Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brace Yourself

Writers Workshop Wednesday

Deciding was tough this week,

But first, I invite you to my existence in Junior High. Which led to a life changing moment in High School

Picture this...
The year is 1990
You are in the middle of seventh grade.
You have lots of friends, your mom just scored you a Guess Sweatshirt and a Swatch watch. You have perfected the puffiest bangs possible, secured with lots of Aqua Net Hairspray. You are rocking it everyday, due in part to a wide array of Wet and Wild cosmetics secured neatly in an amazing teal and purple Caboodle.

No one even makes fun of you for your braces, because the invention of colored rubber bands makes them nearly cool.
The biggest problem facing you is becoming a cheerleader for eight grade.
Then it happens, and its ok to laugh, because trust me you will want to.
The school nurse calls your folks with the news that you, my friend have scoliosis. And no, not a minor curve and a slight malformation. A doozy of a curve. One that requires this:

It was as scary as it looks.
Meet I am here to ruin your teenage years. AKA The Jerk

The jerk was awful.
I couldn't put it on by myself, and my mom wasn't able to help. So, here I am, 13 years old and my dad or older brother are putting this contraption on me everyday.
I had to wear old man tshirts under it so I wouldn't get a rash.
I had to wear it for 23 hours a day. TWENTY THREE HOURS!!!
It tore little holes in all my clothes.
There was no hiding it. Ever, at all.
I wasn't permitted to play any sports, because, (wait for it) - The school was concerned I could hurt someone if they ran into me.
It was hot, really hot.
And, after two and a half years (Um yeah, freshman year of high school as well), it did nothing. In fact, my scoliosis got worse. They say it had to do with my growth spurt, but whatever. It didn't work.
Before I move on to the surgery, lets just lay it all on the line- It was junior high. Kids are cruel. Yes -they made fun of me. Not all of them, but a lot. Was I surprised...Of course. Back then anyway, I was surprised, and hurt. Today, I know that its wrong, but its kind of how the system known as growing up works. I know it will be a very grim day for my kids if I find out they are picking on someone like that. I also know, that it is very likely that day will come. I hope that our future children and my nieces and nephews are the kids that stand up for the picked on kid. I hope that they are never on the receiving end of the picking on. However, I am realistic and logical. Growing up is rough, no matter who you are or what you do or do not have. I truly look back at this brace and laugh. It didn't make me jaded or taint my junior high memories. In fact when I read the prompt "Explain your junior high years", I had to think for a minute before I even remembered the brace. I like to remember the moments in my life as little things pieced together to mold me into who I am today

Now to the surgery...That is one of the best things to even happen to me.
The brace wasn't working. Like, I said my spine was actually getting worse. So, we went back to the doctor and he explained surgery was the only option. My spine was so curved it looked like a sideways horseshoe. Slightly straight at the top, a horseshoe curve in the middle, slightly straight at the bottom.
The surgery was scheduled for Dec 1st 1993. We showed up at the hospital (all 10 of us, because I like to arrive in style. That kid from Entourage ain't got nothing on me), and the doctor informed us that he had to have an emergency root canal. Fine by me, no way was I allowing a doctor to perform 12 hours of surgery on my freakin spine if he wasn't in tip top shape for it. Two days later, it happened. I went to the hospital, and 12 hours of surgery later, my spine was straight.
To put it in perspective, my spine was so jacked up that when they straightened it, I grew 2 1/2 inches.

Cool surgery tidbits:
Literally, in a matter of hours I grew 2 1/2 inches.
In order to measure how much movement they could make on my spine, they placed tiny needles in my ankles, wrists, and head. Before putting me under the doctor had me look at my hands. Using the little contraption he made my fingers wiggle. It was cool and freaky at the same time.
There were 9 people that sat in the hospital waiting room for over 14 hours while the prepped me and did the surgery. I have a very close family. My dad, however, nearly strapped my grandpa Jerry to the chair in the waiting room. He is a pacer.
Instead of my hip, because of the recovery time, the doctor used one of my ribs for the bone graft and fusion.
The doctor was amazing and my scars are barely visible.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

