Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Another Advent Calendar

I made one of these last year for my kids. A good friend of mine was visiting from Portland last Christmas and saw how cool it was and how much fun we were having with it. Fast forward to summer 2008 and during one of our regular chats she says, "I don't want to sound presumptuous, but for my Christmas present... if you're going to get me a present this year... feel free to not get me one if that was your plan... but if you are going to get me one could you make my family one of those Advent calendars you made for your kids. Feel free to say no." I chuckled and said, "Of course I'm getting you a present this year and yes I'll make you an Advent Calendar." She has a 4 year old daughter and they'll have many years of enjoyment from the calendar. Above is a picture of the one I made for her. Each number is a tin velcroed on to the board. One can fill it with whatever will fit. As each day passes pull off the tin and underneath are the cutest Christmas stamps.

Directions for how to make one of these calendars can be found at Split Coast Stampers. If you ever have a question on how to make one or find a material. Feel free to email me.

When I made mine I wasn't sure how it would go over. My kids are teenagers now. So, I decided to do something a little different. I did put a piece of chocolate into each tin, but I also figured out 12 Christmas time activities that we like to do each year. Normally, the month goes by and few things don't get done. This time I asked the kids what they liked to do and added what I like to do with them and made the "The 12 dates of Christmas." I put the 12 dates on slips of paper and put them in the tins through out the month. On my family calendar I am able to schedule all these activities so we don't miss them. I use a yellow highlighter to highlight just the number on the family calendar, so as not to spill the beans. This way my DH knows that something is planned for that day and he can plan accordingly. Kids haven't figured out that code yet. Some of the things we like to do and not necessarily in this order are...

1. Try out a new cookie recipe to eat and share with friends
2. Make fudge.
3. Family movie night with a favorite old Christmas movie and popcorn.
4. Go to Dairy Queen and have a Christmas flavored Blizzard
5. Drive around with Hot Cocoa and see the pretty lights.
6. Make Gingerbread houses.
7. Go to the theater and catch a new Christmas movie.
8. Family board game night.
9. Wrap presents and do any last minute shopping.
10. Get out the Christmas decorations and make the house festive.
11. Get out the Christmas dishes and have a delicious meal on them.
12. Go to Starbucks and enjoy a festive drink.

My teenagers are really into this fun Advent calendar and we're enjoying great family fun.

A Fridge Full of Fudge!

I have 6 pounds of delicious homemade fudge in my fridge right now as we speak. OK maybe we're down to 5 1/2 pounds after some taste testing. Today was "Make Fudge" day on the Advent calendar. The kids looked forward to it all day. My daughter has been the fudge maker in the past, but she had to stay late at school today. So, my son dove head first into the chocolate. Didn't have to ask him twice. We figured out a few years ago that my grandmother's fudge recipe has the best taste, but needed to be a little lighter. We make her recipe and then stir in 1/2 jar of marshmallow cream. We experimented with a new preparation method this year. Deciding to do it in the microwave rather than over a double boiler. My son much preferred this method. We also never put in nuts preferring the feel of smooth creamy fudge melting on our tongues.

Here's her recipe:

3 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 - 14oz. can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
dash of salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup nuts

Top of double boiler melt chocolate, stirring occasionally. (This is where we put it in the microwave. Heating and stirring for 1 minute at a time until chocolate was melted.)

Remove from heat (or microwave) - add milk, salt, vanilla and nuts.
Stir until smooth.

Spread mixture evenly into waxed -paper lined 8X8" baking pan.
Chill 2 hours or until firm.

Turn fudge onto cutting board, peel off paper and cut into squares. Tightly cover any leftovers.

I decided to try a new fudge recipe this year. A true fudge recipe. It's called Cinnamon Chocolate Fudge. Boy did it turn out to be a pain in the butt. Mostly because I was making fudge and making dinner for company at the same time. I didn't give the fudge my full attention, because I wanted dinner to be good for a friend that was coming to my house for the first time. First the fudge boiled over while I was doing a technique Alton Brown recommends for getting the sugar crystals off the edge of your pot. Put a lid on it for 3 minutes. It works great, but today it boiled over. NOW my stove is cover with a brown goo and everything including the goo is too hot to clean. I laughed it off knowing my friend would have a chuckle too. It was quite a sight a white stove with brown sugar goo oozing around 2 burners. It could have been a scene out of the "Blob" only I don't get to run away with Steve McQueen. I cleaned the pot off as best I could, so there wouldn't be a burning smell in my house. While I was trying to attempt to beat the brown goo back the simmering potatoes for mashed potatoes started to boil over. I quickly pulled them off the burner and had a talk with myself. "Calm down, slow down, pay attention."

My stove now looks like I never clean it. I'm just hoping my company will understand that this all happened just now in the last 15 minutes. I finish getting dinner together. My friend arrives and laughs at the ordeal I had and wished me good luck cleaning the half burnt sludge off my stove. The cinnamon fudge now being referred to as "That Damn Fudge" had come to temperature on the candy thermometer. I tossed in the butter and let it cool while my friend and I talk crafting. Finally, I decided to put the finishing touches on the fudge and get it out of my hair and into the fridge. It doesn't thicken up like the recipe said and I thought with all the trouble I was having it might be ruined. So, I toss it into a pan and stick it into the fridge. Fingers crossed.

(The two pieces on the left are Grandma's Fudge. The two pieces on the right are the Cinnamon Fudge.)

3 hours later my kids reminded me the fudge was ready. Grandma's fudge looked fabulous and tasted even better. The Cinnamon Chocolate Fudge to my great surprise had set up wonderfully and tasted great. The texture was so smooth and just melted cinnamon chocolaty goodness all over one's tongue.

Here's the recipe:

Cinnamon Chocolate Fudge
4 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
3 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 1/4 c. milk
4 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. pecans or walnuts, broken

Melt chocolate in 3-qt. saucepan on lowest heat or over hot water. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, corn syrup and milk. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Increase heat to med. and cook, stirring until sugar dissolves. Wash crystals from side of pan. Cook to 236 degrees F on candy thermometer (soft-ball stage).

Remove from heat; add butter and, without stirring, let cool to 110 degrees F or lukewarm. Add
vanilla extract and beat until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in nuts and continue beating until candy holds its shape. Drop from spoon onto buttered wax paper or pour into buttered pan. When cool, cut into squares. Makes about 3 pounds.

P.S. For something really different we made Alton Brown's Peanut Butter Fudge last year. It was super simple and super good! Click on the "Peanut Butter Fudge" for the link to the recipe by Alton Brown.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

And the winner is....

This year's RCS Christmas Card Challenge is over. I had a great time and I've heard that the other gals had a great time too. Getting a few of our Christmas cards done each month definitely took the sting out sending out hand made Christmas cards to our friends and family this month. I have 66 cards, which is more cards than I usually send out. I wanted a few extra so I could give them out willy nilly if I felt like it. If I have some left over I'll use them next year.

For the challenge I offered to put together a gift basket drawing for all those who followed the rules. They were set a goal of cards to make each month of 3 or more, make and post a picture of your cards during the month they're due, and miss no more than 3 months during the year. 8 gals, Cathy R. , Crystal, Karen, Linda C., M-C, Sandy, Shannon and myself were able to accomplish this goal.

One honorable mentions goes to Linda C. for not missing one single month during the year. I myself, didn't miss a month, but I felt an obligation as hostess to not miss a month. You know set a good example and all that good stuff.

So, this evening I had my beautiful daughter assist me with the drawing. I wrote the 7 names on recycled paper...mine not included just seemed silly to put my own name into my own drawing. I can see it now...OH I won... what a surprise!.... ahhh no. LOL

So, my daughter... err... unbiased assistant did the drawing.

And the winner is...What can't read that teenie tiny piece of paper.

Congratulations Shannon!

