Thursday, September 30, 2010

Further Proof

Every day I'm struck with how different my children are [from each other].  I admit that Josh and Kate are the definition of boy/girl stereotypes - but I offer you further proof:

           Who but a girl wears special earrings for music class?

          Sets up class seating charts for her pretend students?


My mom recently framed this picture that Kate drew of she and Emma.  On Emma's shirt [in the picture], is written, "switey" - translation: sweetie

And, the best part of soccer games: snack time - induces running and smiles.every.time.

 Then there's this cool dude.  He puts his all into soccer, friends, and fun.  He keeps antlers, ammunition, and various dart guns in his room.  His outfits include whatever is clean and in his room.  He's almost as incapable as his dad when it comes to finding what he's looking for (even if it's right in front of him). 

  Today was picture day.  He packed his "dressy" polo shirt to change into five minutes before pictures and then proceeded to change promptly after the flashbulb went out.

He's great at building forts, playing outside, and the kid can run forever.  

     Then there is this little squirrel - we never quite know what she's going to do - or who she'll turn out to be.

And, because I can't resist, I'm reposting this little essay on the difference between boys and girls - original posting date was November 20, 2009. 

Two nights ago we were spending time together as a family. Okay, not really, but we were all in the living room together. Rob and Josh were side by side on the sofa on their respective laptops, I was in the armchair on my laptop, and the girls were playing school on the floor. The boys spent over two hours searching for the perfect air soft gun. The neighbor boys just bought a "sick" air-soft gun and Josh was desperate to find something equally painful. No kidding, one of the testimonials said that the gun was so powerful it made their friend cry.

There is quite the difference between our kids. The girls play library, school, they carry around babies and stuffed animals, and pretend to talk to their "boyfriends" on their cell phones. Josh arranges wars with the neighbors, stalks our resident chipmunk with his bb gun, and has one minute phone conversations with his best friend.

What I find hilarious is that we as adults are just as different. I love this story I'm about to tell you. I really couldn't find a better illustration if I tried. Anyone who knows me well will probably have already heard this story and I apologize. It's simply too perfect not to retell. A few years ago we had some visiting family from Colorado. They brought some recent family pictures from Christmas and a small vacation they'd taken with siblings, parents, cousins, etc. The women, of course, all excitedly flipped through the photos, oohing and aahing over the darling children and how fast they'd grown. There were pictures of each member of the extended family and the women stopped to comment on a picture of Rob's uncle. We noticed how he's gotten new glasses that "made him look younger", and "oh, my, his hair is really turning gray".

Well, believe it or not, the guys did want to look at the pictures, but not to ooh and ahh over the babies and Christmas decorations. They flipped immediately to the picture of Rob's uncle (not to point out his new glasses or grey hair). No, the reason they flipped to that picture is that said uncle was holding his new Christmas present. It was an AK-47 (a large automatic rifle for those of you who don't have husbands well-versed in our 2nd amendment). Okay, let me spell it out for you. Uncle Charlie was holding a gun larger that life and the women didn't even notice!

**Thanks for the awesome soccer pics, Josh and Kara!**

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'm in Trouble

It is a very bad thing that I'm not afraid of yeast anymore.  Now that I've mastered pizza dough and cinnamon rolls - there is no turning back. 

Honestly,  these cinnamon rolls were so easy.  The recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks involves no warm place and no kneading (usually what intimidates me).  I omitted the maple frosting, instead topping the rolls with a simple milk and powdered sugar combo.  She offers many different variations for her cinnamon rolls - orange marmalade, chocolate, caramel, etc. 

Here is the recipe I used today - no adaptations, except I did only make half of the recipe!  We do NOT need seven pans of cinnamon rolls.  But, a warning, I will be giving these as Christmas presents this year - teachers, neighbors, bus drivers - be ready!

  • 1 quart Whole Milk
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 packages Active Dry Yeast
  • 8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
  • 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
  • Plenty Of Melted Butter
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon

Preparation Instructions

Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.
After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).
When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter over the dough. Now sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.
Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.
Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in a seven inch round foil cake or pie pan. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans.
Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 375 degrees (see note below) until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

Indian Eggplant Parmesan

Are you feeling adventurous? 