An open apology to Pumpkin Spice Latte

Dear Pumpkin Spice Latte -
I am very sorry I strayed from you.
Sure, you waltz in and out of my life for a few short months every year, but you have commitment issues. I get it. Or thought I did.
Sure, I am disappointed every year when I come to see you in December and you are gone without so much as a warning or a goodbye.
So, naturally it felt good to walk into one of three St@rbucks at Gardens Mall and order something else. I'll show you, I thought to myself. I even glanced at the poster advertising you as I ordered "A grande, soy, hazelnut hot chocolate with no whipped cream please" Because, even though I was cheating, I still use my manners. I had won, or so I thought. Maybe this would be the move that made you change. You would petition the St@rbucks execs to keep you around all year.
It was good, that hot chocolate. Not too nutty, the chocolate was rich and creamy. I was in heaven. About to start a new life with the drink of my dreams. As I sipped though, I thought, this isn't better, its just different. Something was amiss
And then it happened....
The grass, I learned, really isn't always greener on the other side. True, my new drink offered me stability and comfort that you could never offer. It wouldn't leave me all sad and alone right at the start of the holiday season, causing me to stroll the mall looking at the decorations and lights all alone. However, it also offered me double the fat and calories. DOUBLE! That is a compromise I am not willing to make. A risk, my 31 year old, not nearly as forgiving as it once was Midwesterner now living in Southern Florida body couldn't take.
I know, soon enough you will be gone again. On to bigger and better things. I only hope you come back next year and that we can pick up where we left off.

Two worlds collide

Chili and spaghetti? Together? You're not from around here, are you?

It does exist people. Its a Cincinnati thing that became an Ohio thing. Take a look

Might I suggest waiting to start any diet plans until after you eat this. If you are entering a weight loss contest, perhaps you should try it right before weigh in. Really, there is no healthy way about this.
Skyline Chili can't really be duplicated (or so, I have heard). And if you are Skyline Chili lover, there is no substitute for it. Just ask the Sullivans. This recipe comes close though. It was good. Really good.

One note - This chili isn't thick. Its soupy. You aren't messing up if its soupy. It is suppose to be that way.

Jim goes with red beans and onions. I skip the onions. I mean, I'm watching my weight.

Cincinnati Chili and Spaghetti
2 T veg oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T chili powder
2 T sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2lbs ground chuck
1 6oz can tomato sauce
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 C water
2 T chopped unsweetened chocolate
1 T cider or red wine vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
12 oz cooked spaghetti
1 19oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Grate cheddar cheese
Oyster crackers for serving, optional. Cuz you can never have enough carbs with chili

Heat the oil in a medium dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. Add half the chopped onions and garlic and cook until soft, stirring, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, all spice, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne and cloves. Cook, stirring, until mixed and fragrant. Add the beef and cook the mixture, stirring until beef is no longer pink.
Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, bay leaf and 1 1/2 cups water. simmer the mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally until slightly thicker. Add the chocolate, vinegar and Worcestershire and cook uncovered until the mixture is thickened some, but still soupy. About 15 minutes.
Discard the bay leaf, and season the chili with some freshly ground pepper. Divide the spaghetti among bowls, and top with chili, beans, remaining onion, and cheddar.

Friday, October 24, 2008

To Kathy, Emily, and Jennifer

This is just for you three, and you know why! My mistake did create a good excuse to search Elf movie clips though - I love this movie!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Meet Reid

Congratulations to our friends Jessica, Drew, and big brother Braden.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why I didn't make the bed today

It seems the sides are split on making the bed. I personally like the bed made daily. I actually need it to be straightened before I get it. Its my little quirk, just roll with it.

Anyhoo...This is Cooper. She likes to burrow herself under the covers, in fact some days after the bed is made, you will go in and see a lump in the middle of the bed. That would be Cooper. So today, I go to make the bed and look what I find. I let her stay, and skipped the bed making.
I'm a rebel sometimes, what can I say.
And yes I love her and our other cat Cagney but no, I am NOT a crazy cat lady. I have two cats people. Two.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Carrie wins, Browns....not so much

It was Lobsterfest at the Browns Backers of the Palm Beaches on Sunday. I won a raffle, but that was where the luck ended. Browns lost 13-10.

Explain to me how the Browns could lose when I was cheering them on wearing these shoes

Oh Canada....How I love thee candy!

I won a bet. This candy more than fulfilled the bet. Thanks for letting me win Derek!

