I love a quiet morning.  I wake up at 5:30AM most mornings just so I can have a little 'me' time.  I catch up on FB, read and send emails drink a cup of coffee and just bask in the quietness of the morning.  I start waking the kids around 6:20AM - they get dressed, come out eat breakfast, brush teeth and we are out the door by 7:15.  MOST MORNINGS, but not lately.  My kids (Boys 2 & 3) have decided to make my once quiet, calm and no issue mornings turn into something that resembles what you would see on Super Nanny.  What the?!?!   Today it started with Boy 2 telling Boy 3 "That's not how you put your shirt on".....Boy 3 yelling...."MOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  Oh God, give me another cup, here we go again.  And from there it was all downhill.  Boy 3 gave Boy 2 his toothbrush, this was a fight.  Boy 3 couldn't find his lunch box (even though it is supposed to go in the same place every day....), Boy 2 says nasty things to Boy 3, not knowing I have SUPER SONIC Mom ears. Boy 3 screams.   I trip over a headband that belongs to Girl as I walk out the door.  Really?  Why is there a headband outside the front door?  There is more fighting over the opening of the van door.  I lecture all the way to school.  In fact we pull over on the side of the road to 'talk about our morning and how we could have done things differently (including me, the screaming Mom)".    I can't stand mornings like this and it seems they are happening more and more frequently....at least once or twice a week.   Why can't my boys just get along?  During our 'talk' I ask them to think about how to make our mornings go more smoothly and told them for punishment they will have to play together for 3 straight days, no friends.  If they fight, and bring me into it, that's another day they will be playing together.  Typically when I do this, they have so much fun playing together that I never hear from them, but in the past I have only made it 1 day.  What was I thinking when I blurted out 3 days?!?!   One of those mom moments....ughhhh!   Well maybe I will let them off early 'for good behavior'……
For Valentine's Day Hubby sent me to a barista training.  Now, I'm not sure if this was more for him or me.  Either way I totally enjoyed myself!  (And really it was for me, I ask for it.) 

I dropped the kids off at school at 7:30AM and headed straight to Austin where I met up with my friend L & we rode over to Cuvee Coffee together.  To our surprise Cuvee Coffee wasn't a 'coffee house' it was a coffee distribution center.  In fact we thought we were in the wrong place until we saw this little sign:
Before getting to espresso making 101, we learned the process...
Coffee storage area -
Roasting machine
Green coffee
Coffee being roasted...you can see it in the little hole. It was cool watching the coffee change colors during the roasting process...
Freshly roasted coffee cooling down.
And it's done!
My friend L - we are ready to start!!
Tamping the coffee
Clancy, our coffee guru for the day.
Learning to steam milk properly.
But what we were really interested in was how to do latte art!! ;o) This is a picture of my best heart.
Our last cup of the day....
I learn so much about coffee/espresso on Monday - from brewing temperature, extraction pressure, dosing, tamping, color, taste, flow rate, crema, micro-bubbles, to the difference between espressos, macchiatos, cappuccinos, caffee lattes, caffe mochas & the Americano!  Things I thought I knew - not so much.  Ahh, my brain is swirling. The one big thing I went away with is that my awesome little coffee machine, although it is good was just a stepping stone to bigger, better and more expensive machines......
Yes, I said BROWNED BUTTER.  There isn't much in the cooking world that is better than browned butter except maybe bacon.  When you brown the butter just right with little tidbits of brown....ahhh, you have created a whole new succulent nutty taste.

"Brown butter, also known as beurre noisette, is made by cooking butter long enough to turn the milk solids and salt particles brown while cooking out any water present. It has a more complex flavor than melted or clarified butter. Brown butter is traditionally served with fish, but makes a delicious topping for vegetables such as brussels sprout and broccoli. It adds a deep, nutty flavor to sweet items like butterscotch pudding or cream cheese frosting."

Let's just clear up one thing first, I'm a brownie LOVER!  The perfect brownie for me is a brownie with a fudgy middle, chewy edges and a shiny top.  I've been looking for the perfect brownie for years. I've made lots of brownie recipes and none of them have ever stuck around.  I've been in need of a "go to" brownie recipe and thought it would never happen.  Betty Crocker in the box has been my 'go to' brownie recipe for years.  Sad huh?  Well not anymore baby!!  When I was waiting in line at the grocery store the other day the Bon Appetit magazine caught my eye.  There were brownies on the cover and the caption read, "BEST-EVER BROWNIES Warning: You will eat the entire tray!".  Really?  Really? I didn't believe, but I bought the magazine anyway and thought I would give them a try.  I am so glad I did!!!  These are the BEST-EVER brownies and if I had made these when no one was around, I would have eaten the entire tray!!