I had read this recipe about a week ago and couldn't wait to try it!  I decided to cook a separate dinner for the rest of my family - Josh did taste it and decided "it's not that bad".  Quite the endorsement, huh?  And, actually, I didn't love it last night.  Now, this morning I reheated some and simply placed the plain yogurt over the reheated eggplant - it was amazing.  I did change around the recipe just a bit in order to utilize the ingredients I already had.  Check out the original recipe here.

She had me at "Indian Eggplant Parmesan".  

Eggplant Curry with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, courtesy of Perry's Plate
for the cucumber-yogurt sauce:
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped

for the curry:
2 medium eggplants (about 1 1/2 lbs total), cut crosswise into 1/3-inch slices
About 1/2 cup oil for sauteing and frying
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
5 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 T curry powder
1 1/2 T garam masala
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken/vegetable broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the yogurt sauce, mix all ingredients in a small bowl.

Sprinkle eggplant slices lightly with salt. Let them stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, tomatoes, curry powder and remaining spices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook vegetables until soft, about 6 minutes. Add wine/broth; let some of the liquid cook off, another 3-5 minutes. Cool slightly. Puree with a stick/immersion blender or transfer to a blender and process until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Pat eggplant slices dry. Coat both sides with flour.

Heat 2-3 T of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches and adding more oil as needed, fry eggplant for about 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer to a baking sheet.

Lightly oil an 11x7x2 baking dish. Place about 1/3 of eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Spread 1/3 of curry sauce over the eggplant, then sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat the layering two more times. Bake until bubbling around the edges and cheese is golden, 45-50 minutes. 

Spread a little cucumber yogurt sauce on each plate and place a square of the eggplant curry on top of the sauce. Serve with sliced cucumber and pita bread, if desired.

Serves about 6.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I love to throw things away.  I know my in-laws think I'm rather crazy, but I have to compensate against Rob's natural tendencies.  He does not enjoy purging as much as I do.  Our house is older (built in 1955) and not huge, but we do have adequate closets and storage.  Our garage is enormous, we have a full attic, and we have four full-sized closets, a half-closet, a large linen closet, and a broom closet.  We don't store much in our attic, due to the fact that Rob installed insulation over the large majority of "floor space".  So, that leaves our garage and laundry room as our "catch-alls".  I'm not going to lie, it can get ugly - and it often does - as you were witness to in the earlier post.

I promised "after" pictures -

Well, this was kind of the best I could do.  Thank goodness this is a large space.  In addition to being a bit of a pack rat, Rob also enjoys many hobbies.  In our laundry room we store: hunting and winter gear, material for our bedroom at the cabin, skis and ski tuning equipment, paint, and our actual washing machine and dryer.  Shocking that there's room for it! 

 We also have all of the components to make stereo speakers.  Rob and his friend were really into making speakers, oh, about ten years ago.  I just asked him again this morning if I could pitch it all.  The answer: no. 

 So, do you think it looks a little better?  At least I can walk in the room again and our drawers are filled with clean clothing.  Progress, in my book.

So, do you love to keep things or to purge them?  I filled two garbage cans with unwanted items [of my own - don't worry, Rob].  In my book, if I haven't used it in 6 months, I don't need it.   Do you have a "catch-all" area?  What do you store there?  I'd like to not feel too alone or dejected, can you help me out?

Also, I wanted to share pics of my progress from this weekend: the kids playroom.  Rob tiled our basement rec room last winter and the kids really enjoy using the space, especially in the winter or when they have friends to visit.  We have a wii down there that they enjoy, lots of floor space, books and games.  We bought a very, very cushiony rug that fits in perfectly.  We haven't done much decorating, but maybe this winter I'll feel a little more inspired.  When we originally purchased the house, there was a mahogany bar (with black and white canopy) that occupied about half of the space.  Once we removed that, retiled and laid the carpet, it became usable space.  I spent some time cleaning and re-organizing this weekend, just in time for friends to visit and cooler weather to keep us indoors!

I'm also in the process of scraping and re-painting our outside window trim.  I'm not sure when it was done last, but we had some bare wood that was visible and after a few coats of paint, it really freshened up the outside of the house! 

