Category Archives: Family

Christmas Eve (This Christmas is Special Because…)

Sometimes the simplest comments make the most impact. Today Brenden said: ” You know what’s so special about THIS Christmas??” And we all stopped our whining and complaining and looked at him like we were about to get an early present.
“What??”
“It’s the only Christmas Brielle will be four and Michael will be two.” And then we had a long discussion about how Christmas comes once a year, and so do birthdays, and no, Brielle, you were not four last Christmas, you were three. But all that constant banter aside, Brenden’s comment was not lost on me.
So here I sit, desperate to get some memories down before they are lost in the abyss of “too many pictures” land.

Today we celebrated Christmas with the extended family. All 45 of us. Brenden and I made exactly three turkeys. Well, one turkey and two turkey breasts. We didn’t have the oven space for all three so one was slow-cooked (and turned out a little gross) the other was cooked in the oven as usual, and the third Brenden smoked. Outside. At 6 am. In the rain. Talk about commitment!



Remmy is always under-foot, waiting for something to drop.. and something always does. 

I made my favorite cranberry sauce. It’s four ingredients and the prettiest/tastiest sauce ever. 



3 cups cranberries, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup orange juice, 1 tsp orange zest- simmer for 10 minutes. Delish.
Then we headed to Grandmoms! Actually Great-Grandmom’s… who passed away just a couple months ago. This was mom’s way of honoring her, having Christmas at her house and closing that chapter properly. So we all happily obliged. And surprisingly only a few tears were shed. We miss her so.

The house was decorated beautifully and there were tasty treats everywhere. Brielle was in heaven. My favorite was the little mouse mom made out of hershey’s kisses and chocolate covered cherries(!!!) And Brielle’s face… oh my.


So many cousins and noise and fun! Mom and the kids put on the most adorable nativity play and we sang carols to accompany it. 


Gifts! Grandmommy always gave books and this is the last year we will be getting her thoughtful reads. *tears*

Cuddles with Uncle Ethan.

Kitchen time. Lots of it!

We left after tons of food and fun and headed to Christmas Eve service where we volunteered to help with the kids. Turns out all the kids wanted to stay with the parents in the service so we got to do the same! Michael went up on stage to “sing with Paul Zach” who is the praise and worship leader and his absolute hero. Brielle was too shy and wanted to sit in my lap and watch from a safe distance.


He may look like he’s singing but he’s not. He didn’t sing one word, he just looked around and LOVED being up there with all the big kids!

Everyone was over-tired and couldn’t get bathed and in bed fast enough. ME TOO. What a day!
Can’t wait for Christmas morning!!!!



Single Parenting… In The Summertime

Brenden left on Monday for a week-long trip to Manhattan for work. We dropped him off at the airport and when he leaned in to give everyone a “hug and a kiss!!” Brielle cried for the first time while saying good-bye to him. Which of course broke my heart.

So much love for her daddy!
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Brenden rarely leaves for work trips but when he does my appreciation and respect for single moms sky-rocket. How. do. they. do. it? I’ll tell you how, they just do what they have to do. And when they can’t anymore, they just keep going.

Mad respect.

Well this week thankfully I had my little sister Gen stay with me for a couple days. It’s the 5:00 hour when they expect fresh blood to come in the door, (aka daddy to walk in and throw them around the room and tickle them,) that I have the hardest time with. Michael needs so much physical interaction these days. I toss him and tickle him until I collapse. And it’s still not enough! Boys are so different than girls!!

He keeps me laughing though. This was us on Wednesday. We walked to CVS after playing at the Discovery Museum on the downtown mall. His shorts fell off (somehow??) and he wouldn’t let me catch him. He was screaming and laughing and running around the store like crazy. Brielle volunteered herself to get him. The result: A four year old dragging a screaming two -year-old in his diaper down the isle. People thought I was such a great mom.
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I was laughing hysterically. The kind of laughing that makes you weak and you can’t lift things. I was laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation and that this was my life. And I had to somehow get us out of here. To no-doubt another ridiculous situation.