After confirming your address your prize will be in the mail next week! Thanks to all that participated. Seems like we have some interest in a another year. We'll cross that bridge come January 2009.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Final Christmas Card Challenge

November is the last month for the Christmas Card Challenge. I now have 66 handmade cards done by ME for all my friends and family! I've never been able to make enough cards in the month of December to cover everyone. I've often felt a bit guilty about that. Not this year. I'm really looking forward to sending them out.

This card was done with a technique that use spray starch and Pearl Ex. It really looks nice and shimmery. The snowman is then heat embossed with white embossing powder to make him pop. I've used a lot of nontraditional Christmas colors for my cards this year.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Surprises

I took the holiday on the first year I got married. It seemed to be a holiday that shifted around the family a lot. No one person willing to take it on. My thinking was it was all the cooking. Even today 21 years later it doesn't scare me. I love to cook and feed my family good food. What does scare me is the offers of people wanting to bring stuff. With my husband's side of the family one does not know exactly what you'll get. Not that they are weird, but I don't know them well not growing up with them. I have to admit though there have been some odd surprises they have all been pretty good.

There was one year a green bean casserole with a one inch thick coating of sour cream on top. My husband HATES sour cream with a mad passion. You can't even sneak 1 T of it into a dish... his sour cream senses go off! If it were an actual useful sense I'd have him team up with Spiderman, but all of mankind doesn't need to be protected from sour cream. His cousin set the 9X13 inch dish of sour cream green beans right on the table. I could tell my husband was on the verge of retching. Since nothing on the table was nearly that big except the turkey I slyly suggested we set it on the kitchen counter as it took up SO much room. That I'd send a smaller bowl of it around. I got a silent very thankful look from my husband.

There was the year of the green salad with dried cranberries and sugar glazed pecans. We like savory salads at my house. So, biting into something sweet in a salad was about as shocking as the time I inadvertently sprinkled chocolate chips on my salad at a dimly lit salad bar not knowing it connected to a dessert bar. After the initial shock of the sweet bits and the tart dressing it was actually quite good.

This years surprise came in another form. Starting on Monday we began slowly cleaning the house a little bit each day. Then Wednesday was the push to finish everything up. My daughter volunteered to clean the bathroom. Not that we need a volunteer it's not that bad, but I was surprised she did it without being told to do it. I just let her run with it. Keeping any of my own ideas or suggestions to myself. She'd come out and say, "I'm putting the rugs into the washer" or "I just mopped the floor." I knew things sounded like they were going well. I let her have full credit for a job well done. The big surprise came Wednesday night when my son alerted me to a sign on the bathroom door.
He was very aggravated. "Mom," he says, "Can she do that?!!" I looked at the sign and had to chuckle. I knew exactly how she felt. I've wanted to put a similar sign on the front door many times and have my family check into a hotel for the night. You work so hard and the family mess up your hard work before the company even gets there. We have 2 bathrooms, so I told my son yes she can do that.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dead Man's Chicken

Remember when you were a kid and your parents laughed at you for doing something completely out of your realm of knowledge. You were a little offended that they laughed, because you didn't know any better. Then your parents saw that you were offended and realized it was a bit unkind of them to laugh at you. Realizing that you just didn't know. A bit of knowledge that you hadn't received yet in your young years. So, they try and smooth it over, but they still can't stop snickering. You are still a little miffed!

Well, the shoe was on the other foot a few weeks ago. I was the snickering parent. I saw things from the other side.

One evening my daughter had soccer practice and my day hadn't gone exactly as planned. I didn't get the chicken in the oven before I had to take her. So, I asked my 17 year old son, who does cook, to get the chicken baking. I didn't want us to be eating dinner at 9 O'clock at night. Baked chicken seemed pretty easy to me. No he had never baked a chicken, but how hard can it be. I went over the cleaning, seasoning and temperature for baking. He said he'd call me if he had any other questions. Even he said, "I've had baked chicken mom how hard can it be."

I arrived home from Soccer practice to a home smelling deliciously of baked chicken. Even better news according to my son and the meat thermometer it was done. Yeah! I rounded the corner to the kitchen and to my surprise there it was... doing what looked like to me the "dead man's float." A technique that the kids learned in swimming practice. Now that I think about it why would one learn the "dead man's float" in swimming practice? That's for another day. Back to the chicken... I couldn't help myself I laughed. My son asked why? I asked, "Why is the chicken doing the "dead man's float?" Thinking he'd think it was funny too. Now he's offend and says, "Well, I didn't know which way to put it?!" Then I'm realizing he honestly has hurt feelings and that was one detail I obviously left out of our 5 minute Baked Chicken 101. Now I'm back pedaling... he thinks the chicken is ruined. I say, "No the chicken is just fine. In fact some people like to bake their chickens and turkeys this way thinking it makes the breast moister. It's OK. I just don't bake them this way, so the sight of it made me laugh. It reminded me of the dead man's float."

He is less offended and even jokes along with me. He says in a deep authoritative voice, "Why yes mother, this is my special chicken baking technique called 'Dead Man's Chicken'."

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Homemade" Contradiction

The contradiction is a recipe for a certain food has the food already prepared as one of it's ingredients. This contradiction came up again today. Over the years I've encountered the contradiction several times and it just puzzles me and makes me laugh at the same time. I love to cook no secret there. Making something "homemade" or "from scratch" has never scared me in fact I relish it. I love knowing where the ingredients have come from and having control over what goes into a recipe. Over the years it has served me well as I make a great many fabulous foods that get raves. I love to spoil my friends and family with good food. I love to share my good recipes and I love to ask for and receive good recipes.

A few years ago I was at a friends house and she had the best baked beans I had ever eaten. Knowing she loved to cook as much as me I asked if she made them. We all know there are some pretty good canned versions of baked beans, but to make my own would be great. A resounding yes came back. I asked if I could have the recipe. She said, "Of course." This is what she gave me...

Baked Beans

4 (16-ounce) cans baked beans

1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup molasses
1 cup BBQ sauce
2 tablespoon yellow or brown mustard
5 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1 (6-ounce) can french-fried onions, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In large bowl, mix together beans, pineapple, molasses, BBQ sauce, mustard, bacon, and a third of the onions. Add some salt and pepper, to taste. Pour beans in 9 by 13-inch casserole dish and sprinkle remaining crushed onions and bacon on top. Cook in oven for 1 hour or until beans brown and bubble. Serve warm. Serves: 12 servings

First open 4 cans of baked beans?! Where does the homemade come from? I've never made this recipe. We so seldom eat baked beans that if I'm going to open a can we're going to eat it as is.

The next homemade contradiction came a few years later when at a friends house for BBQ Ribs I found the sauce to be the best I'd ever eaten. Again a friend that loves to cook I was hoping she had made the sauce.... and she did. She said she'd love to share the recipe for it, but that she didn't have it written down. So, I picked her brain.

Kim's BBQ Sauce

1 bottle
of BBQ sauce, (any flavor will do)

1/4 cup Sweet pickle relish
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar

Add lemon if you want, add molasses if you want. Simmer all day.

Again with the bottle of BBQ sauce. Usually if I open a bottle of BBQ sauce it's going straight on the meat, but I actually have made this several times. Not exactly as above. It's something I taste as the day goes on and add a little of this and a little of that until it tastes good. The one thing that's odd, but I think is the most important is the pickle relish.

Today's "Homemade" contradiction really made me laugh only because of where the recipe came from. My daughter had pneumonia right now and she asked for homemade chicken soup for dinner. Not something I've made before. I knew I'd need a good chicken stock with which to start. So, I went straight to the Martha Stewart Website and got the below recipe.