So, what projects are you planning to tackle before the weather changes?  Rob is really working hard on our master bathroom - I hope to show you some finished pictures soon!!  I probably didn't tell you, but our house was very 50's when we purchased it.  Our master bathroom was pink - everywhere.  We had pink tile floor, a pink sink, a pink toilet, pink wall tiles, and a pink tiled shower.  Nice, huh?  The hallway bathroom was a very obnoxious aquamarine color.  Thankfully, we were able to save the marble floor - the green in the floor was more of a sage.  The rest was very bright - and same story: walls, shower surround, toilet, sink, etc - all aquamarine.  Rob has worked very hard on our house - that's why I let him keep the speaker making equipment! :)

Keeping It Real

Last week I was busy cooking almost every day.  When I'm occupied in the kitchen, things kinda fall by the wayside. 

My mom is going to kill me when she sees this.....
My goal is to post after pictures - wish me luck.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Asian Lettuce Wraps

For you and your hubby, Mrs. P!

I found this recipe while checking out the Martha Stewart Living website.  I occasionally peruse her appetizer slideshow for ideas. Mini Chicken Lettuce Wraps was listed as an advertisement teaser for the "Whole Living" section of her publications. 

I did tweak the recipe just a bit to add some extra flavor.  The only challenging part of this simple recipe was a way to translate them into appetizer form.  I painstakingly tied each lettuce wrap with chives from my garden.  It was terribly annoying.  Once I had used all of the chives I could find, I simply placed the remaining lettuce wraps into cupcake papers.  The chives looked a lot prettier, though!

I think this would make a very tasty and light dinner, especially for the warmer months of the year.   I omitted the fresh cilantro as I find it to be a very strong herb.  I've decided that about half of the population really detest the flavor.  Personally, I think it would add just the right "zip" to the lettuce wrap.  If I had been making this for myself, I would have added it for sure!

Asian Lettuce Wraps (adapted from Whole Living from Martha Stewart) 

  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cucumber, seeded, peeled, and chopped
  • 2 T toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 green mango, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 thin chicken cutlets (about 3 ounces each)
  • 24 small leaves Bibb lettuce, from about 3 heads (3 ounces each)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves


  1. In a medium bowl, stir vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt until sugar is dissolved. Add carrot, cucumber, sesame seeds, and mango; toss to combine. Let stand at room temperature, tossing occasionally, at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate up to a day.
  2. Heat grill or grill pan to high; lightly oil grates. In a shallow dish, combine lime juice, ginger, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Add chicken and let marinate for no more than 5 minutes. Grill chicken until browned and opaque throughout, 1 to 3 minutes per side; transfer to a plate to cool.
  3. Thinly slice chicken; toss with carrot mixture. Divide mixture among lettuce leaves; drizzle with juice from carrots and sprinkle with cilantro. 

**I added sesame seeds, cucumber, and sesame oil for a little extra flavor, and omitted the cilantro**

Collage Cocktail Party

Yesterday was the annual cocktail party for Collage Specialty Shop in the Colonial Shopping Center.  The store has a great mix of women's and children's clothing, gifts, and home accessories.  It was a really fun afternoon and evening full of shopping, food, and live music 
Veggie Tray with Pimiento Dip and Spinach-Artichoke Dip with crackers
 I was to prepare finger foods for about 100.  In previous events I have arrived at closing to find plenty of leftovers.  In this instance, the food was almost gone!  I think that's a good thing - 

 This was one of my favorite items - Asian Lettuce Wraps, filled with grilled chicken, green mango, cucumber and carrots.  It was quite warm yesterday and the lightness and crunch of the wraps were a big success!

Mini Crab Melts and Pear Crostini (with caramelized onions and blue cheese)

Mini Caprese Skewers

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Sugar Cakes, Chocolate Fudge and Molasses Cookies

              I'll plan to share some of the recipes later this week!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Favourite Thing Friday

My Favourite Thing this week is our home. We are approaching the 9th anniversary of the day we purchased our home. October 23, 2001 was the day our house was for sale by public auction. For those of you not familiar with the concept, the house is auctioned off to the highest bidder with the approval of selling price [by the owner]. Typically this is common in a house formerly owned by an elderly widow(er). In this case, the son of the former owner lived out of state and was anxious to settle the estate quickly. The new buyer is responsible for paying 10% the day of the sale and will inherit any liens or back taxes on the property.