We were on the other end of the downtown mall from our car and I didn’t have a stroller. And I had already made the mistake of actually BUYING something… which I now had to carry back to the car with my two kids.. in the 100 degree weather. I hate elevators (long story) so there were flights of stairs involved in getting back to the car in the parking garage.

I picked up the screaming diaper-only Michael and the bag of crap I should have just left there and Brielle said “My legs are tired, hold me mommy!” I said, Brielle, I have to hold the bag and Michael.” Her response: “It’s okay mommy, I’ll hold the bag and you hold me.” Someone helllllp me.

We made it home, in case you were wondering. Just barely. And at home I was greeted by absolutely no-one. Except my dog and cat who happen to always need something too.

I’m complaining because it’s fun, but really it was a good week. Thanks to Gen we had some successful dinners at the pool that were relatively stress-free.
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And with a (lot) bit of help from Gen we made a Welcome Home sign for Daddy.
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Soooo ready for the weekend and co-parenting again! Have a beautiful weekend!

XOXO



What A Blur!

Preschool ended and it all became a blur. I haven’t written a blog post in… how long?? If mommy-hood is full-time during the school year it’s full-time x 100 during the summer. I literally don’t have a moment to myself. Helllllp.

So what have we been doing… hmmmm.

We’ve been taking swim lessons every morning. Talk about hard-core! Every morning for two weeks Brielle will plop into the pool with Coach Chris and Coach Lauren. Even if it’s raining! She’s already feeling more confident and I’m thrilled.
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We’ve been playing with our friends. Yay for summer tea parties!
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We celebrated Father’s Day with our amazing daddies.
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We gardened. A ton. And as fast as we planted the deer said “thank you” and ate everything. EXCEPT for the Ferns. So bring on the ferns!!
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We celebrated my birthday! My favorite girls took me out for a night on the town. I haven’t been dancing in AGES! We had so much fun.  IMG_5796

Brenden and I had a hot date at the new Bebedero in town. Uber and all! It was so life-giving sitting next to my love, enjoying amazing food and talking about anything and everything, with no two-foot-tall interrupters!
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We’ve been taking full advantage of the ACAC outdoor swimming pool. The kids love it!
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And Michael is playing T-ball!
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Sort of. 🙂
And Brielle’s been enjoying the benefits of her gymnastics classes.. She’s feeling stronger!
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And whew it’s been so hot out.. Hello ice pops and hydration.
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We went camping!! With tents and all. 🙂
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We’ve been making lots of messes. Lots. This is flour and salt and water. I wish I had the “after” picture.
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We’ve been having so much fun pretending and playing and just being lazy. Children have such amazing imaginations.
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We have been having a little more screen-time than usual… Sorry Dr. Donovan. I’m doing my best!
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Whew. The first day of summer was yesterday and I feel like we’re already a month in! Can’t wait to see what the rest of the season brings. What are YOU doing this summer???

XOXO



Coconut Rice

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Genevieve, my beautiful adopted sister, is home after a six hour surgery and a week’s stay in the hospital. To say my mom and dad are strong is an understatement. But I worry for them. I worry for their health and energy. But they are so steadfast in who they are and what they do that I just say “okay.” And get back to my life.

And tonight my life is this:

A house that is literally shaking at its foundations.

Is that everyone??

I have TWO kids. What about a house that has 3-+ kids?? My house seems like it’s about to explode at any minute!

My neighbor Kim was outside tonight gardening, happily trimming this and that, and I could see her peace being disrupted through her beige visor as my children’s voices escalated.

What a spectacle.

So I decided to check something off my list: Make Gen Coconut Rice. Yes, it’s as mouthwatering as it sounds. And it’s her favorite. So I got busy. And as usual the kids joined me.

