Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cheddar Potato Slices

Made 3 batches of this molten lava potato recipe in December. I make this when scalloped potatoes are called for. I just find scalloped potatoes to be so bland and uninteresting. This recipe from Campbell's soup is flavorful, cheesy and easy to make. It's never been bumped up against a pan of scalloped potatoes until my machine knitting December luncheon. 2 people were asked to bring "Scalloped Potatoes." I volunteered knowing I'd bring "Cheddar Potato Slices" disguised as "Scalloped Potatoes." When I went to get my pan to clean it up and bring home any leftovers mine was practically licked clean. The pan of Scalloped Potatoes was about 75% full. I rest my case.

Cheddar Potato Slices
Recipe from: Campbell's Soup
Servings: 4
10 ¾ ounces mushroom soup
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon pepper
4 medium baking potatoes, (about 2 pounds), cut ¼ inch thick
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Combine soup, paprika, and pepper in small bowl.
In greased 2-quart oblong casserole, arrange potatoes in overlapping rows. Sprinkle with cheese. Spoon soup mixture over. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more or until potatoes are fork tender.

He's Todd-tastic!

That's what my son says when I ask him "How was your guitar lesson today?" He's say's, "It was Todd-tastic!" The guitar instructor's name is Todd in case you haven't guessed. It's been 1 1/2 years since the kids started guitar lessons. Erik on the bass guitar and Allison on the guitar. Both kids are still enjoying their lessons with Todd. All I ask is that they play 3 Christmas songs for me for my present. This year I qualified it with "and play cheerfully and cooperatively." Todd has nothing to do with that. He teaches them separately. Like typical young siblings they don't always do things cooperatively and without argument. This year they did pretty well considering they didn't practice one time together on the Christmas songs. By the 3 third song they were playing very well. I enjoyed it. I hope they continue to enjoy their lessons with Todd.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hand Knitted Scarves an Adiction

I learned to crochet when I was in 3rd grade. My mom taught me and gave me my own yarn and needle, which I took to school. When I'd think about it and had a few minutes I would crochet. Still being a novice I would crochet little triangles. I didn't know about chaining at each end yet to keep the rows even. I didn't notice anything was unusual I was just having fun crocheting.

I crocheted into my 20's when I finally stopped because the only yarn I really knew about was Red Heart and anything made with it was scratchy and made one itch. I lost interest and went on to other crafts.

I did try in my teens a brief lesson in knitting from a friend and I didn't like it.
A few years ago my cousin taught me to knit. I wasn't terribly interested as I prefer to crochet and again wasn't interested in scratchy Red Heart yarn. Well, it was the only craft she did and she wanted to teach me. So, I really couldn't say no to her or learning a new craft. She told me about large knitting needles and all the beautiful yarns there are now. I hadn't really done any yarn projects in about 20 years. We went to JoAnn's got me some size 19 knitting needles and she showed me which yarns she likes to pair. We paired an eyelash yarn with some homespun in colors I liked. Went back to her house and we knitted. It was really very easy on such large needles. That's when my addiction started. When I saw all the new affordable fun yarns I became crazed at finding new combinations. I finally got to where I could knit a scarf in 4 hours. That's all I knew how to do was knit a large rectangle. Still to this day I don't know how to knit any other stitches. I may have to take a lesson. I'd like to learn ribbing.
My favorite pairings of yarns is when the 2 are completely different colors. Like red fun fur with black homespun or lime green fun fur with black homespun.

My absolute favorite combination was white homespun with ribbon yarn. I just loved the look. I've made probably over 20 or so scarves over the past few years. Many I've given away as gifts, but my favorites I would put in a plastic crate in my bedroom thinking some day I'll sell them. Well the day came. A friend of mine has opened a fiber arts store and she took my scarves on consignment. Part of me didn't want to give up my treasured scarves the other part knew it was time to make money for more yarn!

Snowed here last night!

It snows here about once every 10 years. It snowed the first year we bought the house 1990. Snow melted right away as it always does, but froze for about 4 days straight. Killing all our new landscape plants that came with the house.

The next time it snowed the kids were in elementary school. It snowed for a couple minutes during the middle of the day. The teachers according to my kids let them all out for a few minutes to enjoy it. Then it started raining driving them all back into class.

Now December 2009 when we have family visiting from Oklahoma staying the night we get snow. I guess they get snow every year that sticks, but they were surprised that we got snow before they did.

DH BBQed a few days ago and left the BBQ out in the weather and vent open. I was none too happy about that, but sure made for a great picture of snow.
Picture of my son's and my cars. Mine being dark green shows the snow better.
Neighbor's house across the street looked so pretty with the snow and Christmas lights on.

I was in my jammies. This was around 6am and I didn't think to take a picture of my own house with snow. Guess I didn't want to walk up to the street in my jammies and slippers.

Poodle Alert

Do you find that everything you do your poodle is close by?

I'm taking pictures of some scarves in my inventory and some how a poodle nose snuck in.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Have My Teenagers Lost Their Friggin Minds?!