When we first toured our house, I reached the foyer and then turned around and left. The previous owner had raised German short-haired pointers and was unable to care for them when he became ill. To say the house was filthy is a gross (emphasis on gross) understatement. Rob toured the house and was inspired by the potential. We were pre-approved for a mortgage and our budget was $100,000.

The house was dirty and the yard was overgrown, but it was a solid brick rancher with three bedrooms, 2.5 baths and in a great school district. It had central air, a relatively new roof and relatively new furnace/hot water heater. Rob's aunts were visiting and attended the sale along with my parents and grandmother. Once the auctioneer passed $100,000, I was disappointed and lost interest in the back and forth banter. When the auctioneer yelled "going once, going twice, sold" to Rob I shrieked, "WHAT"? I know, I could have come up with something a little more colorful, but that was my first response.

Little did I know, but my grandmother also fell in love with the house and was whispering and tugging on Rob's arm not to let this chance get away. She said, "I'll give you $11,000 today if you buy this house". She knew, like he did, that $111,000 for a house was a steal.

So, we bought the house. She gave us $11,000 - in cash. I'm not kidding. We spread the money out in Rob's parents living room, sprayed it with Febreze and then took it to the bank.

I love our house. I love our neighborhood.  It may not be the biggest house (it's one of the smaller neighborhoods in our district), but it's ours.  I hope our kids look back some day and call this, "the house that built me" like the Miranda Lambert song. Our kids are the first children to live here and my dad always says that this house is really lived in.

We've brought home two babies into this home, we've had countless birthday parties here. We've had fights here, we've made up here. We've laughed and cried. We've had sleepovers, we've had sleepless nights (filled with puking). We've refinished wood floors. We've installed carpet (and uninstalled it). We've treated termites, installed bathrooms, and painted every room.

It's usually dirty (somewhere), it's old and small, but it's one of my favourite places to be [with some of my favourite people in the world].  It's home.

Josh's room, love the bullets, football, and the American flag!
making memories in the front yard

the girls room - it's not usually this orderly!

our living room

beauty shop in the hallway bathroom

our "retro" original marble bathroom floor

the shower in the "master bathroom to be"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lunch Ideas -

Before I had kids, I was about twenty pounds lighter. I have been consistently the same weight ever since. I cannot seem to drop any weight. Technically speaking, my weight is healthy. I have this bad habit of keeping clothes around that are very close (well, like ten pounds) to fitting. Does anyone else do this?

Last year I was not very steady with exercising - with the kids back to school, I seem to have found some inspiration. Here's the problem: my clothes are getting tighter. I realize that I'm probably building muscle or something annoying like that, but I don't want to bulk up. My current regimen (well, okay, for the last 40 days or so) includes about an hour of exercise at least 5 times a week. I combine running with yoga or pilates.

I also have tried to reduce my caloric intake and keep my meals intentional. I am trying to eat foods that have nutritional value - and eat as many fruits and veggies as possible. Breakfast is pretty easy - I usually do fruit and either yogurt or cereal - but lunch is a little more challenging. My mom is very disciplined - she has a little routine that includes: a piece of cheese, two hard pretzels, some fruit and tuna salad or yogurt alternately.

So, my question is: what do you eat for lunch?

This was one of my recent lunches

Heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, feta, cukes, and sun-dried tomato pesto topped with olive oil and lemon juice - it was delicious - but I was still starving.

This was a little better

Black bean and cheddar quesadilla with sour cream

Sometimes I eat soup, simply to increase my veggie intake. I am just feeling a little frustrated - my husband thinks it might take a year or more of running before my muscle starts "eating" my fat or something like that. Of course, like all Americans, I want instant results. My doctor does think I could lose about ten pounds to lower my cholesterol and have a lower BMI - but, how should I do it? After watching the Biggest Loser last night, I feel a little guilty complaining about only ten pounds, but I do feel like I'm doing the right things and not finding any success.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Birth Stories

Have you noticed that women love talking about giving birth to their children? I can't tell you how many hours and how many women I've shared with about the births of our children (theirs and mine). Last week we were swapping birth stories with our neighbors, and their kids are 14 and 12. I think one of the reasons we continually rehash this time in our lives is that the emotions were so intense that we're unable to forget the feelings. I also think a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of camaraderie play a large part [in our story-swapping fascination].

