Sunday, September 26, 2010

Visiting Daddy

Last week Ella & I went to the hospital for dinner with Daddy while he was on call. Ella gets super excited to see him. Then, when we get in the cafeteria, she walks from table to table saying hi to everyone. The nurses often have little conversations with her. It's such a treat for us to see Pete in the middle of those 24-30 hour shifts!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

When a Mama Needs Her Mama

Last week Ella and I went down to Moose Lake State Park for a little camping excursion with Grandma & Grandpa Scott. Grandma & Grandpa bought a new travel trailer at the beginning of the summer, so this meant we got to hit the outdoors in style. It was nice since it rained the entire first day we were there. We sat inside at the little dinette, playing cards and Yahtzee (a camping must in our family), eating animal crackers, and watching Ella play with the dogs. Grandma made dinner on the stove and warmed up sides in the microwave. Microwave?! Yup, a microwave.

Speaking of electronics while camping, did I mention yet that, to pass the time, we watched a movie on a brand new 19" flat-screen TV? My parents explained that after years of roughing it in tents with five kids in pouring rain, wind and cold, making dinners over camp stoves or a crackling fire, they had earned the right to camp in comfort. Fair enough!

I can't tell you how absolutely thankful I was to be in a warm camper when I woke at 2am that night with a rip-roaring stomach ache. I thought at first it was something I had eaten, but that only lasted about 15 minutes, at which time Miss Ella woke crying and commenced to throw up all over me. I stopped analyzing how I could have gotten sick and succumbed to the power of the bug. Oh, how lovely to be sleeping in a bed rather than on the cold ground and, even more than that, to have my mom and dad there to take care of us. Ella recovered pretty quickly and spent the morning playing with the dogs and sitting by the fire with Grandpa. I slept most of the morning and eventually wandered out to join them. Had Ella and I been at home, we would have been on our own most of the day, which would have been rough feeling the way I did. I can say a huge thank you, God! for allowing my mom & dad to be so close when I needed them.

That evening, when I was back on the road to recovery, Ella and I drove back to Duluth where Daddy took over the care of his girls. Sprite and raspberry sorbet never tastes so good.

Although Pete did eventually get hit by the bug, we can now say that the Olsen household is (nearly) a complete picture of health. Thanks, Grandma & Grandpa Scott for taking care of us!

trying to leash Luther
yay! a fun camping chair!
dancing with Gracie
sitting by the campfire
Grandpa & Ella

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Recipe: Chocolate Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

This is a recipe I really enjoy throwing together when I'm looking for something fairly simple. It's a nice alternative to a traditional chocolate chip cookie yet is unique enough to catch the attention of friends. It still has those yummy little chocolate chips, but the oatmeal adds texture while the cranberries give a hint of tartness.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl and using a wooden spoon), beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar together until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Stir in vanilla.

3. In a smaller bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually stir this flour mixture into the butter mixture until well blended. Add the oats, chocolate chips, and dried cranberries, and stir until well blended.

4. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons or with a cookie scoop (check out my recommendation in this post) onto the cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown, about 14 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the pan for a couple minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

I always enjoy wrapping the treats in something fun. In the picture above is a very inexpensive option. These cellophane bags are available at many grocery and craft stores. (Check here for a complete description on the Wilton site.) They come with silver twist ties, but I dress them up a bit with a small piece of fabric ribbon. Another option is the window coffee bag pictured below. ( is great for lots of packaging supplies.) Any creative packaging makes simple baked goods look like a very special gift.

I haven't been able to come up with another name for this recipe. Simply listing the ingredients doesn't seem all that creative. Any ideas??


Friday, September 17, 2010

Dessert with Ella

Tonight Ella made her very own dessert - butterscotch pudding. I put the milk and powder into the measuring bowl, set Ella up at the breakfast nook, and let the little cook go to town. I managed to get the end of the process on video with my phone. You'll be able to figure out how it all ended up by watching, although we managed to save most of it due to quick mama reflexes. We'll be serving it after spaghetti tonight in a very pretty Disney Princess cup. How lovely!