Homemade Chicken Stock
This recipe makes more than you'll need for many recipes, but the stock can be frozen for up to four months. The gelatin from the chicken bones is released during the long cooking time yielding a rich, flavorful stock.
Makes 5 quarts.
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
6 sprigs fresh dill, or 2 teaspoons dried dill
6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 dried bay leaves
2 leeks, washed, white and pale-green parts only, cut into thirds
2 carrots, scrubbed, cut into thirds
2 stalks celery, cut into thirds
1 four-pound chicken, cut into 6 pieces
1 1/2 pounds chicken wings
1 1/2 pounds chicken backs
12 cups (two 48-ounce cans) canned low-sodium chicken broth
Place peppercorns, dill, parsley, bay leaves, leeks, carrots, celery, chicken, wings, and backs into a large stockpot. Add stock and 6 cups cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a very gentle simmer, and cook for 45 minutes. Liquid should just bubble up to the surface. A skin will form on the surface of the liquid; skim this off with a slotted spoon, and discard. Repeat as needed. After 45 minutes, remove chicken from the pot, and set aside until it is cool enough to handle.
Remove the meat from the bones, set the meat aside, and return the bones to the pot. Shred the chicken, and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use. Continue to simmer the stock, on the lowest heat possible, for 3 hours, skimming as needed. The chicken bones will begin to disintegrate. Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a very large bowl. Discard the solids. Place the bowl in an ice bath, and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to airtight containers. Stock may be refrigerated for three days or frozen for four months. Refrigerate for at least eight hours, or overnight. If storing, leave fat layer intact to the seal the stock. Before using, remove the layer of fat that has collected on the surface.

I'm reading the recipe. It's sounding very good. I have all the ingredients except leeks I'll substitute yellow onions. I prefer thyme to dill and I have fresh thyme in the garden. I get to the end of the recipe for "Homemade" Chicken Stock and it says "add 12 cups (two 48-ounce cans) canned low-sodium chicken broth." If I'm going to open canned chicken broth I may as well not bother with the rest of the recipe right?! It says to make chicken broth start with chicken broth. That just really confuses me. Why go to the extra trouble.

Well, when you're a mom and your child with pneumonia asks you to make her Chicken Noodle Soup from scratch you go ahead and follow the recipe. I'll report back as to how it was in the end.

How we liked it... I've made equally great chicken stock from using plain water to start. Add the other ingredients and you can't go wrong. I'd save your money and not add 12 cups of chicken broth and use 12 cups of water. The soup turned out great. Everyone including my "soup is not a meal" teenage son liked it. He did think it needed more chicken; where as, I thought it had too much chicken in it. My daughter had requested spaghetti noodles instead of the thicker egg noodles. I knew it wouldn't be bad with the change, but thought I wouldn't like it. I had broken the vermicelli up in 1 inch lengths and cooked them in the soup right along with the carrots. The vermicelli was fine and I liked it. Kind of reminded me of the little noodles in Lipton's Chicken Noodle soup that I loved as a child.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Daylight Savings... Not for a weak stomach

I'm wondering if anyone with a dog has experienced the daylight savings time change and how it messes with their pet’s internal time clock. My dogs have sure had problems over the years. I've been blessed with 3 great dogs over the past 21 years. Everyone one of them didn't like the time change in relation to what TIME they got their meal. The first 2 handle the change gracefully almost taking the mistake in asking for their meal at the old 5pm instead of the new 5pm as an "Oh my bad sorry. I’ll have a meal any time you give it to me."

Not my current dog, Little Star. She is a black miniature poodle. They are known to be quite a bossy breed. Yeah she's bossy, but she's my baby. She’s also a chow hound extraordinaire. She's 6 now and every year it takes about 6 weeks to convince her she's not getting her meal until it says 5pm on the clock. She’s quite insistent that she’s hungry right now! She stares you down with her intense dark brown eyes. Almost willing you like a marionette she walks you towards the food bowls. Then you catch a glance at the clock and snap out of it realizing it’s not 5pm yet. If she had a thumb she would have snapped her fingers and said, “Drats.”

Last spring she was pretty hopping mad about the time change. Every 10 minutes until the clock read 5 pm she'd ask "Can I have my meal now? How about now? And now?!" So, mad and disappointed in fact that it made me really think... do I need to put her stomach on daylight savings time? I decided then that I would no longer torture the poor thing. When fall came I’d keep her stomach on HER schedule.

This past Sunday came and we had all “fallen back” with our clocks. Sunday 4 pm rolled around and right on time she came to tell me it was dinner time ... the old 5pm it being 4 pm now. My son who feeds her told her no. She whirled on me and shot daggers with her cocoa brown eyes. I realized that I hadn't told anyone else our bargain about Poodle dinner time. So, I informed the family that Little Star's stomach was not on Daylight saving time any longer and she will be fed at the same time every day regardless of what the clock says. She was already my friend for life, but now she's just beaming with a belly full of food.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

October's Christmas Card Challenge

I made six of these cards. They are a paper piecing project that was actually quite easy. I saw the card on Valita's Designs & Fresh Folds. I originally made the first card with background colors of my choice thinking they'd look great. BUT the original colors were so nice I ended up duplicating them as close as I could for the other 5 cards in my monthly challenge. I printed out the pattern and it came out the perfect size to use right away. I clicked out the circle first. Then holding it over a scrap piece of paper I clipped out each package for a template. Keep the upper portion of template to use for placement of packages on your pattern paper circle. For the base pattern paper circle.... I don't have nestabilities, but I do have CM circle cutters and finding the size I needed it to work out great. On the burgundy top piece of ornament I actually dusted off a pair of pattern scissors. They were fun to play with and made me wonder why do so many people (including myself) pooh pooh pattern scissors. They do have their place in crafting. I inked the edges of everything except the ribbon using a finger dauber. I liked the subtleness of this look.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lions, Indians and Halloween... OH my!

There are a lot of things that keep me from doing the amount of scrapbooking I'd like to do. I've been making cards most of the year so I'll have handmade Christmas cards for this season. Enough for everyone and then some. I usually make cards every year and I just don't have enough to go around. This year I've neglected my scrapbooking, because I've really enjoyed card making. I have time for both just haven't done the later.

In my RCS group a challenge was proposed to get us all doing at least one page a month. There is also a challenge of some kind to go with it. I volunteered for October. I suggested doing Halloween pages. Lord knows I'm probably 15 years behind on those photos. Now I'm only 14 years behind with the above LO done. I really had a lot of fun doing it. I did get confused on whether or not they were taken in 1996 or 1997. That almost stopped me from scrapping too. I decided to just commit to a date. 20 years from now will one year or the next really matter. Hardly! Remembering the fun my DH and I had getting them ready for Halloween. It was a year where everyone had their own idea of what they wanted to be. Erik wanted to be an Indian. I sewed him an Indian costume. That reminds me .... that's a tidbit I'll want on the LO. As I got my daughter dressed in the lion costume she wanted to wear I asked DH to put some war paint on Erik's face. 15 minutes later I joined the boys and to my shock my son's WHOLE face was covered. I wanted to scream. From a mom's point of view I'm thinking... paint everyone... on the car... on me ... on the couch... in the eyes! I calmed down and asked, "What's with the whole face painted?" DH said, "He wanted his whole face painted." I said to Erik, "You sure look fierce" and left it at that. He had a ball. My daughter really enjoyed roaring at everyone and everyone did the obigatory "cringe in fear" response to meeting a lion in person. So, she had a great time too.

