Apr 10, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Buttery Goodness

Buttery Goodness

I was looking through one of my dessert boards on Pinterest today (item:  I have 10 dessert boards–don’t judge me), trying to come up with a few bar recipes for the weekend (for three different purposes, mind you), and I found this one for Snickerdoodle Blondies.  It was a nice, basic recipe–I was looking for easy today–and I had all of the ingredients for it, and I love snickerdoodles, so why not, right?

Why not, indeed.  Oh, the buttery goodness with cinnamon sugar on top!  Two sticks of butter in a 9 by 13 pan of bars does give them a lovely flavor, and the only thing I might do differently next time is to up the amount of cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top.  Other than that, well–shoot. They’re possibly EASIER than my family’s recipe for butterscotch brownies, which came from the Betty Crocker cookbook that my mother got for her wedding (in 1965).  It’s been a family standby for years, because they mix up quickly, taste fabulous, and use only ingredients that you’ve always got around the house.  These share all of those qualities.  What’s not to love?

Apr 8, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on My Potato Chip Streak

My Potato Chip Streak

Does anybody else out there go on streaks when it comes to junk food?

I should preface this by reassuring all and sundry that my mother raised me to eat real food, and I am, in fact, a three-meals-of-real-food-a-day kind of person.  Because my body wants it and needs it.  On the other hand, I have this metabolism from my dad’s side of the family, and so I still find room for junk (which I try to eat unobserved, both because I want my kids to develop GOOD habits first, and because I don’t want to share.) There was a Laffy Taffy phase years ago, and a peanut butter m&m phase that morphed into a Reese’s Pieces phase, and–well, you get the idea. Anyway.  I am currently in more of a salty phase, and my junk of choice (lately) is Kettle Cooked Lays (partly because you don’t see Cape Cod Chips in Utah).  Not plain, though.  I favor Salt and Vinegar over anything else, but I’ve also enjoyed the Maui Onion and the Sun-Dried Tomato and Parmesan.  (Not so much the Applewood Smoked BBQ.)  I don’t do spicy, so I won’t be trying the Jalapeno any time this century, but I’ve been contemplating the Sharp Cheddar.  Anyone else tried them?  Are they good?

By the way, Costco sells–is it Kettle brand potato chips?  I once found Zesty Ranch there and loved them, but I can’t find that flavor anymore. Since I’m not into plain OR anything with cracked pepper, I’ve been thwarted there ever since.

It’s a tragedy.

Apr 7, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Very Serious Mommy Post

A Very Serious Mommy Post

I debated the wisdom of saying any of this on a public forum, even if my readers aren’t exactly legion.  I have at least one cousin and one friend who won’t agree with me, and those are just the two I’m quite sure of.  I imagine I know more people that won’t.  I, however, feel SO VERY STRONGLY about this that I cannot stay silent, and since this is my blog, I don’t really feel like I have to.

Today my precious, beautiful first grader brought home a letter informing me that there have been cases of Pertussis at her school.

This infuriates me.

My children are immunized, and my husband and I are adults.  I am not fearful for my family today.  I am grateful that I don’t have an infant too young to be protected, because of course someone could cough on my first grader’s backpack and she could bring home a disease that can kill.

I love history, and I’ve read enough about infectious diseases to be very, very grateful for the blessing of vaccines.  (I also had a friend and former boss who was permanently crippled by polio.)  I hate the F-word with a passion–I’ve never used it in my life–but I wanted to stand up and cheer when I saw Penn and Teller on Vaccinations on Youtube, because I feel that strongly about this issue.

I’m too upset and tired to wax eloquent, and so I will simply say this.  I do not believe that my pediatrician is lying to me about the best way to protect my children from diseases that once killed tens of thousands of children a year.  I trust science.  I vaccinate my children.  I honestly don’t understand why people don’t.

If I have another child, I will do it in a world where a preventable and dangerous disease is present in my daughter’s elementary school.

 

Apr 6, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Happy Birthday to My Chocolate-Loving Husband!

Happy Birthday to My Chocolate-Loving Husband!

Okay, technically his birthday was on Friday, but I got up at 5:30 on Thursday and drove three kids home from Idaho, and there was a house to clean and unpacking to be done, so he didn’t get his cake until today.  (We had dinner at Texas Roadhouse on his birthday, and he did get to open his gifts afterwards.  Just the cake was delayed.  Oh, and bringing brownies into his work.  That’s on the list for this week.)  He was very good about it, though, and diligently looked through my ‘Cakes and Frostings’ board on Pinterest to find a cake that appealed to him.  Of the two choices he emailed to me, I had the ingredients for this Chocolate Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Filling and Chocolate Buttercream, and so last night, once the kiddos were in bed, I went at it.

