Oreo Pudding Cookies

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Hello friends.

Life has been really crazy lately.

Permission to be honest? I want to talk for a minute abut teaching. Lately, it feels as though so many people have been asking me how teaching is going and about my first few weeks as a kindergarten teacher. My response is always the same. “The kiddos are great, and I absolutely love it!” Of course, that’s true, but there really is so much more.

What I never say is just how tough it really has been. I never say that I come home so emotionally drained it feels as though I have nothing left to give my friends, family, and boyfriend. What I never say is how hard it can be to fulfill the needs of each and every student, as well as the needs of their parents. I never say how often I’ve cried on the phone to my mom, just in need of an outlet for my overwhelmed heart. Sometimes, it feels like I am drowning and just trying to keep my head above water.

I realize that EVERY new job is exhausting and a huge “reality check’, and I’m not trying to act as though I have it harder than anyone else doing any number of equally draining jobs. Teaching is just so incredibly difficult to understand from the outside. One of my most favorite moments I’ve shared with a family friend happened several weeks ago at a football game. She approached me, asked how it was going, then simply said “it’s really tough right now, isn’t it?” SHE GOT ME.

I’m not telling you all of this as a plea for sympathy. I believe that being open and honest with those we love and care about is so so important. Too often we fake happiness. It’s okay for not everything to be okay. It’s okay to be overwhelmed and sad sometimes. In these times, the worst thing we can do is hide how much we need support. I ask you, if you’re reading this, to say a prayer for me. I really could use your love right now.

A final word on this… a favorite quote of mine regarding happiness…

 I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don’t mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.

—Hugh MacKay, author of The Good Life

ON ANOTHER NOTE, several weeks ago at tailgate, our family friend brought these AMAZING cookies. I think I had a solid half dozen, and that is not even an exaggeration. They are pillow-y soft and chewy, with amazing flavor! You will LOVE the big Oreo taste in these little morsels. One of the best parts of this recipe is that I can pretty much guarantee that you have every ingredient (with the exception of pudding mix and cookies) already in your pantry. How dang cute would these be made with Halloween Oreos? OR CHRISTMAS OREOS? The possibilities are endless!

I’m not even embarrassed to admit I made two separate batches of these scrumptious cookies two weeks ago. (You are welcome, Sammy. You are welcome, people of the family reunion.)

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Oreo Pudding Cookies

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 and 1/4 cup flour

3/4 cup butter (softened)

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 package instant Oreo Cookies n’Creme pudding mix (4.2 oz)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

14 Oreos (half a package) crushed

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. If you aren’t already using parchment paper to line baking sheets when you bake, START NOW. The cleanup couldn’t be easier.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together flour and baking powder. I use a fork for this step! Set to the side.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugars until well blended. Next, mix in pudding package.

After that, use mixer to combine eggs and vanilla. Once mixed, slowly add in flour mixture.

Finally, use a spatula to stir in crushed Oreos. I sealed mine in a large gallon sized Ziploc bag, and then just punched about 10000 times. VERY CATHARTIC.

Form dough into tablespoon sized balls and place on baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes! Edges will brown when the cookies are ready to come out of the oven.

SERVE IMMEDIATELY.

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Here’s to a happy and peaceful week!

xx

Caramel Puffcorn and a Classroom Tour!

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Hello friends.

Today was the YUCK-est of all days. Total yuck. Complete yuck. I would like it to be done now. The past few days I have been battling a nasty cold. I knew this was coming. As Sammy so delicately phrased it “you are essentially one big germ in charge of 26 little germs”. So yeah, we all knew it was only a matter of time. THE SICKNESS IS HERE. I woke up Sunday morning feeling completely achy, with a sore throat and lots of sniffles. I initially thought it was a combination of allergies and exhaustion from a late night spent at the Iowa game Saturday (go Hawks!). By Monday morning, when I still felt gross, I learned this was not the case. I battled through my day, using only about a million Kleenexes. “MISS JOHNSON YOUR NOSE IS ALL RED, DO YOU WANT ME TO GET YOU A TISSUE?!” a student kindly screamed in my face.

This morning, I crawled out of bed feeling as though I was crawling out from under a rock where I had been smooshed the past hundred years. Following a small meltdown in my mentor’s classroom, it was decided I should probably get a sub. After a frantic scramble to get all of my sub plans together throughout the morning, a saint came and replaced me once my students were at lunch. I scurried home, put on some home clothes, and I’ve been hibernating in bed ever since. YUCK YUCK YUCK.