With the Halloween photos were these pumpkin patch photos, so I thought I may as well knock them out too. Seeing my sweet children having such a good time... that is what scrapbooks are for! I have a Christmas news letter some where with my kids driving this tractor. If I can find a copy of it around here some where... I'll be able to pin point the year of these photos. Yes, I commited to getting them done with a date on them. I didn't say I'd stop researching to find the correct date. I'm crazy like that.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wanted! Cowboy Chili

A recipe and a craft project.... Pampered Chefs Cowboy Chili with a small tweak. The recipe calls for layering it in a Pampered Chef small measuring bowl and giving it as a gift. I did that many times and it was greatly received. I'm long past those days now as everyone I know practically got one. I still use the recipe, because it is really good. The recipe was very convenient as you cook the chili straight from the dried beans to chili. No soaking. I've found over the years and let me try and be delicate that the amount of gas from the beans after eaten was greatly increased with this recipe. It occurred to me the only difference in this recipe was that I soak the beans prior to cooking in all my other bean type recipes. Soooooo, I started soaking the beans in this recipe and problem solved. If you want the recipe in it's original state take a look here.

As for the crafting of this 6X6 page it looks simple, but a lot of work went into getting it to look this way. It really was a work in progress for several days before I got it looking the way I saw it in my mind. First I printed the recipe with a western font using a DeskJet printer not inkjet as with the later the printing would age too much. The paper was crumpled on the sides then straightened out (some what). It was then sponged with chocolate chip, creamy caramel and mustard inks to give it an old worn antique look. Next I used deckle scissors to give the edges a torn look. Actual tearing wouldn't have been precise enough for 5 1/2X5 1/2 inch size I needed. I altered small copper brads by heating them each dipping them in silver embossing powder 2 and 3 times melting after each dip. When done I would then count to about 5 and while still warm press them onto a piece of scrap paper to give them a more flatten and dull looking nail head appearance. After assembling the WANTED recipe I attached it to wood grain paper using CM photo splits and glue dots.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A stray picture

I've had this stray picture for a number of years. Never really knew what to do with it. So, it gets tucked away. It is of me and my puppy. The puppy was so cute. I only had the one picture and never felt it deserved a scrapbook LO. For September I made myself a challenge to start getting a LO done a month. I've really slacked off on my scrapbooking and just been doing cards most of the year. Then this stray picture popped up again. So, I thought I deserve to be in an album with my puppy. I'd been wanting to start an album just of my poodle Little Star. This LO began the album.

September's Christmas Card Challenge

This is my card for the month. I made 6 identical cards. This is a bit washed out with the flash. Some day I'll take a photography class. I really enjoyed the combination of blue with the black. Credit for the original idea goes to a gal on Split Coast Stampers. The stamp comes from a Stampin' Up set call "Alphabet Stew." I just love the mixed up letters to make the sentiment.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Family Out of Braces!

We've had someone in braces for about 10 years. It all began with my husband. When I married him he had crooked teeth. His teeth were white, he only had one tiny filling and they were pretty crooked. His uncle had been his dentist. I asked my husband why hadn't his uncle and parents had his teeth straighten. His response... a shrug and an "I don't know." Crooked teeth being a minor thing he was a catch and I married him. After we married I asked him if he had ever thought of having his teeth straightened. "Not really," he answered. After all they were his teeth and they were very healthy. He was still a very handsome man and I determine they were his department and said no more.

We were married about 7 years when at a Renaissance dinner with delicious roasted pork skin he broke a bottom front tooth. The dentist was able to bond it and make it look as good as new. 2 weeks later it broke again. Thinking the bond was faulty the dentist fixed it. 1 week later it broke again. My husband went right back to the dentist. This time he came home with a referral to an Orthodontist. Between the dentist and the Orthodontist it was determined that over the years hubbies crooked teeth had shifted just enough that his upper teeth were breaking off the bottom tooth. Dear hubby was very discourage with this news. Mainly because we really didn't have the money for this kind of expense. It would be around $3500 to put braces on his teeth. I looked at it from the point of view that it wasn't a luxury item. It would be a medical expense. If he needed an operation no question we would do it. I felt if his teeth needed adjusting we would adjust the budget and do it. I think he felt much better looking at it from a necessity point of view, which it clearly was. On went the braces. The broken tooth wouldn't be fixed until the braces were done adjusting his bite. He came home discouraged again. Why I asked? He said, "Just look at me I'm going to have braces and a broken tooth for the next 3 or so years!" I said, "Good thing you're already married and you don't have to impress anyone." He and I chuckled and life went on.

Just about the time his braces were to come off my son needed to get them put on. When my son was about 6 the dentist said that he might need braces, because of how his jaw was in relation to the teeth. We got a consultation from our friendly Orthodontist and he said yes he'll need braces. The Doctor said what usually happens to cause problems is kids get their father's teeth and their mother's jaw. That was good and bad for my kids. Good in that my DH has strong teeth mine are riddle with fillings from my childhood. Bad in that I have a lot of jaw pain, because my teeth aren't aligned correctly for my small jaw. Wouldn't you know it ... both my kids had the small jaw. So, both kids were to get a phase one and phase two of braces. Doing it this way would eliminate the possibility of them needing surgery on their jaw later down the line.

So, the years of food deprivation began. Years of adjusting food, so someone with braces won't feel completely left out. Then there were some foods that they all just had to skip, because there was no way to eat it and not break a brace. With my son I started something called the "Crunch Party." Anytime he pined for a food I say, "Go put it on your Crunch list." Parental distraction at it's best. The idea was when his braces came off we would have a party where all the crunchy, gooey, gummy foods would be allowed. After phase one we had his Crunch Party. We had such a good time. Party goers were instructed to bring one of their favorite crunchy, gooey, or gummy foods to share. There were Nachos, popcorn, peanut brittle, red licorice, Gummy bears, to just name a few.

While my son was in between phases my daughter began phase one. By now we were pros at what one could eat and how they could eat it. My daughter started her crunch list. When her phase one ended there was a glitch in our Crunch Party plan. She needed a permanent retainer glued to her teeth and once again she was on food lock down. No Crunch party for her. I just told her to keep adding to the list as we'd have a huge Crunch party for her at the end.

As she ended phase one my son began phase two. By the end of his sophomore year the braces were off. He now had freedom and beautiful functioning teeth. By now he was a teenager and wasn't interested in a "Crunch party." I was a tiny bit disappointed, but reminded myself he's a teenage boy and he can celebrate his freedom however he wants.

Now it's my daughter's turn. Her phase two braces came off today! A month ago when we found out her diligent work with the rubber bands on her braces earned her a 9 month early release from her braces I asked if she still wanted a Crunch Party. She said, "Heck yeah!!!!" She'd lost her crunch list years ago, but promptly began work on another crunch list.

I'm so excited that the braces are off for everyone. I'm off to make caramel apples the number one thing my daughter said she wanted to bite into when the braces came off.

Friday, September 26, 2008

If I were younger I would have DIED of embarrassment!!!!

It was a lovely cool summer morning. I had slept in a bit and it felt delicious. I awoke with basically no responsibilities. I have teenagers now and they were off on their own schedules. The dog had been fed and was soft and cuddly. My son was off to summer school until 1pm. My daughter was off riding her bike with a friend and wouldn't be back until noon. My husband was at work until 3pm. So, I decided to have a leisurely morning. About 10am I popped into the shower. As I was getting out of the shower I heard the phone ringing. Darn, I hadn't brought a phone into the bathroom with me. I had just wrapped my towel around my hair turban style. I ran to the closest room with a ringing phone... the computer room. I checked the caller ID and thank goodness no children with an emergency. It was my friend from Portland.

She was trying to get her iPod to download music and was having problems. Since I was already in the computer room I decided to unwrap the towel from my head and throw it on the chair seat. I sat down at the computer to help her. As you might have imagine.... yes I'm naked. What the heck nobody is home. What is pretty unusual is I'm not a naked person. I wear pajamas. I stay dressed all day UNTIL I put on pajamas. I'm just more comfortable dressed for many reasons. Who knows what got into me on this day. I was feeling free enjoying my morning of no responsibilities.

