31 October 2010

Halloween, Spanish Style

We were surprised to learn a couple of months ago that Spain celebrates Halloween.  It's the first country in Europe that we've lived in that does.  I understand that it's not celebrated in all areas, but the bigger cities it is.
I know there are differing opinions on Halloween, but we decided to join in on the fun and our original thoughts was to use it as a way to get to know our neighbors.  I had the idea of having an open house and have cupcakes to decorate for the kids, but we have been sick for over 2 weeks now and we weren't able to do that.  Oh well.  Maybe next year.
Each apartment that was participating in "trick or trattle," as they say here, was to put something Halloween-ish on their door and it would begin at 7:30.
My kids could not wait!!
I really didn't want to buy new costumes, so to the dress up clothes we went.  My Spiderman, ballerina and Cinderella didn't seem bothered by that one bit!!
I got to thinking what I could do with the girls hair to make it pretty.  I am not very good at styling their hair.  I got online and found a fun site called Princess Hairstyles with lots of photos and some videos.  And some of the styles are really easy!  Reegan's hair is really thin, so hers didn't hold very well.  I had to redo it a couple of times, but we made it work.
Here is Karis' hair, it might be a bit hard to see.

 And Reegan's hair

They loved getting their hair done!

 Reegan was doing lots of pretty poses for daddy!

 applying that last bit of lip gloss

And they are ready to go!

 The Loot!

They do thinks a bit more ghoulish than we're use to.  Mine were the only ones not dressed up like some scary thing or a witch.
November 1 is All Saints Day or Día de todos los Santos, so the kids don't have school tomorrow.  I guess that's a good thing since they may still be crashed after their sugar high of an evening!  Ha!

30 October 2010

Fall Festival

It took me a week to get these pictures off of Jerry's IPhone of the Fall festival we went to last weekend.  Sorry some are a bit grainy.
Even though we've all continued to be a bit under the weather we decided to go.  It was at a local Christian Academy.  We had a lot of fun!

The kids got apples and caramel, got to decorate a cookie, such concentration!

decorate a bag for trunk or treat, get some candy,

 roast a marshmallow....

I got in on the action too.

Hee hee!

and one of their most favorite things, jump in a bounce house!!  My kids are crazy for bounce houses.  I think they went and bounced 4 times!

We finished up the evening by watching "How to Train Your Dragon" on a big screen.  It was fun!

27 October 2010

City Girl, No Longer

 I've always considered myself a city girl.  Even growing up in Alaska I would refer to myself as a city girl in Alaska.  I guess I liked the hum of a city and all that it has to offer.
I then moved to Texas.  I started out in a small college town, but I loved visiting the Big D!!  The Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex!  When I moved to the metroplex I lived in the "burb" of Euless.  I couldn't live in the city (too expensive), but I worked in the Big D and enjoyed all the local restaurants.
We then moved to Fort Worth to attend seminary and found ourselves living in the city.  We loved to go to the movie theatre in downtown Fort Worth!  We'd go early, have coffee at Starbucks and wander through Barnes & Nobles before the movie started.  Sometimes we'd take in all that Fort Worth's dowtown had to offer and I loved it.
What then?
We moved to Moscow, Russia.  The most populous city in Europe (over 10 million).
Moscow was a tad big for me, where there is no regard for personal space.  I remember being so jam packed on a tram that when the driver slammed on his breaks we went as a wave of people falling forward and back upright.  Or my friend lifting her foot for a moment to scratch an itch and not having a place to put her foot back down.  I still enjoyed what the city had to offer (well, not all of it but that's another story).
We had a brief stay in a small city, called Bryansk, Russia.  Now that was like moving to the sticks.  We're talking about a town that didn't even have a supermarket with carts to pile up your groceries.  Nope!  You walked in, viewed the products behind a glass counter,  jotted down how much it costs, go to a window to pay, receive a receipt and take it back to the counter to pick up the item you just purchased. Not really my kind of shopping.