BUT. I have two things to share with you that are not yuck at all! FIRST UP, my most favorite tailgate snack EVER, my mom’s Caramel Puffcorn. You are going to love this sweet, crunchy, melt in your mouth snack that can be thrown together with only 4 ingredients that you most likely already have on hand, 1 bag of Old Dutch Corn Puffs, a big brown paper bag, and a saucepan. DONE. You’re going to be the hit of the party with this snack! I took it on Friday to our school tailgate party, and a colleague immediately asked for the recipe so she could make it Saturday for the game! SECOND, I have several classroom photos to share (if you are interested in my kindy-garten lifestyle). I would love to share where I spend my days with my littles. It truly feels like a second home (most likely because of the percentage of waking hours spent there).

BUT FIRST, Caramel Puffcorn

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Caramel Puffcorn

1/2 cup butter

1 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 bag Old Dutch Corn Puffs

Pour bag of Old Dutch Corn puffs in a large brown paper shopping bag. I asked for several at HyVee, and they gave them to me for free.

In a saucepan on the stove over medium high heat, melt together butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Use a spatula to continually stir and clear sides of the pan. Once melted and combined, bring to a boil.Now, add the baking soda and stir until frothy. At this point in time, the mixture will get very puffy and turn a color that reminds me of a root beer float (!).

Pour the mixture over the Old Dutch Corn puffs. Mix with a wooden spoon. Fold down the top of the bag and microwave for 1 and 1/2 minutes.Take out the paper bag. Shake the bag to mix the corn puffs! This step is really important, otherwise puffs can get stuck to the bottom of the bag and burn.Then, mix with a wooden spoon. Microwave again for 1 and 1/2 minutes, once again shaking and mixing.

Finally, fold down the top of the bag one last time, and microwave for 1 minute.Spread the corn puffs on wax or parchment paper to cool.

ATTEMPT TO EXERCISE SELF CONTROL AND NOT IMMEDIATELY EAT THE ENTIRE BATCH.

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And now, my classroom!

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Here I am on the first day of school! You can call me Miss Johnson, although, as experience has shown, I will respond to “HEY TEACHER”.

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In the left corner of the room, you can see our doorway! Our room is (conveniently) located next to the lunchroom. Yippee! As you can imagine, the noise levels during lunchtime can get a bit distracting (as well as the variety of interesting scents).

I’m fortunate enough to have a huge amount of cupboard and storage space, as you can see. You can *just barely* make out the glimmering oasis in the mirage that is my coffee pot on the counter. Crazy Miss Johnson requires caffeine for success in the morning.I wish you could experience how homey it makes my room feel.

In the left middle you can see my “teacher chair” where I lead most of my instruction, as well as my easel! My students sit on the big blue “frog” carpet in front of me.

Students are grouped into pods of 4 or 6 students, with community supplies in the middle! So far, so good. (Note the 26 purple crayon boxes purchased the night before school on my one millionth Target run…)

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Ahead you can see our teeny tiny classroom computer lab (4 computers) in the corner.

You can also see COMMAND CENTRAL, where my desk and rainbow table are located! I wanted to consolidate my space in the room as much as possible, to allow for the most space for kiddos! I am kind of crunched in my little pod once I sit down, but this arrangement allows me to both have access to my desk and rainbow table (where I will be leading small groups) at the same time.

In this photo you can also see our word wall, which will be FILLED by the end of the year, and also the number line posters that I chose to COLOR BY HAND (#firstyearteacherproblems).

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In this last shot you can glimpse the door to my storage closet, my associate’s desk, and, MY FAVORITE PART OF THE ROOM, OUR CLASSROOM LIBRARY! You can also see the purple book boxes where students store the books they check out from our classroom library. Cute, huh?

I feel so lucky to work in such a beautiful and bright space with lots of natural light! I am excited to see what changes and additions happen throughout the year.

Hug a teacher the next time you see one, he or she probably really needs it right now! (Maybe also bring them a grande non-fat vanilla latte too, just an idea..)

xx

 

Cinnamon Apple Snickerdoodle Bread

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Hello friends.

Happy Labor Day! I hope your day was spent with the ones who make your heart happy and lots of yummy snacks.

Two weeks ago (I’m rounding up here, because it feels like about one million years) I started teaching kindergarten! I am now an officially employed full-time working woman (benefits and all!). That means this is my first real Labor Day as a member of the workforce. TWO WEEKS IN, AND I’VE EARNED IT.

Let me tell you a little about kindergarteners. They are some super cool people. They are great at smiling and making friends and coloring and asking questions and KEEPING IT REAL. Every morning, they come to school infectiously excited. To them, each day is something new and wonderful. Isn’t that great? It’s hard to be in a bad mood when I have my classroom coffee pot going and 26 of the sweetest little people working together to build a community. Heaven heaven heaven. I feel oh-so lucky to have a job that I adore this much.

