Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree...

I am still batting this very bad awful horrible cold. So things have been pretty slow at our house. My birthday was Sunday, exactly a week before Christmas, and that night we decorated our Christmas tree, a tradition that began when I was growing up.

First Caitlin organizes all the branches for the artificial tree.

Now it is set up and….anchored to the window sill (behind it) with fishing line because I a) have young boys with ADHD, and b) have cats with feline ADHD. Notice that the kitten wasted no time in snuggling in beneath it.

The box of tree ornaments is set on the coffee table. Some of the ornaments are handmade by my grandmother; others are real German glass; and usually every year I buy the children a special ornament that one day will go with them when they leave and start their own families. The kids’ stockings are in there too. I made them several years ago.

My First Assistant Caitlin puts the lights on the tree; 3 sets of 100 colored lights.

Megan is putting on a little snow girl ornament she received when she was very little.

Timmy puts on one of the many gingerbread men ornaments we have.

Ryan is putting on a snowman ornament he got when he was 5.

Caitlin always puts on the construction paper ornament she made in 1994 when she was 3.

This angel is one of the most special ornaments in our collection, and because of the “scary” face on it, we named it Fangula. Now how many of you have ornaments that have their own name? hee hee

Finally, the tree is finished and we turn the lights off and view our handiwork. No matter that we see the same decorations on it year after year…..it is always a special delight to see our decorated Christmas tree. J

Monday, December 12, 2011

Picture This....

Since I’ve been sick for a while, I have not been up to posting anything. And still being sick and not up to much deep thought, I figured I could just share something light and easy. Does anyone else ever see things and get goofy thoughts?

A Saturday morning ritual: the feeding of the cell phones. Makes me think of little electricity addicts.

Did the cat eat my plug-in? This must be my wireless mouse….

I hear this is what Mr. Ratburn, from the PBS show Arthur, eats for breakfast:

And finally, this is what happens when Hershey kisses run wild; they give birth during the night. We can tell by the baby’s wrapper that the father was silver….

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Eat Them Taters!

That’s something my Uncle Rene used to say to me when I was very little. He was such a loving man, and I miss him so.

I think of him when I make potatoes or use them in recipes. I think he would have liked the pancakes I made this morning for the family. They go like this:

Start with some sweet potatoes, and nuke them in the microwave until soft. I usually cook them on high for 5 minutes at a time, turning them over for each round. When they are done and cooled enough, you simply cut them open and scoop out.

For this recipe you only need one cup. I freeze cooked sweet potatoes in one cup increments for ease of use.

Turn on your griddle to medium low heat on the stove, or electric griddle if you use one. It can begin heating while you measure the ingredients and mix up your batter.

If you are having sausages with the meal, which are a nice accompaniment for pancakes with maple syrup, start cooking them now. One of our favorite varieties is apple maple chicken breakfast sausages.

As usual for products like pancakes, biscuits, and muffins, your dry ingredients will go in the bowl first.

Next you will add your wet ingredients, such as eggs, milk, and the cooked sweet potatoes. You don’t even need to mash the potatoes beforehand; they will mash themselves as you whisk together the batter.

Spray your hot griddle with a vegetable spray, or use a knife to spread on butter or coconut oil. (Yes, I did say spread coconut oil. If you’ve never worked with it, just ask me. I’ll do a blog post on the many coconut products I use sometime too!)

Ladle the pancake batter onto the griddle. The ladle I use is a standard one that holds approximately 1/3 c. and makes 5” pancakes.

When the edges are bubbling, flip the pancakes.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Oh no, wait…..that is what we do for our hair. Refer back to the post from Nov. 30.

Pull off the cooked pancakes and place on a platter.

I usually keep mine covered with a cloth and set in a warm oven (200 degrees or lower) until I am done cooking and ready to dish up.