I personally feel I was created to give birth. Now, don't worry, we're not the Duggars or anything - but, for some reason, my pregnancies and births were ideal. I'm sure it helped that we were quite young when we started having children, but I kind of enjoyed the whole birth process. I didn't particularly enjoy the pain aspect, but by the end, I kinda rocked those birthing rooms.

I know that all of these memories are surfacing because of the new arrival of our nephew, but don't you think it's fun to remember?

I thought I'd show you our three kiddos when they were new! By the way, I'm really glad they've grown into their looks! :)

Joshua Wesley
July 24
9lbs 6oz

almost 2 months...doesn't he look uncomfortable? Obviously breast-feeding went very well.

Kate Clair
March 25
11lbs 4oz

almost 2 months

Emma Louise (being held by my grandmother, Louise - 6 days old)
December 16
8lbs 14 oz

almost five months

While I was looking for pictures, I came across these...

Don't you love the painted fingernails and curled hair? Kate was about four, I think.

I really love this guy - even when he doesn't like my pizza!

Monday, September 20, 2010

News By the Numbers

0 - pairs of pants that now fit better since I started exercising approximately 30 days ago - sigh

2 - gallons of Brown's apple cider we've enjoyed this last week

2 - number of fundraisers through our schools so far this year [that we've been asked to provide names of family and friends] - grrrrr.....

3 - number of soccer games we will attend this weekend - can't wait!

4 - miles I can now run without collapsing

5 - number of grocery stores I plan to shop in today

9 - snacks I need to have ready by Friday at 2:30 pm
artichoke and spinach dip with crudite platter
crab melts on pumpernickel toasts
caprese salad skewers
asian lettuce and chicken wraps
caramelized onion, gorgonzola, and ripe pear crostini
sugar cakes
oatmeal raisin cookies
molasses cookies
chocolate fudge

48 - the outside temperature low last night - fall is here!

66 - current temperature with cloudless skies - glorious!

100 - the number of people I need to serve at a cocktail party on Friday at Collage

1606 - the number of pageviews I had last month on my little blog. What started as a recipe file for my sister-in-law, Angie, has turned into a fulfilling part of my life. I've enjoyed so much meeting new people and I'm humbled (and flabbergasted, really). Thank you one and all!


Maybe you could help settle a little argument between Rob and I.....

Do you think this should be considered pizza? or flatbread? Rob thinks pizza should contain a red sauce and white cheese -

Fig, Caramelized Onion, and Gorgonzola Pizza

topped with arugula

pizza dough (I used this recipe)
2 sweet onions
1 T butter
1 tsp sugar
1 small bag (6 oz) dried figs (covered with boiling water for 5 minutes)
1 small container (6 oz) gorgonzola
4 cups arugula

1. Slice onions and add to small saute pan. Add butter and sugar and cook slowly over low heat for 25 minutes or until onions turn caramel-brown.
2. Shape pizza dough to fit baking stone or cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and "par-bake" at 400 degrees for 8 minutes or until it begins to turn golden.
3. Slice reconstituted figs laterally until they lay flat.
4. Top par-baked pizza crust with gorgonzola, figs, and caramelized onions.
5. Bake at 400 degrees for an additional 10 minutes.
6. Top with arugula and serve.

Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Pine Nut Pizza

pizza dough
1 lb asparagus, shaved or sliced laterally
1 small container (6 oz) crumbled goat cheese
3 T fresh chives
1/2 cup pine nuts

1. Par-bake pizza dough, drizzled with olive oil, at 400 degrees for 8 minutes.
2. Remove from oven and sprinkle chives, goat cheese, and asparagus. Bake for an additional 5 minutes.
3. Top pizza with pine nuts and continue baking for 5 minutes.

after final baking