After talking with my friend and walking her through iTunes she had her iPod just about where she wanted it when I hear, "MOM!" Then some laughter. Another "MOM! I can't believe you have no clothes on!" More giggling. Thank goodness it's my daughter and she's home early. I still have my friend on the line and she hears the ruckus and now she knows I'm naked. Both of them are naked people and both know I'm not. They are both having a chuckle as I sputter and try and explain my situation. Both are having WAY too much fun giving me a lighthearted hard time.

THEN the doorbell rings. I tell my friend I really need to go now, because I'm naked and now there is someone at my front door. My relaxing morning is now completely gone. I'm thinking it might be the mailman at the door and I don't want him to leave with a package. I'm torn... get dressed and risk the mailman leaving. I thought I'd save myself $4 worth of gas and just crack the door and tell him just give me a second. He says, "No problem." I shut the door and start quickly down the hall. My daughter passes me as I leave the door and I turned to tell her to just sign for the package if need be. As I'm speaking to her I notice the closed door is standing wide open. CRAP! The latch didn't catch! I had held the towel in front of me just in case as I spoke to the mailman. It wasn't covering anything in the back. I just BA-ed the mailman!

I ran and got dressed all the while convincing myself that the special sun blocking screen we have on the front screen door had blocked all view. When my husband came home and asked how the day went. I relayed the funny story of being caught naked by our daughter in the computer room. I also told the story of the mailman and how we saved his package from being returned to the post office. And of how if we didn't have the special sun blocking screen on the screen door I might have BA-ed the mailman. Dear hubby's eyes conveyed sympathy, but his mouth grinned really big and he said, "I hate to tell you this honey, but your back side is SO white there are no sun screens strong enough to prevent it from glowing through." He began to laugh. I was mortified! Being in my 40's though it only lasted a day. Then I got to thinking had I been in my 20's I would have had to move!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Raley's Something Extra

This is a little magazine my local grocery store puts out. My friends and family just love this magazine. It's really well done. One feels they should have to pay for it. It always has a delicious photo on the front. So, clear and crisp you feel like you could just take a bite out of it. The rest of the magazine is filled with more beautiful pictures, comments, tips and recipes. I feel a bit greedy when the new one comes out, because I grab 5. One for me, one for my mom, and 3 I mail to my California friend and her in-laws, who have relocated to Portland, Oregon.

Raley's is a big chain store, so it's not as little as it sounds. It is a very quaint store though. They do put the time into making the store have a down home feel. It's clean, the staff is friendly, when I'm looking for odd ingredients they have them and they have this great magazine. Another thing they do that I just love is when they reorganize the store they have extra staff in the aisles there just to help you find things and get reacquainted with the store. Reorganizing a grocery is one of my pet peeves. It will actually make me not shop there any more if I have to start hunting for the things I need. I walked into Raley's a few years ago and they had done a remodel and reorganized the whole store. I just didn't have time to play "scavenger hunt" with my grocery list. The look of bewilderment rising to anger on my face was seen immediately by a Raley's employee and they walked right over and offered me their assistance. They took me all over the store to find the things I needed. It was GREAT!

The issue I'm talking about today is Fall 2008. There was a recipe in it that looked good and easy. 2 nights ago I made it. It's called Pulled Pork.

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make and how delicious it was. Leftovers still had a great flavor, but not as juicy as the night before. That didn't stop anyone from finishing them off. All the ingredients in the recipe were things I had on hand except the 4 pound boneless pork shoulder roast, which I promptly put on the grocery list.

There is one ingredient I left out on purpose liquid smoke. Ever since I was a child liquid smoke has not agreed with me. Nothing worse than a liquid smoke stomachache. This recipe was still great. Did I take any pictures...NO! Busy day with kids, soccer, homework, guitar lessons and I still got this on the store and cooking AND we ate at a reasonable time. So, I'm using Raley's picture. That's exactly how we ate it. Pulled pork sandwich with a green salad. Trying to use up as many of the tomatoes from garden. Who knows how many more we'll get to enjoy as the growing season comes to an end.

Pulled Pork

1(4-lb.) boneless pork shoulder roast
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. oil
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2-1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
Sandwich rolls

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Cut pork into cubes, discarding any large pieces of fat. Cook pork, onion and garlic in oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining ingredients except rolls and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil; cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Remove cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Shred pork using 2 forks. Spoon onto warm rolls to serve.
Makes 6 servings.

Lynne's Note: To make shredding the pork easier I used a gadget I bought from my friendly Pampered Chef lady a few years ago. It's called the Mix 'N Chop. It worked great. The pork was so tender it shredded right up with my Mix 'N Chop. This gadget is so handy for chopping and crumbling food right in your non stick pan without scratching it.

Nutrition Per Serving: 760 calories, 58 g protein, 33 g total fat (12 g sat.), 55 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 175 mg cholesterol, 1000 mg sodium, 17 points
© 2008 Raley's Family of Fine Stores

Friday, September 5, 2008

August CCC

If you've forgotten CCC stands for Christmas Card Challenge. This year I challenge myself and about 10 friends to make a minimum of 3 Christmas cards a month for 11 months. I figured for myself I'd make 6 a month. That way I would have 66 handmade cards by the end of November. It's always been my dream to make Christmas cards for everyone. Last year I tried starting after Thanksgiving and I made cards until about December 15th before I realized I couldn't make enough in the time I allowed. I needed about 50 cards and I got 30 made. Not too bad, but I didn't enjoy making about the last 15 as I rushed to get them done. Then I went through my list to see who would get a handmade card and who would get a store bought. Hated doing it, but had no choice. Then there are always a few more cards sent out as you received cards or meet new friends or remember someone you had forgotten. So, thought 66 would be a good bet. August has just past and I have 48 CARDS MADE! I was SO excited as I counted them out and admired them. I almost wanted to play out THE scene from "Indecent Proposal" where they roll around on the bed in the money. Except my version would be the Christmas cards. I restrained myself and put them neatly with their envelopes into the two tins I have set aside for this year long project. So, here's a picture of August's cards. These cards were fairly simple. I had purchased fairly cheaply some envelopes and cards at big lots... red cards with green envelopes. I already knew I wanted to use my new Stampin' Up stamp set ... the tree any how. I found some lovely burgundy paper to back up the tree. While looking for some other matching paper I stumbled upon the plaid paper the colors just worked so well. I added 2 strips of ribbon for a little more embellishment and was done.

6X6 recipe swaps

This was a new size for a recipe LO for me. I wasn't sure how I'd like the size. The first one I did I could barely get the recipe on the page in a font size one could read and have room for an embellishment. I used a green background that was 6X6. I used my Jumbo Snowflake roller and rolled over red paper with white ink. After it dried I cut 5 3/4X5 3/4 inch squares out of it. I printed the recipe on laser vellum using brown ink, which I think helped emphasize it's chocolateness. (is this a word?) I used a snowflake punch on white paper. Then accented each snowflake with a snowflake eyelet. To finish I had a piece of ribbon and glued on the snowflake.

This swap was for Chocolate Christmas goodies. I ended up putting my notes about the recipe on the back of the card. This gave me about an inch more room. I thought of just leaving my notes off for the special shortcut I like to do with the recipe. I like it so much I wanted to share it and just glued it on the back. Keeping the recipe pure and giving me room for creativity.So, I wasn't sure about the size. After I received my swap back I was really loving the size.

I decided to participate in another 6X6 swap this time involving smoothies. I had a recipe that I knew would fit nicely.

I printed it on off white paper. For some reason I envisioned this recipe on orange paper. Maybe because I love to use orange sherbet in the recipe. I found so lovely citrus paper to make a strip down the side. Again I added ribbon and eyelets. This time I put fruit and vegetable stickers on the LO. I wanted to put 2 fruit and 1 vegetable sticker on each LO to emphasize the 2 serving of fruit and 1 serving of vegetables in each smoothie, but it just seemed too cluttered. I think the point still gets across that this smoothie has a healthy aspect.