HOWEVER, kindergarten isn’t all crafts and hugs (those those both are incredibly important). It’s A LOT of management, planning, delegation, and stress. I AM IN CHARGE OF 26 HUMANS. WHO OKAYED THIS?! At the end of each day, I am EXHAUSTED. I can’t decide if working full-time has turned me into a baby or an old lady. Regardless, each night when 8:30 rolls around, I begin to contemplate when an appropriate time for bed would be. By 9:30, I’m snug as a bug and fast asleep.

This is why Labor Day was the biggest blessing ever. I spent the weekend watching Iowa football (yippee!), hanging out with the people I love, drinking lots of coffee, reading (finally got around to Me After You by Jojo Moyes, I’ll keep you posted!), getting caught up on laundry/sleep, and (MOST IMPORTANTLY) baking! This morning I whipped up a double batch (a little bit of an over-commitment on my part) of this delicious Apple Cinnamon Snickerdoodle Bread. I found the recipe on Cookies and Cups and adapted it slightly.

You are going to love this bread for it’s delicious flavor, sweet apple chunks, and crunchy cinnamon sugar topping! It’s the perfect “intro to fall” recipe, and it will make your house smell AMAZING. Our whole apartment smelled like an explosion of goodness today. I chose to use mini loaf pans for this recipe, but you could definitely use a regular pan instead! I think the mini pans are just too darling, and they make great gifts! I’m taking one to my mentor teacher tomorrow as a thank you for dealing with my thousands of absurd and random questions (bless her).

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Cinnamon Apple Snickerdoodle Bread

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 and 1/2 cups AP flour

1/2 cup butter (room temperature)

1 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 cup milk

1 Granny Smith apple

For the topping:

2 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Prepare a 9×5 loaf pan with baking spray. I used mini loaf pans (mostly because I think they are cuter), so those work too! (Just be sure to adjust the baking time accordingly.)

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together salt, baking powder, and flour. I prefer to use a fork for this step – I think it works better than a big bulky whisk.

In a different bowl, use a hand mixer to beat together butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Do this on medium speed for about two minutes! Next, add in eggs and vanilla. Continue to beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth in consistency.

After that, mix in flour mixture and milk in parts. Be sure that you start and end with the flour mixture (i.e. I did flour, milk, flour, milk, flour). Do this just until everything is combined – be sure to not over-mix.

Finally, stir in chopped apples with a spatula or large wooden spoon. Do so slowly and carefully. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan or mini loaf pans!

In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cinnamon for the topping. Sprinkle on top of the batter prior to baking. MORE IS BETTER. Trust me, you can always shake off the excess after baking.

Bake for 50-55 minutes. You will know your bread is done when a toothpick can be inserted and cleanly removed! SOAK IN THE HEAVENLY AROMA OF THIS KITCHEN MASTERPIECE.

Now comes the most difficult part: waiting for the bread to cool. I about burned off my entire right hand in an attempt to remove a piece too early. DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK. I have no regrets. (*sassy girl emoji*)

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WOULD YOU JUST LOOK AT IT?! It made my afternoon of kindergarten planning that much sweeter (pun intended) and easier.

Have a wonderful four day (!) week!

xx

Dear Kindergarten Mama

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Dear Kindergarten Mama,

I bet you’ve been having some late nights recently, nights where you are dead tired but can’t seem to shut off your brain. Nights where you lay awake, sleepless. Nights during which nothing seems to calm or sooth your worrying mind. Well, mama, rest assured, you are not alone. For each night that you sit awake, flooded with fears, I am sitting awake in my bed doing the same. I too am tossing and turning, filled with anxiety**. (**two nights ago that anxiety took shape in the form of a very realistic  and vivid nightmare about head lice)

You worry about your baby who is heading off to school for the very first time. You worry about new friends, overwhelming curriculum, school lunches, exposure to new ideas, and the unknown. You also sure do worry about that teacher. You read in the introduction letter that this is her very first year teaching. HOW ON EARTH COULD THIS 23 YEAR OLD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR 26 LITTLE HUMANS?! WHO IS ALLOWING THIS? WHAT DOES SHE KNOW? How I wish I could give you a hug. I would squeeze you tight and assure you that what I lack in experience I more than make up in enthusiasm and snacks.

But I have worries too. I’m already worrying about your child. I worry about if they get hugs at home, or if I will be the only one. I worry about if they have a person to make sure their tummies are full in the morning before they begin their long day. I worry about if your child knows the beauty of sitting on a parent’s lap while they read aloud a story. I worry about providing for the needs of each and every student. I worry about being enough for them every single day.

There are so many things I can worry about, so many things beyond the realm of my control. Instead, I’ve decided to focus on the things I can control. There are many aspects of school that are in my power. This is why I make these promises to you. I promise to be the hand your child holds in the hallway, for even though they are “big”, they are still oh-so little. I promise to guide with a gentle heart, remembering that, in the times when we are least deserving of love, we often need it the most. I promise to be a listening ear for their troubles and concerns, as trivial or monumental as they may be. I promise to giggle and dance to songs when we all need a little break. I promise to be a smiling face that provides comfort during the times that school gets tough and tricky. I promise to make your child feel special and included every single day.

