramel sauce will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 days)

To serve, ladle a large spoonful of the hot caramel sauce onto a dessert plate.
Place a wedge of cake onto the sauce and add a dollop of whipped cream.
(I make my own whipped cream, but you can use store bought if you prefer!)
Then, garnish with a few thin fresh apple slices & serve!
(I dip the apple slices in the leftover caramel sauce on my plate, yum!)


End of an Era.

I got pregnant with Kate in May of 2006.
She was born in January of 2007
(and I nursed her until January 2008)
In January 2008 I found I was pregnant with Claire, so I stopped nursing Kate a few days before her 1st birthday.
Claire was born in September of 2008.
I stopped nursing Claire 2 days ago.

I have either been pregnant or nursing {without a break} for the past:
3 years, 4 months & 13 days
Which translates to:
1,232 days
29, 568 hours

1,774, 080 minutes

104,444,800 seconds

That is a LONG time.
It's not long compared to Michelle Duggar, but to me, it is a long time!

To say that my body is ready for a break is an understatement.
Kevin has been so supportive for the past 3.5 years of me having random pregnancy/nursing hormones running through my body.
Thanks for putting up with me, Kevin!
Am I sad I am done nursing? A little bit. I am sad this era of my life has ended, but I am also ready for my body to be my own & not have a little person rely on it, even though it is bittersweet.

I am proud that I was able to nurse both my girls for the first year of their lives.
Neither one of them has had a drop of formula.
(I am not judging those who use formula. To each her own. I am just too cheap to pay for it! And, I was lucky I had a huge breast milk supply.)
Here is my leftover supply of pumped breast milk that I am getting ready to ship off to the International Breast Milk Project.
I qualified as a donor this past January, you can read about the process HERE.
Claire has transitioned very well to cow's milk & LOVES her sippy cup.

She starts squealing when she sees it!

My baby is growing up right before my eyes & isn't as dependent on me anymore.
A new era has begun for us with 2 toddlers in the house.
Now, I am off to find some cabbage. I hear it helps when you are weaning. Can anyone vouch for that?


Claire's Ice Cream 1st Birthday Party!

Claire's party was on Saturday. When thinking about her party, I knew I wanted it outside because she has a September birthday & the weather is usually really warm this time of year. I wanted to take advantage of an outside party because Kate has a January birthday & her party will most likely always be inside!

I decided on having it at one of our local parks & came up with the idea of having an Ice Cream Cone theme with pinks & green as the color scheme.

Here is the invite that I made. It is very similar to the one I made for Kate's 1st birthday. (Available in my Etsy Shop)
The 12 pictures are 1 from each month of her life (n
ewborn to 11 months).
The week before her party (last week) it was HOT, like triple digits. High 90's & it even hit 100 a couple days. On Friday, it was 101 and the forecast said it would be low 90's on Saturday.

I woke up in the middle of the night on Friday at 4 am to a loud "BOOM". Kevin was standing by our bedroom window. He tells me it is thundering & lightening. WHAT?!?! And, it was pouring down rain! I thought I was dreaming, it was so bizarre. Then as I stood up to look out the window I realized, "Oh no! Rain?!?! Claire's party is today. And, it is outside!!"

Where did this weather come from? Seriously, we have the MOST predictable weather here in the Bay Area. We are California, not the mid-west, the South or Back East.
It NEVER rains in September. And lightening & thunder?!? Not this time of the year!
I go back to sleep for a couple hours & when I wake up it is still totally cloudy, rainy and only 60 degrees out. I couldn't believe it. What happened to sunny & 90 degrees. So much for an ice cream party! Kevin and I started brainstorming a back up plan. Our house was too small for 28 adults & 22 kids! I jumped onto the internet to see what the hour by hour forecast was going to be. It said it would clear up in the late morning, so we decided to leave it at the park. Her party started at 11:30 and it literally cleared up at 11:15. And, then I prayed that the sun would stay out (and it did!)
I was a bit rushed setting up at the park because it was still sprinkling on and off as I drove there. But, it totally cleared up 10 minutes before the party started. The skies turned blue, the clouds went away & the sun dried up everything. It turned out to be a really nice day! (My girls have the sunburned faces to prove it! oops!)

Here is the birthday girl with her birthday shirt from Etsy.
The shirt is what I based the entire theme around.
Here is the cake & cupcake table:
Here is a close up of the cupcake toppers:

On each table I had framed pictures of Claire from newborn through 1 year old. They were the same pictures from her invitation, plus her 1 year old picture I took on Wednesday.

Kevin's mom made the cakes since she is AMAZING at making cakes.

Here is the large cake for everyone:
(she copied the ice cream cone on the girls shirts)
Here is Claire's smash cake:
Not only does the cake look good, it tastes amazing! Chocolate & Vanilla layers with chocolate pudding in between? Yes please!
Present & Favor Table:
The party was at a park, but I also had a bucket of games & balls for the older kids to play with on the grassy area:
The favors were ice cream shaped bubbles for the kids:
And, I made ice cream cone shaped cookies for the kids & adults:
And, gotta love the favor tags!
We had a BBQ lunch with hot dogs, hot links & chicken apple sausages.
There were 3 sides pasta salad, potato salad & cowboy salad.
We also had chips & dip and pretzles & goldfish for the kids.
I made some ice cream cone shaped cheese sandwiches for the little kids:
Jimmy the Sausage King on the grill:
Lunch time!
Kristin & Anna:
Scenes from the party!
Kevin & The Dowd's & baby Kira:

Mimi & Becks:
Kieran & Heath:
Brothers! Jeff & Kevin:
It's Cake Time!
Attempt at a family picture:
Instant smile from Claire when we started signing "Happy Birthday"
Must eat cake.....

Her bib & hat are also from Etsy.
What was left of the smash cake:
Pinata Time!
I love this type of Pinata. There are ribbons hanging down & each kid gets to pull a ribbon. One of the ribbons is attached to the opening & once it is pulled, all the candy comes out. Yay for not having to use a bat with young kids!

Claire was obsessed with this the pack of smarties from the Pinata!
My attempt at getting a sister picture in their matching shirts at the end of the party. Clearly, it was Kate's naptime & she didn't want to smile for me!
Kate helping "clean up" she took out all the sticks of the cupcakes & licked them:
Helping carry the leftover cupcakes back to the car:
When we got home it was present time!

Thanks to all our friends & family who helped us celebrate Claire's 1st birthday!


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