Tasty Tuesday: Best Blueberry Cake

My parents have a few friends who just the thought of, remind me of lobster and blueberry cake. Blueberry cake seems to be the universal Maine dessert. Going to a lobster bake? There will be blueberry cake for dessert. Friends stopping by for a quick visit on their way down the coast? Blueberry cake and tea. Going to a potluck? Bring blueberry cake. Packing a picnic lunch for a long mountain hike? Don't forget the blueberry cake! Going to a friend's lake house for the day? Bring a blueberry cake as a thank you. Guests spending the night? Blueberry cake for breakfast.

So the other day when S and I took baby M blueberry picking with my best childhood friend, I promised to make a blueberry cake if S and I each filled our three gallon buckets full of berries.

We did.

This blueberry cake has got to be my absolute favorite of all the dozens of blueberry cake recipes my mom has in her kitchen. It's very moist and fluffy and has a thin strudel top that's delicious. We usually use native berries, but we were picking high-bush berries this week so we used them. Either way, this cake is amazing.
This cake is delicious warm with ice cream or whipped cream (especially after lobsters for dinner) and soooo good the next morning with coffee. S claims it's the ideal breakfast food. I'll let you be the judge.

Blueberry Cake

for the strudel topping
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. butter @ room temp

for the cake
2 c. blueberries, picked over (remove the stems and leaves)
2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. butter @ room temp
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Grease and flour an 8" square pan

Prepare the strudel topping
Combine strudel ingredients in a small bowl and work together with your hands until well combined. Set aside 

Prepare the cake 
1. In a small bowl, toss berries with 2T of the flour

2. In a second bowl sift together dry ingredients

3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or just another bowl, because who the heck has a stand mixer at their cabin, which is where berries are picked?!) cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, beating until fluffy

4. Add dry ingredients alternating with the milk in two additions

5. Gently fold in the berries until just combined

6. Pour into the prepared pan, top evenly with strudel

Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes


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BLW: Baby Led Wednesday, the Lobster Roll

Let's just say, I've unleashed a monster.
It started with one taste and turned into "give me the whole thing, NOW!"

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So this is disgusting, but apparently there’s a big old rat problem in our county. Not mice, but rats. Big Fat Rats. As you may  know we have (had) a pretty cool squirrel-proof bird feeder in one of our gardens. I loved watching our birds feed from it until one night in May when I looked out around dusk and there was a big fat rat chowing down under the feeder. The feeder was removed the next day.

We thought the rats would move out once our bird feeder was removed, but our rat incident hit at the time of a perfect storm. Apparently our neighbors had and rat problem under their addition (they got into the a/c duct work in their house from there!!) and had managed to get the rats out, evicting them and sending them in search of a new home. The area under our shed turned out to be a great spot to settle. Rats.

We called a company out to evaluate the problem and thankfully they hadn’t entered our house or the inside of the shed. We thought we’d take matters into our own hands and set out some bait stations and a couple of traps. But when I had a staring contest with a rat in broad daylight (they’re more nocturnal) as I was walking to my car (I stepped toward him and he took off under my office, YIKES!) and then when we chopped the head off a chipmunk with a trap, instead of a rat, I knew something more had to be done.

I called the pest control company and made an appointment to set up our house with bait stations like you see along the back sides of grocery store exteriors. Big black things that are tamper proof for kids, dogs and other pets, but full of poison that the rats eat at the stations themselves.

The week after the pest company came out to set the stations Feeney caught a rat. A big fat disgusting rat. S told him to “leave it,” he dropped it and S finished it off with a nearby cinder block to the rat's head. It makes me want to lose my lunch thinking of it. We had guests at the time. Shudder. After that the pest company doubled up their efforts, coming out every other week for no additional charge. 