Let me tell you...Those Smarties you see are NOT the little bits of powdery sugar lumped together in a disk like they are here. They are, as we Andersons call them "The rich mans M&M"
And Mr Big....O M G. Kit Kat like wafer, coated in caramel, peanuts, and rice crispies and then covered in chocolate. So good that I am hoarding them from Jim.
I think one of each is perfect acceptable and well balance

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Writers Workshop Wednesday

This week was tough for me. Really tough. I struggled with what to choose and how to write about it. And even still, I don't think its my best work. It was a tough week for me.
  • I don't really recall anything I did in my like to really get noticed.
  • I don't like playing the rearrange your life game. Mainly because I try to enjoy what life is now for all that it is. And I really believe that changing one thing, changes lots of other things, and then you are on a slippery slope. I know I know, its just a writing idea, but still I am just making my point.
  • I wish someone told me....I don't know about that one. I don't look back and think that there was something I really should have known. The few things I do think of are kind of sad, and I am not in a sad place.
  • What do you love to create.
So, here I am. #4 it is

Have you ever baked someone a birthday cake?
Taken a casserole to a friend or neighbor who is a little under the weather?
Handed a co-worker a plate of fresh cookies?

Do you remember their reaction?
I do, all of them. Every single one...

I remember being excited when random co-workers would stop by the department to see what was fresh baked for them to snack on.
I hold on to the thank you note from a friend who was grateful I dropped off dinner after her and her husband brought home their new baby.
I take pride in hearing people say "You should open your own bakery"
I smile ear to ear when Jim's co-workers call me the cupcake lady

I would say that I love to create food and that is this absolute truth, but you can't take away from the feelings and memories tied to it.
You may eat your cupcake and go about your day never thinking of it again. And that's fine, but I enjoy knowing that maybe for just a minute, I made someone a little happier.
That something I created, something I worked on made a difference. Even that difference was just a short lived sugar rush.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A moment to reflect

Today is International Stillbirth and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day.

Chances are, you know someone (or of someone) who has suffered through the pain of loss of pregnancy. Please take a moment to think of and prayer for them today.

Also prayer for the women in your life who are pregnant and about to embark on the journey of motherhood.

If you are struggling with loss, or what to do or say to someone coping with loss, check out this site which is directory of sites that may help.

I also want to share this quick note from an article I read in Parents magazine, called Say the Right Thing. I should reiterate a point made in the article, and say that I truly believe that people are most often well intentioned and not sure what to say. The comments that can sometimes hurt most are usually said with the intent of helping a friend and easing their pain.

When a Friend Has a Miscarriage
Lisa Bertrand, of St. Louis, felt sad and alone after her pregnancy ended at nine weeks. Her friends and family tried to be supportive, but some of their remarks were piercing and painful. "One friend said, 'The baby must have had a lot of problems,'" she recalls. "To me, it sounded like she was saying, 'It probably wasn't a perfect baby, and so what's there to be so upset about?'" What helped was talking to a friend who cried with Bertrand when she told her the news. "That friend really understood how I felt, and I ended up being the one reassuring her, saying, 'Don't worry; I'll be okay,'" Bertrand said.

No matter how clunky their reaction, most people genuinely want to make a friend who's lost a baby feel better. "Even the most insensitive things that pop out of their mouth are usually motivated by an impulse to make everything okay," says Ann Douglas, author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books. With a miscarriage, what often gets minimized is the depth of the loss -- or at least that's how it can feel to someone who is hurting. "Even a very early miscarriage is the loss of a baby, and that causes grief," Douglas says. In addition, a woman who loses a pregnancy often feels guilty, as if it's somehow her fault. Friends who don't acknowledge what happened can compound that feeling. "If you aren't sure what to say, just say, 'I'm so sorry,'" suggests Douglas. "It might seem generic, but in most cases, it's the most appropriate thing to tell someone." If she wants to share details of the situation, she will, otherwise don't pry.

Don't say...
"It just wasn't meant to be." It's easy to be philosophical when it's not happening to you.

"Are you going to try again?" When some one's grieving the loss of an unborn child, she doesn't really want to think about another just yet.

"At least you know you can get pregnant!" Right. But she also knows she can lose the baby. Not something she wants to be reminded of.