Go grab some butter and let's get cookin'!

Recipe from Feb 2011 Bon Appetit Magazine

Nonstick cooking spray
10 TBL butter
1 ¼ cup sugar
¾ natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 TBL flour
1 cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 8x8x2 inch pan with foil pressing foil firmly against  pan sides and leaving a 2 inches overhang on both sides. Coat foil with cooking spray. 

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and brown bits form at the bottom of the pan stirring often, about 5 minutes
Just before the browing starts.....(I didn't actually get a pictures once it was 'brown'...sorry!)
Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 tsp water & vanilla.   Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition.  When the mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended.  Beat vigoroously 60 strokes.  Stir in nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan. 

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean (with few moist crumbs attached), about 30 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.  Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan.  Cut and serve....or just eat them all. 
If you have ever read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman you may have noticed that "Acts of Service" is my Love language. It LOVE doing things to make people happy.  Feeding people make people happy, and since I love to cook it is a win/win. 

On Valentine's Day we always have pink/red everything - I ALWAYS make heart shaped pink pancakes and chocolate covered strawberries and I ALWAYS serve smoothies in 'fancy' glasses.  I can't believe I forgot to pull the heart shaped plates out for breakfast?  What was I thinking?!?!  (Barista class...that is what I was thinking....)
Our traditional Valentine's Day dinner is surf and turf!!  Crab legs and steak! This year I threw in lobster tails!  Mmmm GOOD!
We don't have a set dessert for Valentine's day well, other than chocolate covered strawberries. This year I made a chocolate covered strawberry cheese cake - OH BABY!!  (Recipe to come.)  Happy Valentine's Day!! 
Last Saturday night (12 Feb) Hubby took Girl out on a date.  She could hardly contain herself.  She even ask her daddy how he wanted her to wear her hair, curly or straight....
Girl had a great time on her Daddy date. Hubby took her to Old Chicago for dinner then to a movie, Nomeo & Juliet! 
~OH GOODNESS, I had to pour 1 bottle of white wine down the drain!!  I hate it when that happens. (Left over from a little get together with friends)
~I saved another bottle of wine by freezing it in 1 cup increments. I have already used one cup in a dish...
~I saved fresh spinach & mushrooms (that were on the verge of going bad) by making a super yummy almond crusted chicken breast on a bed of spinach with a fantastic mushroom sauce (in which I used 1 cup of frozen wine...well, I did thaw it).  Totally made the recipe up and it ROCKED the house. Now if I can find the piece of paper I wrote on that tells me exactly what I did.
~I saved fresh basil by going out and buying a bottle of vodka and made more Basil-Lime Martinis (hey, deployment is coming up soon, don't judge me).
~I saved 1/2 a diced tomatoe by freezing it, and then I used it to make salsa later in the week.
~I saved 3 helpings of chili by putting in individual containters for 1 serving dish for consumption later on.
~ I made grillled cheese sandwiches out the heels of bread, turned the crust to the inside and no one was the wiser!! (Thanks Sarah)

So, I still wasted several items these past 2 weeks, but seriously, look at how my list is shrinking!!
1/2 block moldy feta cheese
3 pieces slimy salami
1/4 of a slimy green pepper
1/2 a small slimy cucumber
1 mango that got lost in the drawer...
I soggy orange
2 egg whites...oops, let them sit too long and was afraid to use them....
Almost an entire bag of mini bagles!  I totally forgot I had them.  The would have made great croutons, or bread crumbs..
Another 1/2 bottle of wine...went bad before I could drink it.

I DID NOT BUY Celery!!

In the past two weeks I removed 176 more items from of our house - the most painful was a super cute pair of pair of shoes. I've been holding on to them for years because they are so cute and I keep thinking that one day they won't hurt.  I wore them around the house the other day for 10 minutes before going out, they hurt, I reluctantly put them in the Goodwill box.  Although I am not sure it is really "Goodwill" some other poor sap will fall in love with them as well, and will try to wear them, they will hurt her feet and they will hang out in her closest for a few more years....oh, how the cycle never ends. ;)

In the past two weeks I went shopping and I added 22 items to my house....

For a grand total of 973 items out of my house since 3 Dec 2010!!!