I've joined another swap. This time a cowboy themed swap on a 6X6 LO. I'm really looking forward to getting creative with that one.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Don't turn your back on this delicious dish!

This is the spinach dish my 2 year old son would steal off my plate if I looked the other way. Seems like a crazy thing for a kid to like, but who's gonna stop them?

Spinach Maria

2 pk frozen chopped spinach
2 pk 8 oz cream cheese
1 onion
3/4 cup Parmesan
cheese or more
1 teaspoon butter

3/4 teaspoon cayenne

Cook spinach according to directions, drain very well. Saute onion in butter until tender. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Add spinach, parmesan cheese, and pepper. Cook several minutes more. Stir until well blended. Place in greased casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Lynne's note: The only real change I made was to add one more cream cheese. It just wasn't creamy enough for me. I use the 1/3 less fat cream cheese. As for the cayenne pepper... I don't like things that burn my mouth I'm a whimp that way, so I add half as much of the cayenne pepper. This dish is also really good served cold and taken to a picnic.

Don't be afraid... it's delicious

My children don't like it when I refer to this as "Mom"ba Juice, my play on word for the popular Juice chain. They say, "Motherrrrrr.... don't you know it is the largest venomous snake in Africa and the second longest venomous snake in the world?" When I was a kid the most exotic thing my brother and I knew about was the "Tsetse fly." Not nearly as exciting as the Black Mamba. I think they watch too much Animal Planet.

“Mom”ba Juice
1 cup Tropical Frozen Fruit (140g)
½ cup Orange Sherbet (86g)
1 cup V8 Fusion (Mango Peach, Tropical Orange, Açai Mixed Berry) (250g)

Add ingredients to a blender (Magic Bullet works great!) in order listed. Whirl until all frozen fruit is pureed and drink. The grams are provided, because I put my blender container on a food scale. I then weigh in the frozen fruit. Push button to clear weight. Weigh in the sherbet. Push button to clear and then weigh in the V8 Fusion. Saves having to dirty measuring cups. Makes 1 serving.

Any kind of fruit can be used. Any flavor of sherbet and V8 Fusion can be used. The above is our favorite. Experiment and find your favorite.

Lynne’s Note: I originally started making this smoothie as something my kids could drink before soccer practice. It seems like soccer practice is always right around dinner time. If they eat before practice they get a stomachache. If they don’t eat they are uncomfortably hungry when they get home. This is light, delicious and has 1 serving of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

5 vegetable servings a day... are you trying to kill me?!

Yes, this is how I feel about vegetables. I try and eat healthy for myself. I have kids and I need to eat healthy and make them eat healthy. In the world of fruits and vegetables I feel like I just don't like many of them. Although once I start to name them off... the ones I like... I do like quite a few. My kids, my son in particular is pretty picky about the ones he likes. I read many years ago to start kids off eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and they'll like them all their lives. BIG FAT LIE! If anything my son's love of fruits and vegetables gets less and less each year. He's the kid that loved carrot juice. He's the kid that stole creamed spinach off my plate when I stepped away from the table to get napkins one night. It became a game after that. When it was Spinach Maria night I'd say, "Now don't you touch my spinach!" I'd come back and he'd have eaten it. Not a bad game get your kid to willingly eat spinach. My daughter started in the opposite direction. She didn't care for many things when young and has embraced fruits and vegetables more and more the older she's got. In middle school she asked if she could make her own lunches, because the hot lunches at school just weren't healthy. As a mother I remained calm and showed no emotion (wanted to jump for joy!) and said sure. Just write on the grocery list the things you want for lunches. She's been packing ever since.

I know where my son gets it as the older I get the less fruit and vegetables I want to eat too. So, when I do I want to get as many into a meal as I can. This is where my friend Julia showed me a book she bought by Jessica Seinfeld called "Deceptively Delicious ." This gal has written a book where she's hidden vegetables in recipes. Again something I've been doing for years and why the heck didn't I write a book. Anyhow she's got it down to a science (sort of) in that she REALLY hides the vegetables by making purees. I thought this would work to get more vegetables in my day as well as my kids.
I went to my friend Julia's house and we spent an evening cooking and pureeing vegetables to be prepared for the recipes. I knew that like Ms. Seinfeld I would not be making purees every week. So, I decided to freeze mine in portions suitable for the recipes. That created a problem as some recipes ask for 1/2 cup, some 1/4 cup and some 2 tablespoons of pureed vegetables. I thought that is a either a lot of baggies or plastic containers. That seemed cumbersome and wasteful. So, I decided to freeze my purees in 2 tablespoon size portions in ice cube trays. At first I used a 1 tablespoon sized cookie scoop to fill the trays. This worked out really well. Then I realized that each cube held 2 tablespoons and therefore measuring was no longer necessary. I then just snipped the corner off my baggies and filled the trays. This worked out GREAT! After frozen I then popped out the cubes into containers to store in the freezer.

This has worked out SO great. I keep planning on trying one of Ms. Seinfeld's recipes, but popping these veggies into my own recipes has worked out great. Funny thing is I have teenagers and my son actually read the book so he'd be prepared for any hidden vegetables coming his way. He quizzes me daily thinking he'll find out I'm making one of her recipes, but I haven't. One evening I was making my spaghetti and meatballs and he thought it was the "Deceptively Delicious" recipes. I asked, "Are there spaghetti and meatball recipes in the book?" He said sheepishly, "Yes." I asked, "Have you read the book?" Then he laughed and said, "Here I thought I was calling you out and ended up calling myself out." We had a good laugh.

I've really enjoy adding a bit more nutrition to my day (and my kids'). When I actually use one of her recipes I'll review it here. Her idea on ready made purees is genius though. Having them on hand means you can defrost in the microwave if need be and use them at a moments notice. I've slipped carrot puree into my "Mom"ba Juice. I've slipped sweet potato puree into my spaghetti sauce. Neither time could I taste the addition. Life is getting healthier.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Ramblings of a TV Addict

My dad always had the latest and greatest newfangled inventions when I was a kid. So, we always had a nice TV; hence, my TV addiction. I love to watch TV and yes it gets in the way of things like sleep, housecleaning and even crafting. YIKES! Although since the invention of the DVR, digital video recorder, I have it more under control. My husband hooked me up with a DVR with our cable company for Christmas a couple years ago. I just love it. I basically only watch what I want to now. No channel surging for me. I set it up to record all my favorite shows. Now this has created another kind of bad habit. When the DVR starts to get full... I delete other people's shows. I'm not completely mean... I do ask... sometimes... and it was MY Christmas present... I do have trouble sharing DVR space sometimes.

I really like recording shows that the kids and I can watch together. Being teenagers they are able to watch shows I would actually enjoy rather than pretend to enjoy when they were little. We really like "Last Comic Standing" right now. There are some jokes SO funny that the kids and I will say just the lead in to the joke and we all roll with laughter. We also like "The Big Bang Theory." This is an overlooked show that we find funny and sort of identify with at times. It's about a group of Genius Nerds, who are trying to fit in with the world. I sure hope it gets picked up for another season, but I suspect the humor might just go over some people's heads. Not to say that any of us are Genius Nerds, but all our brains together might make up one genius nerd brain. OK it's fun to pretend.