Years ago when the kids were small I stopped being so anal about a clean house. First off I was really the only one doing any house cleaning. I didn't have the time or the energy with 2 small children to keep my house spotless. So, I went for a more relaxed standard. Keep things clean, sanitary and kind of sort of picked up. When any company was coming enlist the whole family to do a big declutter and cleaning session. To this day if any house cleaning is done they ask, "Who's coming over?" I tell them through gritted teeth that sometimes a home needs to be cleaned, because it's dirty not because someone is coming over.

So, clutter laying around seldom bothers me unless it's on a chair I want to sit on. On a printer I want to print from. On something of mine and hiding it from my view making me think it's lost. You get the idea.

I come home from errands a few weeks ago and as I walk past the hall bathroom really known as the kids' bathroom. I see a hanger hanging from one of my favorite pictures and I think steam tooted out my ears! How disrespectful to ones home is what I thought. Dirty clothes on the floor no problem, but a hanger on my picture? One step too far!

Now, I won't let them leave dirty clothes on the floor. "Really," I said, "Are you 4 years old?! There is a hamper not 2 feet away. There will be no more clothes on the floor and if I see anything but my picture hanging on the wall there will be a really dirty nasty chore in your future." The hall bathroom has stayed pretty clean since then. Now to work on their bedrooms.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cheeseburger Soup

Some sort of cold/flu bug is running through our family this month. First to succumb was my daughter and I made Chicken Noodle soup for her. Then I got sick. My son made Cranberry Orange muffins for me. Now my son is sick. I knew he wouldn't want any muffins and I know soup isn't his favorite, but soup is SO good when you're not feeling well. I had to ask anyways, "Would you like me to make you some soup?" Thinking he'd say no and the conversation would go to some sort of food I could comfort him with. He said slowly, "Cheeseburger soup?" We both chuckled at the idea. I told him, "You know what, I bet there is a recipe for Cheeseburger Soup on the internet." I did some surfing and sure enough there were several Cheeseburger Soup recipes. I chose the one I thought sounded the best and would appeal to my poor sick son.
Cheeseburger Soup

Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Ready In: 50 Minutes
Servings: 8

1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
4 tablespoons butter
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups cubed potatoes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups cubed Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sour cream

In a large pot, melt 1 tablespoon butter or margarine over medium heat: cook and stir vegetables and beef , until beef is brown.

Stir in basil and parsley. Add broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Melt the remainder of butter in a separate small pot and stir in flour. Add the milk, stirring until smooth.

Gradually add milk mixture to the soup, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for a minute or 2. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. When cheese is melted, add sour cream. Put back on heat if you feel it needs to warm up a little. Do not boil.

Lynne's Notes: What I liked about the recipe was that I had all the ingredients right here at home. I like recipes that don't have fussy ingredients. I didn't add dried parsley. I think it's revolting compared to fresh parsley. Just my own personal problem there. I also didn't add the sour cream to the pot of soup. My husband abhors sour cream. So, the kids and I would stir a teaspoon full into our own bowls. We thought the sour cream really added a lot to the good flavor of the soup. It is a hearty soup. A real stick to your ribs during cold weather kind of soup. The basil doesn't over power the other ingredients and lets the tartness of the cheddar cheese and the sour cream shine threw in their creamy goodness.

After we all ate our soup we all agreed that it was good, but a few changes might be nice if we ever made it again. My son said it needed more meat, more cheese and that serving it in a bread bowl would be nice. I think if I served it in a bread bowl and maybe just sprinkle a little grated cheddar on top he'd love it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Going To The Mall... Not So Relaxing Any More

I've been to the mall twice in the past week which is a world record for me. I'm just not a big shopper. Basically, if it doesn't involve something I know I need, feeding my family or crafting I just don't shop. Every now and then I get the urge to just do a little shopping. Especially this time of year when the holidays come into play. I like to go to the mall on a weekday in the morning. It isn't crowded and I like it that way.

Except when I went to the mall Friday morning I found the mall crowded with sales people. Not in the stores, but down the middle of the mall. All these little booths selling a whole myriad of things. Now there have been these types booths in the past, but only about 1/10th as many. Friday I was accosted about every 10 feet by some type of sales person. It felt very much like going into a grocery store and there is someone waiting at the door with some sort of charitable sale. Not that I'm not giving and want to help, but do I have to think about that sort of thing when I just want to buy some milk for my family.

Instead of saying "no thank you" or "not today" once as I enter a store I was asked questions every ten feet. They are trying to lure you in for a sale by pretending to start a conversation or do you a favor. "Can I curl your hair?" Me, "No thank you. "Would you like to jazz up your cell phone?" Me, "Not today." "May I spritz you with organic mango juice perfume?" Me, "No thank you." "Can I wash your hands in germ fighting eucalyptus water?" Me, "No thank you, but do you do feet? Hey, I am moving along no need to be rude!"
See evil booths beginning about halfway up the photo.

