Friday, December 28, 2012

Les Miserables et Les Horibbles

So here's something I do want to blog about: the new movie of Les Miserbles.  Has anyone seen it yet? 

It's excellent.  I loved it!  I have a kind of personal stake in it being done well because in high school, as part of my school choir, I performed it.  Not the full play, just the music numbers.  While we were learning it, as a surprise, my father took my brother and I (who also sang in the choir's production) to see Les Mis at the Ford Theater, in Detroit. It was so awesome, seeing the musical on stage and getting a real feel for what the songs meant as we learned them at school. 

I never got to see the musical on stage again.  But when the movie version came out a few years ago, I wanted to love it.  And it was OK.  But it just wasn't right without the music.  So when the musical as a movie version was announced, I couldn't wait to see my beloved Les Mis on the big screen!

And, as I said, it was fantastic.  Mostly.  Hugh Jackman as Valjean was brilliant.  Brilliant acting, brilliant singing.  Absolutely embodied the character.  Have I mentioned that he was brilliant??  Samantha Barks, as Eponine, was amazing.  Her voice is so heavenly.  Her waist is so tiny!  She was perfect for the role.  Sasha Baron Cohen was born to be Thenardier.  Slimy, detestable, clever, and funny.  And his singing never distracted from his performance.  Those three were the best, for sure.

Honorable mention goes to Marius, who was a bit strange looking, but who had a wonderful voice.  If only his vibrato didn't make his whole head shake like he had Parkinson's!  And both Helena Bonham-Carter and Anne Hathaway did great job in their acting and adequately in their singing. 

But then there's Russel Crowe.  True, I've never been a Russel Crowe fan.  And that's putting it mildly. But I went into this movie with a totally open mind because I love the play so much. I was willing to completely revise my opinion of him if he did Javert justice.  But alas, there was no justice for Javert.  There was only betrayal.  Crowe's voice was OK.  I mean, it lacks some skill, but the tone is rich and pleasing.  It was his ACTING that was the problem.  FLAT.  His expression was flat in every scene.   Look at Hugh Jackman--in one scene you can see his face express 20 different emotions.  He uses his eyes, his eyebrows, his mouth, his cheeks, his head, his shoulders...all of them change the nuances of what his character is feeling.  Russel Crowe?  His expression changes between irritated and annoyed the entire movie.  He never quite reaches angry, fierce, passionate, brutal, or driven--all the things you'd expect from Javert.   There's just this sort of half dazed, half mad look on his face in every scene.  Such a disappointment!

And Amanda Seyfried...why oh why did they give that part to her???  There's NO ONE in Hollywood under age 30 that can sing better than her?!?  REALLY?  I find that so hard to believe.  And yet they chose her.  She looks the part.  Her acting is fine.  But her voice--that hummingbird vibrato that sounds like Woody Woodpecker on speed!  It brought to mind the Lollipop Kids from Munchkin Land more than a love-sick Parisienne.  Such a pity!!!

Anyway, despite those two, the movie was excellent.  It was all I could do not to sing along with the movie, but I guess everyone else around me was too chicken cause no one else was singing.  Not even Big Daddy, who just happens to be as big a fan of Les Mis as me.  So I kept it all inside.  And now I'm paying for it.  Javert, Valjean, and Fontine are in my head in the morning, in the shower, when I'm trying to nap, when I'm cooking dinner, and most especially when I'm trying to sleep at night.  I love that score, but, sacre bleu, I'm getting tired of it fast!

What did you think of the movie?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Deep Thoughts about Blogging.

It's ironic to me that when I first started blogging, 5 years or so ago, no minutia of my life seemed too small to write about.  I could blog 2 or 3 times a day at my peak.  And now I'm lucky if I find one thing in a month worthy of writing about.  Why?  Is my life more boring?  Is it just that kids dominate my life more?  I do have one more now.  Maybe it's the lack of reciprocity to drive me?  I don't know.  But seriously, what did I write about then??  And why don't I write about it now?

Maybe, for example, I could write about how I have been working out like crazy at the gym and am in the best shape of my life right now.  Weights.  It's all about the weights.  Well, and the fact that I joined the country club of gyms doesn't hurt. 

Or I could write about how I took TWO fantastic trips in December, one to Texas to visit my sister (with kids) and one to St. Thomas with my hottie husband (SANS kids!).  I could even include the part about the lady who decided to have a baby on the plane so we had to make an emergency stop in Denver, causing us to arrive at our home airport at 2am, so you wouldn't be jealous.

I could write about Pippa,  She's 19 months now and doing all kinds of super cute and super naughty things.  Usually they're naughty but also cute simultaneously, which makes discipline a challenge.  It's hard to yell "NO!" sternly when you're secretly busting a gut.

I could write about the adventures of raising a mini version of my mother, with all the brilliant creativity and vivid imagination and total lack of social skills that make you laugh at a 7 year old (but not so much at a 70 year old). 

I could even write about the delicious foods I've made lately: the amazing cinnamon almonds, the bacon-sausage-apple cornbread stuffing, the cranberry apple salad.  They're good recipes, I swear!