"I just know everything will work out next time" Actually, you don't

Do say...
"I'm so sorry to hear about what happened."
"I'm here if you feel like talking about it."
"Can I run any errands for you? I'd like to help in any way I can."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Easy Peasy Pork Chop Dinner

In the last two days, two of my friends told me about this yummy pork chop recipe they made with apple pie filling and stuffing. I don't make pork chops that often since neither Jim or I are big fans, however, I thought I would give it whirl.
It was yummy, and easy. Thanks Jen and Ang for a new way to make pork chops.
Here is what I did

4-6 boneless pork chops (you can easily adjust to feed more of less). I used 4
1 6oz package stuffing mix (I used savory herb)
1 21oz can apple pie filling

Preheat oven to 350
Prepare stuffing according to package.
Light season pork chops with salt and pepper. Brown pork chops in skillet. You don't want to cook them through, just brown them.
Spray 9*13 pan with cooking spray. Spread apple pie filling in bottom of pan. Place pork chops over apples, layer stuffing over pork chops. Cover with foil.
Bake 40-50 minutes, until pork chops are cooked through.

***The tops of the mounds of stuffing will get a little dry. I like that, however, if you don't, place a little water, broth, or even a dot of butter on the stuffing mounds during the last ten minutes of cooking to moisten them.

I served the stuffing on the side, topped the pork chops with apples, and served green beans with slivered almonds on the side (cuz I'm fancy like that)

Jim will never be the guy that goes crazy for pork chops, but he liked this (which worked for me). I thought it was really tasty, and would make it again.

By the way...I am pretty sure Bon Appetit won't be calling me to do food arranging or photography for them anytime soon:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Birthday Grandma (Oct 10th)

Happy Birthday Grandma (she is the one we call Grandma Foxy)

Five Fun Foxy Facts
  1. She loves to tell the story of the time I ripped her houseplant right out of its planter (to my defense, I was a just a baby)
  2. She warms your plate before serving dinner. "You don't put hot food on a cold plate"
  3. She makes the best salsa and strawberry jam you will ever eat.
  4. She participates in the Relay for Life Event for The American Cancer Society Every Year
  5. She is an amazing, kind, caring woman who I love, adore, and think of every day (often more than once)
  6. She once exclaimed "Carrie is by far my favorite grandchild"

Whats in a name?

Back when this whole thing started not too long ago, it was meant as a way for me to share my love for cooking and baking. It really stemmed from seeing the blog of one of my best friends. She began a blog to share her journey through pregnancy. I thought blogging would be fun. The truth is, however, I had no idea what I would share. My husband and I currently have no children and don't lead the craziest lives. What would I have to offer the blogging world?
So, it occurred to me that I could share my passion for food. I thought I would share some recipes, and move on. Then it happened, I stumbled on this cooking related blog, that somehow led me here. Jennifer is a bit of a blogging mentor. Her blog is amazing and you will want to be her friend after reading. You will also be totally jealous because she writes so well that you feel like you are having coffee with her and she is telling the story to you and only you. Her blog introduced me to all sorts of other blogs, like this one. I think Emily and I would be crafting pals if we lived near other. Through all of these blogs, I realized that maybe I had more than just recipes to share and when she started writers workshop, I discovered a whole new way to express myself. Through all this, blogging has become quite therapeutic for me. I am loving blogging more and more every day.
So, here is my dilemma - Should I change my blog name and address? The recipes are still going to be a constant, however, I think other things will continue to flow into this blog as well.
I need to know what you think! Part of me thinks it would be fun (I have thought of names), and part of me is worried that I should stick with how I started out. Truthfully, I am wondering if I am limiting myself with the name. See what I mean, I can't decide.
I am asking you. There is a poll on my sidebar. Vote, tell your friends to vote. Let your voice be heard! Heck, I won't even make you register!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Writers Workshop Wednesday #1- Learning what its really about

I am going for teachers pet this week with Mama Kat. I have so many holiday memories, I am sharing three. So there! And btw...the next two aren't very long and will make you laugh. I promise!
And sorry about the Christmas music, but it seems appropriate. Plus, who doesn't love a NKOTB version of Little Drummer Boy?

I am 31, and I get as excited as a little kid for Christmas. I love the hustle and bustle of the crowds, I love to bake cookies while listening to holiday music playing in the background. I love to make a mug of hot cocoa and wrap presents and picture the look and the persons face when they open it up. I really think its the most wonderful time of the year.
And while I love it, it always brings it share of pain. My mom passed on December 1st, 1992 and she was the biggest lover of the holiday season ever. She made the time of year feel magical with her glow and excitement. The house was always decorated beautifully, and you couldn't help but smile when you walked in. She once stated that she wanted to hold on til after Thanksgiving so we wouldn't have to lose her at Thanksgiving. I think she really wanted to hold on and make it til Christmas, and I am sure that made letting go a little harder for her. The fact of the matter was, she couldn't hold on that long. Deep down she knew that it wasn't really up to her and holding on til Christmas wasn't an option. Even though she wanted it, she wouldn't be able to spend one more Christmas with us.