I'd only walked about 50 feet and I was exhausted. Part of going to the mall by myself is I don't want to talk to anyone really. I want a peaceful morning of just looking and maybe purchasing something. The mall I was at has 2 stories. I'd only gone about halfway through the bottom floor. I was already tired of talking. I decided to keep going even though every part of my being was screaming "leave the mall." There were 2 stores I really wanted to see the Disney Store and the Yankee Candle store. They were upstairs and due to the open air structure of the mall there is no center floor to put sales booths on up there. I would get some peace and quiet up on the 2nd floor.

I got to the center of the mall's bottom floor and noticed they had remodel that part of the mall and added a wing. They had moved the escalator that had been right there the equivalent of another half mall away. As I look down the wing I can see the escalator in it's new spot. I then notice between it and I was about five more sales booths. I'm sure loaded with lots more lotions, potions and knickknacks they are just dying to try and sell. Right then and there I said, "I'm done." I turned on my heal and headed back out of the mall. Listening to my inner voice saying, "If you want peace and quiet you need to leave now." I past the 10 or so sales booths that I had just seen and the sales people remembered I wasn't interested and swooped past me for new prey. Thank goodness, because usually you've walked the whole mall and they've completely forgetten who you are and once again you have to talk to each and every booth.

I know I'm sounding like a crazy agoraphobic hermit right now. Really I'm none of the above. I just don't like aggravation unless I'm prepared for it. Unless I'm willing to endure it. Like at Christmas time. One knows if you go into a store of any kind there will be people galore up and down the aisles and more waiting in lines at the check stands. I know this and I'm prepared for it. Like Costco on the weekend. One knows there are people galore up and down the aisles and more waiting in MILE long lines at the check stands. This is tempered though by snackies at the end of quite a lot of aisles. I digress back to the topic at hand. Like going to the doctor's office. You know even though you are on time your appointment will be late and there will be an office full of other people waiting for their late appointments.

So, when I go to the mall on a weekday morning I don't expect to be accosted by sales people. First off I'm not the kind of person who will buy anything they're selling. I'm not a lotion and potion girl. Never have been. I'm not a knickknack person. I won't buy a $30 dollar stuffed dog who's side rises and falls like it were breathing. Not from it's lungs, but from it's liver or spleen. They really need to work on the placement of that one. I'm not going to buy a plate with dolphins painted on it or it's matching candle holder. My cell phone works just fine with it's original black cover. Afterall, it's free, well sort of, it came with the phone.

I want shopping to go back to being a spectator sport. I want a spritz of organic mango juice perfume when I ask someone to come and spritz me and not a minute sooner.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bacon Cheddar Waffles... Oh my!

I bought a new waffle iron with my birthday money. I wanted a Belgium waffle. I have a very tiny crevice waffle iron that is convenient, but I missed having bigger holes to catch syrup. I'm not totally convinced that I like this All-Clad waffle iron and that I'll keep it. Doesn't stop me from testing it. The first batch of waffles was the Buttermilk waffle recipe that came with the waffle iron. It was tasty. Yes, the holes are bigger, but the iron squishes the batter so compactly that waffle walls are kind of thin. Thought I'd try a couple more recipes before I know for sure whether or not I want to keep it.

Tonight my son and I made Bacon Cheddar waffles for dinner. I searched the Internet for a savory recipe. This recipe is a keeper! See the steam from the waffles cooking. I am so full right now. I should have stopped eating at 2 squares not 3. We did not put syrup on them. Just ate them plain with a big side salad.

When the green light comes on the waffles are done.

Bacon Cheddar Waffles

1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 cups Bisquick baking mix
6 bacon, strips cooked and crumbled
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

In a medium bowl, beat 1 egg.

Add: milk, sour cream, melted butter.

Stir in Bisquick baking mix, mix well.

Fold in: cooked and crumbled bacon strips and cheddar cheese.

Spoon batter onto a hot waffle iron.

Close waffle iron and cook until golden brown. (Will be done when steaming stops -- 4-5 minutes).

Serve drizzled with: maple syrup OR fruit-flavored syrup.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Making a costume

My daughter's friend loves ketchup, so much so she wanted to BE ketchup for Halloween. When she was over helping my daughter make a piñata for their ROTC Halloween party she asked my daughter if she could be French Fries for Halloween. My daughter says, "I don't know.... mom can we make a French Fry costume for Halloween?" I said, "Sure." As I always think I can do something even before I try to do it. Why not. One doesn't know until you try. I have to say I don't think I've tried to do anything that hasn't turned out. Sometimes it's WAY harder than I thought and I'll never do it again. BUT a Halloween costume was right up my alley. I've made many.

I knew we wouldn't have a lot of time to spend making this costume. I knew we needed to make the traditional McDonald's fries for this costume to be truly recognizable and cute. I bought 4 sheet of red poster paper and one sheet of yellow. What was a bit annoying and I know the company must do this to be frugal, but the poster board is one color on one side and another on the other. The red was red on one side and green on the other. The yellow was yellow on one side and blue on the other.