After that, a move to Prague.  Now Prague isn't a large city.  Only about 1.2 million people, but it was a good size.  It is where the east meets the west, where the old meets the new.  Due to it's location in Central Europe there are many foreigners living in Prague and there is much available.  It's also one of the cheapest cities in Europe still!
We loved Prague!!  We had so many life experiences here.  Namely our struggle with infertility and then going on to adopt and deliver twins.
As our kids came along though, the hum of the city was not so much of an appeal to me.  We did not have a car (and really, you don't want to in Prague) so getting around was always a challenge.  Lifting a double stroller and a toddler on to a tram was something we preferred to avoid as much as possible.  We stayed home....a lot!!  I did have a babysitter, so I would take advantage of going out on the town whenever possible.  Sometimes I'd go sit on the edge of the water of the Vltava River or just take a walk and get lost only to discover some of the most beautiful areas unseen to most tourists.   And sometimes I'd sit sipping a coffee in a local coffee shop (way before Starbucks entered the country)!  Ah, I loved that city and still do!!  But, it came to a point that Prague was not conducive for our family in many ways.  And the Lord knew that and brought us to Spain.
Even though we're in Spain doing the same job as before, Communications, we are still here and available to work along side the teams in Madrid and the ministries they are involved in.
So we sought the advice of the local team leader as to an area he would like us to live and that would be close to the airport as Jerry does a bit of traveling throughout the year.  There were 2 he suggested.  One was more a part of Madrid and the other was more of a suburb.  And God brought us to the suburb.
Our first 2 weeks in Madrid we stayed in a rental apartment in the heart of the city.  Let's just say that I got my fill and was so happy when we got to move.  My love for the hum of the city has just about dissipated.  I have become a suburbian mom...only I'm living it in Europe!
The suburbs are where the families are.  Our apartment complex is packed with kids.  And we love it!

We'll see if my love of the city comes back as my kids get older and when I don't have to hold there hand constantly for fear of them straying away, but for now I am happy to live a life in the burbs!

25 October 2010

Homemade Candy Corn? Say What!

It's true!  Did you know you can make your own candy corn?!
One of Jerry's and the kid's favorite Fall candies are candy corn, but especially the candy pumpkins.  I have found all kinds of amazing homemade recipes online like corn syrup, marshmallows, peanut butter, poptarts, Nutrigrain bars, butter and many other things.
If I was in the US, I probably wouldn't bother with these things.  But when you can't get this stuff you seem to want it more than ever!  I find it a fun challenge to try and recreate these things in my kitchen.
So what do I do?  Like many other times, I go to the web and see what I find!  And sure enough, there was candy corn!  And it is really easy.  Just time consuming.

The great thing about finding these recipes online is you get to read opinions and how they tweaked the recipe.  So, away I went.

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
1 Tablespoon honey
5 tablespoons butter (I used salted)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup non fat milk powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Red and yellow food coloring
some gloves for mixing in the food coloring
a pizza cutter for the cutting

Bring first 4 ingredients to boil over high heat in a heavy large saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and boil 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add the vanilla.

Sift powdered sugar, milk powder, and salt into medium bowl.  Be sure you do this step or it will come out with all kinds of little lumps.  I don't have a sifter (must get one), so I pushed it through a fine strainer that I had.  Add powdered sugar mixture to pan; stir to combine. 

Let mixture stand until slightly warm to touch, about 30 minutes.  Divide dough into 3 equal pieces; place each piece in small bowl. Get out some gloves before adding the food coloring the dough.  I used about 8 drops of yellow food coloring for the yellow and then used 2 drops of red and 6 drops of yellow to make the orange.  Knead the food coloring into dough until smooth and color is even.  If your dough becomes tough, just put it in the microwave for about 10 seconds to soften it up and make it more workable.

I then cut each color into fourths to make it easier to roll into ropes.

Reegan getting in on the rolling action!

Don’t roll too thin or dough will break. Push three ropes together to form a long rectangle. 

Using the pizza cutter, cut ropes into triangles.   This process takes a while so be patient or you'll get your candy corn pieces too big.  Which I did and some of them I cut in two to make them smaller.

I gave each of them some of the extra dough to play with to keep them busy. 

Using fingers, shape candy corn as desired. Store at room temperature in airtight container, separating layers with pieces of waxed paper to prevent sticking.

 I looked at several different blogs to come up with the right combination for me.  I actually had to make 2 batches.  For me it is so much easier to use a candy thermometer when making candy, but none of the recipes used it.  One recipe said to boil the mixture on medium high, then they revised it and said that was too hot and changed it to low (which is what I did) and it didn't turn out.  Another one suggested medium low, so I went with medium on the second batch and that one turned out.

I'm going to do some research online to see if I can salvage the first attempt

So there you have it!  Homemade candy corn!!  I'm not sure I'll attempt that again.  We'll see how I feel about it once Fall rolls around next year!

24 October 2010

Pumpkin Shmear

Two years ago while we were in Fort Worth, TX , I fell in love with Einstein Bros pumpkin bagels and especially the pumpkin shmear (a cream cheese spread)!  Oh yum!!   We lived about 5 minutes from an Einstein Bros, so I kept well stocked during the season!!