I go through quite a roller coaster of emotions during that time of year because of it, and often I bury myself in the joy to get through the pain. Make no mistake, my joy isn't fake, it just seems that I make sure I look at the glass half full over and over again during the holidays. I always loved them and I know more than anything that the last thing my mom would want me to feel at the holidays was sadness.

Back in 2003, Jim and I were married for a year and a half. We had bought a house, were working decent jobs, but, were by no means well off. We decided to forgo exchanging gifts to save money and have a "toned down" holiday season. I left the decorations in the attic and we didn't even buy a tree. It was a well intended plan but....
I backed out. In my heart I did anyway.
I was sad, so sad. I did my best to hide it, because it wasn't as if Jim had coerced me into the plan. I had agreed. The problem was, it creeped into other areas. I wasn't as excited to go out shopping and the Christmas music never really played. I spent more time thinking about the pain of that time of year, and it hurt. Looking back, it was silly. I should have taken out some of the decorations, baked the traditional cookies, etc. Toning it down for one year shouldn't have meant stopping it all together. Hindsight, of course is always 20/20.
You may be wondering where this is going and why I am depressing you with "The Year the Andersons Skipped Christmas", but here is why Christmas of 2003 has special memories for me:

1 I woke up Christmas morning, Jim looked over at me and suggested we head downstairs for coffee before getting dressed and heading to his Dads for breakfast.
I walk downstairs, and there it is. A tree. Not a huge tree, but the cutest little table top tree with tiny lights and a star crafted from foil covered cardboard, that only a guy could make. A gift sat under the tree - a set of crafting scissors for my card making. And over the mantle was my stocking. Filled with a pack of M&Ms and a Ferrero Rocher.
It was so sweet and meant the world to me. It didn't cost a lot, but to me was worth more than any other gift he had ever given me. He knew I was sad and rather than just letting it pass, he and his buddy went to Michael's Arts and Crafts and shopped so that I could have the Christmas joy I love.

2 I looked back and realized for my Mom, it was never about the things. Christmas never meant gifts or material things to her. It didn't even depend on the music playing in the background. Sure, those things were fun and she liked them, but they were, in some ways, a means to an end. What it was really about was the time with each other, the joy and the memories. Maybe that is why she held on as long as she could, and then decided it was ok to trust in what was planned for her and let go. She didn't want the memories to be tarnished by the pain. And for what its worth, they never were.

I learned a lot that year, from two of the most important people in my life

WWW - Part #2 Christmas with kids

This weeks prompt, memory 2
Jim and I moved to Florida in May of 2007, and this past Christmas we traveled back to spend the holidays with our family and friends. We spent the week at my brothers, and I have to say Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning were so so so much fun with my nieces. Since Jim and I don't have any of our own yet, we had never got to experience the joy of Christmas with kids.
I won't bore you with all of the details, but I will share their letters to Santa. Kara, who is the youngest insisted on leaving money (which she took from her own piggy bank) for Santa. She said she is sure he likes all the milk, but would need some money for coffee when he got cold. And how cute is it that she reassured Santa not to worry if he didn't deliver on getting her a Nintendo WII (which for the record he did not get her one, and it was never even mentioned after the note).

They are such sweet girls!

WWW - Part #3 Holiday Memory

This weeks prompt - memory 3
Editors Note...Jessica and Drew were never late

A shout out to my friends back in Ohio. They were always late to the annual holiday dinner our house, and I just picture this occurring in the car on the way to our house.
Its ok though, I still love em and they are the most amazing friends!

Crockpot Apple Butter

12 apples
1/4 C water
1 T butter
1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Peel, core and slice your apples.
Place in crockpot with water and butter. Cook on low for 5 hours.
Mash the apples. There isn't really a right or wrong way. I used this thing that I have (and I know a lady if you want one). Just get em mashed.
Add sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Continue to cook on low 7 hours.
Depending on your preference you can stop here. I like mine nice and smooth, so I ran it quickly through the food processor.
Store in airtight containers or can/jar.

About the apples - I used 5 McIntosh and 7 Gala. Why? Well, thats just how I roll. And I was at the store and those were on sale. I have to be honest and say, I don't what makes a good baking apple, so I went with those.