But...I'm not.  WHY?  I don't know.  And I'm not sure anyone reads my blog anymore, so who cares?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Making Your Life Easier - Meat-wise.

I don't remember where I learned these tips.  Maybe I saw them on TV or read about them somewhere?  But for at least 6 or 7 years, I've been following these little tips when I buy fresh meat to keep it fresher, make it easier to freeze and defrost, and to utilize it better in recipes. 

A little background:  Growing up, my mom usually bought quantities of meat the size of a small elephant and then threw them in the freezer just how they came.  I remember having to defrost giant 4 lb blocks of hamburger just to get out the 1/2 lb that I needed.  And making that harder was the fact that it was still wrapped in plastic wrap around a Styrofoam dish or in a big wad of waxed butcher paper, meaning it would leak all over as it defrosted.  I continued doing this myself my first few years of marriage, not really knowing what other options there were.  So when I came across these ideas of how to process and freeze meat more easily, I jumped on them. 

Here is what you will need:

  • Several medium (quart size ) Ziplock freezer bags.  (I Recommend Ziplock brand.  In my experience, the store brand ones leak, allow freezer burn, and do not zip well. This is one thing I won't cheap out on.  It means ruined meat, and meat is just too expensive to waste to save a few cents on baggies.)
  • A kitchen scale (optional)
  • A permanent marker (Sharpie-esque)
  • Meat.  (Fresh, not frozen)

Step 1:  Gather all your items before you start!   Once you start touching the meat, you don't want to go searching through the drawer for a Sharpie or baggie -- it spreads contamination.

Step 2: Cut open the plastic wrap on all your meat at once.  It's easier if it's all ready to grab. 

Step 3:  If you want to weigh your meat so you know exactly how much is in each baggie, this is where you would do it.  I generally eyeball it.  For chicken breasts, I care more about how many there are in a bag than the weight.  Or if I buy ground meat, I'll divide it in 2 or 3 sections (1/2 lb or 1 lb each, approximately) depending on the total weight I bought, which is how much I use for spaghetti sauce, tacos, and hamburgers, respectively.  But if you want to measure it, take a plate, place it on the scale, zero it out (most scales have this function--where you can reset it to zero after placing a container on it so that it doesn't include the container's weight), and weigh each amount.  Once weighed, move on to Step 4.

Step 4:  Get a Ziplock bag and turn it inside out.  Place your hand inside it, like it is a mitten. 

Step 5:  Grab the meat you want with the baggie mitten.  Think about how much you generally use for your recipes.  You can grab 2-3 chicken breasts at a time this way.  If you want more per baggie, put a second baggie mitten on the other hand to help stuff the first baggie.  If you are using a weighed portion, grab it off the scale with the baggie mitten.  Then, using your free hand, grab the lip of the baggie and pull it up, right-side out, around the meat.  If you do this just right, you can get all your meat put away without ever coming in contact with it!

Step 6:  Before you seal the bag, squish as much air out as you can.  If you're using ground meat, smash the meat wad as flat as you can and spread it out inside the bag.  This will make it way faster to defrost and also get rid of the air pocket inside.  Air inside causes freezer burn, and it makes the baggie bigger (i.e. takes up more space).   Now seal the bag carefully leaving no gaps in the zipper.

Step 7:   Write what is in the baggie.  Although it may seem obvious what is inside while it's fresh, after a few days in the freezer, it's hard to tell frozen pork from frozen steak, ground beef from ground turkey.  Some bags become total mystery meat!  Reading what it is and how old it is will quickly let you pick the right meat and make sure you use the oldest first.  You want to write: A) The contents  B) The weight, if desired  C) The date (month and year). 

Step 8:  Put your meat in the freezer, placing what you just bought underneath any meat that is already there.  You always want to use the oldest first (unless it's too old.  Obviously throw it away if it's more than 6 months old!)  If you  always throw new meat on top, you're likely to waste a lot of meat (namely the stuff on the bottom that you never get to until it's grey and mummified!)

That's it!  The instructions are way longer than the process actually takes.  I can buy a package of ground turkey, 6 chicken breasts, 4 steaks, and 4 pork chops and have  it all put away in correct portions in about 5 minutes.  Although it seems like more work to do this, when it comes time to cook, you'll be so happy when you open the freezer and there is the meat you need, already portioned out and ready to cook!  It takes less time to defrost when it's in smaller portions, and if it's free of packaging materials, air, and freezer burn, it's going to turn out way better too.

 Happy cooking!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Wrap Up

I swear, Halloween is the most stressful holiday of them all!  I love it.  It's my favorite, by far.  But it is also the most activity intensive for a mother with young kids because there are pumpkins to pick out and then carve (meaning I scoop out all the guts, they draw the face on, and then I do all the carving), class parties, costumes to pick, order, return when they change their mind and then reorder with express shipping, then tune up when they arrive to meet my children's exact specifications, trunk or treats to cook for and then attend,  make up to do, neighbors to "boo," miles of trick or treating to walk, and then, oh yeah, as an afterthought, it's my husband's birthday!  Poor guy.  He always gets the shaft.  So even though I adore Halloween, I have to admit I always breathe a BIG sigh of relief when November 1st dawns.