I really like reality shows that show how everyday life is for a person or persons in a particular situation. Take "Ice Road Truckers" for instance... I really find that whole idea fascinating. That once the water is frozen up in the Arctic trucks start hauling in supplies the one wouldn't normally haul in or could haul in cost effectively. It's very dangerous as they could fall through the ice at any time and then there are things like freezing to death or being eaten by a polar bear. I also like the "Biggest Catch"... a show about crab fishermen fishing for crab off of the coast of Alaska. Again very dangerous, but very lucrative. These guys work SO hard for a few months, but it sounds like they make a good enough salary to live on it for the whole year. Another cold strenuous job. Then the captain of one of the ships was describing the ships as being on the verge of sinking at all times. I guess the salt water they pipe in to keep the crabs alive eats away at all the pipes from the inside out. So, a pipe that looks great on the outside could be on the verge of bursting from the inside. So, the dangers are one could fall off the ship, get crushed by a crab trap, or the ship could just sink. These shows never bore me!

I also like watching shows that have families with unusual circumstances. We have the Gosslin's with 2 sets of multiples. The Duggars, who are expecting their 18th child soon. The Roloffs, who are married dwarfs with 4 children one being a dwarf. We have the Miami Ink and LA Ink "families", who are making the world a better place one tattoo at a time. I just can't get enough of this kind of TV.

I hate shows like American Idol, Big Brother, The Bachelor or Bachelortte. The really odd thing is those are the shows a lot of my friends like watching and I just can't get into them. I don't like watching people get humiliated for no good reason. Is there a good reason to be humiliated... how about the burglar, who falls through the ceiling of a store while trying to steal and then can't figure out how to get out of the store. All of this being caught on tape. Don't mind that so much.

My first love though is old movies! I used to watch the AMC (American Movie Classics) channel. All movies no commericals... just loved it. They changed formats and have commericals now. I don't watch them anymore and have moved to TCM (Turner Classic Movies). Still no commericals. The latest old movie I watched was "Son of Fury" with Errol Flynn. Really enjoyed it and Errol Flynn is such a great actor. What a love about black and white films is the richness of the pictures. Don't get me wrong I love color, but the B&W distracts less from the story and in a way it makes the pictures more deeper in detail. I also like the ability to leave a lot to one's imagination in the creation of a story. Now a days they show you everything... blood, guts, sex when really we don't have to see it all to know what's going on in a story. Again it can be distracting from what's really great the acting. I also love catching great actors in their first bit parts. You see them all young and acting their hearts out for a split second they not knowing they'd go on to be rich celebrated actors later down the line.

So, am I entering a TV 12 step program... not any where in the near future. Like most addicts I don't think I have a problem.

Monday, July 14, 2008

First LO of the Year

Boy, have I been slacking in the scrapbook department this year. I've felt like I've been playing catch up for years and never seem to get close to catching up. I started a Christmas Card Challenge this year and just let scrapbooking fall to the side.

I had taken my kids surfing right when they got out of school this year. I took pictures and my son took some pictures with his waterproof camera. I decided to get them into the scrapbook. To my amazement the joy of scrapbooking came right back to me. I'm anxious to get back into it. More LO's to follow.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Luck is a Changing

As many of you know Northern California has been socked in with smoke from a lot of fires. Well, that's where I live. It's been going on for about a month. Here it is summer and we're spending 95% of our time indoors. Anyhow, last Wednesday the kids and I decided to venture out and see a movie. It turned out to be one of the smokiest days yet. We're OK though, because we have the AC filtering the air on our way there. Halfway to our matinee the smoke started to smell really bad and my daughter reminded me to push the "recycle air" button on my AC. It smelled SO bad and that didn't help much. By that time we were at the theater.

We went to see "Wall-E", which by the way I liked way more than I thought I would. After the movie we got in the car to leave and I turned on the AC and nothing happens. Not a peep! Now were in a predicament... too smoky to leave the windows down.... too hot to leave them up. This was one of those 106 degree days. All we could do was put the windows down and buck up.

Now this presents a few problems one being I was going to be leaving town in 2 days and I didn't want to leave with a broken car. I wasn't sure why the AC wasn't working and feared something bigger could be wrong. Two... would I be able to get the car into the shop on such short notice. Three... if I could get to the shop how would I get home? And Four... where the heck was I going to get the money to fix what I was sure going to be an expensive problem. So, I called the car repair office and to my surprise they could get me in the very next morning and had a shuttle to bring me home. I was feeling very fortunate. Then the gal handling my car calls me at home to tell me that just the fan was broken. In fact it had gotten so hot that the connector and the fan had melted. It was a faulty part and they have improved the new parts. (OH SO that was the extra awful bad smoky sell we were being choked with!) Good news, it's covered by warranty. I really couldn't believe my good fortune! I don't think I've ever heard those words. What I've heard many times over the years is "Oh too bad your warranty expired 3 weeks ago."

DH got home from work with plenty of time to drive me up to pick up my fixed car. When I went to pay the cashier hands me a flower. A little unusual and surprising, but a nice touch in these impersonal days. I paid for my measly oil change. I then get instructions that a questionnaire will be coming in the mail and that if I fill it out and bring it in they'll give me $25 in gas. I'm flabbergasted now. Having a broken car has never gone so well for me.

Flower in water... I was back on the road and on my trip with confidence!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Adventures with Arepas

Last Sunday I decided to make arepas. I saw a Throwdown with Bobby Flay with Arepas. Maribel and Aristides Barrios, NYC restaurateurs who hail from Venezuela were challenged. The food looked SO good and interesting. Arepas are Venezuela's national bread. They are eaten at all meals and throughout the day. These small corncakes are sold in restaurants called areperías, where they are stuffed with all manner of fillings. Arepas are the basically the Venezuelan version of the sandwich. Many different filling can be used, but the gals on Throwdown said the best and most traditional filling is Pabellón. It's their best seller. So, that's what I wanted to make.

Bobby Flay lost the throwdown, so I didn't want to use his recipes on the Food Network. Using notes from the gals that WON the arepa throwdown I went on a search of the internet for recipes that were similar. This was going to be quite a project, but I knew it would be fun and delicious. I'm never scared away by hard work in the kitchen. First I needed ingredients. Ran to the local grocery store Saturday evening and bought just about everything. The produce gal couldn't find a plantain I knew what they looked like despite my complete inexperience with them and I found them. They didn't have the special corn flour I needed. Decided to make a trip to the Mexican grocer in the morning. They had exactly what I needed... precooked white corn meal P.A.N.

According to Maribel and Aristides to make a simple traditionally served Arepa one needs a Venezuelan stew called Pabellón, black beans, fried plantains, arepas, and cojita cheese. I had a lot of cooking ahead of me. I got the boneless chuck roast cooking similar to how I would cook pork for carnitas. Browned roast, then add onion, celery, salt, pepper and enough water to cover everything. I simmered it for 2 hours. While this was simmering I got the presoaked black beans (the reason I went to the store the night before wanted to soak the beans) to cooking with a little browned salt pork and onions. They too simmered for 2 hours.

Once the beef was cooked and shredded, with dog and my daughter hanging around for bites, I could do the final cooking. I followed the Pabellón recipe I found on line with a few changes from the notes from Maribel and Aristides I got off of the Throwdown show. The changes I used, a 3 pound boneless chuck roast, red AND green peppers, 1 can of tomato paste instead of tomatoes and 1 1/2 tsp of ground cumin. I needed about 3 cups of my broth from cooking the meat to moisten it up just right. I did make one mistake in that the peppers and onions should have been finely chopped. My kids would have preferred it from an aesthetic point of view (you know kids it may taste good, but doesn't look good). It looked great to my husband and I and it didn't effect the taste at all. It was SO good. I'll definitely be making this stew again.