And do you want to hear something funny, blogger doesn't recognize crockpot as a word and when you do spell check, it gives you crackpot as a recommended substitution. I think that is hilarious.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom - You are missed

Mom (Pamela Jean) - I don't know the year of this picture, but it is clearly the holidays (festive sweater mom, Jessica are you loving this?) and that is our first house, so it is probably the mid-late 80's.

It hits me some days that it has been nearly sixteen years since we sad goodbye. I sit here to write this birthday wish and all the things I think and feel don't seem so easy to express.
In a way I owe this blog to her. It was seeing her cook that inspired me. It was seeing the joy and the ease in which she did it all that allowed me to try. Maybe that's why I have always felt so relaxed when I bake and cook. I think it is during these times I feel she is there. Reminding me it doesn't have to be perfect, telling me to take my time. Making sure I know she is always at my side. And perhaps that is why I take it so seriously and get a little on edge when someone tries to step in (sorry sweet hubby and friends). Those are my moments with her.
I really wish she could be here. It breaks my heart she never met Jim, didn't get to pass down some of her family recipes to her daughter in law, Carmen. It hurts that she doesn't get to bake Christmas cookies (peanut butter blossoms, Russian teacakes, nut cups, etc.) with the two amazing girls that are her granddaughters. Chucky and Carmen did good with those two. One day when Jim and are I blessed with children of our own, I will feel that pain knowing she won't be there to spoil the heck out of them. I know that is what she would do. I often choke up realizing that the amazing friends in my life never met the person who helped shape me into who I am today.
I have only one complaint - She didn't write down her recipes. I have three that Grandma gave me in her handwriting. They are tucked away in a plastic protective sleeve, already stained from the years she used them, notes lining the margins of notebook paper she jotted them down on. I have tried to perfect her oatmeal butterscotch cookies to no avail, I won't even attempt her blackberry cobbler, and chicken soup with homemade noodles, well mine it doesn't come close. Perhaps it was just that little bit of motherly love that made them impossible to duplicate.
Either way, she inspired me. It is why I read cookbooks cover to cover and would rather spend money on a mixer than a designer purse (of course, if I could have both that would be great too). She is the reason why when most men would be in the doghouse, I actually ask for appliances for Christmas. A few years ago, Grandma (her mom)taught me how to make jelly and jam, and it felt like I was in the kitchen with her again. We had so much fun.
She was 39, far too young to have to leave the world, but here long enough to touch more lives than she could ever know. She is still touching them today. If today I have friends and family who adore and admire me half as much as her family and friends did her, then I must be doing something right.

Happy Birthday Mom!
*****Maybe this is the year you will finally get your pig roast! : )

The music is a bit slower today, but its my blog and I'll post how I want to. Forever Young has a very significant and special place in mine and my brothers hearts -a special bond with my mom, and the rest just seem appropriate today. And btw....I was less than pleased with playlists happy birthday choices. I am still learning how to search just right on there though.
To lighten it up a little (I know that is her style), I leave you with some pictures I am sure she would like, and if nothing else will have some friends laughing at my expense,: (go down to continued post for more - I guess there is a picture limit???)

Me, Alyssa, and Kara (my brothers girls) just being goofy. Grandma looking on wondering if it is possible there is a mix-up and she isn't really related to us!

Me and Aunt Kimba.
(moms younger sister - remember the first post, I'm her first niece, she is my confirmation sponsor, etc. etc. - I wonder if she is reading)

Me, Grandma and Papa (moms mom and dad). This was after Dads 60th birthday party in July. They drove down from Michigan and I came up from Florida. They surprised me, and I had no clue they were coming. Chucky, Carm, and the girls kept the secret the whole time I was staying with them. They made the seven hour drive to Ohio to be with my mom when she was sick more times than you could count. They will always be my heroes.

Chucky, Dad, and Me - Thanksgiving 2006. Can you tell Chucky was on his few days off in a row. Firemen can't have beards (mom would be so proud of him) And Dad, as you can see fully embraces the grey. The Florida heat and humidity caused me to chop the hair recently, but still a fun picture of us.

I have no clue what year this is (lesson here is date your pictures). She is really young though and I think Aunt Kim might be able to help, based on the robe (lol). I posted it because I have been told I give this SAME look to people.