Serve up the pancakes with plenty of butter and maple syrup, and remember a little syrup on the side to dip your sausages in. ;)

                                                       Sweet Potato Pancakes
                                                            2 c oat flour
                                                            1 c whole wheat flour
                                                            1 tsp salt
                                                            2 TBL baking powder
                                                            1 ½ tsp cinnamon
                                                            ¾ tsp ground cloves
                                                            2 eggs
                                                            2 ½ c milk
                                                            1 c cooked sweet potatoes
Mix dry ingredients together in bowl. Add wet ingredients and whisk well to blend. Ladle onto hot greased griddle and flip when edges bubble. Makes about 10 5" pancakes. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Some Hair Ad-"Vice"

                The hair is the richest ornament of women.  ~Martin Luther

Have I ever mentioned that I have a “thing” for expensive hair care products? Well, not that they have to be expensive; they just have to be very good. And the ones that are very good happen to be very expensive. So, okay, I guess I do have a thing for *expensive* hair care products. ;)

Yes, this is my hair!
The thing is, my hair is like straw; rough feeling (according to my own fingers), somewhat frizzy (especially in humidity), curls all unruly unless I put my foot down and use something (or put my fingers in, so to speak). (Why am I talking in parentheses??)

And it’s not like I have these vices that are all expensive or anything. I mean, I don’t smoke, the typical vice we think of; and it’s a good thing, because with my asthma, can you imagine it? One puff and I’d be down for the count. Two puffs on my inhaler wouldn’t even help me then.

And good gravy marie, have you seen the price of cigarettes these days?? Even for the least expensive brands, a pack of cigarettes can cost upwards of $5 -$6, and more like around $7. Cost of a carton? About a week’s worth of car payment? Wowzers.

So paying something more for a conditioner that will last me a couple of months is something I can live with. I mean, yes, I could buy Suave or Dove conditioners, and I *do* buy those, for everyday use. They work fairly well on the hair, as far as making it smooth and soft, and are usually just around $5, give or take a few cents.

Some of the conditioners
in my arsenal. ;)
But what I have found to be really great on my own hair are the ones that are more expensive. The ones that you see the price tag and your eyes bug out like the old cartoon characters seeing a ghost or something. Tom and Jerry, the cat and mouse team, are classic examples.

Well, you pay way more if you want your hair to feel as silky soft as they make it feel. I have several that I buy, and some are only a little more expensive, while some are a lot more. But those ones I only get when they are on sale or if I have a coupon.

Absolute best!

Otherwise they’d be almost a car payment and I’d be walking everywhere instead of driving that Yukon XL. And I’m just not young enough anymore to carry 4 kids piggyback to the store. Plus all the bags. ;)

To me, my little vice is worth the money I spend, for the handful of silky soft happiness they give me. That alone makes them a treat that is worth what I pull out of a tight budget, especially when some of these products last several months.

Curl boosters and amplifiers.

Unless, of course, someone takes a brand new 5 oz. container of Catwalk by Tigi Curls Rock amplifier and squirts it into the sink and right down the drain. Eighteen dollars worth. Down. The. Drain. In less than 4 minutes.

Um, I’m thinking that at $4.50 a minute…..that one might *not* have been worth it. Urg.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sugar Coat It For Me

The other morning it was quite chilly when I brought my husband to work around 6:30 a.m. Like, 35 degrees or something. Even being someone who loves cold weather and hates the heat of summer, this was cold enough to require putting something on, even just the sweat jacket I usually wear.

But even I knew that a sweat jacket would be just a little bit too light for that kind of early morning, when the frost was heavy on the dusky world outside, making everything appear like those old fashioned decorations with the fruit all covered with sparkly opaqueness. The kind in a bowl on your grandma’s table that you eyed and wanted to touch when she walked out of the room.