Finally, I promise that as you drive away on that very first morning, though you may shed a few tears, you can have peace in your heart with the knowledge that, in your absence, I will love your child fiercely, because, during the school day, they are mine too.

Love,

Miss Johnson

Life Lately

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Hello,

It’s me. Here I am. Still doing my thing. I realize things have fallen by the wayside, but I also realize what a wonderful and rewarding outlet this has been for me. I spent the last half hour reading through old posts and laughing at (with?) myself. My goal for summer is to get back into the habit of baking and sharing with you all! Or really just my mom and sister, I’m not sure who is even reading this.

In the meantime, I thought I would share a few fun recipes that I have made the past few weeks, as well as links to the websites where you can find the recipes for these scrumptious goodies!

Mini Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites

Click here for recipe!

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A friend from Theta asked me to help her make some fun treats for a bachelorette party she was throwing! To me, there is absolutely no better combination than chocolate and peanut butter (see here, here, and here). Before I made these for the party, I decided to try out a few recipes the weekend prior. This was the first recipe up! After trying my first bite, I decided to test no further. LIKE MY GOODNESS THEY ARE TOPPED WITH PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING AND A MINI REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CUP. (Do you pronounce it reese-ez or reese-eez? Real life question.)

TIP: To make the frosting on top look so adorable, I simply filled a normal sandwich sized baggie with frosting, then snipped a corner and piped it on top! So super easy, cheap, and it looks v v professional (in my humble opinion).

To go along with the brownie bites, I made an old trusty favorite…

Cake Batter Truffles

Click here for recipe!

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You can see them in the top corner! I served them in cute pink cupcake liners that coordinated with the sprinkles on both the truffles and brownie bites (SWOON).

IN CASE MY CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER LOVE HAS NOT BEEN DEMONSTRATED ENOUGH, I THEN TRIED THESE…

Mini Monster Cookie Cheesecakes

Click here for recipe!

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Can you even? I don’t even have an excuse for having made these except to say that I am a savage when it comes to monster cookies. These baby little cheesecakes were no exception. Have you noticed my intrigue with mini desserts? I think it’s because I can justify eating more…

Snickerdoodle Ice Cream Sandwiches

Click here for cookie recipe!

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I made these for my friends Allie and Braden when they came over for dinner one night! They showed up with beer, chips and dip, and then Braden did all of the grilling for us. I would say I have things exactly how I want them… (evil laughter). But really, they are the sweetest people, and there is no other couple’s third wheel I would rather be!

To make these cutie ice cream sandwiches, I simply made the cookies to the recipe’s specifications. Once the cookies had cooled, I scooped a large scoop of vanilla bean ice cream onto a cookie and sandwiched it with another. I then rolled the sandwich in rainbow sprinkles (!) which felt necessary. I wrapped the ice cream sandwiches individually and stored them in the freezer!  I recommend allowing them to sit out for 5-10 minutes prior to serving so they get nice and melty.

Finally, I saved the best for last.

Salted Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Click here for recipe!

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Alas, I only have a photo of the dough, because Papa, my roomie, and I consumed an absurd amount of these starting immediately once they left the oven. I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE FOR THIS.

If you are overwhelmed by all of these recipes, then I highly recommend starting with either the Salted Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies or the Mini Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites.

Expect a new recipe post sometime in the next two weeks! Anything you are craving?

xoxo

Liv

Why Everyone Needs a TT

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Hello friends.

Surprise! It’s me! I’m still alive! I still do this thing sometimes! The past three (wowza) weeks I have been long-term subbing in a local second grade classroom. It has been amazing and incredibly rewarding in so many ways, but SUPER DUPER EXHAUSTING. I have been in my bed by 9:00 almost every night. If the clock strikes 9:15 and I am not yet in my jammies, panic sets in. I SO WISH THIS WAS AN EXAGGERATION. “We remember when we first started working full-time,” mom and dad both fondly reminisced, internally laughing at my baby adult self. It’s funny how quickly I forgot just how tiring being responsible for 25 eight year olds can be (EIGHT HOURS A DAY, FIVE DAYS A WEEK). My only solitude comes during my three scheduled bathroom breaks each day. WHEN YOU ARE A TEACHER THIS MATTERS, OKAY? All in all, this is a long way of me explaining/making excuses for my lack of posts and recipes. I would promise to be better about posting more regularly, but that feels like I would just be lying to everyone, and I tell my kids lying isn’t okay.