More pictures from above post (happy birthday to mom)

OK - I take that back two complaints: A mullet AND a purple and pink striped skirt. Seriously? She would say I am exaggerating, but take a look people. This is one of two family pictures I found of us. This was 1987, I was just about to turn ten. The other is 1991 (or 92), and I was sporting the puffy bangs us girls all loved (a french braid my have even been involved), courtesy of my big barrel curling iron, so either choice left room for me to be teased. My moms entire family (brothers, sisters, spouses and kids - I think there were just 20 of us then) got together for a family Christmas in January at my grandparents house in Michigan (I don't recall it happening another time - there are six kids in my moms family, spread around the states), and if notice my then twelve year old brother and his buddies did something crazy to their hair the day before we left for the trip and family photo. My parents were less than thrilled. And for the record, my dad rarely smiles in pictures but he is a happy man!

My brother (who is now just Chuck, but I still call Chucky - he is a junior and growing up dad was Chuck and my bro was Chucky), for the record he will hold you down and do that thing where you let spit hang down over you if you mention the Chucky movies to him.

Jim and me on our honeymoon. This is Oxford on our first leg of a two week trip to England.

Jim and me in May 2006 on our trip to the Riviera Maya.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Recipe for a perfect weekend - may bore others, was wonderful for me

What a way to cheer a girl up!

  • Sleep in until 7:45
  • Surf the internet
  • Make list for Jo-Ann Fabrics
  • Put on a pot of coffee for still sleeping hubby
  • Head off to shop for fabric for Christmas presents
  • Stop at Dunkin Donuts for a medium decaf coconut coffee with cream. So yummy (the blueberry is good too, and the toasted almond, I could go on)
  • Spend a really really long time pouring off the fabric options
  • Leave store and drive home
  • Embrace the Florida version of fall like weather - Steady rain and a low of 72*. Which with the rain, felt like 71*
  • Stop at grocery store (have I mentioned my love for grocery shopping -seriously)
  • Love that Publix has a covered drive up so I don't get soaked putting groceries in car (still missing Giant Eagle, but appreciating the little things)
  • Beat up the teenage boy that said, "Not to worry MAAM, I'll watch your cart while you go get the car" Um....I am being a bit sarcastic, but I'm 31 -hardly a maam, still he was being polite
  • Get home, put on a pot of chili -No, not cuz its "cold", but because there is college football to watch
  • Realize that I can save my back by using the island in the kitchen as a cutting spot as opposed to the dining room table, which is much lower than the island- BRILLIANT!!!
  • Read my new Rachael Ray magazine
  • Eat yummy chili topped with sour cream, cheese, and Fritos
  • Have pumpkin pie ice cream for dessert - that tastes amazingly just like pumpkin pie
  • Watch Ohio State beat Wisconsin - WOO HOO
  • Enjoy a homemade latte with Jim
Sunday (if you're bored, sorry - it was a great weekend for me)
  • Get up, make breakfast
  • Hubby knows I need some serious cheering up
  • Above hubby takes me shopping
  • Stop at Sonic after shopping - Cherry Limeade is high up on the list of ways to my heart
  • Take an afternoon nap - rare, but nice
  • Jim makes dinner - Tries to duplicate the Wake and Bacon, does a fine job. Oh Melt, how I miss you so.
  • Watch Amazing Race
  • I win bet with co-worker from this post. In only the second week. Technically the first week, since we always watch a week and then pick. Victory is so sweet.
  • Watch Brothers and Sisters. Oh how I love the Walker family
  • Check on apple butter I made (have to taste it, then I'll post). Looking good so far.
  • Type up my post.
  • Head off to bed.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ice Ice Baby

Vanilla IceBox Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and Candied Lemon Peels

Really - Why do I even try and be cute with the titles.

  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
  • 3 cups cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 8 large egg whites
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-by-3-inch cake pans. In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment on medium speed, cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla seeds until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Sift together flour and baking powder. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients, alternating with milk, starting and ending with flour; scrape down sides twice. Transfer batter to a large bowl.
  3. In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites with pinch of salt on low speed until foamy. Increase speed to high, and continue to whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk one-third of the beaten whites into the batter to lighten the mixture. Using a large rubber spatula, fold remaining whites into the lightened batter. Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the cakes comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the pans to a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the wire rack to cool completely.
  4. If cakes are not level - go to this post, or use a serrated knife to trim tops off. Carefully slice each cake horizontally into two equal layers, about 3/4 inch thick. (You will have four layers.) To assemble, place one sliced layer on an 8-inch cardboard cake round (or directly on your cake stand that Grandma got you that is really awesome because it is also a punch bowl). Spread with 1/4-inch of frosting. Repeat with remaining layers, placing the final layer bottom-side up. Lightly coat the assembled cake with a thin layer of frosting to protect against crumbs in the frosting. Finish with remaining frosting. Garnish with candied lemon zest. Serve immediately, or keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Candied Lemon Zest

This makes a nice lemon syrup after you strain out the peels. A nice syrup that I have no clue what to use in. Thoughts?

