Homemade Decadence by Joy the Baker

Homemade Decadence

I love to bake. It’s very true. I like to cook – but I love to bake. Anything with chocolate or sweet is a favorite of mine. When I saw that Joy had a new cookbook out called Homemade Decadence, I knew I wanted to check it out. Withe subtitle of “irresistibly sweet, salty, gooey, sticky, fluffy, creamy, crunchy treats,” how could we go wrong?

Joy the Baker blogs at JoytheBaker.com. I’ve pinned many of her recipes on Pinterest, too. Just like her blog recipes, her cookbook was filled with beautiful pictures that make you want to bake these recipes and eat them – immediately, if not sooner.

Homemade Decadence is divided into 5 sections – (1) Brunch, (2) Cookies, Brownies & Bars, (3) Pies, Crumbles & Cobblers, (4) Layer Cakes, Cupcakes & Skillet Cakes, and (5) Ice Cream Social. I want to make recipes from all of these sections! What I like about Joy’s cookbook is that her recipes are made with every day ingredients. There are one or two special ingredients in a couple recipes, but I could bake majority of her recipes by going straight to my pantry. I also appreciated how Joy told a short story about each recipe before sharing the actual recipe.

The top recipes that I want to bake from Homemade Decadence? Lemon-Poppy Seed Pancakes, Roasted Potato Breakfast Nachos, Lemon Meringue Cookies, and Pumpkin Ice Cream. Oh, and Egg Nog Ice Cream is also on my list.

If you are a baker, check out Joy the Baker. If you like sweets, check out Homemade Decadence. You’ll be glad you did – on both accounts!

Please note that I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Nathan in the Gerber Baby Contest

Nathan at 6 Months

After hearing quite a few times how much Nathan looks like the Gerber baby, we decided to enter him in this year’s Gerber Baby contest! There are quite a few babies entered with a college scholarship at stake, but we think he’s pretty cute! Here’s where I come in with a personal plea because we need your help if we have a chance to win.

Would you be willing to vote for Nathan? You can vote daily for him from now until December 14th. It’s simple to do so. Go to the Gerber Photo Search website and enter your birth date and email to register. They do this to verify that all the votes are unique and all the voters over the age of 13. Then, the easiest way is to search for Nathan by his id number – 47414. When Nathan’s picture pops up, click on vote! That’s it. Of course, if you’re willing to do this daily, that increases our chances all the more. And if you’re willing to vote and share it with others? We’d be greatly appreciative! Thanks, everyone!

To Everything a Season Review

To Everything a Season


Now that my October series is over, I’m trying to make more time for my books again. I had read some books by Laurine Snelling a long time ago so was curious to read another one of hers now. She writes books about Norwegian immigrants that I find interesting.

To Everything a Season is set in the small town of Blessing, North Dakota. It tells the story of Trygve Knutson who farms with his family. His two aunts are the local doctors. Miriam Hastings come to Blessing as a nurse in training. Miriam grew up in the tenements of Chicago and is the sole support of her family. The move to Blessing places a lot of strain on her as she worries about leaving her family behind. Life in Blessing is a different life than Miriam is used to and Trygve is determined to show her the charms of life in his town – with his family.

To Everything a Season is book 1 in the Song of Blessing series. Although it is the start of a series, I found myself realizing there were a lot of underlying connections that I didn’t know much about. Also, this book ends abruptly – obviously, hooking you for the rest of the series. You can read this book as a stand alone and I still enjoyed it, but be aware that this is definitely written as a series book.

Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Nathan @ 7 Months

Nathan is 7 months old already! I’ve realized when writing these monthly updates, it is a challenge to keep details straight. Even though he’s 7 months now, I’m recording things he did last month. Here’s our sweet little boy with his 7 month picture that I took.

Nathan @ 7 Months

This month, we planned for a surprise 40th anniversary for my in-laws. My husband and all his siblings worked together to make this happen, but since I was the one at home, Nathan and I did a lot of the little details. Nathan liked the new drink bins we bought! I decided they could make a nice summer wading pool for him.

Nathan Getting Ready for our Surprise Party

In addition to spending his weekly time with his Whirrett grandparents, Nathan also spent time with his Grandpa Barz. My Dad flew to Indiana for a long weekend to serve as chaplain at a Doxology weekend. He tacked an extra day onto his travels so he could stay with us before and after. We read books, had a cook-out and even went for a brisk morning walk together with the stroller. It’s always good to see my parents!