I should probably add, at this point, that I only make layer cakes for occasional birthdays.  I’m all for cake, don’t get me wrong, but I’m a lazy perfectionist, and if it’s something that takes a bit of both work and practice, I tend to gravitate elsewhere.  I’m fine with one layer and frosting on my cake, or poke cakes, or any other cake recipe that is either easy or, if complicated, possible to do well the first or second time.  That said, I’m also a food person–in a BIG way–and I can’t resist pinning any recipe that looks like it might be good.  (Those of you who follow me on Pinterest know that this is NOT an exaggeration.)  And birthdays are the perfect time to try those recipes that I couldn’t resist pinning but don’t usually want to deal with making, right?

Right.  Only I should have started this one earlier.  The actual cake recipe was simple, but once the three layers cooled completely, they needed to be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.  I caught the overnight part, but I didn’t think hard enough about how late I would have to stay up waiting for the layers to completely cool…if, you know, I started after the kids were in bed and I vegged online for a few minutes.  And then I had to battle with the plastic wrap, which just wanted to static-cling to my arm and wrinkle instead of doing its job.

And then the next day, there was the frosting.  Part of the loveliness of the cake was that there was the cream cheese frosting between the layers as WELL as the chocolate buttercream on the outside, but the two frostings had to be made separately, and you had to add the powdered sugar SLOWLY so that it didn’t just fill the air as soon as the mixer hit it.  (I have to say, frosting it was a little stressful as well, but that’s only because I don’t like not being good at things, and my sister-in-law who has made a wedding cake or two was going to see this one.  Not that she cares–she’s laid back and fun and not at all judgmental–but I couldn’t help being self-conscious.  I might have died if my cousin Elly had seen it.  Not that SHE’S not also nice and probably wouldn’t think anything of it, but go to Elly’s Delicious Cakes and you’ll know why.  She’s insanely talented.)

Anyway.  What I’m trying to say about this recipe is that it’s not a terribly difficult layer cake, but it’s still a layer cake.  They’re just plain more time-consuming than your basic cake-in-a-9-by-13-pan.  And it was tasty, don’t get me wrong, but the richness was all in the frosting.  The cake part was just a basic chocolate cake.  This is fine if you’re a frosting sort of person, but I tend to be more of a nice-rich-pound-ish-cake type person.  It depends on your preference.  If you’re a not-so-lazy-as-I-am frosting lover, then this, my friend, is the cake for you.

Apr 5, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Trying to Start a Tradition!

Trying to Start a Tradition!

For any readers out there not of my faith, we Mormons have something called General Conference twice a year (in April and October).  Which means that our church leaders speak to the entire church, and we get to listen via satellite or internet or whatever, depending on where you live.  When I was a kid, this meant going to the nearest church building with a satellite dish.  Now that I live in Utah, it means I get to watch it on TV in my pajamas, which is kind of awesome.  There are sessions of Conference on Saturday and Sunday, which is why you’ll often hear it referred to as ‘Conference Weekend.’  Quite a few people I know have Conference weekend breakfast traditions, and while I was WAY too tired last night to think about something like cinnamon rolls, I decided I’d try and work on that particular tradition in our family.  (It’s been an on-again, off-again thing with us thus far, partly because there are very few breakfast foods that my husband enjoys as much as Golden Grahams.)  And so I ran to the grocery store (SO glad it’s only 5 minutes away!) at 10 last night, put this Overnight Peaches and Cream French Toast together when I got home, and with a touch more work this morning, bam! there was breakfast.

And dang, it was good.  Only 2 of the 5 of us loved it, but that’s only because the boys in the family won’t eat peaches–baffling, I know–and my oldest has egg issues.  (You’d also have issues with it if you don’t like the French toast-y, bread pudding-y kind of texture, I suppose.)  The taste, if you like peaches, was FABULOUS.  The only change I made was using light brown sugar instead of dark, and that was more of a lazy choice than anything else.  (Really, who wants to dig around for and open a brand-new bag of dark brown sugar for half a cup of it? because the rest is going to dry out before I bake with it again.  It’s not so much of a springtime ingredient.)  I followed the recipe otherwise, although I did see a comment suggesting you break up the bread for the sake of more edges, and that’s definitely worth trying.  Mmmm, peaches and cream.