  • 6 lemons, scrubbed
  • 2 cups sugar


  1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel zest from lemons. Use a knife to remove any white pith; cut zest into strips as thinly as possible.
  2. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add zest; blanch for 1 minute, drain, and rinse under cold water.
  3. In another medium saucepan, combine sugar and 2 cups water; bring to a simmer. Cook until sugar dissolves completely, about 2 minutes. Add lemon zest. Simmer until translucent, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; let zest cool in syrup. When cool, transfer zest and syrup to an airtight plastic container. Store in refrigerator up to 1 month.
Icing (thanks FoodNetwork)
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet butter, soft
  • 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
In an electric mixing bowl place the soft butter and beat it on a low speed while adding powdered sugar. When all the sugar is mixed in, turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the vanilla and salt and let the mixer beat for 5 to 7 minutes on a medium speed.

OK, heres the thing:
My husband is my ultimate taste tester. I demand he is honest, and he is. He ate one of the "scraps" from when I leveled it off, and said it was "eggy". I didn't know eggy was even a word, let alone know what he meant as far as taste. Then I took a bite, and it was, well eggy. There was a distinct egg taste to it. After the cake was frosted and cooled it was not nearly as noticeable, however, I am stumped on this one. Did I not whip the whites enough? Should I have used actual eggs to get the whites instead of egg beaters egg whites? Is the cake supposed to taste that way? I don't know. We ate it, and so did our guests, and Jim actually really liked the eggy-ness. I for one, was not nearly as impressed. I was disappointed I used my not very cheap vanilla beans on this cake.
At least it looked pretty.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I'm not proud, but it was fun

Here is my contribution to Writers Workshop Wednesday.

I should start by saying that although this may not have been one of my finer moments, it was about as "mean" or "bad" as I got, so my parents must have done something right.

It was 1998, I was 21. It was not the greatest year for me. The how and why are irrelevant, but it involved a boy, so need I say more.
My friend Ang and I decided to get an apartment together and take on the world. We hadn't officially moved in, we were just getting the placed settled, but our parents and siblings wanted to be sure they could get a hold of us (that craziness is another story for another day). This was before everyone had cell phones. So, Ang's mom stopped by with this phone. I have no clue where she got it, because
A - It was 1998 and
B - We were 20 and 21

However, Her mom had stumbled upon a gold mine. It was the GIRL TALK PHONE. Not this one (that wasn't really a phone). No, this was a phone that could change your voice to go really slow or really fast. It would let you know if someone was on the phone, and when it was safe to talk again. I think the phone was pink and it was real. It also had some other features, but the most important (and the relevance to the workshop option #2), was the voice changing feature. Let me tell you, it was a little creepy.

It wasn't creepy for us, just the people we called. Usually we told people about the phone and then disguised our voices, but there are three times that we didn't (and again, it is not my proudest moment and I realize that we were adults, but still was fun):

1 We called our friend (who shall remain nameless) and had her so scared she wouldn't leave her room.
2 I called a girl from work and told her to "put the lotion in the basket" (and in my defense, I was coerced by her sister)
3 And the most hilarious, funny, and AWFUL moment was....Our friend Mike was over. This was long after the phone was put away, but somehow it came up. So, he called up a buddy of his and disguised his voice. The conversation went on and on and on. It got really heated and a few times I think Ang and I suggest to let Mikes buddy in on the "secret" It ended with the friend threatening to kick Mikes hind end, and Mike finally revealing it was us. The buddy claimed he know all along, but he didn't. He had no clue. We actually felt a little bad after that one, and the phone never came out again.
Looking back, that wasn't very nice, but we did always reveal ourselves and the friend that got really scared, scares easily, so we weren't really that mean.

More Crafts - Christmas Style

So, the glue gun kept calling me, sweetly drawing me in.....
I took a little inspiration from the pumpkin project Tiffany showed us

I didn't think to take a picture as I did this one, however, it was pretty simple. I need to get more ornaments and will post a tutorial this weekend. They were quick and a lot fun.