Nathan and his Grandpa Barz

Nathan continues to be a good eater. He eats everything I put in front of him! The orange foods (carrots, squash and sweet potatoes) are favorites, as are the pears and apples. Nathan tried egg yolk from a hard boiled egg this month and really liked his first protein! We also just started Cheerios. He can’t pick them up himself quite yet but eagerly eats the ones we put in his mouth.

Nathan loves to eat!

We’ve had a gorgeous Fall here in Indiana with relatively warm days. Nathan and I were able to take our daily walks until just recently when the rain and cold temperatures arrived in full force. We finally got a picture of him in the leaves at his Great-Grandma’s house. Nathan wasn’t really sure what to think of these crunchy things that we put him in – but it makes for a nice picture!

Nathan in the Leaves

It was a cold and rainy day for Nathan’s first Halloween. His friend, Kate, loaned him her pumpkin costume that she wore last yesterday. Nathan dressed up and we went to visit Daddy at school. He skyped with his cousins in North Carolina so they could see his costume, too. Isn’t he a cute little pumpkin?

Mommy & Nathan Pumpkin

Nathan is so close to crawling! He moves backwards regularly, but just can’t quite figure out what to do with his arms just yet. He now weighs 18 pounds, 9 ounces – up almost 2 pounds in 1 month! Also, Nathan has two teeth now! He got his first tooth days before he turned 7 months, and his second one popped through four days later. Of course, he caught a cold as a result so we’ve had another rough week of sleep. It’s so hard when he just can’t breathe clear enough to sleep soundly! Thankfully, he’s still been a happy baby, regardless of lack of sleep. 7 months, here we are!

Fiddler on the Roof Review

Fiddler on the Roof

“Tradition! Tradition!” With those two words, I hear music in my head. My family was – is – big on musicals. I remember there were many Friday nights when my sister and I would stay up watching “Fiddler on the Roof.” It’s a long musical so we had to switch video cassettes halfway through the musical. It was right after the dream sequence for those of you who are familiar with the musical. I count Fiddler on the Roof as one of my top 5 musicals.

Fiddler on the Roof is based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem, and written by Joseph Stein. It is the story of a hardworking Jewish milkman, Tevye, who clings to his faith and tradition. He lives in Anatevka, a small city in Russia, in 1905. He has five daughters – no sons – and tries to marry them off through the local matchmaker. Each of his daughters force their more modern ideas of love (and the world) upon Tevye and he has to decide if he will change, too.

Random House recently published the book for this musical, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Broadway premiere. I found myself quoting along as I read the script. It is such a classic musical that I enjoyed reading the script. I was also surprised – and pleased – to see there is a revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” planned for 2015. If you haven’t seen – or read – Fiddler on the Roof, I highly recommend you do so.

Please note that I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Start of November

Well, I did it! I made it through another 31 days of writing on one single topic. Whew! It was a good month and a good challenge, but now I’m taking a breather. Well, not really because life continues on. Here’s a bit about what’s going on in my life.

Nathan cut his first two teeth this past week – one on Wednesday and the other one on Sunday. He then caught a cold. I don’t know if they are related. Some say yes, but ’tis the season for colds. As a result, we’ve had a couple sleepless nights for him – and his parents. He’s still a smiley little guy even with his nose running and eyes watering. Poor baby. Daytime has brought more cuddles as Nathan wants to be held a bit more while teething, and who am I to refuse this adorable little boy?

Nathan's 1st Halloween

I am keeping busy with music at school. I have choirs singing 3 of the 5 Sundays in November. Plus, it’s time to start working on the Christmas service. Piano lessons continue and we are choosing songs for our Christmas piano recital. That means I probably need to do some more piano music shopping as well.

Basketball season has started for my husband. Practices and games are quickly filling his calendar. We’re going to head to Indy with Andy and the team next weekend for one of their first tournaments. It’s another perk to not teaching full-time. We can go away with Daddy as he coaches!

Most importantly, we are getting ready for Thanksgiving. My entire family – all my siblings, their spouses and children, plus my parents – are coming to our house for Thanksgiving! I am already planning menus and the logistics for having a house full of 15 people – including 3 babies. I am very excited because I have not celebrated Thanksgiving with my entire family since 2001. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s been 13 years since I’ve celebrated with all of them. I am looking forward to it, even as I begin all the preparations. The whole Whirrett family will be together as well so we have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

That’s a bit about our life at the beginning of November. Look for deals and bargains and encouragement to continue as normal! With the busy-ness of November and December upon us, I might post every day but I will be here regularly. What’s happening in your life right now? Are you looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations?