First thing I did was find out how big my daughter wanted the costume. She said the width of the poster paper would be long enough. So, I cut it wide enough for here body. I then used the piece I cut as a template to cut the matching back piece and the piece I needed to line the back piece. Since it was green on the back I needed to cover the back with red, because it would show. I could use the pieces I cut off of the front and back to use for the side panels.

Then I cut a semi circle off the top edge of the front panel. I taped it to the back panel. This made it look like the McDonald's French Fry container. I used clear packing tape to tape the panels together and the half circle pieces.

At this point I had my daughter put it on and we decided where to cut the arm holes. Once they were cut I made straps for her shoulders using the clear packing tape. I stuck on piece to the front and back with sticky side up. Daughter being careful to keep her hair out of the way. I then stuck a similar length piece of tape sticky side down on top making a perfect strap. I did the same thing to the other shoulder. This way she wouldn't have to hold the box up all night.

We pre cut the French Fry strips. Folding them in half to cover up the blue color on the reverse side. We used hot glue to keep these permanently folded. Again my daughter put on the costume, so I could glue on the French Fries. She didn't want to put on the costume for this. TEENAGERS! But I made it clear she didn't want any fries sticking up in her face and annoying her all night. With it on we could put the fries on in a way that made it comfortable. With hot glued I added the fries.

We had pre cut the "M" out of the yellow before the fries. This worried me a bit. I didn't think we'd have enough yellow poster paper for the fries. We had just enough. Not a scrap was left. The fries didn't have to be too big. Just enough to peek out the top.

The "M" was all my daughter. She free handed the drawing of the "M." I hot glued it on the front. Then my daughter did the shading and trademark logo. This I feel really made the costume in the words of fashion designers "pop." It suddenly took on a cuteness all it's own.

What was great about this costume being put together with packing tape was it was very strong and flexible. The costume folded flat to be tucked away when one got too hot or wanted a break from the costume.

"Receiving an award for costume that is folded up in background. She needed arms to operate the piñata she had made. "
It held together great. I thought she'd lose French Fries, but she didn't. The only danger was at lunch at school on Friday she was chased around with teenagers wanting to bite her costume and one friend actually did.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

I got a free stencil from the Better Homes & Garden website. They had the most adorable pet stencils this year. I altered the poodle template to look more like my poodle Little Star. We all enjoyed our carved pumpkin. It's in the house right now, so some hoodlum won't smash it on the road tonight.

Thanks to my Internet friend Jan at "The Poodle (and dog) Blog" for bringing these templates to my attention. I've never been one to dress up my dogs, but I'll most certainly carve their likeness on to a pumpkin.

Off to try and hide the candy from the poodle. That dog amazes me every year what she can find and how the heck did she get it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Don't bother hiding the candy. I'll find it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Karen's Thai Chicken Soup

This recipe was created by my friend Karen Hawkins. She was telling me years ago about a restaurant (La Bou) that had a delicious Thai Chicken Soup. So, we went to lunch there and had the soup. She was right it was so good and when the weather gets cold it more than hits the spot. It's smooth tomato broth slides down your throat and warms you from the inside out. She decided that day she'd try and recreate it. This recipe is SO close that I don't think I could tell the difference. Although I probably could as the restaurant version is so spicy hot I almost couldn't eat it. That's how good the soup was... I was willing to endure pain to eat it. Mine is a lot cooler in the spice department.

Karen's Thai Chicken Soup

2 celery sticks, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 large chicken breast, cut in bite sized pieces
1 - 14 oz. can low fat coconut milk
1 - 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 - 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 - 14 oz. cans chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked rice
Thai Chili Paste to taste

Saute' celery, onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is soft. Add chicken breast and cook until done. Add coconut milk, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and chicken broth. After bringing to a boil add rice and Thai chili paste to taste depending on the amount of heat you like. Simmer until rice is cooked.

Lynne's note: I like to low fat coconut milk I'm sure the full fat version would be fine. I also like to use the petite cut canned tomatoes. I don't like the large chunks of tomato in this soup. In last night's version of the soup I had 4 chicken thighs that needed to be used. After the celery/onion/garlic was sauteed I added the chicken broth only. I then added the 4 chicken thighs without their skin. I simmered the thighs until cooked through. I removed them let them cool and cut into bite sized piece. I added the chopped chicken back to broth along with other ingredients of the recipe. I used reduced sodium chicken broth and the soup needed some added salt in my opinion.

As for the heat in this soup it does need some zing so don't skip it. I had this odd hot sauce in the fridge that my husband and daughter like to use to season food. My son and I have tender tongues and don't add hot sauce to anything. For the recipe though I do like a little heat. I've used chili oil in the past as I usually have some on hand. Last night I thought I'd try above sauce I had purchase for DH at the grocery store. It was recommended on the Food Network as being very flavorful. I just take DH's word for it. After quizzing him on exactly how hot was it I started by stirring in 1/2 teaspoon. Then I tasted. I ended up adding 3 teaspoons all together. I probably could have stopped at 2 1/2 as my nose was running quite a bit. BUT the soup was good! Didn't slow me down a bit.