This past Friday, I arrived at my grandma and papa’s house in Naples, Florida along with my mom, dad, and sister, Tori. We came for the week because mom (YAY TEACHING), Tori (YAY COLLEGE), and I (YAY TEACHING) are all on Spring Break! MAJOR KEY IS HAVING A PROFESSION WITH SPRING BREAKS. Naples is absolutely beautiful, and there is something wonderfully relaxing about being both at grandma’s house and also in a tropical locale. We have spent our days so far sunning ourselves at the beach, reading books, going for walks/runs, and eating way too much.

One of the biggest blessings of this week has been 24/7 TT time. TT is the pet name my sister Tori and I both have for each other. Tricky, right? The nickname came along because our cousin Kylie’s little boy, Jackson, couldn’t say “aunt”, so he called our cousin Ashley “TT”. Tori and I were charmed by this! “Someday, you’ll be my kids’ TT,” I told her. It stuck. There have been a few times where other random friends or family members have attempted to refer to either one of us as TT, and we had to shut that down real quickly.

Growing up, there were definitely times we took each other for granted. Sometimes, it can be hard to appreciate someone who is such a rock and constant in your life. Each night, we would lay in our beds, look through our shared bathroom, and wave goodnight. All of this changed when I left for Drake University for my freshman year of college. I left everything familiar behind (which sounds incredibly dramatic considering I moved TWO HOURS AWAY). Still, Tori and I were really apart for the first time. Luckily, the stars aligned when I decided to transfer, and we both made the choice to attend The University of Iowa. We began at the same time, her starting her freshman year, and me starting my sophomore year. We experienced three amazing, crazy, and fun years of college together, along with all of the highs and lows that go along with this time. Now, I am in Des Moines, and she is still in Iowa City, finishing her senior year waiting to make grad school decisions. We are back at a time of uncertainty about our futures and where God’s plan may take us.

THIS IS WHY I REALLY NEEDED SOME TIME WITH MY #1 CHICA THIS WEEK. I have decided officially that EVERYONE NEEDS A TT. I would like to provide a few reasons as to why this is the absolute and definitive truth.

FANTASIES

A TT can make all of your dreams come true. There is absolutely no one better at playing along with whatever scheme comes to your mind. Are you five and you want to have a fake wedding with your large stuffed bear as the minister? Excellent. TT will have no qualms about being your groom! Are you eight and in need of a fellow pioneer woman to live in your treehouse turned covered wagon? Great. TT also loves Oregon Trail and will happily carry out all of your Laura Ingalls Wilder dreams. She is creative and kind. She won’t judge your wacky ideas or insist that your weirdest daydreams aren’t practical. She will hold your hand and walk with you towards what you want, whether that be your fake bear minister or whatever else your heart may desire.

SNACKS

A TT is ALWAYS 100% DOWN FOR SNACKS. It could be 3 am or pm and she would be willing to go get HyVee Chinese or eat a bowl of cereal with you. When you are at a resort in Mexico and feeling a hankering for “thirds” of the heavenly guacamole they are serving by the vat, she will indulge you and go get you “both” more. If you are ever feeling guilty about heading to Culver’s for the second time that week, she will simply send your a small text message assuring you that is definitely okay and no big deal at all. Last night, we trekked 30 minutes each way simply to go to an ice cream store with homemade waffle cones. YOU ARE GOOD FOR MY HEART BUT NOT MY WAISTLINE, TT.

FASHION

A TT is totally honest with you when it comes to your wardrobe. She will help you find fun outfits that you would never figure out yourself. She is still okay with UGGs. She owns a lot of fun jewelry. She will let you know when your eyebrows get too out of control (but in a nice way, obviously). She will only show polite disgust when you offer her hand-me-downs that aren’t as cool as you think they may be. Most importantly, she will support your middle school Abercrombie phase with only the mildest disgust. She is exactly the fairy godmother you need.

SECRETS

A TT is not good at keeping secrets. She often gets way too excited and SIMPLY MUST SHARE. That’s okay though. You’ll still want to share all of your secrets with her. You’ll want to do it, because, when you do, her eyes will light up, she will give a small shriek, and she will then grab your hand or give you a snuggle. “That’s so awesome! I couldn’t be more proud of you,” she will say. Then, your entire insides will glow because your bestest friend in the entire world shares that one tiny piece of information with you. When a secret is scary or feels too big to keep inside, she will help make it better in a way that only she can.

SNUGGLES

TT is the greatest at snuggles. She sure is tiny, but she sure can cuddle. This isn’t always physical though. Sometimes, she just isn’t there in person to give you the hug you are in need of! When this is the case, she will send snuggles in other ways. Sometimes, this is a sweet card in the mail that makes you want to cry a tiny bit as you stick it somewhere safe to keep forever. Sometimes, this is a laugh out loud text message that contains a GIF from Bridesmaids, and it is JUST WHAT YOU NEEDED. Sometimes, she sends you a hug by giving you an unexpected call “just to hear your voice”. Regardless of the mode of transportation or the manner in which you receive it, her snuggles are the best and sure to make you feel better.

