Tuesday, August 30

sights and sounds of...

... a browne family

dad browne, bo, and a friend from church set up a big yard sale in our yard this past saturday. jack and ellie wanted in on the action so we baked some chocolate chip cookies and grandma made some rice crispy treats and sold them along with strawberry lemonade. ellie didn't last very long, but jack stayed out and sold the goods from 7:30 - 12:30! i think he has inherited the browne family business genes. he made $15!

grandma, layna, rikki, larissa, and i stayed inside with the kids and had a grand time. it was nice to be able to stay in the air conditioning and watch the people coming and going :)
that evening we all met up for some of chris' tasty spare ribs, corn bread and baked beans. it was a great saturday!

Tuesday, August 16

you know you want some

do you like chocolate?

do you like cheesecake?

do you have a brain?

if you answered yes to any of these questions, then you must try making this decadent chocolate cheesecake.

death by chocolate.
and what a way to go!

one of my favorite things in this world is the godiva chocolate cheesecake from the cheesecake factory. chris and i usually share a piece. and by share i mean that by the time chris has a fork in his hand i have downed half of it and have to remind myself that i am a human being in a public place and must be somewhat civilized.

well, this is the closest recipe that i have found to the godiva chocolate cheesecake that is easy to make. so, do yourself and all of your loved ones a favor and make this cheesecake. its scrumptious!

oh! it must have a heaping dollop of whipped cream on top... and none of that canned stuff!

Decadent Chocolate Cheesecake

from melskitchencafe.com

*Note: This cheesecake needs to be chilled overnight so plan ahead! The good news is this cheesecake can be made all the way through the topping, covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days before serving. It is preferable to let the cheesecake stand at room temperature 1-2 hours before serving.

*Serves 8-10


9-ounce package of chocolate cookies (such as chocolate wafers, graham crackers or teddy grahams)

1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons butter, melted


10 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (use the best quality you can afford – I love the Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chips and I’m not ashamed to admit I buy them in bulk, often, at Sam’s Club)

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

4 large eggs


3/4 cup whipping cream

6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

Chocolate curls for garnish

For crust:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan with 3-inch-high sides (or use a 10-inch springform pan with 2-inch sides). Process the chocolate cookies in a food processor (or the old-fashioned way with a bag and a rolling pin) until they are finely ground. Transfer them to a small bowl and mix in the sugar. Add the melted butter and mix until well combined. Press the crumbs evenly onto the bottom only of the prepared pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes. Cool while preparing filling. Keep the oven heated at 350 degrees.

For filling:

Melt the 10 ounces of chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler until melted and smooth. Cool the chocolate until lukewarm but ensure that it is still warm enough to be pourable. In a large bowl (or with a stand mixer), blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Mix in lukewarm chocolate. Pour the cheesecake filling over the crust; smooth the top. Bake until the center is just set and just appears dry, about 1 hour. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run knife around sides of cake to loosen. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

For topping:

One hour before serving (or up to 3 days ahead of time), stir cream, 6 ounces chocolate, and sugar in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour over the center of the cheesecake, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edge and filling any cracks. Chill until the topping is set, about 1 hour.

When ready to serve, release the springform pan sides. Transfer the cheesecake to a platter. Top with chocolate curls.

Friday, August 12

this week we...

watched cinderella for the first time.
and then three more times after that.

had a lot of "ellie and mommy" time while jack was at school and charlie napped. we've been doing alphabet crafts, cooking, and pretending.

ignored four tantrums at the store.
(ellie 3, jack 1)

took a roll of pictures with the diana mini.

had one of those mom panic attacks. you know, the ones where you think you are the absolute worst mom in the world because you yell and spank and give in and do all those things that moms should NOT do.

stayed up till one reading half of Jane Eyre for the first time.

let charlie lick a sucker. he was a fan!
incidentally, we also bought his first toothbrush this week too.

burned two bagels.

went to sophie's house for a fun craft and play time.

lost a load of laundry.
i found it 3 days later. in the dryer.

taught jack some basic italian words.
like bellisimo, ciao, grazie, buena notte,
a pizza pie-ah, italian-o greyhound-o. the basics.

made my first real cheesecake.

missed our dad.

snuggled in mommy's bed before school.

all in all, its been a pretty good week at la casa de brower.

veinte seis

it's true.
i am 26.

we had the most spectacular get together last friday when chris returned home.
rikki was the mastermind behind the decor and lari the food.
needless to say,
it was all INCREDIBLE!
i think i'll turn 26 every year.
thank you everyone for cards and phone calls, i have the best family and friends anyone could ever hope for!