Note: Dh hubby and I had leftover soup for lunch. As I ate mine I got to thinking it was so much better than the night before if that is possible. I wondered would I ever make a batch of soup and then save it for the next day before eating? The soup still had the wonderful tomato broth that feels so good going down one's throat, but it was thicker more like a stew. The rice in the soup had really absorbed the broth and thicken the soup. I was a little worried that the soup might be spicier since I used a new hot sauce, but it was just right.
DH called me from work and asked me if I had eaten my soup. He then went on to say it seemed so much better the next day and would I consider making the soup and waiting a day to eat it. I laughed as I had just visited that idea when I ate my soup.

In The 'Hood

I had to go to the part of Sacramento referred to as the Hood. An area where you need to be aware of your surrounding and what is around you. It can be a dangerous rough area. As I was heading to my destination I saw a sign that said "Monster Bus." I thought, "OH MY! This neighborhood has really gotten rough if they refer to riding the bus as the Monster Bus." In another block I saw this bus and had to chuckle. OK maybe things aren't as rough as I thought. An area of Kmart's parking area was cordoned off for rides on this adorable bus. Not so scary after all.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Allison at Homecoming

Allison went to a dance with friends. All are from the Cross Country team except the tall girl in black and white. She's on the golf team. So, it's a group of athletes.

This is the 2nd time Allison has worn a dress since she put her foot down and said, "No dresses" when she was about 3 years old. Sometimes Allison will see a picture of herself in a dress in the first three years of life and complain, "I can't believe you made me wear a dress." I remind her the minute she had opinions about her own clothing choices I let her take over.

The last time she wore a dress willingly was when she was the flower girl at her Aunt and Uncles wedding. She was very happy to be asked to do that for them. She was up to the responsibilities like wearing a dress. No complaints. Fortunately, they let her pick out anything she wanted. I guided her as to what would be proper for a wedding and she made a great choice and it was a great day for all.

As for the Homecoming dance everyone looked great and I hear everyone had a great time.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Quickie Cell Phone Purse

My daughter agreed to go to the Home Coming dance with her friends. She also agreed to wear a dress. This is the 3rd time she's worn a dress in her life. So, I knew carrying a purse was going to be out of the question. I decided to quickly knit up the tiniest bag just big enough to hold her cell phone, student body card and her money. I lined it with a little piece of cotton fabric. She wanted a gold button. I learned how to make an I-cord on my Toyota bulky 650 knitting machine and knitted a long strap she could just drap around one shoulder and not have to mess with all night. This is the best picture I have right now. I'll get a better one when it comes back from the dance.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's the little things...

It's October and my favorite hokey decorative items come out. My candy corn guys really make me smile. I love candy corn and I love October. I love fall and I love Halloween. It might be because my birthday is in October.

I saw these little guys hanging in my local Beverly's craft store many years ago. I took one look at them and had to have them. It was a craft project that looked like it would be fairly easy to do. So, I took pictures of each guy with my Palm Pilot. Yes, these guy have been part of my house for quite a few years. Cell phones did not have cameras at the time. With pictures in my purse I bought 3 (3 1/2"X 3 1/2") pots, some jute and came home to see what paints I had. I was pretty sure I had all the paint I needed and I did.

I painted each pot with stripes of white orange and yellow. I then used a sponge with the orange paint to blur the lines between the colors a bit.
After the paint had dried I went in with red paint and painted those adorable noses and cheeks. I then let that dry.

I was going to paint the black details on when I got to thinking I wonder how a Sharpie would work. I figured if it didn't work I'd paint over it with black paint. As you can see the details I put on with black Sharpie are and crisp and clean as the day I put them one. So, it worked out great. After the Sharpie was dry I went in and put a little dot of white on their eyes to complete their cute look.

Next I cut jute in three different lengths. I knotted each length at one end and pulled it through the hole in the pot. After jute was pulled through each pot and I knotted the 3 jute cords together at the top.

For their legs I had some scrap yellow cotton fabric that I torn in lengths long enough to have a knot at each end and hang down from inside each pot. I hot glued the legs to the knot inside the pot. They are hanging in my kitchen. They make me smile every time I see them, which is probably about 50 times a day.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I've Got You Pegged

I'm catching up on my "This American Life" podcasts (which is wonderful BTW) while crafting today. Today's themes is "I've got you pegged," assuming things about people usually in error. The first story is about a 21 year old woman on a field trip to a museum with her school age developmentally disabled brother. When a museum staff member mistakes her for one of the developmentally disabled children. It's her story about how she didn't want to embarrass the staff member by confessing he's wrong. This story reminded me of something that happened to me years ago.