So here are the costumes for this year...

Sticking with the big cat theme from last year, Daphne was a leopard.  She wanted to be Marseline from Adventure Time, but once she found out she'd have to wear boots, that was off the table immediately.  Too bad.  It would have been so cool.

Trunk Or Treat Version...

School Version....

(The Trick or Treat version featured no face make-up at all!  She was totally sick of it by then.  Thanks a lot, pre-Halloween festivities!)

Beck was the Gold Power Ranger, otherwise known as the Hot Power Ranger, Antonio.

Oh wait, I guess you want to see Beck.  Fine.

The No-Masks-Allowed-At-School version...

The Wore-His-Mask-But-Mostly-On-The -Top-Of-His-Head-So-He -Could-Actually-See version...

Pippa was an angel.  Not behaviorally, just in costume.  I had picked out a really cute pig costume, but then I decided she could just wear Daphne's butterfly one from that age.  But then Big Daddy said that was lame, so I went to order the pig, but it was all sold out.  As were the other 15 choices on my list.  So we ended up with the angel, the only thing in her size NOT sold out the week before Halloween.  It turned out pretty cute, execept that she wouldn't hold still long enough for me to get a good shot!  Some angel.


This one isn't too bad, but the backdrop leaves something to be desired...

 Ah, finally.  Decent backdrop AND she isn't moving.  It'll have to do...
I dressed up in my old standby, the Zombie Prom Queen.  I volunteered to go tell spooky stories in Beck's class at school, so I thought it would be fitting.  But then I realized that Kindergarteners don't really know what a Prom Queen is, so I left off the sash and just called myself a Zombie Princess this year.  They still all thought I was a vampire or a witch.  Dumb 5 year olds.  (JK!)

For Big Daddy's birthday, he got a nice big serving of (leftover) chocolate cake (that was too chocolatey for him.  Weirdo.) with a star shaped candle on it (all I could find) that his son blew out (BECK!!) before we abandoned him with the baby to go trick or treating.  So, ya.  Pretty lame.  Like every year.  Sorry, Sweetie.  At least you got to golf with three of your best friends on the most beautiful Halloween on record, right?

So that about wraps it up.   I narrowly missed having a nervous breakdown, and it took me 6 hours to scrub all that face paint of Daphne, Beck, and myself, but it was all worth it.  Just, please, next year remind me to start getting ready in September!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Water Water Everywhere...

I was on a good roll there for a while.  Not that I still have any readers.  But I do like to blog.  Only now I seriously can't think of a single thing to blog about!  Has my life become so boring??  Um, ya.  Pretty much.  Unless you consider new laundry room shelves thrilling to read about.  (They actually are pretty thrilling.  Just not for YOU.)

But this morning I thought of something REALLY EXCITING to write about: Water!  Ya, I know what you're thinking...maybe I should just stick to laundry room shelf posts, right?  But really, I have a serious problem with water.  Water cups, to be specific.  Have you noticed lately that all the fast food and fast sit-down restaurants (you know, like Cafe Rio and Zupas) all give you these minuscule cups if you order water? I swear, the cups are smaller than the cups that come out of those Dixie cup dispensers!  You know, just because I'm ordering water doesn't mean I should be punished with a shot glass sized drink.  I'm not cheap.  It's not a money thing. Trust me, I would much rather be drinking a 64oz Coke!  But I'm generally on a diet, or else I've already had my daily allowance of calorie-free liquid carcinogen, so I'm trying to be more healthy.  But I feel lately like restaurants are trying to make me feel like a second rate citizen for ordering water!

My two biggest pet peeves in the water cup department are:

1) the clear plastic cup with no lid.   Have you gotten these?  It's like a whole different category of cup; not Styrofoam, not regular plastic, not cardboard.  It's like those little tiny disposable cups you get in hospital to wash your pills down with, only slightly bigger. And it doesn't have a lid.  So I'm supposed to carry a cup full of icy water on a tray with other food, with one hand, while I wrangle my toddler with my other hand, across a crowded restaurant, while I try to find a table, without spilling a drop, and then try to eat my meal without my baby dumping that water on me or herself??  Why can't I just get a regular cup FORPETESSAKE??  I've asked them if I could please get my water in a bigger cup, and they say yes that'll be $2.50 please.  FOR THE CUP?  The empty cup?  That I'm going to put regular tap water in?  Is your tap water made of GOLD??

2) My other pet peeve is the mini-cup at the drive-through.  Although the above scenario irritates me to no end, at least I have the option of going back up to the drink dispensers every 15 seconds to refill my 1/4 cup of water.  But when I'm in the drive through and they hand me, literally, a cup that is half the size of my kids' kids meal drinks, I lose it.   How am I supposed to refill that when I'm 8 feet down the road and it runs out? 

Mostly the thing that bugs me is that these restaurants seem bent on trying to make me feel like a loser for ordering the most healthy drink on this earth.   The one thing our bodies can't live without, and I get a big, plastic guilt trip every time I order one.  Well, a tiny plastic guilt trip.  Sometimes they'll give me a bigger cup if I ask for one, but sometimes they really won't and they try to tell me it's some kind of company policy:  I'm sorry, ma'am, it says right here that I can't provide a water cup bigger than a thimble or I'll be fired.