Of course, 6 months from now, I’ll have to pick something that more than two of us are likely to enjoy, but I really, really wanted to try this one.  (Go on.  You know you want to try it, too…)

Apr 4, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Newbery Darling

A Newbery Darling

The other book I finished while I was visiting my parents was by one of those authors, and by that, I mean someone whose name comes up multiple times on my Newbery list (as in, 4 or 5).  People like Laura Ingalls Wilder (quite a few ‘Little House’ books won), and E. L. Konigsburg (one of my very favorites, and the only one to win the medal and have an Honor book in the same year), and Meindert De Jong (I want to love him, but…), and, well, Scott O’Dell.  Who wrote The Black Pearl, which I finished a few days ago.  (Who also wrote Sing Down the Moon, and Island of the Blue Dolphins, and The King’s Fifth.)  (I haven’t read the last one yet, by the way, and I remember NOTHING about Island of the Blue Dolphins, which means it’s slated for a reread for the purposes of my project.)

It’s a short book–a hundred pages even, in the edition I read.  And it’s simply written.  It is, however, a powerfully drawn coming of age story, which succeeds in being compelling and complete, despite the length.  From what I have read, Scott O’Dell seems to be partial to coming of age stories involving native peoples and tradition, and I have to say, he does it well.  There’s enough melancholy in what he writes that he’s not quite MY thing, but I respect and admire what he does.  (I have to say, although The Black Pearl was a very masculine coming of age plot, I found it almost more enjoyable than Sing Down the Moon.  I handle personal tragedy better than cultural tragedy.  Sometimes.)

Anyway.  I find it difficult to try and summarize such a short book–any summary online will give you what I could give you–so here’s my summation:  not my thing, but totally worthwhile for all that.  Which makes it a perfect example of the personal value of my Newbery project, because I doubt I ever would have read it otherwise.

The Black Pearl


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Apr 3, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on I’m BAAACCCKKK!

I’m BAAACCCKKK!

(I’m sure you were all waiting with bated breath, right?)

I left Idaho at about 6:15 this morning, hoping to make it an hour or two before Carter woke up for good and got fussy…a hope that was cruelly dashed by the Elmore County Sheriff’s Department, who did not appreciate me making quite such good time in that particular quest.  Ninety dollars later…

I actually finished two books while visiting my parents and brother (and his family)–short books–but I’d better review just one tonight and call it a night, because I am beat.  My very awesome county library system does a monthly reading challenge on Goodreads, and March’s challenge was to read a book with ‘an art theme or an artist as a character.’  The visual arts are out of my comfort zone, but I decided to rise to the challenge (instead of using a musician or a writer, both much more my thing) and read an older Newbery (who doesn’t love to kill two birds with one stone?  Metaphorically speaking, of course).  And so I read one of the 1970 Honor books–“The Many Ways of Seeing:  An Introduction to the Pleasures of Art.”

It was interesting, certainly.  I now understand numerous art terms that I didn’t before, and I saw works of art with which I was not familiar. That said, this felt more like a textbook than a layman’s guide to the visual arts.  And the author was quite obvious about which artists and masters most impressed her, which I found somewhat off-putting.  (Is that really how you write that word?)  For me, a truly unbiased book would state characteristics of painters, sculptors, etc., but avoid making value judgments.  Let the viewer decide how great a painter is–a guide of this sort should spent its time giving me reasons why I should admire an artist, not informing me when I should.  It perhaps wasn’t quite as bad as that sounds, but still.  (By the way, I’m sure this is showing my ignorance and all that, but I find much of Picasso’s work WEIRD.  I respect the man’s talent–I found Guernica impressively powerful–but he’s often just too bizarre for me.)  The best part of the book was the artistic exercises at the end, meant to encourage the reader to see things in different ways.  Some of those would be fun to try with the kiddos.

At the end of the day, however, the ideal book for March’s challenge would have been “I, Juan de Pareja” (only I read that one months ago).  It’s sort of historical fiction laced with autobiography, taking a stand against slavery–and it’s excellent.  If you have a hankering to read something to do with art, I recommend that one instead!

 

Mar 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Just to Let You Know…

Just to Let You Know…

For all of my thousands upon thousands of loyal readers out there, I’m taking my kids to visit my parents for my oldest daughter’s spring break.  I hope you are all able to get along without me…somehow…

Mar 26, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on 112 Left to Go!