I could keep going on forever, but I have to go so I can eat dinner and watch The Bachelor (obviously!) with my TT, my baby sister, and my best friend. I love you!

xx

Puppy Chow Cookies

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Hello friends.

I have always been a “good eater”. Last night, over a heavenly dinner of BBQ pork, coleslaw, and homemade cornbread with honey glaze (!), my friend Haley and I giggled about this as we inhaled our meal. PROUD MEMBERS OF THE CLEAN PLATE CLUB. We then proceeded to get ice cream immediately following this (I cannot say no to monster cookie ice cream…). Ever since I have been small, I have been willing to eat (almost) anything without complaint. I love trying new foods in new places and attempting to create dishes on my own. I attribute my strong connections of food with family and warm memories to this fondness for eating. Though I enjoy meals as much as the next person, my main love for eating comes in the form of snacking. In fact, I prefer to forego real meals in place of snacking throughout the day.

SNACKING IS LIFE. Due to this, I have a granola bar on my person at all times. This is not a joke. In college, I would pack a juice box and Lara bar in my purse every Saturday morning for tailgates. We would be in the middle of a large drunken frat tailgate in some nasty backyard surrounded by people shotgunning beers, and I would casually pull out a little something to munch on. I blame my mom for this constant need to have food “just in case”. Goodness forbid we so much as run errands without bringing along some pretzels or trail mix. At my home, snacking is not only accepted, it is encouraged. My sister and I would return home from school every single afternoon to make a huge bowl of stove popcorn with m&ms. We couldn’t go to bed without a little nighttime snack either (usually a scoop of ice cream). I am not a snack snob, though obviously some snacks rank higher than others: Red Vines, flavor blasted Goldfish, Ritz crackers and cheese, Cuties, and HONEYCRISP APPLES WITH COOKIE BUTTER.

However, out of all the snacks I enjoy and consume, puppy chow has to be my favorite. THE PEANUT BUTTER. THE CHOCOLATE. THE POWDERED SUGAR. How could a snack possibly get any better? When a friend sent me the link to these amazing cookies from Cookies and Cups, I KNEW WHAT NEEDED TO HAPPEN. You are going to love these chocolatey and chewy peanut butter cookies topped in a frosting that is TO DIE FOR. My dad ate three of these for breakfast on Sunday. That’s how you know they’re good. Another awesome thing about this recipe is how quickly and easily it comes together! No mixing dry and wet ingredients separately, you only need one bowl!

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Puppy Chow Cookies

1/2 cup butter (softened)

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/4 cup flour

(For the frosting)

1 and 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup butter

2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (COOKIES WON’T STICK AND ALSO YOU DON’T HAVE TO CLEAN THE COOKIE SHEET = WIN WIN).

In a large bowl, mix together softened butter and peanut butter until creamy. Next, add in the two sugars, and mix on high until smooth (about 1-2 minutes).

Add egg, baking soda, vanilla, and salt, and mix until completely combined. Finally, slowly mix in the flour.

Roll dough into tablespoon sized balls, and place onto cookie sheet. Use the palm of your hand to slightly flatten the balls. Bake for 9 minutes. Edges will just appear to brown slightly. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter for 45 seconds. Stir until the mixture is completely free of lumps. If necessary, microwave for additional time in 10 second intervals. Pour powdered sugar into a separate bowl for dunking.

YOU NOW HAVE TWO OPTIONS. I recommend the first, which is to use the chocolate peanut butter as a frosting, and spread generously on top of each cookie before dunking the frosted top into the powdered sugar. The second option, which I also tried, is to completely submerge each cookie into the frosting mixture, removing with a fork, then coating in powdered sugar.

I found that the frosting didn’t harden in the way that I hoped. This meant that you basically had to stand over the kitchen sink while consuming a cookie in order to avoid completely making a mess. It also was somewhat tricky to completely cover the cookies evenly without them breaking. HOWEVER, IT IS STILL DELICIOUS, so that call is completely up to you!

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SNACK ON.

xx

 

 

Coconut Cupcakes (WITH BABY ANIMALS)

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Hello friends.

If these cupcakes aren’t the cutest thing you’ve seen all day, then I would love to switch lives and see what you do all day. Run a panda kindergarten? (This is a real thing we learned about at school Monday, thank you very much.) Snuggle little puppies all day? Reunite lost pets with their owners? Professional YouTuber who compiles videos of babies trying lemons? For everyone else, CAN YOU EVEN?