Think twice, lame restaurants.  You're not going to make me change my drink order all of the sudden just because you hand me 2 oz of water. ("Oh, I only get that much water??  Well then, by all means change my drink to an extra large Oreo shake!")  So you might as well pony up the 2 cents it costs you for that bigger cup and fill it with that ultra expensive WATER and hand it over to me with a smile.  AND A LID!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fruit Fly Remedy

It's October....shouldn't the fruit flies have died a slow, frosty death by now??  My doors are seldom left open long these days, and yet these little pests continue to find their way to my fruit, time after time.  They're not the worst thing to find in your house, but I still hate knowing they're around.  So recently when my mother-in-law told me about a simple, non-toxic remedy to get rid of fruit flies made of common household products, I was eager to try it.  And guess what?  It works like a charm!  And it could not be easier to make.  Here's what you'll need:

Apple Cider Vinegar (or other vinegar)
Karo Syrup (corn syrup)
Liquid dish soap
small shallow dish

Instructions:  Get a small, shallow dish.  I use a baking ramekin because the surface is so smooth, sometimes the flies fall right in just perching on the edge!  DIE, SUCKAS!  Pour about 1/4-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar in the dish (should be about 1/2 inch deep).  You can use other vinegars, but the smell of apple cider vinegar mimics the smell of fermenting fruit so well, it's got to be a fruit fly's fondest dream!  Next pour about 1 teaspoon of Karo syrup into the ramekin.  I don't measure it, but it eyeballs out to be a dollop the size of a quarter.  Last pour in 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap.  Stir it up gently until it's evenly mixed; you don't want to make bubbles.  Set it out on the counter a foot or two away from your fruit.

This works so well, that literally within 3-4 minutes of setting it out, the first fruit fly will bite the dust.  I took this picture 20 minutes later:

It's hard to see because they mostly sink, but there are already 9 fruit flies in there!  And the crazy thing is, although it never seems like there are more than 2 or 3 flying around, by a few hours later, my dish will be full of at least 30-50 fruit flies! 


As my flies converge, gorge and die, I leave the dish out--maybe a day--then I dump it out. If I continue to see fruit flies, I refill it. But as long as I don't leave out any cut fruit or leave fruit with bruises or wounds in the bowl, they usually stay away from then on.

Easy, huh?  Try it and see how fast those suckers dive into your apple cider death trap! 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Do Mormons Believe?

I'm a Mormon.  Maybe my readers know that, maybe not.  A lot of my readers are friends, or friends of friends, or acquaintances and virtual acquaintances through the local and distant blogosphere.  Those close by probably know what Mormons are;  I live in Utah, and pretty much everyone here knows what a Mormon is.  But some people I blog with or who randomly chance upon my blog have no idea who I am and maybe no idea even what a Mormon is.  And with the U.S. Presidential elections right around the corner, I'm guessing the news of Mitt Romney, the republican presedential candidate, being Mormon is pretty top on people's minds.  So even though I'm not generally much of a preacher about my religion, and I'm not a Republican, and I'm very sensitive to letting people decide for themselves what to believe and how to live their lives, I thought I'd put on my own thoughts on what it means to be a Mormon.

First of all, Mormons are Christians.  You might not know that.  Or you might have been told otherwise.  It surprises every Mormon that there is even debate about this, but somehow there is.  Our church is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Waaaay to long to say every time!  So we got called Mormons somewhere down the line.  But for us, Jesus Christ is the head of our church, the center of our lives, and the person after whom we try to pattern our thoughts and actions.  We believe Jesus Christ is a real person, and the Son of God.  We also believe He lived the most perfect, kind, amazing life, and that by following His example, we have the highest chance at happiness in our own lives, and the greatest chance of returning to Heaven and living with Him and with God some day.

The thing that made me think of writing this post was that I was listening to a CD last Sunday that my kids got at church.  It was a CD of all the songs they were learning for the church Primary program (the Primary is the organization we have for kids ages 3-12).  A few times a year, the kids put on a program for our church meeting where they sing and recite scriptures and sometimes do little skits about what they believe.  While listening to the CD of this year's songs, I thought, pretty much everything we believe, everything significant we stand for, is in these songs.  If anyone want to know what a Mormon really believed, they should listen to what we're teaching our kids.  What our kids learn every single week at church, all year long, is what they will believe when they grow up.  There isn't some mystical illumination between childhood and adulthood where everything we've been taught changes.  We believe what we've practiced since we were small.  I feel like for some reason there are people out there (oddly, mostly other Christians) who seem bent on proving that Mormons believe other than what we profess to believe.  So here it is, the truest example of what we believe: it's what we teach our kids, through song.

Mormon Children's Songs

This is a link to the songs that are on the 2012 children's Primary Program CD.  If you really want to know what we believe, start here.   Of course, there's more.  But everything basic we believe and hope for our children to believe is within these inspired words.  Scroll down until you see the MP3 icons, and choose" MP3 Music and Voice."  Click on each one to listen to the words and hear the things Mormons believe. 