I put some oil in a pot
Added some minced garlic
1 tsp of Cajun seasoning
1 cup of coconut milk
1 bay leaf
And brought it to a simmer.
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Then I added 1 cup chicken stock
2/3 cup white jasmine rice
1 teaspoon salt
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I brought it all to a boil and then simmered on low for 15-20 minutes until the liquid was almost gone.
Then rinsed and drained 1 can of dark kidney beans.
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And folded them into the rice. (Oh and I took the bay leaves out here too.)
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Then I added more salt (never be afraid of salt!) and more Cajun seasoning to taste.
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Michael and I had some, (we had to taste it before we sent it off to Gen!) Brielle wouldnt eat it because of the scary beans. 🙂

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Absolutely delicious. Next time I want to play with it a little:

1) Maybe add raisins instead of beans? At the beginning so they can cook and get plump?
2) Double it, there’s always reason for leftover rice.
3) Add sliced almonds instead of the beans (and maybe even with the rains??)
4) Add a pinch of brown sugar to the Cajun seasoning at the beginning?
So many ways to tweak it and make it even better!

And oh my this boy.. he just loves being in the kitchen with his momma.
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His personality is off the charts.. His hair cut is way past due and I love the look of it! He just learned how to “put your lips on my lips for a kiss” instead of his huge forehead on my lips for a kiss. I’m so in love!

XOXO



A Soul Cleansing Cry

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I had a really good cry last night. The kind of cry that happens once a year if you’re lucky. A soul cleansing, purifying cry. It was self pity and pain and injustice. It was so many emotions and feelings mixed together that I just couldn’t bear it.

My sweet 15-year-old adopted sister is going through health problems that should and would belong to a 90-year-old woman. She’s been on dialysis for a year and just went through a major surgery on her bladder to try and remove even more strain on her kidneys.

Seeing her in pain. Seeing other girls her age at the pool talking about boys and playing in the water while she is on a hospital bed unable to move. Knowing what her health situation is… What her real health situation is after we cut all the BS.

I don’t know what her future looks like. I don’t know what the space between her future and her present looks like. But I do know we are asking her a lot. We are asking her to endure this and not have her spirit crushed. Her beautiful smile gone. Her glowing face dimmed.

We are asking her to have Faith. To know that God loves her. To believe that all this is not in vain but that He does have a plan. And all of this is/can be to His glory. Even though we may never understand it.

And if we’re asking all those things from her I will demand them from myself also. I will have joy even in the midst of her suffering. Even in the midst of the what-ifs and uncertainty.

When our humanity and mortality and brokenness is so obviously and painfully exposed our hearts have to reach deep. And the deeper we reach the more simple it gets. God loves us. And His joy is our strength.

I haven’t heard or thought about this song in YEARS. Probably since I was Brielle’s age or a little older. And suddenly it appeared out of thin air last night.

It’s a silly children’s song that I heard in a church nursery or somewhere similar. It came out of my subconscious and is now in my face, in my ears, in my heart, in my mind. Peace and joy that I felt when I was a child.

“I’ve got that Joy Joy Joy Joy down in my heart.
Where?
Down in my heart.
Where?
Down in my heart!
I’ve got that Joy Joy Joy Joy down in my heart.
Where?
Down in my heart to stay.
And I’m so happy.
So very happy!
That I’ve found the love of Jesus in my heart.
And I’m so happy.
So very happy!
That I’ve found the love of Jesus in my heart.

I’ve got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart.
Where?
Down in my heart.
Down in my heart,
I’ve got that peace that passes understanding down in my heart.
Where?
Down in my heart to stay!
And I’m so happy.
So very happy!
That I found the love of Jesus in my heart.
And I’m so happy.
So very happy!
That I found the love of Jesus in my heart.”

 



Lasagna Without The Lasagna Tummy!

Nature never ceases to amaze me. Squash that looks and tastes (use your imagination!) like angel hair pasta, and now butternut squash that can be used as lasagna noodles?!

Add some Mozzarella cheese and it tastes like you are getting fatter by the bite-full, but you’re not!

You don’t really need a recipe for this one. It’s just a meaty delicious marinara sauce of your choice piled on top of thinly sliced butternut squash.

I used the following recipe:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large butternut squash (I used half for the lasagna and the other half I smothered in butter and cinnamon and roasted to be consumed later.)
  • 29 oz jar tomato sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 onion, minced
  • tablespoon garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, preheat the oven to 400.

Then get the hardest part over with: Try to cut the squash without going to the ER.
First peel it then slice it in half length-wise.
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Then slice into thin strips.
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Have a taste. It’s delicious RAW. I had no idea! I was snacking on it the entire time I cooked.
Michael didn’t think so at all though…
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I love how he will taste literally ANYTHING.

