fudge rum balls

Thanks to Duncan Hines for sponsoring my writing. There’s no limit to the baking possibilities, so grab your favorite Duncan Hines mix and Comstock or Wilderness fruit fillings and Bake On! www.duncanhines.com.



I mostly bake from scratch, but when scratch is in short supply as it has been lately with the new little birdie in our nest, I occasionally reach for a mix for a baking base. Especially for something as delicious as fudge rum balls.

You’ve got to try this one, lovelies. It’s really a good one to add to your arsenal of holiday treats. Because really, can you go wrong with chocolate, nuts, sugar and alcohol? Um, no. Especially when you double the rum in this Duncan Hines recipe for fudge rum balls that uses a fudge cake mix as a base. 2 T just didn’t do the trick so I increased it to about 4T and the balls came together a lot better. And with a more well-rounded flavor.

The danger in these little treats is that they’re too easy to just pop in your mouth when you’re having a sip of coffee, but they’re also great with a glass of shiraz or zinfandel or heck, a drip of milk would be great with them too. Before you know it, you’ll have consumed several. And because they’ve got nuts, they’re almost like a health food, right?

Now it’s your turn. What’s your philosophy on using a mix? Do you ever use them or do you pride yourself on from-scratch-only baking? Do you like to fill out your holiday dessert tray with a few store-bought goodies too? Do you make cookies ahead of time and keep them in the freezer for when a last-minute visitor pops in over the holidays? And one more question, do you “save your calories” for a favorite holiday treat or go hog wild?

Confession: I’m not thinking about calories right now, but I’m looking forward to a sugar-free January. My butt needs it, ha! But for now? Well, pass me another rum ball. It’s Christmas!

Remember to check out Duncan Hines’ website www.duncanhines.com to find some great recipes for your holiday get-together! I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective.

the tree

For most of the past seven years of marriage, Chris and I have decorated our Norfolk Island pine tree with origami balloon-covered Christmas lights. Chris has been making origami balloon-covered lights for (at least) several decades. So yeah, it’s somewhat of a tradition. This is not one of those new, hipster, DIY projects. This is old school, baby! And now we’ve passed the tradition on to our little birdies. Wren has enjoyed “starting up Merry Christmas!!!” by replacing the balloons that get too smashed in the box and those that are necessitated by a growing tree and a new strand of lights.

Fun fact: apparently having a Norfolk Island pine tree as your Christmas tree is considered “green,” as seen in several magazines lately, but for us, it’s mostly just practical and cheap. Where would we even put a Christmas tree with such a huge tree already living in the house? A couple years when we decided to cut down a $10 Charlie Brown-esque Christmas tree outside of Empire, I swear Norfolk (as we call him) was depressed about it. What’s wrong with me, he wilted. Sniff, sniff. So here’s Norfolk, proud in all his Christmas splendour! Isn’t he handsome?

Gingerbread Friends

We’ve had a lot of fun with this book Gingerbread Friends lately. We’ve read it at least once a day for the past week and were inspired to try the gingerbread recipe that’s illustrated throughout the story. It’s a really good one – I was surprised that Wren liked them because they are a bit “spicy,” but she does. Or maybe it’s just the act of biting off their heads and limbs that she likes. Regardless, we’re getting our required holiday share of ginger and cinnamon these days. Oh, and butter. It’s really no wonder why I’m not shedding the baby weight very quickly this time around… sigh.

I love a book that inspires action or creativity, like when we planted our bulbs in conjunction with Planting a Rainbow. What is your favorite book that inspires you to do something? Green Eggs & Ham, anyone?

Christmas Countdown!

Happy December, lovelies! Although it’s just gray and wet outside (no snow yet!), it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our nest. A certain toddler is VERY excited about all things Christmas and Chris and I are both getting into the spirit of it as well. It’s hard not to with Wren’s infectious enthusiasm for Santa, the reindeer, Christmas cookies, decorating the tree, candy canes, stockings and just “getting started with Merry Christmas!” Yesterday I was upstairs with Phoebe and Wren was downstairs doing who-knows-what when I heard her yelling up to me. I couldn’t understand her so I came to the top of the stairs and yelled for her to come closer and tell me what she was trying to say from across the house. She said, “I SAID, Mama, Merry Christmas!!!!!!”