If you have other questions, feel free to ask me!  Or you can go here to order a copy of the Book of Mormon, one of the scriptures we use along side the Old Testament and New Testament, to teach us of Jesus Christ.  It teaches a lot about who we are.
 What ever else Mormons believe that may or may not invite controversy, to me the most important thing about us, the thing that keeps me wanting to be a member of this church, is the fact that I've never found another life path--in all my travels all over the world, and in all my studies of world religions--that helps me be a better person and which has my ultimate happiness in mind.  I am a kinder, more generous, more honest person because of my Mormon beliefs.  I am a better mother, a truer friend, a more faithful wife, a more caring neighbor.  I avoid common pitfalls that are rampant in our society today like drugs, alcohol addiction, and infidelity.  My children will have a fighting chance to keep from ruining their lives because they have a moral compass that always leads them back to true north, back to God.   That's what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints means to me.  I hope sharing this has helped anyone wondering about what we believe hear it from a real Mormon. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Apple Salad With Cinnamon Yogurt Sauce

ACK!  It's almost fall!  Mostly I'm sad about that; I'm a spring/summer person.   But there are a few perks to fall: 1) jeans.  I really hate wearing capris.  I've missed my jeans!  2) My skin usually improves.  No idea why.  3) Comfort food!  I feel guilty eating comfort food in the summer.  Like I'm a sinner if I don't eat salad twice a day.  But once the weather turns cold, bring on the rolls and the gravy!  4) Apples.  I love how apple prices get super low in the fall and I can make apple cake or apple pie dirt cheap!  Here is one of my favorite fall apple recipes.  I invented it myself.  It's kind of a variation on Waldorf salad, only way yummier.  Think Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's "apple pie" caramel apple.   In fact, it can barely be called a salad--it's good enough to be a dessert.  (Just the way a salad should be!)

Apple Salad With Cinnamon Vanilla Yogurt Sauce and Candied Pecans

7-8 crisp apples, washed.*  I like half red and half yellow ones.  (Not Granny Smith!)
2 single-serving containers vanilla yogurt
1 bunch red grapes (about enough to fill a measuring cup)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup pecan pieces
1/3 cup sugar

* It took me years to figure out how to get a nice, crisp, non-mealy apple.  There are two keys:  1) The kind of apple.  My favorites are Braeburns, with Galas and Johnathans as runners up, and Golden Delicious if you like a sweeter apple. Don't buy red delicious- they are always mealy.  I don't like Fujis for that reason either--too inconsistent.   2) Squeeze the apple.  You shouldn't be able to feel any give, no matter how hard you press your fingertips into the apple.  If you feel the apple give under your fingers, forget it.  It's a mealy apple.  A rock hard apple will be crisp and delicious!

Here are your ingredients:

First you will make your pecans.  This is the most time intensive part of the recipe, and it takes all of 5 minutes.  You want to prep your landing zone first.  So lay out a square piece of aluminum foil and spray it with Pam.   Also spray your stirring spoon with Pam--caramelized sugar is hard to get off, even in the dishwasher!  Then, in a small saucepan (also sprayed with Pam) on medium heat, dump your pecans and sugar.  Stir occasionally (every 20-30 seconds) until you start to notice the sugar crystals melting on the bottom of the pan.  At this point, lower the heat a little and start stirring pretty continuously (about every 5 seconds).  Your sugar will first melt (clear) and then begin to caramelize (golden, like caramel!).

This process will simultaneously brown your nuts and crisp them up.  But you don't want them to burn--which can happen pretty fast once the sugar melts-- so as soon as you see the sugar pretty liquefied (either clear or golden) and sticking to the nuts, remove the nuts from the heat and pour them onto the foil.  Spread them out with your stirring spoon so that they are pretty flat, not in mounds.  Let them cool while you make the rest of the salad.

For the salad, cut the grapes in half and throw them in a big mixing bowl. Don't use the bowl you'll serve them in because it's going to get pretty messy.  Next cut the apples. If you don't have one of these handy gadgets, go get one!  They're brilliant.  They slice and core the apple at the same time. 

You want the pieces to be bite size, so cut the slices into chunks and throw them in with the grapes.  (I don't peel my apples--they brown too quickly if you do.  Plus, the color of the salad is much better with the skins on.)

Next pour in both containers of vanilla yogurt.  Add the cinnamon.  Stir it all up really nicely.  Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.


Just before serving, break up the pecans.  I like to cover them with a little wax paper and smash them gently with a meat hammer.  But you could put them in a baggie and hit them with a heavy book or something a few times if you don't have a meat hammer.  It doesn't matter.  Just make sure they're broken into small pieces because they will have cooled into a giant hard sheet of nuts.  Then transfer your salad into a pretty bowl, and sprinkle with the candied pecans.

Voila!  The prettiest, yummiest thing healthy enough to get away with being called a salad!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Tomato By Any Other Name Would Still Taste As Gross

...or would it?

I hate tomatoes.  Have always hated tomatoes, for as far back as I can remember tomatoes have made me want to barf, copiously.  So slimy!  So bitter.  So reminiscent of putrid dirt coated in mucus.  So utterly, absolutely disgusting!