Now start working on the sauce.

Cut up the onion, throw in a pan with some olive oil or your choice of fat, add the garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the meat and cook until browned. About 6 minutes.
Now I drain out any extra fat that’s in the pan.

Add the sauce, paste, and spices.

Simmer for 10 minutes.

Now assemble!

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Pour the sauce over the layer of “noodles” and then add some cheese if you are feeling it. I used almond milk mozzarella “cheese.” The finished product was melty and delicious.
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Do one more layer, and then pop in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the squash is nice and soft(ish.) I like it to have a little texture still!
Now eat it!
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I had two servings and I didn’t feel “ugh” after. And there are plenty of leftovers for the weekend. Is an easy and healthy go-to dish! Try it.
XOXO

 

 



Mother’s Day

Today Brielle asked to see a picture of me when I was a baby.. I had to think about it. I don’t even know where my “baby” book is. At my mom’s house I’m sure, but what condition it’s in and whether it has any “baby” pictures in it, I don’t know.

That won’t be a problem when Brielle’s daughter asks her to see a picture of her. Nope. We have plenty of those to go around. My how times have changed!

I’m so thankful to this little girl for making me a Momma.

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Tonight when she was going to sleep she said “Goodnight momma, don’t let the bed bugs bite. And Happy Mother’s Day.” And then: “Wait, we never painted my nails like you said we would!” Ah, yes, no Mother’s Day is complete without a little splash of guilt and disappointment.

Night!!

 

 

 



Not Your Everyday Deviled Eggs

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I’m so happy Spring is here for so many reasons. Long days.. vitamin D.. no mittens to keep track of or coats to hang up.. no cabin fever.. lots of pool time and vacations on the horizon. And the biggest thing for me is just time OUTSIDE with family and friends.

Last weekend we kicked the season off right with our dear friends in the country. It was a blast. Delicious BBQ Chicken, a stream to explore in the woods, S’mores, tons of room for the kids to run, and LIGHT SABERS…
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Yeah, these boys and their toys.

For this shin-dig I decided to incorporate one of our favorite condiments into the mix: Hot sauce.

We LOVE Sriracha. We put it on our eggs in the morning, and Brenden makes a weird mayonnaise/Sriracha concoction that he dips everything into. We have a big bottle of it sitting in the door of our fridge just asking to be squeezed onto something. So I decided to use it in our deviled eggs. And it equaled deviled egg SUCCESS.

Sriracha Deviled Eggs

  • 12 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons Sriracha hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Cilantro (chopped) for a garnish if desired

Start with half as many eggs as you want to end up with. I started with 12 eggs to end up with 24 deviled eggs.

Place the eggs in enough water to just cover them and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling I turn the oven timer on to 8 minutes.

When the timer goes off, rinse the eggs in cool water.
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(Here’s where I once again wish we had chickens. Because I can’t imagine how amazing it would be to pick these eggs out of a hen house instead of a carton.)

Now employ some little fingers to help peel the eggs.
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We had a few minor egg-casualties but ugly deviled eggs taste just as good as pretty ones!
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Now slice the eggs in half.
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Scoop the yolks into a bowl and add everything else listed above and stir.
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Now have a taste. Yummmmm. The Sriracha adds just a bit of heat and so much flavor.
Spoon into the egg halves.
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Now just sprinkle with the extra Cilantro.
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And EAT one because chances are wherever you are taking them they will go quick! And you don’t want to miss out.
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Yummy!

Happy SPRING-ing!

XOXO

**I found this recipe on Chowhound.The only variation is the Pickled carrots or daikon, which we couldn’t find!**



We Got Our Farm Fix!

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Today was a special day! Brielle’s FIRST ever school field trip. We got to skip pre-school and drive out to a farm. It’s crazy how different my babies are growing up than I did. I used to have chickens and ponies and rabbits around me daily. For these kids it’s a HUGE DEAL!

The whole way out to the farm we talked about what we would see. Of course we had to talk abut cow pies and Brielle topped me with “sheep pee” and her little bestie who was riding with us said “what about duck pee??” Imaginations can run wild in a 30 minute car ride!!