My husband and I decided to go to Red Lobster for our anniversary. He was being very attentive this evening. The hostess came to get us and see us to our table. My husband gives me his hand to help me out of my chair. He's being gallant. He then takes my hand and wraps it around his arm and leads me off to the table. The hostess says while pointing, "Watch your step." My husband says to me "Be careful there is a step here." We get to our table and my husband takes me to my seat. Pulls out my chair and makes sure I'm seated just the right distance from the table. Even I'm thinking he's going a bit overboard, but when your husband is being sweet I think just let them.

The hostess points out a chalkboard with the "Specials" on it. I look around and can't find it. She points it out again. My head is swinging wildly around the room this time. Again I have no idea where she's pointing. Suddenly, she gasps and says out loud, "You're blind I'm SO sorry!" She runs away. I look oddly at my husband and he to me. When we suddenly notice the "Specials" sign is a giant chalk board for the whole room to see is sitting at the end of our table. It was so close, so big and so obvious we didn't see it. The old cliche' comes to mind "If it were a snake it would have bit us." We laugh that we missed it. Then we wondered why would she think I was blind. Dear hubby and I think back on the last 5 minutes and realize that it probably appeared he had lead in a blind person. We felt so badly that we had accidentally embarrassed our hostess.

(lobster with seeing eye dog)

At this time the waiter comes squats down and starts talking to me like I'm a child... a blind child I suspect. I held in my laughter. Not laughter at the staff for trying to make me feel comfortable, but laughter at the whole situation. The assumptions that were made that made the hostess think I was blind. (You know nervous laughter that can't be helped some times.) My husband holding my hand. My husband taking my arm and helping with my chair on our special day. And the final assumption made that I couldn't see when all that happen was I didn't know the giant sign was sitting on my table. I thought she was pointing across the room. She never said, "The sign is ON your table bonehead." OK she could leave off the bonehead, but at that point I did deserve it.

Here I was faced with the same problem the 21 year old young woman was faced with. How do I get out of this situation without embarrassing everyone. I decided rather than just ride it out like in the first story to just come clean so to speak. The young man was squatted down being so nice and I just said, "I'm sorry, but I'm not blind." Now the puzzled look comes across the waiters face. He quickly stands up. He's now looking at me like I was perpetrating a fraud. I said quickly, "Let me explain what might have happened." I started from the beginning the hand holding, the arm holding, the pointing out of step, the chair sliding and the bonehead mistake of not seeing the sign RIGHT on our table. The waiter is now laughing and all is well. We never did see the poor hostess girl again though. I hope she didn't get teased too much.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What A Boy Wants

A teenage boy that is, who just turned 18 wants for his birthday treat. I asked Erik want kind of cake he wanted for his birthday. I enjoy decorating a cake for my kids' birthdays. Since he was turning 18 I thought he might want something elaborate. He said when asked the question, "Does it have to be a cake?" I thought, "Oh no what am I going to get myself into." I said, "No, it doesn't." He says, "Can I have a giant cookie?!" I wiped my brow as I knew it was going to be a piece of cake! I have a large round Pampered Chef stone (I see they have a handle now a great improvement) perfect for cooking a giant cookie. I doubled our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I wouldn't want my giant cookie to turn into an "almost giant cookie" just because I didn't have enough dough.

How did this become our favorite recipe.... about 22 years ago a friend and I were Ombudsmen for our husbands squadron. We arranged a get together for the wives. She and I each made a batch of chocolate chip cookies for the occasion. As we sat in the empty Naval Hall waiting for the wives to get there I noticed that my cookies were completely different from her cookies. I really liked the look of her cookies. They looked plump and chewy whereas mine were thin and crisp. I asked what recipe she used. She said with her beautiful slow southern drawl, "Oh I always use the recipe on the back of the Nestle's chocolate chips." I quickly said, "No you didn't." She looked at me startled. I had used the recipe on the back of the Nestle chocolate chips and mine were thin and crisp. She laughed and said, "Yes I DID." Again, I said, "No you didn't." I knew she couldn't possibly have used the recipe and have cookies that were so different from mine. We were friends and I knew she wasn't lying, but something was amiss. I went into detective mode.

We had some time before anyone would be showing up. I decided that if she had indeed used the same recipe as me she had to have used a different ingredient. I asked did she follow the recipe precisely. She said, "Yes, I did." I wanted to loudly blurt out "NO YOU DIDN'T" but I could tell it was getting old and I didn't want to hurt her feelings. I was on a mission to discover her secret to such beautiful plump tasty chocolate chip cookies. Something had to be different. So, I went ingredient by ingredient. I said, "I use the Nestle chocolate chips in the yellow bag." She said, "So do I." I said, "I always use unbleached flour." She said, "So do I." I said, "I used unsalted butter." She hesitated and said, "I use shortening." AHA! There is a difference. I asked her what possessed her to use shortening when the recipe calls for butter? In her beautiful slow Arkansas drawl she said, "I guess I use shortening cause my mama always used shortening." She asked me why I used butter? I said, "Cause the recipes asks for it." We both laughed. Ever since then I've always used shortening in my chocolate chip cookies, (said with a slow southern drawl) because my friend Karen from Arkansas' mother always uses shortening." They make the tastiest plump chocolate chip cookies. Right about that time I found this recipe on the insert to Crisco butter flavored sticks and have used it ever since.Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies

3/4 cup Crisco® Butter Shortening OR 3/4 stick Crisco® Butter Shortening Sticks
1 1 /4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 (6 oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)

HEAT oven to 375ºF.