Growing up, our mom let us choose 2 foods we never had to eat.  I had three foods I detested, so I had to do some fancy footwork any time something I didn't like was served, trying to assure my mom that tonight's food was one of my two foods.  Squash and bananas rotated through.  But tomatoes?  They were always on my list of "won't eats."  I let liver stay on my list more often than tomatoes!  (And, yes, my mother actually served us LIVER!  And you thought YOUR parents were mean.)

Anyway, I hated tomatoes so much it took me all the way to high school before I ever tried salsa for the first time.  And even then, I would only dip the chips in the watery stuff around the tomatoes and then shake the chip off.  Tomato soup was out.  Tomatoes on sandwiches were a deal breaker.  Even soups and stews and chili with obvious tomatoes were given the heave ho. 

And then, about a year ago, I went to a wonderful restaurant with a girlfriend where they serve primarily home-grown, local, organic, and scratch-made food.  We decided to share a salad for an appetizer that I thought was a green salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil on it.  It was listed as a SALAD, you know.  But when it was served it was just tomatoes with mozzarella and basil on top!  That's not a salad, that's a travesty!  That travesty is called a caprese, which everyone on earth who eats tomatoes would probably have immediately recognized from the description.  But being a tomato hater, I was clueless.  And now I didn't know what I was going to do. So as I sat there contemplating just how rude it would be on a scale of 1-10 to eat all the cheese myself and leave my friend with the nasty tomatoes, she took a bite of one...and proceeded to assure me how delicious it was.  (YA RIGHT.  I've heard these tomato tricks before.  My dad has been pulling them on me since I was born.)  But since, ultimately, eating all the cheese would have scored me at least an 8 1/2 on the dirtbag scale, I decided to suck it up and eat a tiny sliver of tomato with my cheese.  (I'm SUCH a good friend.)  And can you imagine what happened next?   I did NOT puke!  In fact, I was stunned to discover that this tomato was honestly not disgusting!  Actually edible. Borderline...good??  Well, I won't go that far, but very very NOT AWFUL! 

How could this be???  I have two words for you:


Don't ask me why God created a whole class of tomatoes that are not revolting and then hid them away for 30 odd years while tricking us all into eating the revolting kind, but He did.  Heirloom tomatoes are not gross!  Really!  Take it from a true tomato despiser. 

Of course, I thought it might be a fluke. So a full year later I raised the courage to try them again.  I bought some baby heirloom tomatoes at the organic store this week, bought a basil plant, made a balsamic vinegar reduction, and cut up some fresh mozzarella balls.  I put it all on top of toasted baguette (because I figured drowning tomatoes out with strong bread is never a bad idea...just in case they revert to being revolting) and drizzled the whole thing with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  And, miraculously, once again, I actually ate tomatoes that didn't make me want to barf!  Now, I won't say I want to marry an heirloom tomato or anything.  But I just wanted to share this little piece of information:  if you're ever backed into a corner where you are forced to take hot needles in the eye or eat tomatoes, ask for an heirloom!  Your eyes will thank me. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

New House Finds

As I was saying, when we first got married, we had a lot of random, ugly, hand-me-down, thrift store furniture.  We slowly replaced those as time went by.   But our tastes have developed since then. And the colors we like have changed.  And we can finally buy things that haven't been in 20 households before ours.  So I've really enjoyed having carte blanche to spruce up our decor with my garage sale money.   

First stop: Etsy. To comission new throw pillows for the living room/family room (we're now back down to one common room from three, unless you count the spot in the unfinished basement where we've stowed the big TV and the old sectional. I don't.) We've had the same living room decor since we got married.  A black/grey/beige theme. Stripes. Very masculine.  Not ugly.  But very very...neutral.  And our dining room was shades of gold and red.  Jewel tones.  Very rich.  I'm over it.  Here, this new house is very modern.  Clean lines.  Grey linen tiles.  White trim.  Chrome.  Black leather furniture.  I love it.  But it is also quite neutral.  So here's what I got to liven things up and give the room some punch:

Also to correspond with those, curtains.   My old kitchen was aqua with red accents.  I LOVE red and aqua together.  But this house has pale grey walls.  A lovely shade.  And I'm not about to paint over them and then paint them back in a year, so grey they will stay.  In order to bring in more of the aqau (more of a robin's egg blue, really) I've gotten curtains in that shade.

And there are the red and aqua accents in the media cabinet.  Some really fun ones.



 Lastly, I have these great apothecary jars that I like to fill with seasonal things when the fall and spring holidays come around.  But I realized recently that I don't have anything to fill them with inbetween holidays.  So I comissioned these fantastic felt swirls.   Thank you again, Etsy!


I also filled one with red and aqua ribbons. 

The third jar I haven't decided on, but I think I'll try to find some aqua glass pebbles or something.  Anyone have any other cute ideas for filling apothecary jars with either bright red or robin's egg blue items? 

So those are a few of my favorite new decor items.  Hooray for new things!  And garage sales to pay for them!

Cry Baby

Ok, I'll get back to my house posting soon .  I haven't forgotten (and I know SO MANY of you are waiting to find out what cute accessories I've bought for my house. Right.)