A Bride in Store Review

I don’t read nearly as much as I used to before Nathan was born. I’m slowly but surely picking up my reading pace again. It took me over a week to finish Melissa Jaegear’s latest book when it used to take me just a day or two. Oh well. I still enjoyed reading this story.

A Bride in Store is the story of mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell. She comes to Kansas to marry a store owner, only to be robbed on the train as she comes West and then arrives to an absent groom. After a couple of days, she starts working with her promised groom (Axel)’s business partner, William Stanton. Eliza has a head for business and is determined to make the store a success. Unfortunately, Will doesn’t know much about business other than to oppose her ideas.

It was an entertaining story but I knew where this one was going from the beginning. There were a couple of unique twists, including Eliza’s friendship with a circus lady, that I did not predict. This book was a nice way to spend my evenings.

Being a mail order bride intrigues me but I don’t know that I could have (would have) done it. What bravery these women showed to leave their homes and families to get married to an unknown man. I think that is what draws me to mail order bride stores – the bravery shown as love grows.

Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Nathan @ 6 Months

Before we begin October (and my Simple Savings series), I want to share this month’s update on Nathan Reagan. Look at this! I’m actually posting his update on the very day that he turns 6 months! Yay for that. Now, if I can just keep his Shutterfly baby book up to date…

We started out the month with a visit to Illinois for Nathan to meet this Barz Great-Grandparents. Nathan is blessed to have 7 of his 8 Great Grandparents still living. We know this is a blessing, especially since Andy & I married later and didn’t have Nathan right away. My Grandpa and Grandma Barz were the last ones of the 7 to meet Nathan. They were all excited to meet one another! We were glad we could spend the day with them before they returned home to Cheney, Kansas.

Meeting Great Grandparents

Nathan and I have really settled into our at home routines. One of which is a daily walk around town – or at least to the post office. The weather cooled off enough for us to zip up into jackets. Nathan does love riding in his stroller to see what he can see.

Nathan Walks

Nathan went to his first birthday party as his friend Kate turned 1! Okay, Kate’s Mom is my teacher friend, Allison. We’ve decided that, of course, our babies will be friends! We try to get together for play dates, and we enjoyed celebrating Kate’s birthday with her.

Nathan's 1st Birthday Party

Nathan loves to stand. He always has. I went to a local baby resale and picked up this exosaucer for only $9.50. It was in great condition and at a great price! Nathan absolutely loves it. I love that he can stand and play to his heart’s content.

Nathan in Exosaucer

We celebrated Andy’s birthday this month and met him at the zoo. Andy took his class on a field trip so Nathan and I helped him check the answers for the scavenger hunt he gave the kiddos. It was a fun day! I love this picture of my two boys watching for the sea lions. Andy is such a great dad!

Zoo with Daddy

The big adventure is that Nathan started eating solids, just last week! So far, we’ve introduced rice cereal followed by oatmeal. He’s tried avocado (yum) and today, gets to eat peas. As you can see from the first time he ate cereal, he was ready and eager to eat! We’ll continue with the green vegetables before orange ones, followed by fruits. And yes, I am making my own baby food. I have some jars that I bought for when we’re out and about. But for now, I’m doing homemade – because it is so much cheaper and quite easy to do, too.

Nathan Helps Feed Himself

When I weighed Nathan at the end of the month, he weighed 15 pounds, 8 ounces. He can roll over from front to back and back to front. He can sit by himself, which is very exciting! He does push-ups as he attempts to crawl already. We finally got him on a sleep schedule this month. He eats at 7am and sleeps through the night until eating at 5am. He eats again before sleeping for another hour or two. Of course, he caught his first cold this weekend (boo!) so his sleeping has been out of sorts since he’s had trouble breathing. Eating, sleeping, rolling over, sitting up – what a busy month! Happy 6 months, Nathan Reagan!

End of the Summer Garden Produce

I think that’s the last of it. I think – I hope – I just picked my last tomatoes of the season. Our garden didn’t look that big when Andy planted it, but it provided us with plenty of produce over the past couple months. We planted 8 tomato plants, a row of bell peppers and a row of onions. We also planted 2 zucchini plants and 2 cucumber plants. From that, we ate a lot of zucchini bread. Seriously, I made over 18 loaves – many of which I gave away. I also taught my husband to like sauteed zucchini. I ate a lot of veggie wraps and cooked with our fresh produce. Much of it made it’s way to our freezer. Here is a list of what I currently have in our freezer and in the pantry, thanks to a summer of fresh produce.