The problem is that a toddler’s sense of time is so vague (yesternight, lasterday) and she thinks that Santa will come and bring presents–to good boys and girls–tomorrow. Whatever tomorrow means. So I thought it would help her to understand that we’ve got a little while to wait in a fun, visual way. I made a quick trip to the dollar store (thanks, China!) today and grabbed a bunch of these tiny stockings and strung them out while she was at school. We put little numbers in them and voila! A Christmas countdown calendar. I told her that if she took a good nap, Santa would come and leave a tiny present for her in the first stocking. It worked! Let’s just see how long this will work…

the list

For a while whenever I asked Wren what she wanted for Christmas, she would say, “Oh Mama, just a card.” It was like talking to my Grandma, but she was dressed in bright pink 2T fleece. Then “just a card” turned into “presents” and then last night the list turned more specific. I plan to update this list in the next few weeks to reflect any changes, which I’m sure will likely happen on (at least) a daily basis. Tune in for more Christmas fun as we, as Wren likes to say, “start up Merry Christmas!!!!”


yellow tape
purple yellow socks
peanut butter toys
a live animal toy
two little dog fish
little windows
a tiger
a fish puzzle


a pink ribbon for my hair


frozen pig

We’ve got a winner!

We’ve got a Wool & Honey giveaway winner, lovelies! Congratulations to Kelsey Dilts! Kelsey won a $50 shopping spree to Wool & Honey’s new online store. What a special treat! I am thrilled to share the love for this beautiful shop. Supporting independently-owned shops that sell handmade things is such an important thing for all of us to remember, especially during the holiday season when we are choosing how to spend our holiday gift money…

too early?

This past weekend my Mom was here for a visit and she brought a gingerbread house kit to do with Wren. At first I thought it was a bit too early to start with the Christmas rush, rush, rush, but did you know that Thanksgiving is next week already?! Yes, of course you did, but I’m still trying to get the Halloween costumes put away. The gingerbread house was a huge hit, and continues to be although many of the candies have been removed and consumed by a certain toddler…

I’m looking forward to some very low-key holiday celebrations this year. A new baby is a great excuse to keep things extra simple, isn’t it? This will force us into celebrating the basics of gratitude, love, family and friends. There will not be mountains of stuff or decorations to cloud the meaning of this time of year and for this I’m thankful. Although I do really need some new socks so I’m hoping that Santa brings some stuff, ha!

How do you keep things simple in your nest, lovelies? Any tips?

Welcome, Phoebe Jane!

We are so grateful and over-the-moon happy to welcome our new little birdie, Phoebe Jane!

After a false alarm and a long week of early laboring, our sweet Phoebe made a very dramatic and thoughtful Halloween entrance into the world. I think Phoebe knew that I really wanted to be home for Halloween because her big sister was really excited about all things Halloween, including dressing up as a strawberry, trick-or-treating and eating more than her fair share of candy. So she let Chris and I take Wren trick-or-treating around our neighborhood. I even got into the spirit of it and turned my belly into a pumpkin. At this point in the evening, I was having some contractions, but they weren’t too close together yet. Plus I had just seen my OB for my regular check-up about 45 minutes earlier. I told him I was “ready to burst” and he chuckled, checked me and said, “well, you’re still a loose 3.” Arrgghh. Just 3 cm?! After a week of contractions off and on? Would this baby ever come out?

So we trick-or-treated for a bit around the neighborhood and the contractions got stronger, longer and closer together. I decided that we ought to round the block for home. Plus, Wren’s candy bucket was already getting heavy because it contained a juice box and a full-size Snickers bar, in addition to the usual favorites. Seriously, someone in our neighborhood gives out full-size candy bars to an estimated 800 trick-or-treaters!?

We arrived home around 6 and I started timing the contractions. They were about 60 seconds long and only a couple minutes apart… I told Chris he better quickly eat some of that chili I made for dinner and get us over to the hospital. Thankfully, we only live a few blocks away and “Dampa and Damma” were already here with us!

Here they are, aren’t they cute?

We got checked in, they monitored me and I got checked into my room around 7 p.m. I told Chris to speed on ahead and fill up the deep tub for me. I labored in a deep tub with Wren and I don’t know how I could’ve achieved my goal of having a low-intervention, natural hospital birth without it. So I climbed on in and within fifteen minutes of laboring with the jets, my water broke. And the pain got so strong and all I could think was, there is no way I can do this, thinking I’d have to labor like that for at least another six hours, or days, there’s no way to know for sure. I let the nurse know what had happened and she said I could continue to stay in, but right away I started to feel Phoebe coming out already so I let the nurse know and she told me I needed to get out. I told her I didn’t think I could because the baby was here and she helped Chris hoist me out of the tub. I walked the short distance to the bed and my OB just arrived and told me to get up into the bed and I said, no I can’t, the baby was here. He checked and sure enough, the baby was here. He had just enough time to get his second glove on and catch our new little birdie like a football and pass her up to me! Just like that. Crazy stuff. Our Phoebe Jane was here!

On October 31, 2011 at 7:19 p.m. Phoebe Jane Walter was born! She’s a tall, thin birdie: 6 lb, 12 oz and 21 inches. And I know I’m biased, lovelies, but she is really an incredibly beautiful little lady and we’re so very glad that she is here with us in our nest.