But right now I need to wax sentimental.  Because my baby boy is a big boy.  My sweet, chubby, lovey dovey, cuddley, singing, dancing, sweatheart of a mama's boy somehow grew up, despite my repeated demands that he return to age 3.  Nope.  He's a Kindergartener now.  Triator!

We just moved, if you didn't know.  Everything in our lives is new--new house, new friends, new church, new school.  And Beck could not wait for his new school, to go to REAL school with the big kids.  To get homework like the big kids.  To go every single day like the big kids.  I tried to tell him that being big is overrated.  He wasn't buying it. 

I didn't think him going to school would hit me so hard, because as I walked him out to the bus stop on his first day, I wasn't emotional at all.  We sat and waited for about 20 minutes because the bus was SUPER late (and because I couldn't keep him in the house another minute when he knew it was 10 minutes until the bus.) So we skipped rocks from the neighbor's landscaping in to a mud puddle by the road.  We climbed the tree across the street.  We reviewed instructions for exiting the bus at school and finding the right classroom (because Beck is REALLY into instructions and rules, and going over them is one of his favorite things to do. No, I'm not joking.  He loves it!)  We watched three different (wrong) buses go by and jumped excitedly each time.  Finally THE bus came.  Beck ran to the door and I could only barely stop him in the doorway in time to snap this shot by screaming WAAAAIT!

We had a Forest Gump moment when the skinny, tan, bleach-haired old lady driving the bus introduced herself (Tawna) and asked Beck's name and told him she'd be his driver to Kindergarten.  And then they drove away.  I couldn't see where Beck sat down.  But I waved like crazy anyway in case he was looking.  And then I stood there while the cars that had waited behind the bus began to move forward.  And all three cars smiled at me and either waved or gave me the thumbs up.  All women.  All, undoubtedly, moms.  I had just completed a rite of passage.  And that's when I started to bawl.  Right there on the pavement next to the bus stop, I cried like a baby that my baby boy was a big boy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2012 House

As my most avid readers know, our story began in a house built in 1895.  A charming, Victorian, pink brink house.  We spent the first 8 years of our marriage there, restoring it and beginning our family.  When we outgrew it, reluctantly we moved.  Our new house was large and spacious!  And we'd moved forward a whole century, to 1999.  But it was almost entirely lacking in interest and character.  Well, we recently moved again.  This time we're in a smaller house than our last, bigger than the first, newer than the last and almost as charming as the first.  We like it a lot.  It suits us.  It's comfortable and fun and light and NEW.   But it's temporary.  We're going to build our dreamhouse soon.  This is just a jumping off point to OUR house. 

Moving sucks.  Packing takes FOREVER.  Trying to pack while taking care of three kids is maddening.  And then there's all the lifting and carrying and sneezing from the dust and trying to sort through stuff and decide if you really really need it or not and then giving up and just throwing it all in a box so you can ponder over it again as you UNpack it.  It takes over your life. 

Most definitely the best part about moving, though, is unpacking.  I totally LOVE unpacking.  Getting into a new house and deciding where everything will go, making order out of chaos, getting a fresh start with your drawers and's very very appealing to me.  I actually might, hypothetically, let someone help me pack, although the control freak in me would have a very hard time with it.  But I would be downright FURIOUS if someone tried to unpack my house for me.  It's just one of my favorite things.

The other best part about moving is re-decorating.  I didn't do much redecorating on our last move.  We did buy some new furniture since we went from one common area (a living room) to three (living room, family room, media room).  This time, Big Daddy told me I could keep the money we made from our garage sale for redecorating.  We didn't sell 1/10 of what we had.  I was very disappointed at how much stuff we ended up giving to good will or taking with us.  But I still got $420 out of it, and I have had a BLAST spending it! 

Back when we first got married, we were too poor to afford anything nice.  All our furniture was hand-me-downs and thrift sore finds.  Slowly we replaced all that junk, a thing at a time.  But the things we did buy didn't always speak to me.  I don't know if I was trying to please my husband by picking things I thought he would like or if I just didn't know what I liked.  But we ended up with a lot of grey and black and beige.  And I don't know if I was ever crazy about it, but I know I'm not now. Looking at my living room decor is just depressing. So moving offered me the chance at a fresh start.  The chance to find something I really really liked.  And I have!  I la-la-la-LOVE my new living room!

Tune in soon to see what I've found!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Maybe A Come-back, Oh, And Thoughts on A Daughter.

Three miracles happened today. Miracle One: I blogged. Am blogging. That in itself is miraculous. Considering that I have a 1 year old who not only walks but runs now, climbs, is very adventurous, not at all shy of people or new places, it is a miracle that I have blogged. But also considering that I've just moved only two weeks ago and am already finding time to blog...well, no one can doubt the existence of miracles NOW, right? And I have this really ambitious intention to begin blogging again. Regularly. Readers or no. Because I like it.