We’ve made a few changes around the Hive too, per recommendations from our county. Rats live both indoors and outdoors, but ours is an outdoor problem (thank goodness!) Outdoors they live: under wood piles or lumber that is not often used; under bushes, vines, and in tall grasses that are not trimmed or cut back; under rocks in the garden; in cars, appliances, and furniture that has been put outside and is no longer being used; in and around trash and garbage that has been left on the ground; in holes under buildings. So to keep rats at bay these are some of the tips our county provides:

•    Stack fire wood 18 inches off the ground and away from all buildings.
•    Birdhouses and seed should be on poles and in trays rats can't get at.
•    Keep garbage cans covered tightly.
•    Plant bushes so they will stay at least 3 feet from your house.
•    Keep yards and alleys clean. Take junk to the dump!
•    If you feed them, they will stay. Pick up fruit and vegetables in your yard.
•    Do not compost any animal products (fish, meat, chicken, cheese, butter).
•    Use only rodent resistant compost bins.
•    In basements, keep any food in closed containers that rats can't chew through.
•    Cover all openings to your house. Rats can get into very small places.
•    Do not leave your pet food outside. If your pet doesn't eat it, the rats will.
•    Roof rats get into your house from tree branches that hang over the roof. Keep trees cut back and cover any openings in the eaves.
•    Keep rats out of your sewer pipes! Rats live in sewers and can follow the food in pipes up to your toilet. (OMG!!!!)
•    Keep your kitchen sink rinsed clean and use garbage disposals as little as possible.
•    Rinse out your kitchen sink once or twice a month with 1 cup of bleach and boiling water. (As an alternative to bleach, use 1 cup of baking soda followed by 1 cup of vinegar.)
•    Never throw grease down the drain.
•    Keep your toilet lid down when not in use.
•    If you find a rat in your toilet, flush it! (Hint: squirt a little dishwashing liquid under the lid into the bowl, wait a couple of minutes, then flush.)

OMG dishwshing liquid!?! To make the rat slippery so it flushes!?!? I've definitely lost my lunch.

Our rat population is dwindling and probably would so even more, if our second neighbor, whose shed is in serious disrepair, would join in the battle. Alas, they’re not concerned with the problem, so for now we’re fattening the neighborhood rats on some serious rat caviar and sending them to the sewers in search of water. It’s so disgusting.

Any experience with these unwanted guests?

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Our "Outdoor Spa" & a Chance to Win a Trip to a Real Spa

Baby M and I are spending some time in Maine this summer and while the rest of the country is roasting, we’ve been living in resort-like conditions. Baby M and I go swimming in the pool every afternoon and then take a shower in the outdoor pool-side shower. With the open roof and the birds chirping, it really feels like a resort spa!

We left baby M's bath bucket at home thinking that we’d use a larger bucket here. But he wasn’t sitting up yet when we got here and the larger bucket was scary for him. So we just opted for the shower instead. I’m so glad we did! We have such a fun time in the shower together, he loves to drink the water.

One of my favorite things about being in Maine, besides the perfect summer weather and resort-like setting here, is that baby M’s Mamie and PawPaw are here to help. Shower time is great because after baby M is all squeaky clean, I hand him off to Mamie to get his PJ’s on for the night and I get time to shower alone, with no whining baby and without relying on an unpredictable nap. I’m sure there are a gazillion new moms out there who would do anything for fifteen minutes of uninterrupted, baby-isn’t-crying, me-time each day!

I’ve always been a big fan of body washes – and it’s almost essential in an outdoor shower, since the rain can wash away bar soap overnight, if you don’t have it covered. One of my favorite shower products is Dove’s new premium line of body washes. Dove sent me their VisibleCare Renewing Crème body wash to try out and it makes my ten minutes without baby M kind of like being at a spa ;) It’s very moisturizing and has a fruity floral fragrance that I love.

I love using spa-like products at home (and even more so when they come at a budget friendly price); just a little luxury is all it takes to feel a little less new-mom and a lot more me again. Dove also has a toning variety that I plan to try next; it can’t hurt, right?

Want to try Dove's new line of body washes too? Visit Dove® VisibleCare® to get a coupon for $1 off!