COMBINE shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat in egg. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Mix into shortening mixture until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

DROP by rounded measuring tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.

BAKE 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies, or 11 to 13 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

I vaguely remember a Pampered Chef consultant telling me years ago to use parchment paper to help keep the cookie dough from spreading and running off the stone. So, I cut a circle the size of the stone. Then a spread 3/4 of the cookie dough I made to within about an inch of the edge of the stone. (The rest of the cookie dough I froze in cookie sized balls ready to bake if there is a cookie craving emergency.) I spread the dough probably about and inch thick. I then put it in the oven. Heated as directed in recipe. I baked it the amount of time bar cookies take which is 19-21 minutes. More on the 21 side than 19. As I watched it bake there were a few nail biting moments when I realized 1 1/2 inches from the edge might have been better. All was well though and it did not spread beyond the parchment paper. Magic secret? I don't know. I personally think that's just how far the dough would have gone.

Another satisfied customer. My son was very happy with his cookie. He had a few friends over and I was in the kitchen when one of his friends saw the cookie. The palms of his hands flew to the top of his head. He just stood there for a minute arms dangling from his head and finally said he'd never seen a cookie that big! Mission accomplished. My job was done.

Lynne's Note:  Use 1 1/2 times cookie dough recipe for just the right about of dough.  What looks great is to buy a regular sized bag of dark chocolate kisses.  Unwrap the Kisses and stir them into recipe instead of regular chocolate chips.  This makes the cookie really look giant when the "chocolate chips" are in scale to the size of the cookie.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Industrial Craft Accident

OK it was more of a embarrassing craft accident that nearly sent me to the emergency room. I'm not even joking about that. Here's what happened...

Once upon a time there was a crafty young woman named Lynne, who was doing a little organizing in her craft room. Noticing her crochet hooks were frequently sliding out of her crochet case she purchased a more secure case. The original case was lovingly stitched by her mother and gifted to Lynne when she was a teenager. So, she enjoyed using it. It just had one flaw. It needed a top to stop the crochet hooks from sliding out. Since Lynne has many projects in the works she purchase a new leather case for traveling and would leave the beloved cloth case at home with the extra needles.

One evening while watching a movie with Van Heflin and Joanne Woodward called "Count Three and Pray." Joanne Woodward's first movie by the way. Lynne started organizing her crochet hooks by number. Sliding them one by one into the leather case. Each hook had it's own loop to keep it snug and secure in the case. Problem was the loops were a bit too snug. Each hook had to be wrestled into the loop. Quite a bit of pushing was needed to get it into the loop, but Lynne thought that was fine. She thought the loops would loosen up in time. She continued to read the numbers on the hooks and line them up. She'd been given quite a few tiny lace hooks years ago and it felt good to get them organized. Lynne wasn't planning any lace making sessions, but the tiny hooks were working out great for putting beads into her knitting and crocheting. A new technique she had just learned.
Then the fateful moment arrived. No one would have seen it coming. No one could have even guessed such a thing would happen... could happen. While sliding a crochet hook into it's loop in front of another crochet hook ... I hesitate to state the suspected number of the hook in question as I'm not sure. The number I suspect already has a bad name... so I'll just whisper as to not hurt it's feelings if it's innocent...*number 13." As I forcefully slid the one in front of it I suddenly felt something stick my thumb. I look more closely and I can't believe my dumb luck a crochet hook has pierced the side of my thumb.

It really didn't hurt when it happened. I thought it must have slide into the tough outer layer of skin. As I started to pull it out I realized no it's gone into the flesh and "whew doggy it hurts like a mutha" if I move it. I'm thinking it's just going to have to hurt for a second while I pull it out. I grit my teeth and pull. Nothing. I grit my teeth and pull harder. Nothing budges. Now I examine the other hooks to figure out which side the hook is on so I can maneuver it out of my thumb. Nothing but excruciating pain. I decide at this point to give the hook a twirl and just give it a yank. Yeah I know it's going to pull a plug of flesh out of my thumb, but it will be a teenie tiny plug. Again grit teeth give a firm pull and yank and it won't come out.
(how it was stuck in my thumb)
Now I'm beginning to think "Oh my God am I going to have to go to the emergency room to have this cut out!" HOW EMBARRASSING! A few more yanks and I'm all wet with sweat from the pain. Hook is still attached to my thumb. Now you'd think blood would be spewing all over. No not one drop. With the embarrassment of it all I start to contemplate gnawing my thumb off. Then realize I can't do that I have a picnic the next day. How would I explain my inability to catch a Frisbee with no thumb?!