I’ve been dying to use these cute little cupcake liners and toppers that my friend Natalie found for me this past summer! I decided to make cupcakes for teachers at the school in which I will be long-term subbing soon! For those who liked coconut, they seemed to be a hit. They are light and fluffy and so super easy to put together. THANK YOU, MARTHA STEWART! In the recipe that I used, Martha included a recipe for homemade frosting that involves a candy thermometer. I couldn’t even tell you what else you have to do, because I immediately stopped reading. “I’LL JUST PASS,” I thought to myself. “PILLSBURY HAS THIS ONE COVERED.” Honestly? No regrets. Feel free to sub in your own favorite frosting recipe if you feel the need, but, trust me, store bought vanilla will do the trick. Once you dunk each cupcake in shredded coconut, you won’t even notice!

This recipe would be PERFECT for a time when you don’t want to use a boxed cake mix, but also don’t want to spend a ridiculous amount of time/energy/monies. With the exception of coconut milk and frosting, I had all other ingredients on hand! GET EXCITED TO HAVE A HEAVENLY SMELLING HOME OH, SO SOON.

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Coconut Cupcakes

1 and 3/4 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened) plus additional for topping

6 ounces butter (softened)

1 and 1/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs and 2 large egg whites (room temperature)

1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk

FROSTING

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a muffin tin with liners (I just used paper). My recipe made about 18 cupcakes.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and shredded coconut. I find that it’s easiest to use a fork for this!

In a mixing bowl, cream softened butter and sugar. Do this until it is fluffy! Next, one at a time, add in the eggs and egg whites. After that, mix in the vanilla. Finally, slowly mix in the coconut milk. The batter may seem initially very runny, that is okay. DO NOT BE ALARMED.

Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. I did so in about three equal parts. Once all ingredients are combined, fill cupcake liners so that they are 3/4 full.

Bake for about 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick to see that they are done! They will appear to not be fully cooked. Remove from oven, and place on a wire cooling rack.

Once cupcakes are cooled, top with LOTS of frosting and dunk in a bowl of shredded coconut. Serve with milk, or, (dare I?) warmed up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (!).

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Have you seen the recent Oprah commercial in which she shouts “I LOVE BREAD”? If not, please look it up immediately. I FEEL VERY CONNECTED WITH OPRAH NOW. It has really made me feel much better about how much I embrace carbs/the importance of breads. IT’S COLD. IT’S WINTER. WE NEED THIS. Go make these cupcakes.

Enjoy!

xx

 

 

 

Homemade Made Easy – Cosmic Brownies

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Hello there.

I have always been a sharer. Mostly of information. And feelings. Some might say that I am an over-sharer. I have never once been able to keep a secret from anyone. As I have gotten older, this hasn’t changed. I’m still the girl who cannot be trusted to keep anything quiet. I think that this is partially due to excitement. If there is something that I am REAL EXCITED about, there is no way I am keeping it to myself. Another reason I am such a sharer is because I think life is pretty weird. The human experience in itself is indescribable. All we have is each other to make sense of all of this. Life is enriched and made sense of when we allow others to participate. On our own, things are confusing and messy. Yet, when we weave our stories with other’s, things become much clearer.

I feel lucky to be surrounded by people who both support and encourage this sharing, people who, in turn, share their lives with me. One of these people is my dear friend, Kaitie. There is a comfort found in those who have seen you at your best and at your worst, and I was reminded of this the other night when we had a sleepover. Freshman year of college tends to expose both the best and the worst of people pretty quickly, so I’m glad I had Kaitie by my side. As roommates, we shared everything. One of my favorite Kaitie stories that sums up us, and our friendship, pretty accurately, took place on our VERY FIRST NIGHT OF COLLEGE EVER.

Somehow, we were invited to a football party that would take place that evening. We were feeling *PRETTY GOOD* about ourselves as we got ready for that evening, most likely wearing matching Gap jeans and some conservative tops in a neutral tone (do we scream wild, or what?). The party was to take place in a football house that was located, as we soon found out, about a mile from campus. Drake University, the school I attended freshman year, is located in a part of Des Moines that is very old and very low socioeconomic status. Once you leave campus, things can get a little sketchy. My freshman year alone, my parents received at least five calls about shootings that occurred near campus. The night of the party, Kaitie and I hauled our little butts all the way to the address we were told. Anxiously, we stood outside. “I’ll follow you inside!” “No, you go first!” Time passed, yet we didn’t move off the sidewalk. We didn’t know anyone, and we didn’t know what to do. Once again, we made eye contact. We both knew what needed to happen. An hour later, you could find us in our (adorable) dorm room, cuddled up on our futon, a big bowl of popcorn and m&ms in hand, watching a Law & Order: SVU marathon. I had found my person.

This is why I knew Kaitie would appreciate my newest recipe: HOMEMADE COSMIC BROWNIES. I talked them up before she came, and we drooled over them before dinner. However, we decided we would wait and indulge later while we watched a movie! WE WERE HYPED. When it came to movie time, Kaitie immediately passed out on the couch, since she had been up early that morning working (God bless). Needless to say, no brownies were consumed at that point in time.