Our outdoor "spa" is great, but how would you like to a chance to go to a real spa? Enter to win one of two $500 Spafinder gift certificates by following the instructions below and telling us what you do to make your home more spa-like. (Make sure to follow the link below, comments here are not entries.)

Enter to win one of two $500 Spafinder gift certificates!


You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) Follow this link, and provide your email address and tell us what you to do make your home more spa-like.
b) Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: "#SweepstakesEntry"; and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that Tweet.
c) Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that post.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. Winners will have 72 hours to claim the prize, or an alternative winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 7/18/2012 - 8/22/2012

Be sure to visit the Dove® VisibleCare™ Crème Body Wash brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!

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Don't Forget to Enter!

Don't forget to leave a quick comment on last week's post to enter to win a $250 gift card to BeddingStyle.com. That's a lot of money!

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Getting Ready

Do you know what this is?
It's the view into our very empty dining room - and the frog seat of baby M's jumperoo, which kind of looks like it's peering into our very empty dining room. Kind of creepy.

We moved all the furniture out and pushed the dining room table to the side in preparation for our custom hutch delivery. Woohoo! We actually did a bit more work than just moving furniture out; we took down the long curtains that I made when we first moved into our house.
I liked the way they looked and how they tied together the dining and living rooms since we had the same curtains in the living room. But now that we have a baby swing in the dining room and that jumperoo straddling the two rooms, it's just getting too crowded. Not to mention we use baby M's chair on a daily basis, which takes up a ton of space too now that we don't have it tucked in a corner.
Plus, our hutches are built to fit the spaces next to the window snugly, so the curtains had to go. They were easy enough to take down. We just unhooked each of the pinch pleat hooks, slid them out from the back of the curtain and stuck them in a ziplock bag for storage. S removed the hanging rod completely and we spackled over the holes with a little joint compound. After sanding, I touched up the white spots with a little matching wall paint.

We need to have some kind of window covering for privacy, so S bought a pair of the same white faux wood blinds that we have throughout the upstairs. They were quick to install and I hate to admit it, but I like them more than the curtains I slaved over. I actually think I want to nix the curtains in the living room too. And now that I'm working on new slipcovers for Feeney's living room dog bed (which previously matched the curtains), it might be time to go with blinds. Oh the hours I spent on those curtains!

With everything in place the room is ready for its new hutches. I can't wait to show you how awesome these things are - and awesome they are...holy huge!

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Going Navy

As I mentioned the other day, we now have white and navy blue sheets on our master bedroom bed. The change got me longing for a palette change in our house. I want to introduce more navy blue. Obviously we’ve got the nursery covered and we’ve made a start with our bedroom. The guest rooms' bedding are mostly navy too. So really on a few accessories here and there could make an impact.

Where to start then? With the two largest fabric-covered things in our house: dog beds and pillows. Feeney has two beds, one in our room and one in the living room. For the living room I’ve chosen this Ikat pattern and will use either a navy or a white piping around the edges.
And since I love to coordinate Feeney’s bed with the rest of the living area (currently his bed and the curtains are the same fabric) I’ll use the same fabric to make pillow covers for the couch pillows.

We have eight pillows in our living room and that would be a lot of Ikat so we’ll also keep using some of our white pillow covers and I’ll make a few in solid navy twill…which I’ll also use to cover Feeney’s bed in our room. I love the contrast of the white piping on the nursery glider, so I’ll recreate the look using the same navy twill and white piping for Feeney.
The fabric is ordered and on its way and I’m hoping to be finished with the sewing by the time August rolls around and I open up our etsyshop for Christmas stocking sales. I hope just a few sewing projects will make a big visual change, otherwise I may be pulling out the paint brush and convincing S that we need to paint a navy blue accent wall!

Are you itching to change the color scheme in your home? Anyone else with a home small enough like ours that just a few touches can change the whole look (hopefully!)?