I calmed down and realize I'm going to have to ask for help. After all I have an RN living right under my dear hubby. By this time of night he's usually asleep on the couch. Tonight he's awake. I said, "Ed are you awake (yes), because I kind of have a serious problem." It's nice that he's an RN, but he's kind of negative and tends to be super cautious. I wanted the "yank the hook out" program and he's not into that at all! He starts stating what might be happening... it could be hooked on a tendon.... it could be hooked on your nail... it could be... blah blah blah and I bluntly cut him off and say again I just need you to yank it out. He states he doesn't want to hurt me... I remind him that there is no way around that. I'm getting super cranky, because of the pain and the fact that he wants to discuss in detail with me at a time I'm in NO mood for details. I ask him to get some ice so I can numb my thumb so it's not so painful when he pulls it out.
I then tell him he might need to put the poodle out of the room. All this time my poodle has been laying on me and comforting me. Funny how they can sense something is wrong. I remind him that she might think he hurting me and bite him. He then tells me it's OK. Erik can drive us both to the emergency room. They won't be laughing at you while I explain why I have a poodle attached to my neck. We both laugh and that does ease the tension. My thumb is now as numb as it's going to get and he forcefully pulls the hook out of my thumb. It was almost a 1/4 of a inch into my thumb. Do you want to see the blood ring on the hook he asks... no I calmly state as I'm putting pressure on my thumb. Still not much blood, but pressure and ice make it feel SO much better at this point.
Ed takes me to the bathroom where he sterilizes my thumb and puts on a band aide. I don't think I'll have a scar ... on my thumb that is... maybe just a scar on my psyche when I'm around small crochet hooks.
So, I must warn that these tiny crotch hooks are deviously sharp. They don't appear that way, but they will slid into your flesh like a hot knife into butter. BEWARE!

Monday, August 31, 2009

August Christmas Card Challenge

This is a tri-shutter card from Split Coast Stampers. When I saw the card I just knew I wanted to make one. After I watched the video tutorial and saw how simple it was to make the base of this card I knew I could make 5 for my monthly Christmas Card Challenge.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thai Steak Wrap Delicious

This is one of my favorite healthy recipes that doesn't taste like a healthy recipe. I got it from a cooking show called "Cooking Thin" on the Food Network. It is not on any more, but I really enjoyed it when it was. Fortunately, one can still find all her great recipes on the Food Network site. I still have this delicious recipe that I make from time to time. Recently, I got to thinking I hadn't made it for a long time. With my new workout and weightloss plan I was craving beef. My trainer was suggesting no beef and for 2 weeks I had none and then couldn't stand it any longer. Decided a delicious healthy beef recipe was in order. Don't let the amount of ingredients scare you away. Most of them are for the rub on the meat. It is a very easy recipe.

Thai Steak Wrap
Recipe courtesy Kathleen Daelemans
6 to 8 servings
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, plus 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 1/4 pound flank steak
1 tablespoon light sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 jalapeno, grated
3 scallions, thinly sliced
8 cups Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
6 to 8 pita wraps, warmed
In a plastic re-sealable bag, combine black pepper, salt, paprika, cumin, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, allspice, 2 teaspoons of ginger, and the chopped parsley. Add flank steak and coat evenly. Seal bag and refrigerate for 1 to 12 hours.
(I find it easier to rub the flank steak down BEFORE I put it in the re-sealable bag.)

Grill for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow meat to rest 10 minutes before slicing. (I didn't have time to light up the grill so I dragged out this contraption. It's my rotisserie, but it's also a grill. I've never used it as a grill. After seeing my parents use it as a grill thought I'd try it. It worked great for the flank steak. 10 minutes on each side cooked a perfectly medium rare flank steak.)

In a small non-reactive bowl, combine sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add remaining ginger and jalapeno.

In a wok pan, combine dressing and scallions. (I don't know how to really use my wok. A wedding gift that's never been used. So, I went to my old stand by large nonstick skillet.)

Cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add cabbage and carrot and toss until heated through, about 3 to 4 minutes.

(Huge pile of veggies reduces to about half in size with cooking.)

Remove from heat and add cilantro. (I let the flank steak rest after grilling and cut into bite sized pieces right before serving. One thing about this recipe it will dye your cutting board orange.)

Combine sliced flank steak and cabbage slaw and serve on warm pita wrap. (I must warn you and as a reminder to myself say the warm pita does not work well at all. The whole thing gets so soggy about bite 2 and starts to fall a part. Then you start eating all the soggy bites first in a race to eat it before it completely falls a part. I've used flat breads, which are hard to find around me that worked better. Hubby suggested we use a tortilla next time. I thought that was a great idea as there are some very good whole wheat tortillas around me.)

On Kathleen's show she did things slightly different than the recipe that I didn't remember until after I completed the recipe. She did not cook the veggies. She tossed all veggies and dressing as if it were a salad. Placed the meet and uncooked veggies on a warm pita for the meal. Any left over flank steak, dressing and veggies were then stir fried the next day for lunch.
I'm drooling just talking about it, so I hope you'll dive in and give this recipe a try.