So here's my little Ella making her very first dessert. I'm so proud of her!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


We live in an amazingly beautiful city. There's no question that it's one of my very favorite places. For those who have never had the pleasure of traveling to Duluth, pretty much the entire city is on a hill along the west side of the bottom tip of Lake Superior. Ships sail in and out of the harbor through the canal, setting the famous lift bridge in action. Duluth is a pretty adventurous community. The lake is rocky and, by driving just a few minutes north along the the shore, one can find complete seclusion in the great outdoors. Trees, rocks, waves, bears, biking, camping, kayaking. It's perfect.

I've been living in Duluth for eight years (prior to our excursions through the last two years) and I'm still amazed to find places that I've never seen. I've walked many times along the creek two blocks from our house, but last week Pete and I decided to try the trail right along the water. The path I had previously been taking remained high, fairly smooth, and still very pretty, but it was nothing like what we found.

Such a discovery. The entire trail followed the water's edge. We only stayed on it for the equivalent of four city blocks, but we certainly didn't feel like we were in the city. We were in awe of the waterfalls, bridges, and rushing, swirling water.

This is actually what the entire North Shore looks like.

There are numerous hidden locations like this in Duluth, but Congdon Creek is our new place. There are very rarely people walking the trails and it's only two blocks from our house! How can we resist?! God's creation never ceases to amaze. Absolutely beautiful.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Recipe: Mouth-Watering Waffles

Two days ago our friends, the Sabers, stayed the night with us on their way up the shore for a weekend of camping. Their little Aria turned two a month ago and is as cute as can be with her dark pigtails and detailed-but-not-quite-distinguishable stories. After Pete finished work for the night, we went to The Brewhouse for dinner. Yum. This was our first time there since we've been back in town. It's so classically Duluth. Good beer, really great burgers, and often there's some variation of live acoustic entertainment. Ella ate her first few french fries that night while Aria tried drinking the ketchup. It was so good to catch up with friends and relax in a place we love.

Since the Sabers stayed over night, I wanted to come up with something good for breakfast. My ingredients were not plentiful. That's mostly because (if you caught my post a week ago) I'm not baking this month. I only had a few eggs and very little butter. However, I did manage to scrape enough stuff together to mix up a small batch of waffles. I jumped on to for a little advice and found a highly rated, few-ingredients-needed recipe. I mixed up the batter, warmed up the flip iron we got for Christmas (like the ones they have at hotel breakfasts. so fun.), and made up a little breakfast. I did end up adding to the recipe to give some extra flavor (more vanilla & a little cinnamon) so I've included it in the recipe below.

Side note: This whole not baking thing is getting a little easier. It was really hard the first week, but now that most of my friends know of my vow, I'm doing just fine. This round of P90X is awesome so far. I always love the very beginning when I see a few small immediate changes, but then I usually have to wait another month or more to see anything else happen. The really hard stuff doesn't kick in till after day 60 when I'm tired of the whole thing and just want to do whatever I feel like doing. Always good results, though. What would I do without it? Probably nothing. Ha.

So here's the waffle recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups warm milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking powder and sugar; set aside. Preheat waffle iron to desired temperature. I set mine at medium and baked each waffle for 2 mins.
  2. In the bowl of a stand-up mixer (or just another big bowl if you don't have one) beat the eggs for about 30 seconds. Stir in the milk, butter, vanilla and cinnamon. With the mixer set on low (or while stirring) slowly add the flour mixture until the batter is well combined. Don't over mix.
  3. Grease the waffle iron before pouring the batter onto the center of the iron. Cook the waffles until golden and crisp. Serve immediately with plenty of warm syrup or berries and whipped cream.

Oh, and making waffles doesn't count as baking. Just so you know.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Back in Time: The State Fair

I completely forgot until a moment ago that I had wanted to post a few pics from the State Fair last year to compare to this year's trip. Ella had just turned two months old when Pete and I took her for the first time.

The next morning, while Dad was at work, Ella & I returned to the fair with Grandma & Grandpa Scott and Great-Grandma Scott. This was Ella's first visit to the animal buildings.

Two-month-old Ella having a laugh with Grandma Scott & 14-month-old Ella with a cone.