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Six Months Down

Don't forget to enter to win $250 from BeddingStyle.com

Baby M turned six months old a couple weeks ago, but we’ve been so busy in month seven that I’ve hardly had time to blog. Six months felt so much more eventful than months four and five; there’s so much to share!
For starters we kicked off the month alone with S away for a trip after having only been home for a couple days after his previous trip. There was another trip in the middle of the month, but PawPaw and Mamie came to stay with us for a week, so we weren't really alone. Baby M and I have solo momma & Maddox time down and we don’t mind it one bit now :) He is SUCH a happy baby!
On the very first day of month six, baby M woke up two times at night and would not go back to sleep without nursing. He hasn’t nursed at night since month one, with maybe a night somewhere in between. I went to be early the next night in preparation for a new routine, but he slept his normal 12+ hours from ~7pm – 7:30am.

The paci fairy came once a night at least half of the time. She swoops in, sticks a paci in baby M’s mouth and stumbles back to bed barely waking up in the process. Sometimes the paci fairy doesn’t even remember that she visited when she wakes up in the morning. 

Early in the month I tried to put baby M to sleep without his swaddle. He’s been napping without a swaddle for a while so I thought he might be able to handle it at night. I was wrong. After an hour and a half of fussing and crying and no sleeping, I bounded up the stairs hollering, “don’t worry Maddie, mommy’s coming, mommy will fix it!” And swaddled him up nice and tight. 

I decided to wait two weeks to try again. I planned to give him two hours to fall asleep before I’d give up and swaddle him and if it didn’t work, I’d just keep trying every two weeks. I don’t know any three year olds who are swaddled, so I figured that eventually he’d be ready and there was no need for me to force it. Two weeks later when S was away on another trip, on M’s 25 week birthday, I put M down to bed sans swaddle. He grabbed his lovey, rolled to his side and fell asleep. And woke up at 7:30am. On the next night I watched him reach for and find a paci and then stick it in his own mouth. The paci fairy retired. I guess that’s what ready looks like.

During his sixth month, baby M also quit taking the 20 minute micronaps that he started taking sometime in month three. Back are the days of hour long plus naps. Their length isn’t quite predictable yet, but without fail, he’s down for a nap within two hours of waking in the morning and will take a second sometime in the afternoon. He’s also able to put himself to sleep when we put him down in his crib at night.

I started to use my frozen milk stash at daycare this month. In doing so baby M started to get six ounces at his lunchtime instead of five. The first few days he didn’t drink it all, but after a week or so he started to down it all in no time flat.

We also started sending him to daycare with a 2oz snack bottle to have at 4pm just before we pick him up. He’s a much happier baby when we see him at 4:30 and helps to tide him over, if S gets stuck in traffic on his way home.

Midway through the month I sat baby M in his highchair and gave him a quarter of an apple to gnaw on. He used his bib to hold it up to his mouth and loved it! Right around 26 weeks we started Baby Led Weaning. Baby M tried all sorts of foods including peaches, sweet potatoes, toast, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, melon, and corn on the cob to name just a few. He even shared a little taste of french toast when we went out for brunch on my birthday.
He loves to play with his food; mmmmmm it's sooooo good!

Baby M can twirl around 360 degrees on the floor on both his tummy and back and does his “pony hops” to get around. It’s where he’s on his back and lifts his bum off the floor and slides across the carpet on the back of his head. He’s worn a bald spot from the friction of the carpet!

We started a baby yoga class this month. Baby M squealed and laughed the entire time and then zonked out as soon as we left. Two of the other moms said “wow, he’s so active, you must be exhausted” I kept it our little secret that baby M plays hard, but sleeps like he’s got a case of narcolepsy too. He's super active, but it all evens out.
Baby M attended his first birthday party this month – for one of his daycare friends who turned 3. There were gaggles of kids! Baby M’s head bobbled around watching everyone and everything. He wore his special cupcake bib that I made for him and even tasted a bit of watermelon while everyone else enjoyed cupcakes.