These brownies (adapted from Handle The Heat), are NOT for the faint of heart. They toe the line between brownie and fudge and are covered in a HEAVENLY homemade frosting. Cute mini m&ms top the decadent dessert. If you like(d) the Little Debbie version, you will LOVE this “grown-up” adaption! Did I mention this recipe only requires ONE bowl and no mixer?

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Homemade Made Easy – Cosmic Brownies

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (sifted)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs and 1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon corn syrup

2/3 cup flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

CANDY TOPPING (I used mini m&ms)

1/2 cup heavy cream (for frosting)

1 and 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (for frosting)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Either use a disposable 8×8 pan, or line an 8×8 pan with foil. Regardless, spray with cooking spray, and set aside.

In a large glass bowl, microwave butter until completely melted. Add sugar, brown sugar, and cocoa powder to melted butter. Use a spatula (or, my personal favorite, a fork) to combine. If mixture is still hot, allow to cool for several minutes.

Next, add vanilla, eggs, egg yolk, and corn syrup to the mixture. Stir until combined. Finally, add flour, cornstarch, and salt. Mix only until ingredients are combined. Be careful to not over-mix. Pour batter into prepared ban.

Bake for 25 minutes. Check to see that batter is completely baked with a toothpick, if necessary. Once done, remove from oven and cool.

For the frosting, pour the heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for one minute. Remove from the microwave and add in chocolate chips. Allow to sit for about 2-3 minutes before stirring. If necessary, microwave additionally for 15 second intervals until the mixture stirs smooth. Pour atop cooled brownies. Cover in mini m&ms!

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Stay warm out there, my friends! I’m typing this while wrapped up in a fuzzy blankie on the couch, and I have no intentions of moving any time in the near future.

xx

Vanilla Pudding Party Cookies

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Hello friends.

Happy New Year! Did you make a resolution? Is it going well?

Here is a list of resolutions I should have made:

  1. Stop stalking bloggers you don’t know. There is no need to have so many opinions on their children, whom you have never met.
  2. It is unnecessary to frequent the Target Dollar Spot each and every time you enter the store. Don’t do this. You do not need fancy straws and cute little sticky notes (refer to this post).
  3. Popcorn in itself is not a meal, enough pretending it is. This also applies to pizza rolls. This also applies to mini corn dogs. At least include a baby carrot or SOMETHING.
  4. Buy less grey clothing. Groutfits are fun, but they need to stop. If your mom can do an entire load of just grey clothing for you while doing laundry, then that is a wake-up call.
  5. One run doesn’t entitle you to a trip for Zombie Burger for a rice krispie treat milkshake.

Here is the actual resolution I made:

  1. Drink more water.

How is the return to the “real world” treating you? Today has been rough. I realize how hypocritical that sounds considering my current unemployment and the fact that I haven’t brushed my hair once in the past 24 hours (!). I woke up this morning and realized that, for the first time (basically ever), I don’t have a plan. I will begin long-term subbing in a month and beginning the process of locating a “for real” job. That’s all I’ve got. Beyond that? No idea. It’s alarming. For a girl who is more devoted to her planner than anyone or anything else (sorry, Sammy), this is a terrifying realization. I also realize that the subbing applications that I thought would be quick and easy are, in fact, neither quick nor easy. AREN’T YOU PRECIOUS, NAIVE OLIVIA JOHNSON.

To combat this, I made cookies. Not just any cookies, but these HEAVENLY Vanilla Pudding Party Cookies. Not only are they super adorable, but they are just as yummy as they look! You will adore these soft and chewy cookies packed with rainbow sprinkles and a delicious vanilla flavor. I found this recipe on Cooking Classy, though it is slightly modified. PLEASE DO NOT BE ALARMED BY ALL OF THE BUTTER.

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Vanilla Pudding Party Cookies

2 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

14 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)

1 and 1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 tsp almond extract

1 package instant vanilla pudding mix (3.4 oz)

2/3 cup rainbow sprinkles (I used jimmies)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together softened butter and sugar. Next, mix in egg and egg yolk, as well as the vanilla and almond extracts. Use a spatula to stir in vanilla pudding mix.

With the mixer on the lowest speed, add in the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Do this slowly. It may take some time to combine. Mixture may seem initially crumbly and dry. Just keep going!

Once fully combined, stir in sprinkles! Using a cookie scoop, or tablespoon, form balls of dough and place on the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for about 10 minutes. Pull from oven just as edges begin to brown. They will continue to cook on the sheet for several more minutes once removed!

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CUTE, RIGHT?

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Have you made any recipes from Sprinkled With Liv during the holiday season? Have you tried any fabulous new recipes? I would love to hear about it!

xx