We are not even going to talk about the gym.
OK, maybe not, but really - all my kids are on two wheelers?  Boy 3 has been asking for two weeks if I would teach him to ride his bike.  The truth is, this is a HUGE milestone and one that momma wasn't sure she wanted to take. This marks the end of babyhood and is the officially entrance into big boy land!  Where did the time go?  As I think back over the past 5 years he really hasn't been that traditional "baby" of the family.  He is very independent and wants to do EVERYTHING by himself.  In fact in his parent/teacher conference yesterday his teacher informed me that he and his 3rd grade buddy (the school teams 3rd graders up with pre-k'ers to help guide them, to be their mentors) well, they didn't see eye to eye - Boy 3 wanted to do EVERYTHING with no help from his 3rd grade buddy - Boy 3 now has a new 3rd grade buddy, one that is not so 'involved'. 

So as I sit here and mourn loss of babyhood and really think about it, I know babyhood was lost a long time ago.  Boy 3 has been brushing his own hair and teeth, picking out his own clothes, wiping his own bum (thanking God he learned that one early!) for a couple of years now. He does his homework without being asked and he NEVER wants help with his bath.  And now to top it all off, he can ride his own bike, ALL BY HIMSELF! 
It was another beautiful Sunday here in Central Texas... The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, the kids were playing Wii, laughing, singing (OK, maybe not singing) and playing nice with each other.  THEN Hubby announced, "Get dressed".... then came the question "why?".  We answered as chipper as we could, "we are going hiking!" And then our happy day turned into "Hiking, why hiking.  We don't like hiking! I don't want to go!"....blah, blah, blah, blah, BLAH!!  Whatever suck it up and get dressed.  And they did, complaining the entire way.  We tried to ignore - Hubby is way better at ignoring than I am.  (Ha- I bet you would have NEVER guessed that!) 

Why does family fun have to be so hard?  I've ask myself this question over and over.... Every time we go hiking or do something as a family, we have fun!  So why do they think we are torturing them when we mention doing something as a family?  I just don't understand it because like I said, we ALWAYS have fun when we have family outings; it is just getting to them out the door that is the difficult part.

By the time we left the house the monkeys were hungry (it probably had to do with all that complaining - it gave them an appetite).  So when I saw this place.....
I knew it would help with their moods...
I mean it may not be the best fuel for hiking, but whatever works at this point...
After loading the kids up on sugar we continued on our venture to Dana Peak for a little hike.  And when I say little, I mean little.  I'm thinking we didn't find the right spot, but Hubby thinks we did.  I just can't imagine that so many people thought what we climbed was a good hike.  I still think we were in the wrong place.  It only took us MAYBE 10 minutes to get to the top. 
A view from the trail...
Taking a little break.
Almost there!
Trying to get a family picture with the camera hanging from a tree limb was quite entertaining!
Ahhh, just in time for Valentine's Day!
Heading back down....
This time I checked the boys, made sure they were wearing the correct shoes....I didn't think about checking Girl. Then I happened to noticed when she was walking that her socks must have slipped down into her shoes. NOPE, I was wrong, she didn't wear any. Man, *WHO* is her mother?! ;o)
Turning over rocks looking for treasures! (Don't worry, we put them back.)
He is such a good big brother.
Having fun down by the lake.
This is what we climbed....is it Dana Peak?
In the end we had a very good day hiking!  The kids ban together and decided that before each hike we should have donuts, and after each hike we should have Korean food.  I told them if the complaining stops, then I am all in!
Cooking Light has been one of my favorite cooking magazines for years now.  I stopped getting the subscription for a long time because it was just too much, I couldn't stay up, plus I wanted to save them all. Now I have a black binder and when I see a recipe I like I tear it out and file it. I think I am going to have to get a new black binder soon.  I found this recipe in the November 2007 issue and started making way back then and haven't stopped. I modified it just a tad (when do I not?) to suite our needs - this one is a keeper!  Every time I make this for guest they ask for the recipe, so don’t let the number of ingredients scare you off!

12 ounces Chorizo
1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat
1 medium yellow onion
4 minced garlic cloves
1 (7 oz) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
3 TBL tomato paste
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cup dry red wine (remember to use a wine you like to drink!!)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
28 ounces beef broth
1 (28 oz can) whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
2 TBL corn mesa
2 (15 oz) cans pinto beans rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained

(One of my favorite 'every day' wines!!)
Heat Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add chorizo to pan, sauté 3 minutes or until browned.   Remove Chorizo (leaving chorizo drippings in the pan) add beef to pan, sauté for 5 minutes or till brown. Remove from pan (leaving drippings), add onions and garlic to pan, sauté for 3 minutes. 