When we arrived we were greeted by Burley. He’s a Great Pyrenees-Maremma mix and he chases off foxes from the hen house.
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Then these guys came over to us and followed us everywhere! Such great proud personalities.
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We walked down by the water and saw where Beavers lived, and the trees they cut down!
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The chicks and eggs were a HIT.
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This was our favorite part.
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Farmer Tom said their breath smelled like buttermilk pancakes and molasses and (somehow) he was right!
We got to taste asparagus and smell fresh (real) garlic!
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The cows were so sweet, and covered in flies because they don’t roll in the mud like pigs do! They should take some lessons from the pigs.
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We met the goats on the way out and I had flashbacks of when I was a kid at my friend’s farm. I still can’t eat goat cheese or drink goat’s milk… It’s the smell!!
But they are still sweet.
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We had a picnic lunch under a big tree after the tour. What a beautiful morning!

 



Pistachio Cake

I found this amazing recipe in a magazine YEARS ago. Pre-kids. Pre-husband. Pre- “real life”.

I saw the words “pudding” and “pistachio” and I was smitten.

This is it, in my hand. Crinkled and so well-loved!

I keep it in a make-shift recipe box with my other awesome finds.

I’m so glad I finally get to do it justice and get it down somewhere concrete… and share it with you!!
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It’s light. It’s fluffy. It’s amazing for baby showers, bridal showers, birthday parties and just because.

Brenden doesn’t like sweets at all, but he asks for this cake by name:

“The green cake.”

The Recipe!
(We are dairy-free and I modify this recipe EASILY to match that!)

Preheat oven to: 350

Throw in a bowl:

1 box White Cake Mix
1 Package Instant Pistachio Pudding Mix (3.4 oz. is what the recipe says but I get whatever is NOT sugar-free.)
3 Eggs
1 Cup Vegetable Oil (This can’t be good for us… One day I’ll find an adequate alternative.)
12 ounces lemon-lime soda, such as Sprite or 7-Up.  (12 ounces is 1 1/2 cups.)

Mix mix MIX. For three minutes.

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(I’m using a hand mixer. I don’t bake enough to warrant a gorgeous Kitchen Aid (or the like) mixer taking up space in my tiny kitchen.)

But this does the trick JUST RIGHT and goes back happily in its home in the bottom drawer.
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If you are making a traditional cake you will use two 9″ round pans.
Coat with cooking spray.
Equally divide the batter between the two pans and bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

I’ve made this cake about 2 dozen times so this time I want to make cupcakes!

So.. we start baking!

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And tasting! 
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Now it’s time to make the frosting. My favorite part.
Thank you Whole Foods for carrying this amazing DAIRY-FREE whipped cream! I want to eat it with a spoon.
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Frosting: 
1 pkg (3.4 oz) Instant Pistachio Pudding Mix
1 1/2 cups milk (We use almond milk)
1 container (8 oz. Whipped Topping, thawed (We use SO Delicious Dairy Free Whipped Topping, above.)
1/4 Cups chopped Pistachio Nuts, to garnish. (I play around with this. I’ve used every kind of nut and topping. The crunchy texture on top is AMAZING with the fresh light texture of the cupcake/cake.)

Pour the pudding mix in a bowl and add milk.
Mix for 2 minutes.
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Fold in whipped topping.
IT’S THAT EASY.
Now try not to eat it all before you get it on the cake.

Note: The consistency of Dairy- Free whipped topping is a bit thin when it’s thawed. I leave it VERY COLD to keep it resilient and more fluffy. It’s more spreadable that way. If the frosting is too thin to use as a topping pop it in the freezer for a few minutes. Or if you aren’t dairy-free, just use regular milk and whipped topping!

I’m making these cupcakes for Michael’s little family (belated) birthday party at my mom’s today.

For decoration I’m using chocolate sprinkles as prehistoric dirt:
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and some cute little dinosaurs to stomp all over it. I got these for $7.99 at Target!
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Last minute we decided to add some “boulders” (Chocolate covered raisins.)

The finished product
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And of course I had to EAT one to take a picture of it!
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YUMMY.