Last year, back in Prague, I went to the net to see if I could find a pumpkin shmear recipe.  I found 2, but the season got away from me and I didn't get to it.  I found a pumpkin bagel recipe too, but bagels are quite a bit of work.  Maybe one day though.

This season, I've been pureeing pumpkin and thinking what recipes I wanted to use it in and remembered the shmear.  And it is so easy!
From Pinch My Salt, in case you're interested.

22 October 2010

Mr/Mrs Pumpkin Heads

Finally pumpkins have arrived in Spain and I was so excited to pick one up for each of the kids to decorate in some way.  Last year we carved pumpkins.  I found that to be a huge mess and they didn't last long before we had to throw them out.
I thought about painting pumpkins this year until I saw Pumpkin Heads on Centsational Girl's website.  I wasn't sure if the kids would want to do this or not, but when I showed them the pictures they jumped for joy and couldn't wait to get the Mr Potato Head pieces to create their own Mr/Mrs Pumpkin Head!
You all may think we've been living under a rock since I'm just now seeing these (as I understand you can even buy pieces in stores now just for pumpkins).  Well, I guess living aboard can do that for ya!
Here they are picking out their arm, eyes, nose, & mouth pieces.

Centsational Girl used a drill, but I thought I'd use this thing, which I have no idea what it is.  I just found it in my oven when I moved in.  Anyone?

 And here's the final product.  I forgot to get some ribbon out for Karis' Mrs Pumpkin Head (it's the one on the left), so I must go do that.

Brennan decided he wanted shoes on his Mr. Pumpkin Head.  In order to do that we had to put shoes on both sides for it to stand up, so we decorated both sides.

This was fun and no mess!!  I think this will be our way of decorating pumpkins from now on!  Well, unless or until the kids veto it in the future!  Ha!!

21 October 2010

I'm Not a Pumpkin Bread Mom!

*Cough, wheeze, ahh-choo*
I can be a little crazy at times!!  You may say “Sometimes?!”  Ha!  Well, I, along with Brennan & Reegan, have been sick with some kind of cold.  I guess we are having to get use to them being in school and exposed to Spain’s strain of viruses.  So what do I decide to do on a sicky day?  Bake some pumpkin bread, of course!

I blame it on the pumpkin spice creamer that I put in my coffee each morning.  I got a nice whiff of pumpkin spice and could not resist making some bread.  I tried not to breath, sneeze or cough while making said bread.  Oh well, even if I did, any germs will be killed in the baking process, right?!  Ha!!

However, in recent years I've not been doing so well in the sweet bread department.  I had decided that I would just stick to muffins, but today I decided to try my hand at bread again.  I have this problem of it getting too done on the outside, becoming dry.  Then kinda gooey on the inside.  I sometimes cover the loaves with foil to keep the tops from browning too fast, but it's still a bit dry on the outside.  What am I doing wrong??  Could it be the glass bread pans I'm using??

 Sometimes I use baking paper, but it is hard to get all the crinkles and bumps out of the paper, leaving the edges of the bread bumpy.  So this time I greased the pan.  

It tastes pretty good, but I can't say that it's my favorite.  One of my pet peeves about pumpkin bread is so many of them call for oil.  I don't like the fact that it leaves a big oil mark behind.  So I tend to look for recipes using butter.  Maybe that's the problem.  However, the picture on the website where I got the recipe looks like this, using butter.
It's so pretty and looks so moist and baked just right.  Now why can't I do that?!
I can make muffins, cakes and cookies just fine!  So what's wrong with me?!
Any sweet bread tips out there for me?!
So, I do not seem to be a sweet bread making mama!  Oh well!

20 October 2010

School Lunch

As I mentioned previously, my kiddos have been coming home for lunch each day from 1-3 pm.  It's been working out ok, but it's also been difficult for me to get things done and even study Spanish.

In the afternoon, when taking them back, there is only a one and a half hour time period before I have to pick them up again.  So far I have not ventured far from home, except for one quick trip to a nearby grocery store.  But I am so afraid of getting caught in traffic and not making it back in time and Jerry is in Spanish classes right now, so he wouldn't even be able to pick them up.  I digress....

My thought had been to give my kids some time to get adjusted to school life and eventually (maybe after Christmas) have them stay for lunch 2-3 times a week. Last week Karis had some issues at school (after a 4 day weekend...I  believe this to be the culprit).  She did not want to return to school.  She said it was too long.  Hmmm....  I went ahead and told her that eventually she would stay for lunch 2-3 times a week.  I went on to threaten suggest that if she did not return to class with a good attitude that she would have to stay for lunch because I couldn't let her treat her teacher that way when returning in the afternoon.