Miracle Two: We bought Daphne school shoes. On the FIRST try! If you don't know Daphne, then you don't know that she is quite...strong-willed. She has a definite mind about what she wants and it seldom if ever includes input from anyone else, especially her parents. She also has a sensory disorder where everything must be soft, flexible, comfortable, lacking in seams, buttons, snaps, rivets, or anything else that "feels weird," which most everything does when you have a sensory processing disorder. Last summer, the ONLY shoes she would wear were a pair of Crocs. This summer I bought her the exact same Crocs, but they "felt weird" and she would not wear them. I have literally 8 pairs of completely pristine, unworn shoes I've bought her over the last year that she has rejected on one ground or another. They're too small, they're too big, they're too shiny, they pinch, they fall off when I run...the list goes on. So imagine my extreme surprise when we took her to Target today and the first pair of shoes we picked out and tried on her she accepted! I don't chalk it up to the shoes. I chalk it up to her new meds. Whatever it was, I was overjoyed.

Miracle Three: Daphne slept in her covers. Regular sheet and blanket covers. I think the last time this happened was two or maybe three years ago. For some reason (related to her sensory disorder as well as her majorly active imagination), she decided a while back that she had to have her soft blankie (a fleece blanket she's had since about age 3) tucked into the bed between the sheet and her. She liked the feel of it, I suppose. She put it between herself and the sheet so often that it became ratty. I really REALLY wanted to 
throw it awayaccidentally misplace it in the wash. But then, in a miracle of its own, for Christmas a year ago, she got a new soft, fleece blanket from her teacher at church that she liked BETTER. The old one was replaced. But the new one only lasted a couple of months until she fell asleep with silly putty on it one night. We bought her a new fleece blanket and that lasted a couple of months until, one night, she had a dream about spiders in the bed. And from that day forth, she wouldnt' sleep in the covers at all. Only on top with her fleece blankie. She always kicked it off in her sleep and woke up cold, but nothing we said would convince her to get back in the covers. It's been at least 9 months that since that change. And then, for her birthday 2 months ago, she got an owl towel from her Auntie Sara. Little did I suspect this would become her new favorite bed cover. But it did. A big brown towel with one corner made into a hood the shape of an owl's head. And that's ALL she would sleep with. No sheet, no comforter, no fleece blanket. Nothing but this owl towl wrapped part way around her. Until tonight. Bizarrely, when I went to tuck her in (i.e. put her owl towl on her head), and told her it was in the wash, she said, "It's OK, Mom. I'm going to sleep in the covers tonight." That's it. No owl towel, no fleece blanket. Just IN the covers--sheet, comforter, girl. Period.

But still two pillows, a box of tissues, two lights on, and 25 stuffed animals.

Sometimes the small miracles are the best ones of all.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stained Glass, Exibit...Uh, I lost count

Yowza.  It's been like 4 weeks since I posted.  That's got to be my longest stretch of dead air.  Whoopsie.  Well anyway, I'm sure you were all DYING with anticipation over the last month to see my final product from my stained glass making class.   I can barely even remember what I did the whole last class, but fortunately, I took pictures to remind me.  Yay for virtual memory!

Here it goes:

First you have to hammer nails all around your window, against each piece of glass, to hold the whole thing in place while you solder.  You don't want it shifting.

Next you apply the flux.  Yes flux, as in the flux capacitor.  As in space travel, Michael J Fox, disrupting the space-time-contiuum, etc.  Only this is just a clear gel that helps the solder to stick.  Not quite as cool.  But way safer. 

You start by fluxing and soldering just the joints--wherever two or three pieces of glass meet at an angle.   You hold the spool of solder right next to the joint, then you press the soldering iron up against it and quick as a wink it melts into a shiny puddle of metal that fuses the joint together.  It's really fun to do. 

Every so often, you clean the gunk off your soldering iron by rubbing it against this sort of white stone.  It smells delicious.  Kind of a cross between burning hair and steaming hot garbage bins. 

Next you flux all the rest of your copper foil edges and solder them.  Then you flip the whole window over and repeat.  You'll probably go back over most of the joints and some of the straight edges to smooth down the solder.  This is where experience comes into play (which I have none of):  because you don't want those joints to be lumpy.  You want them smooth and fluid. This requires reapplying solder, removing solder where it's too thick, and smoothing it down with the hot solder iron to get rid of bumps.  One of my favorite parts of this step was shaking excess solder off my soldering iron onto the floor.  You'd sort of collect it on your soldering iron, aim your soldering iron down, and shake it.  As the droplets would hit the floor, they'd instantly cool, making this awesome metalic dripping sound.  It sounded like "Pthp!"

The next step I didn't photograph for whatever reason, but this is where you add the lead edging.  It makes the frame around the whole window, keeping it together.  It has to be soldered to the existing solder, but the lead edging is much thicker and melts slower, so you have to hold the soldering iron in each spot longer.

After the entire window has been soldered and you've spent agonizing hours smoothing and resmoothing it and then given up and accepted that it'll never be perfect, you clean it and remove all markings.  Now you can add petina.  Petina choices are copper, silver, or black.  I went with copper.  So you rub all the metal with the petina and it changes colors!  (You can see below how it is copper below/right and still silvery to the left of my hand.) 

Finally, you want to be able to hang your window up, so you solder in some nice rings to wrap the wire around. 

And you're done!

Ta da!!!!!