any guesses on what she's cookin?
here's a big hint:
yummy, delicious, nutella-filled crepes!
we also had other tempting fillings including:
lemon curd
and lots of nuts

truth be told,
i ate three crepes in all and then licked the nutella spoon!

jack and rik taking a picture of each other

opening gifts with three very capable helpers!
please, don't be jealous.
i'll be posting pics of my first roll when they are developed.... I'm feeling giddy with anticipation!

a tortilla press!!!
i will finally be able to roll out tortillas without feeling my arms wobble to and fro!

a cookie scoop!!!
now i can have perfectly even cookies every time! eek! I'm so excited to test it out!

these two pictures are the result of letting a three year old be in charge of the camera

Monday, August 8

big man on campus

it's official!
our little family now has to implement the rule:
not on a school night

here is jack at school saying, "mom why do you have to take another picture?"
he walked right in, put his backpack in his cubby, washed his hands, and found his name at the table. then he got up and gave me a quick hug and kiss and then said, "you can go now mom". i had to sign him in and do a couple other things before i left and when i turned around to look at him as i left, he looked up and blew me a kiss and went back to his puzzle. i think he will be just fine in pre-school!

ellie, on the other hand, wouldn't even walk into the building without crying and grabbing onto my leg. walking into the classroom was a definite NO. she stood in the hallway crying until i came out. hopefully seeing how happy jack is going to school will help her prepare for next year.

when i picked jack up, he was all smiles! his teacher, mrs. louisa, said he "has an incredibly extensive vocabulary" and she was quite impressed.

he colored pictures, had circle time, dressed up as a police man and then a fireman, played on the play ground and "thats about it" he said.

his school, discovery day academy, is really nice. its brand new and very very clean. the outside area is awesome with playgrounds and easels that they will paint landscapes on (the cool part- its just a piece of plastic in a wood frame that they just hose off when the day is over! pretty nifty). there are cameras everywhere that we can check out on their website and watch whats going on all the time. in order to sign him in and out, we use a finger scan. its pretty crazy! actually, i think its a little scary that its gotten so bad that we have to have cameras and finger scans, but i guess its comforting to know our little jackie is safe :)
here's to a successful year!

Tuesday, August 2

cabana boy

this is the cutest boy in the world. ever. absolutely. positively.

and he loves the pool.

and he has a secret.

shhhhh, don't tell grandpa!

charlie prefers to swim in the buff
but with a tush that dimpled and sweet, how could he not?

and grandma can't resist it...
charlie had his 6 month check up in july and everything is going great!
he was 22 1/2 lbs (97%) and 98% in length. I'm sure he has added a pound or two since then.
he is sitting up pretty well now, gets up on his hands and knees and has even taken a few crawls with his knees, but his hands are slow to follow. which, if you were wondering, results in a face plant. he doesn't say any real distinct sounds yet.
he is getting better at eating solids and enjoys sweet potatoes the most. today he tried to wave to jack and ellie several times. even though it resembled a cat pawing at the air, it was adorable, not to mention the older kids felt pretty special. he is still refusing to ween to a bottle, much to my chagrin. but i really can't complain. this boy brings smiles to everyone around him!

bowling balling

we went "bowling balling" last weekend for the first time with the littles. j and e had a blast and c was happy being passed between us and chomping on his toes. jack may have even beat me the first round :)
athletics (yes, even bowling is "athletic" for me) really truly are not my forte.

afterwards we went to the mercato, ate at chipotle (something i am actually good at) and then went for a lovely walk. jack was able to point out many words and sound them out till he was able to read them. i am so so SO excited about his progress. he is awesome! it was a nice way to spend time with chris while he was home for the weekend. i have a feeling these next 7 weeks are going to be harder than the three solid weeks he spent in port st. joe.

another cool update about jack (that i should have posted a few weeks ago):
he's lost 2 of his bottom teeth!
this picture that chris took on his phone reminds me slightly of a mug shot.
what a big kid jack is turning into.
he starts preschool next week and i have a feeling he will be the biggest and the oldest one in his class. he is jumping with excitement for monday... and so am i! i have had a hard time trying to come up with ideas that will stretch his brain. he is so intelligent and he's always surprising me with all of the facts he knows, especially about animals. his favorite of which are predators- he tells me that regularly. he started sounding out words over a week ago and the first word he read entirely on his own, without having to sound out before hand was "fat". when i started to cheer for him and he realized what he did, he started to cry! i gave him a hug and he nudged me away. he can be a softie, but doesn't want anyone to know it!