Now, if you are at all familiar with the Mediterranean diet you will know that it includes lots of fish and lentils.  I made a flippant remark one day prior (oops) about them serving fish at school which, of course, Karis remembered and quickly told me "I am not eating fish for lunch" (and kids cannot take their own lunch in Spain, so I've been told)!!  Great, my own words coming back to haunt me !  Ha!  And no, they don't eat fish every day.

Moving on to this week.....which has been much better so far!  Thank the Lord and thanks to many of my facebook friends that prayed for her!!  Yesterday at lunch we somehow got on the subject of eating at school.  I again reminded them that eventually they would stay for lunch, at least some of the time.  They didn't sound at all enthused.  That is UNTIL I mentioned that they wouldn't be eating the whole time.  Once they were finished they would get to go play!  Why had I not thought to mention this sooner?!  My girls perked up and quickly informed me that they would like to stay for lunch!  Wow!  Talk about a turn of events!!  Ha!  Brennan is still not too excited about it.  He's a little more timid, but that's ok.

Last night Brennan & Reegan both had a fever and I also wasn't feeling well.  I started thinking about how the day would pan out with 2 kids home sick and having to pick up Karis from school and Jerry being gone.  I had the idea that Karis could go ahead and stay for lunch today. That would eliminate a pick up and a drop off and only leave me with picking her up once.  I presented her with the idea and she was such a trooper about it!!  She even told me that she would eat fish even if she didn't like it!!  What a sport!

Even though I am home sick with 2 kids and not doing much else but watch tv and play on the computer, this is a big day in the Barnwell household!  Way to go Karis!!  We'll see if it is as fun as she hoped and I pray she is willing to stay for lunch again!

19 October 2010

I'm a Pancake Mom

Recently I was in an online discussion about being or not being a pancake mom.
Pancakes are now my thing.  Key word being "now."  Early on in our marriage I was not a good pancake maker.  They came out burnt on the outside and gooey on the inside.  But when it comes to baking, I am not to be deterred!  I kept at it until I figured it out.
Most people have a pizza night in their family.  Reegan takes after her grandpa and is not much of a pizza eater, so we dubbed a pancake night!  Usually either Friday or Saturday.  I usually make something in keeping with the season.  This being autumn, I've been making pumpkin pancakes the past couple of weeks.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes

1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1-3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1-1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (I didn't have any, so I increased the milk a bit and it turned out great)
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. In a separate bowl combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine. Mix in chocolate chips.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Use approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. 

First, I had to make the brown sugar.  Do you know how easy it is to make brown sugar?  You just have to mix some molasses (or treacle for those in the UK) and sugar.  I can't find American brown sugar (I've found natural cane sugar that has a similar consistency, but I love the flavor that molasses adds), so I make my own.

1 cup of sugar and 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of sugar gives you a cup of light brown sugar.  Increase the molasses to 1/4 cup for dark brown sugar.  I mix it in a jar with a fork to get it all mixed in.
I then chop up some chocolate.  This is actually the first European country I have lived in where I could buy chocolate chips.  They are in a teeniny bag though.  I've only bought them once.  They are the semisweet version and I am all about the milk chocolate.  So, I'll continue to chop up milk chocolate bars.

 Ready for the griddle!


These have a nice spiced flavor with a hint of sweet from the chocolate and were oh so good!!
I make pumpkin chocolate chip muffins every year, which I haven't made yet but plan to this week.  That's what inspired the pancakes.  And I have yet to make pumpkin crumble, but I plan to this season!
My mouth is watering just thinking of it!

18 October 2010

Fun in the Fall

We've been visiting Immanuel Baptist Church in Madrid.  They are preparing to add on to their existing buildings and had a Fun Fall Fundraiser yesterday.  I am not one to miss out on any Fall activities, so we were there!!
This is Tim, the associate pastor.  We have known Tim for about 12 years now.  He and Jerry went to seminary together and had a few language classes together.  Tim had many a dinner and study times at our little seminary apartment way back when.  Funny how now we are both in Spain!

 Getting ready to have his face painted!

 Batman & the Butterfly Sisters

 Hotdogs for the kids.....

 and an assortment of Asian & Spanish food for us!  Yum!

 Dress up and race.

 Getting money at the bank.

 Soccer, or known in Europe as football.

 Fishing!  They loved the fishing and went back about 5 times!  I think because they actually got a toy with that game.  Ha!

 Throw the wet sponge at the clown.

It was fun!!  We have one more Fall Festival that we hope to get to at a local Christian School.
I love this time of year!!


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