After the stew was made I started frying the plantains and frying the arepas (corncakes). Plantains were pretty straight forward. I sliced them like the gals said on throwdown. I must say that the plantains scared me a little. I've never tried them before. I read that you want to get one that is yellow with black speckles or completely black for maximum sweetness. Completely black at the store wasn't an option. Once peeled they are much firmer than a regular banana and had an odd peach hue. After frying I tried one. They have sort of a fried sweet potato flavor and texture if you've ever had tempura sweet potato you'll know exactly what they are like.
The arepas I followed the recipe . Later that day I tried making the arepas the way the Maribel and Aristides had said. The difference being the online recipe used boiling water. It took a very long time for it to cool, so I could shape the arepas for cooking. The gals used lukewarm water and the dough turned out very soft and difficult to shape. I'll need to work on them to maybe find a happy medium between boiling water and lukewarm water. The one exception to the recipe is I only fried them on the griddle as the arepa gals said. The recipe asked them to be baked also.
OK I've got Pabellón, cooked black beans, fried plantain, arepas and grated cojita cheese. Now to assemble. I split the arepa all the way through layered on 2 fried plantain slices, a spoonful of Pabellón, a spoonful of black beans and then a sprinkle of cheese. I then leaned over the plate and took a big bite. WOW it was good and very messy. Maribel and Aristides from the throwdown have their own arepa restaurant in New York and they said people ask for forks. They really raised their noses at this notion as they are to be eaten with one's hands. I am a utensil person. I wanted a fork SO badly, but I didn't want these ladies snickering at me for using a fork. I kept adjusting my grip and the corncake until all was gone. I found out that one recipe of corncakes wasn't enough. It made 8. That's why I made 2 recipes with 2 different methods. I had to make another batch they were SO good.

I found the "What's 4 Eats: International Recipes & Cooking Around the World" website to be a great reference for my adventure into the world of deliciousness. I've placed links all above for the recipes I used. Once everything was cooked it was a very fast and easy meal. We had leftovers for lunch and it seemed even better the 2nd and 3rd day. Then it was all gone. I think I'd like to make this again and have family over. It would be a fun meal to share.

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th of July Pop Up Slider card

My friend Linda from my RCS group pointed me towards a youtube video on Dawns Stampin Studio with instructions on how to make this card. It looked so easy and fun I decided to make a few. Since I don't have a computer in my craft area I decided to look for some written instructions. I found them here at Split Coast Stampers. I took the cutting measurements that Dawn had given on her video and wrote them down on the written instructions and it made it very easy.

I left the card open all night so the sparkle paint would dry. That is why there is a white line on the closed card. I'm sure once it's closed in an envelope it will relax completely closed. I must apologize for the blurry picture. I took the pictures when my contacts weren't on and thought they looked perfectly in focus. :D

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Cupcake

I found the cutest cupcake pan while at the craft store. I was out shopping for fabric and paper. Dangerous... me... craft store... money. Anyhow I sold all my character cake pans at a yard sale last year. I have teenagers and they've out grown things like Winnie the Pooh. When I saw this I thought how much fun for everyone.

Today I baked the recipe on the card that came with the pan. It's a chocolate pound cake with chocolate butter cream frosting. One needs to be very careful making a delicious cupcake when you have a teenage son in the house!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pinwheel a go go

Group photo

I've just had the greatest time playing with tag punch pinwheels. The first one I made was a birthday card for a friend. Then I found this red plaid paper left over from the cupcake cards and thought wouldn't it make great Christmas pinwheels. The first card I made I used traditional Christmas colors. I liked how it turned out. Then I found some tag board snowflakes in my stash that I'd been wanting to use it and one of the color is lime green. So, thought I'd again work with nontraditional Christmas colors. I used my color wheel to come up with red, lime green and turquoise. Well, I didn't have the right color of lime green in card stock and that card I thought looked terrible. I really wanted to throw it away, but DH and daughter liked it and insisted I not waste a "pretty" card. So, I kept it. I tried again with lime green using the actual lime green tag board snowflake and I liked it better. The 3rd card I made I steered clear of lime green and liked it even better.

I'm all out of the red checked paper and I may be bored with pinwheels.... who knows. I need to make 2 more cards for my Christmas card challenge. I'll see if there is any paper that strikes my fancy and maybe I'll make at least 2 more.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Day In The Life Of A Mom

I have teenagers now and people think that they don't need you any more. Nothing can be further from the truth. It can be tricky because they're teenagers. Being there for them and not appearing to be "be there for them." I've been very fortunate to not have my kids say I embarrass them or that I'm not cool. They don't say I AM cool and I'm well... cool with that.

I have a friend who is a fairly new mom and she's known me since my oldest was 6 months old. She said one day, "You don't know this, but I've watched your mothering like a hawk over the years." She said, "Something you have going for you that I don't see often is your kids like you. They like spending time with you. I want that with my child." I was surprised to hear it as I don't think I've done anything special over the years. I've just raised them as I would want to be treated as a kid. I think the fact that I like them and like spending time with them shines through.

Even when I've been at my busiest and the kids have wanted my attention if I can I stop what I'm doing to hear their little joke or watch them do a somersault. If I can't stop I make sure they know that they are a top priority just sometimes a cake needs to get in the oven before one can stop. I'd tell them "my hands are busy... just give me a second."

I think sometimes adults have children before they're ready for that type of time sucking activity. And yes kids are time suckers... but in a very good way. When I had my kids my plan was to spend the next 20 years devoted to enjoying motherhood. Some say you need to spend some time on you, but if you really think about it I am being pretty selfish in enjoying every minute of my kids lives.

I had a fairly good childhood. I had a loving mom and a strict yet loving father. A good amount of toys and a bike that my dad kept up to date with all the latest gizmos. (not necessarily a cool thing.) They weren't particularly physically loving. I do remember a hug and kiss here and there, but not nearly as many as I would have liked. I don't even remember cuddling. I felt uncomfortable asking for a hug and kiss or reaching out to hold a hand. They were raised you cut the ties as early as possible with your children. Make your kids self reliant.

So, when I moved out as a young adult I decided that every time I saw them or left them I'd kiss and hug them. I thought who would reject a kiss and hug. Not my parents. My mom was totally in to it. My dad would get a "Oh oh OK she's going to kiss and hug me" look on his face. It wasn't long before he was totally in to it too. I knew I had something going when a few years later my brother was coming back from a 6 month deployment on the USS Enterprise. My mother and I ran up and kissed and hugged him. My dad stepped up and my brother held out his hand for a handshake. My dad reached over for a handshake, but instead he pulled my brother in for an embrace. I teared up.

I strive for self-reliance in my children too, but I don't feel it is mutually exclusive from being a loving family. For my kids I wanted them to feel like a cuddle was never out of the question. I was really lucky in that my son kissed me goodbye at his school everyday until he was a freshman in High School. Each year I thought he'd quit as the other children had done. When he quit I didn't say a word I knew he was growing up. BUT at home he seldom misses a hug and/or kiss before he goes to bed. He's nearly 17 and he'll still sit next to me on the couch and throw my arm around his shoulders or lay his head in my lap while we watch a movie. He's even been known to sit on my lap and just about squish me. I just soak it in. I know he'll be off on his own in the very near future.

My daughter is another story. She's been glued to me since birth. I am not exaggerating. She's nearly 14 and she was just holding hands with me at the mall. I kept thinking what if a friend sees her holding her mom's hand. I finally said it out loud. She said, "I don't care you're my mom." I enjoyed every minute of it. She still lays all over me when were watching a movie and I do have to finally give her some guidelines on a cuddle and a smother. I say now and then "Don't smother your mother!" She thinks it's funny, but will back off... a little.

I have an antique telephone in my house that works and is hooked up to the house phone system. A contractor years ago saw it and asked, "Is that the world's oldest phone?" I laughed and then he asked if he could call his wife on it. He says, "Hi honey, I'm calling you from the world's oldest phone!" A few weeks ago my kids were in the dining room doing their homework and I was in the back of the house. My cell phone rings and it's the home phone calling it. I thought that's weird! I answer. My son says, "Hi mom just thought I'd call you from the world's oldest phone. Luv ya. OK bye." I hung up and felt properly hugged.