This month we took our first trip to the kiddie pool, it was a huge hit! 
That very afternoon we went to Nola & Grandpa’s house on the Bay where they surprised baby M with a special red tree swing. It was also a hit!
That evening the Pack n Play was not a hit (worst night since he was first born) and I went and ordered a special replacement travel mattress the very next day. The PnP sleep was much better during his next trip. Whew!

Went to the zoo with Mamie and Pawpaw. Baby M found the animals quite interesting and liked being in the pocket sling, kicking his legs around while I walked. He had his lunch by the orangutans under a cover because the zoo was a total zoo and he needed a little privacy. The next day we went for a long walk at Great Falls for mommy’s birthday and baby M slept in the Ergo on daddy’s chest for nearly the entire hike.

Mid-way through the month baby M stopped drooling but didn’t get a tooth. I think it’s because I made him dozens of drool bibs. Not to worry, they’re great for lifting slippery food into his mouth too.
Baby M had what we thought was his first stomach bug the day after a playdate with a bunch of babies his age. There was a whole lot of throwing up, but then after several hours he was fine. Two days later it happened again at daycare except it was much more violent. We could barely get him into the car seat and his daycare momma had to go to the doctor’s with us so that he wouldn’t be throwing up in his car seat in the back without someone to make sure he was ok. It was very scary. His doctor thought it might be a lingering stomach bug, but when it happened a week later, she said it’s probably a wheat or gluten allergy even though he'd eaten toast several times before. He will have bloodwork done in September for a final diagnosis.

Baby M is starting to become cautious of new places and holds on tight when I’m holding him and he’s unsure of his surroundings. He gives strangers big smiles when they say hello to him, but wails if I pass him off to be held.

His BumGenius diapers are still on the smallest rise setting and the velcro touches in the middle. The snaps have one row of snaps open. At night he wears size 2 disposable diapers. 

At his 6month check-up baby M weighed 15lbs, was 26.5” long and has a big head. He’s in the 18th percentile for weight, 25th for height and 65th for head circumference. He has six-pack abs that S and I both envy.
He's so active that all of our monthly photos are like out-takes now. And Mr. Elephant's ribbon is so tasty.

Happy half-birthday, little buddy!

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Giveaway: $250 Gift Card from Bedding Style!

We have a pretty awesome giveaway for you this week from Bedding Style. When my mom stayed with us when baby Maddox was first born, she stayed in our new guest suit. We outfitted the bed with a comforter leftover from S’s bachelor days, some inexpensive sheets and we called it good. When Bedding Style offered to send us a gift certificate so we could buy some new bedding of our choice, we jumped at the chance to give the guest suite its own new bedding set.

Bedding Style has a huge selection of brand name sheets, duvets, bedding sets and bath towels and accessories. We chose a nautical looking set from Tommy Hilfiger complete with a duvet, shams, and a complete sheet set. This is the flying room with the plane mobile and S’s flying memorabilia , but our kind of flying is Navy flying so we reasoned that nautical fits.
We also bought a cute white with navy blue (of course) polka dot sheet set for our room. It makes me want to redo the entire house in navy and white. If only I had the time….
And crazily enough we tossed a couple of these awesome lobster print towels into our cart for our big trip to Maine this summer. How awesome are these?!
Bedding Style wants to help one of our readers give their bedroom a facelift too, so they’ve offered to give a $250 gift certificate for the lucky winner to shop for their favorite bedding style! Talk about generous.

Giveaway Details
To enter, head over to BeddingStyle.com, choose your favorite bedding and then leave a comment here telling us which bedding you like the most and which room in your house you’d redo if you win. Make sure to leave you email address with your entry!

For one additional entry: like Bedding Style on Facebook, follow Bedding Style on Twitter, or post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook page or on Twitter and then come back and leave a second comment telling us that you did. 

Maximum of two entries per person, please.

Contest ends Tuesday, July 17, 2012 @ 8pm EDT. Winner will be chosen by random number generator. Winner will be notified by email and must respond within 48 hours otherwise an alternate winner will be selected. If no email address is given in the comment entry, then an alternate winner will be chosen. Good luck!

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