Remove 4 chipotle chiles from can & chop.  (Reserve the remaining chiles for another use.) Add chorizo, beef, chopped chilies, tomato paste and next 6 ingredients through ground cumin to the pan.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. 
Stir in red wine, lime juice, beef broth, and tomatoes, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Remove 2 cups of broth from chili, add corn mesa & mix with a whisk until no lumps appear, add to chile mixture. Add pinto and black beans. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve with sour cream and chives.

This recipe is better on day 2 and it freezes very well!

Sorry about the messy dish in the picture...but you are lucky to even see a picture of the chili.  You see those super cute white dishes I put the chili in?  Well, they are on the top shelf in my kitchen.  I have to use a stool to reach them.  No biggie.  I use the same stool every day. Boy 1 can't stand the stool and has been begging me for years to get rid of the stool because he always falls off of it. I told him to just stop using it.  HUMPH.  I wish I had listened to that boy.  I pulled down the dishes, took to two out I needed and went to put the 3 plates, and 2 bowls (stacked together) back in the cabinet.  Well when I did, I leaned too far forward and the stinkin' stool slipped out from under me, I tried to get the dishes back in the cabinet before I feel, but it was no use, I tucked my head and tried to brace myself for the dishes about to fall on my head...and they did.  And it hurt and I thought I was going to pass out because my head and my arm were hurting so bad.  Boy 2 saw the whole thing..(you know, my stressor)  he freaked out and I tried really hard to hold it together even though I THOUGHT I may have broken my arm and cut my head open.  Well to my surprise and thankfulness, my head was NOT gushing blood like I thought it was and my arm is NOT broken.  Thank you Jesus!  I just had a really bad head and arm ache for the rest of the night..... 
AND there is more goodness that came out of this….  After the dishes broke on my head, they fell in the sink and broke 3 more glasses. I was able to add 9 more items to my decluttering count.  3 plates, 2 bowls, 3 glasses and 1 stool!  ;o)

We are still about ten weeks out from deployment.  Ten weeks. To some that may sounds like a long time, to me I'm afraid to blink ~ I'm afraid if I do then those ten weeks will be gone. If feels as if someone has hit the fast forward button on my life and no matter how much begging I do they won't take their finger off that button. I've (we) been through this before, this time it shouldn't be that hard.  In fact I have convinced myself that this deployment will be easier.  Like I said, we have all been through this before and the kids are all at a better age.  That is what I tell myself.  However, the insomnia I have been having over the last two weeks is telling me a different story.  I tell myself that Boy 1 is at a good place.  Although he is 14 and he going to start driving while his daddy is gone, life will be OK.  He is a good kid, makes good grades and adores his siblings even if he doesn't express it the way I would like to see it on a daily basis.  However if anyone messes with his siblings he has no problem having a little 'come to Jesus' meeting with them.  I hate the pressure this upcoming deployment will put on him.  I already see him stepping into that 'protector' role. Girl, oh Girl.  She is daddy's little girl. She adores that man.  Even when daddy goes TDY (temporary duty station, business trip for you civilians) for a week, she cries.  Last deployment she would just break out in tears at the strangest of moments and when I ask why she would say through sobs, "I miss Daddy".  I expect nothing less of her this next deployment.  Boy 2 ~ oh how I worry about this boy.  He has already started biting his nails down so low they bleed. With deployment looming and being talked about more in our house these past few weeks he has voiced many times that he doesn't want his daddy to go.   Last deployment not only did he bite his nails but he also lost perfect little circle patches of hair.  The doctor and hairdresser both told me it was stress related.  At least this deployment he is verbalizing a little better.  I hope this helps him.  Boy 3 ~ I don't think he fully gets it yet.  He was so young during the last deployment it didn't seem to faze him as much as the other children.  I have no idea what to expect from him.  As for me I will take care of my personal family first and my Army family second.  I will have lots of sleepless nights. I will send lots of care packages.  I will miss my husband so much it will physically hurt.   I will call my battle buddy in the middle of the night. I will go nowhere without my phone.  I will always answer my phone even when in a store (for those of you that know me, know I cannot stand this). My phone will become a part of me. I will know which restaurant has kids eat free night, every night of the week.   I will stay inanely busy.  I will cry, I will laugh, I will sing, I will scream.  I will be so tired that sleep will become my friend. ( I can only hope.) I will stay Army Strong.