I froze 10 cups of grated zucchini. I grated my zucchini and froze it in 2 cup bags because each recipe for zucchini bread calls for 2 cups. This way, I can easily thaw one bag each time I want to make fresh zucchini bread. We had lots of zucchini that grew to be very large very quickly – as you can see one next to Nathan.

One of our many zucchini

I froze 10 pints of blueberries. The blueberries I flash froze and put in large gallon bags. I didn’t grow the blueberries but bought them for $1 a pint at the grocery store. They are delicious! I wish I had bought more.

I froze 8 cups of blackberries. The blackberries were from a church member’s bushes that she gave me for free. Like the blueberries, I flash froze them and put them in a large bag in the freezer.

Fresh Garden Blackberries

I canned 13 jars of blackberry jam using this recipe. I gave several jars away but I still have plenty of jars to enjoy on my toast this year.

I froze 5 diced onion bundles. I like to dice the onions ahead of time into these onion bundles so I can quickly toss them into a pan of hamburger when I’m cooking dinner. It allows me to get my hands dirty once and saves me prep time.

I froze 8 cups of diced bell peppers. I diced the peppers and flash froze them before transferring them into several quart bags in the freezer. I really like sauteing peppers with onions (and sometimes corn and black beans) and eating them in veggie wraps. It’s my new favorite!

Peppers and Zucchini

I froze 18 cups of sweet corn. One of Andy’s students shared some sweet corn from their family farm with us. Growing up in Texas, I do love the good sweet corn that we get up North! I also had fond memories of my Mom freezing corn as I cut the long strips off the cob. I followed the directions in my handy Ball Blue Book.

Sweet Corn for the Freezer

Most of my time was spent working with tomatoes. I canned over 40 pints of salsa using my Aunt Renee’s recipe. We have already eating several jars and given several away. We have 30 pints of salsa remaining in our basement pantry.

Fresh Canned Salsa

When I got tired of canning salsa, I decided to try my hand at fresh tomato sauce. I made 12 cups of tomato sauce in my slow cooker and froze it in quart bags – 2 cups of sauce in each bag. This was my first time making tomato sauce in the slow cooker and it was incredibly easy! I made it up as I went along but the results were all good!

It’s a varied assortment but I love having a stocked freezer with so many different – and fresh – vegetables and fruits. I’m not as well stocked as my Amish neighbors, I’m sure, but every year I do a bit more. It makes my happy to be preserving fresh food for my family! Did you have a garden this summer? What’s in your freezer?

Simple Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Candy Corn Sugar Cookies - No Mix! A simple & delicious homemade recipe for this fun fall treat.

It’s Fall which means cool weather (if you live up North), pumpkins (of course) and if you’re my husband, candy corn. I’ve never been a big fan of the actual candy corn candy so I decided to put my spin on it by making candy corn cookies. The original recipe came from Betty Crocker but I was disappointed to see it used a mix. I’m not a big fan of cookie mixes because I think homemade cookies always taste better. So, I went to my stand-by Texas Sugar Cookie recipe and adapted it to make these cookies.

This sugar cookie dough is the easiest cookie dough you will ever roll out. Even if you’re not rolling it out (like for these cookies), it still handles well and of course, tastes delicious. The nice thing about these cookies is that they become a slice and bake cookie, so you will end up with lots of mini candy corn cookies in no time at all. The other good thing? These cookies freeze great so you can make them ahead of time and serve them at any of your upcoming Fall parties! Here is the recipe.

Candy Corn Cookies


1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons milk


Cream butter and sugar in mixer. Add in eggs, vanilla and milk. Slowly add in baking powder and flour. Once you have this dough mixed, it’s time to make the candy corn cookies.

Divide the dough into three equal-ish piles. Just do your best to make it even! Leave one bowl as is. Using food coloring, dye one bowl yellow and the remaining bowl orange.

Line a bread pan with seran wrap. On the bottle of the pan, evenly press the white dough. Next, layer on the orange dough with the yellow dough on top. Fold the remaining seran wrap over the top and refrigerate the dough for 3 to 4 hours.

When the dough is firm, remove it from the refrigerator and cut the dough into slices (like bread). Then, using a knife, cut the dough into small triangles, alternating angles of cut. You can view all the steps below.

4 Simple Steps to Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Careful place candy corn cookies onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Cool on a baking rack. Enjoy your candy corn!

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