What kind of adventures will we have at the fair a year from now? We can't say for sure, but it will be fun to look back at all the changes that one year can create.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Great Minnesota Get-Together

It's an arguable point across the state: You just can't end the summer without visiting the Great Minnesota Get-Together. The State Fair has been a family tradition since I was little. There are only a few times I haven't been able to make it. This summer was no different. Last Monday Ella and I picked up Mama Bex and Malena and drove down to St Paul where we met up with my older brother Mike, Grandma & Grandpa Scott, my aunt Shannon and her two kiddos, and Great-Grandma Scott. It was a hot, hot day so we had plenty of all-you-can-drink milk for a buck and moved from one shady spot to another. By the end of our 9 hours at the fair, we were hot & sticky, the girls were sleeping in their strollers, and no one wanted to even think about another glass of milk, even if it was chocolate. Another year, another visit, and we're already looking forward to joining everyone again next year at the good ol' Minnesota State Fair.

Ella and Malena love spending time with their Uncle Mike. I'm not sure what they were looking at, though.

After we shed the dress, Ella enjoyed her cone from the Dairy Building.

Daddy had to work during the fair this year, so we were able to visit nearly all of the animal buildings. (Pete is horribly allergic.) Ella & I wandered inside with Grandma & Grandpa Scott to make a few new friends. Here's Miss Sheep.

And this is Mr. Pig. Ella didn't like when his big nose got too close.

And here's Junior Cow. I think this little guy was Ella's favorite.

Two wee cousins cooling off at the fair.

All-You-Can-Drink Milk! I lost count of how many glasses we had this year. Ella had at least two in her sippy cup.

This doll is my cousin Alaina. Those of you who were at our wedding will remember her as the adorable flower girl who spun in circles at the front of the church after her walk up the isle. She starts first grade this week!

Those feet were made for walking. And getting dirty.

Grandma Scott & Mama Bex. Aren't they cute?!

Can you really visit the fair and not eat something on a stick? After all, that's what the Minnesota State Fair is known for. Ella and I shared this Pronto Pup for dinner, along with a glass of milk, of course.

This is what remained of the crew by the end of our long day. (Plus Grandma Scott. She was taking the pic.) Nice work, everyone! We conquered the fair once again! We'll be back next year to do it all over again.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Over the River & Through the Woods

The last week has been a bit crazy. I have to honestly admit that it was probably one of the most challenging for me as a mama. After being at Grandma & Grandpa's, home, to the State Fair, home, to Minneapolis, and back home followed by four days of teething and a bit of a cold (that's a lot for one 14-month-old to handle) I felt at my wits end. While Ella is usually very sweet, content, and plays very well on her own, she spent her teething days clinging to me and was constantly fussy. That was a really tough switch for me. I had hoped to get some things done around the house while she caught up on missed naps, but I really only found the energy to sweep the floor and unload the dishwasher. I sat in a daze looking at the treadmill or the pile of laundry to be folded or thinking about the list of things I could be getting done. Alas, everything did get done with Pete's help this weekend (yay for days off!) before our good friends, the Floreks, came for a visit. I'm hoping that since the house is now in fairly good order, I'll have a starting block for this week's projects.

A little catching up is in order. To grandmother's house we go...

I previously mentioned that we spent last weekend at Grandma & Grandpa Olsen's and that Auntie Kristin joined us for what was a super fun and relaxing couple of days. Now that Ella is running around, she kept everyone quite busy and very entertained. Here are a few pictures to recap our weekend.

Can you tell how much Ella enjoys being with her Auntie Kristin? Just look at how she's watching her!

Ooo, my very own ice cream cone? Grandma, you're the best!

On Friday afternoon we all headed out to the little zoo in town. We had a great time saying hi to all the animals but Ella had a bit of a hard time seeing over her tray. We're now happy to say that she can see quite clearly since Grandpa removed the tray during our stay. I've wanted to take it off for so long but never got to it. Just another reason why grandparents are so fantastic!

A close encounter with a goose.

Ella is quite curious about anything electronic, especially when she can see herself.

Corn has jumped to the top of Ella's favorite food list. No scraping it off for this little one. She'll eat it straight off the cob.

Ella loves her Grandma Olsen.

On Saturday we took a trip to the park before lunch. Ella had a great time, but I think that Grandma, Grandpa, and Kristin may have enjoyed it even more. This mama enjoyed sitting on a bench in the shade while watching her little girl get so much lovin' attention.

Ella aboard the little firetruck.

A pretty fun teeter-totter. (I know I'm not the only one who had some teeter-totter-induced accidents as a kid. Good thing they came up with an alternative.)

Thanks, Grandma & Grandpa Olsen and Auntie Kristin for such a fun visit! We're looking forward to doing it again soon!

mama ang & ella


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