112 Left to Go!

That’s Newberys for my Newbery project, by the way.  I just finished To Be a Slave, an honor book from 1969, and I’m feeling of two minds about it. The premise is fascinating; the author used excerpts from actual slave narratives (most of them a paragraph or two long) and, adding some narration of his own to bind it together, wrote a book about what it was like to be a slave.  (Hence, you know, the title.)  There are some chilling bits in here, make no mistake.  My biggest issue was reading it as an adult; it would be a great book for a child just starting to think about the idea of slavery, but at 34, I read

“The prayer meetings, the parties, and the holidays did not make being a slave pleasurable. Nothing could do that…”

and I thought–well, DUH.  There was a noticeable portion of similar commentary, geared very simply toward a younger audience.  I also didn’t quite love the tone of the summation, but that’s probably because I read it in 2014.  It was published in 1968 by a black man who spent his teenage years in the pre-civil rights south; given the timing, he was probably doing an admirable job of keeping his anger in check.  I respect that. I have a tendency to feel slightly defensive in such situations, I suppose, because my ancestors weren’t owning slaves.  They were emigrating from Europe and being driven across the plains by a government that didn’t particularly want them.  Will I start a firestorm of controversy if I say that I feel a great and terrible grief at the thought of slavery, and the Holocaust, and the Cultural Revolution, and any other instance of unbearable oppression, but I don’t feel that I should feel a personal racial guilt because I am white?

Anyway.  Like I said, it’s a great book for kids.  It has fascinating material for adults as well, don’t get me wrong.  It’s just that the tone works best for kids.

112 left to go.

To Be a Slave (Puffin Modern Classics)


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Mar 24, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Just Call Him Buzz

Just Call Him Buzz

Tonight my hubby and I gave the boy another haircut, since the sides of his head looked sort of like they were trying to take flight.  He’s actually not too bad for them (although that may be because Daddy sits with him to hold him (sort of) still and he ADORES Daddy); what kills me is the forehead cowlick.  No matter what we do to his hair, it’s just more and more visible the older he gets.  This is a boy that will be forever denied a choice in the ‘on which side shall I part my hair today?’ question.  On the other hand, with his daddy’s blue, blue eyes and the killer grin (complete with dimples!), I don’t know that anyone needs to go off the deep end where sympathy is concerned!

The really good news in this boy’s life, however, is that he actually devoured dinner tonight.  He’s working on at least one of his bottom eyeteeth, which means his appetite has been really sporadic of late, but tonight he just went to town, and I was thrilled.  The funny thing is that I just got a little bit creative with an old standby, and I have to say, it tasted better to me than it has for a long, long time.  My friend that I used to cook with a lot–I might just have to make that into an acronym!–brought this recipe for Cowboy Quesadillas to my attention, because while her family isn’t wildly into BBQ sauce, I have more than one family member who loves just about anything within that flavor profile.  I tried it several years ago and everyone loved it, so it became part of our regular meal rotation, and then–I got tired of it.  For two reasons, really (neither of which reflect badly on the recipe).  The first is the classic ‘made too much and ate too many leftovers’ that happens to the best of recipes from time to time; the second is that my methods for cooking chicken for recipes like this weren’t too fabulous (flavor-wise) a few years ago.  (It doesn’t matter so much if the chicken is going to simmer in a sauce for at least 5-10 minutes, but this recipe needs stand-alone chicken.)  Anyway.  The girlies hadn’t loved it as much the last couple of times we had it either, but tonight I had the requisite leftovers in my fridge and I decided to see what happened.  Here’s what I did:

1)It calls for white rice, but I always just use my white/brown mixture, and it works just as well.  Honestly, the last time I made them I used leftover quinoa, and that worked just as well, too.

2)It calls for cooked chicken, and while I had enough of that in the fridge, I had OLDER crockpot BBQ/pineapple pork chops.  I used those first, dicing them very small so that it wouldn’t be a toughness issue from the kids; it ended up being half that and half chicken.  I thought it was fabulous.

3)I left out the corn, mostly because the kiddos were having minor tummy troubles yesterday, and I thought beans and corn might be a bit much.

4)I upped the cheese by almost a third of what it calls for.  It helped with the sticking together.

5)I used whole wheat tortillas.  Sometimes I really prefer regular, but you really don’t notice in this recipe.

Anyway, the boy devoured his, and the girlies ate happily as well.  Dinner success!  And I used several things that have been taking up space in my fridge, which is always a bonus.  Give this one a try, folks.  Enjoy.