Since I don’t own a winter coat, and I didn’t feel like wearing a sweater under my sweat jacket, I asked my husband if I could wear his uber-cool Patriots coat. This thing is really nice looking, whether you’re a New England Patriots fan or not. All cotton…really nice logo patches…

But I’m a hockey girl. Everyone who knows me knows that. And I only have eyes for the Boston Bruins…..2011 Stanley Cup Champions. Though I love Zdeno Chara, and Tyler Seguin has been awesome this season….Tim Thomas is my man. He is an excellent goalie and has had many shutouts the past several games.

So anyway, I’ve been thinking of getting myself something heavier for the winter, and though that Patriots coat is rather nice, I’m not going to “adopt” it from my husband. I think he keeps pretty close tabs on it anyway. He did have a hard time releasing it from his grasp when I tried to take it from him to put on the other day. ;)

No, I’m holding out for something better. I want an official Boston Bruins jacket. And in skipping around online one night, I came upon this beauty:

Lovely twill cotton, team logo on the front and Stanley Cup Champion patch on the back….my goodness. Be still my beating heart. Now, with that coat on in the winter, I’d be so stylin’! And someone wouldn’t have to worry about me getting too attached to his Patriots coat.

Not to worry anyway….I think hockey is way better than football, and do not even attempt to explain football to me. It's a battle you will not win... and Tim Thomas has it all over Tom Brady.

At any rate, wearing that jacket and thinking of Thomas spanking the puck away from the net…. I’d sure be toasty warm in these New England winters. ;)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rocket Man Meets Young Frankenstein

So…. I’ve been rather busy for a few days, and yesterday was a day and a half, let me tell you. Well, forget it, you really don’t want to know….

But last night as I was thinking that I’d like to post a new entry on the blog , and wondering what in the world to talk about…..in walked Ryan with Nerf bullets stuck up his nostrils.


The boys especially always seem to supply me with more fodder for this thing. And the funny thing is, they get so annoyed that I post pictures on Facebook and ECDS of the goofy things they do.

Um, hello!! You walk into the room with Nerf bullets sticking out of your nose like giant snot rockets and you expect me to *not* post it??

I had my camera at the ready, having taken over 200 pictures today during the cooking process of our lunch, which was chicken stew and biscuits, with coconut and banana cream pies for dessert.

I frequently photograph cooking sprees, with the kids especially, because I love cooking and I love teaching. A cooking blog is a real possibility in the near future. I’ll keep everyone posted.

So anyway, Ryan walked in, and I busted up laughing, it was just too funny. Then he said, “I don’t need a gun!” and he blew them out. They shot across the room and I just about died.

He went into the living room to show his father, and I took a video of it. One of the Nerf bullets stayed in his nostril this time, and right when I stopped filming, Ryan quipped, “My gun is jammed!”

Oh. My. Gosh. I almost wet myself laughing at that.

And then in walked Timmy, with Nerf bullets sticking out of his ears, like a little Frankenstein.

Well, my email name does include Puddles for a reason….. ;)


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Definitely Their Forté

Remember the trip to the ER last week when Timotheus smashed his finger with the hammer?

Well, that has certainly not stopped the boys from working on their fort lately.

You know, doing buildy kinds of things the way 11 and 8 year olds do. I have said how much they like to attach wood of any kind to the fort, creating shelves, reinforced walls, new walls, things they don’t even have names for….

I think the real thrill comes in using a hammer, a grown-up hammer, to pound nails in.

And it does not have to be a piece of wood to satisfy that boyish need to push steel and iron through something.

They have hammered nails into doors, furniture, horsehair plaster walls, plastic, paper, Styrofoam, Play-doh….you name it, they have nailed it.

With the exception of concrete, which they probably have tried, but couldn’t succeed because we have no galvanized concrete nails.

They would have hidden the evidence anyway, thinking I’d never find out. Like how Timotheus runs into his room with the power drill, thinking I won’t hear that zhürrrrrrr as he’s drilling into the dresser drawer.

Or the wood splintering. Guess they could always pound the splinters into the fort, though. ;)

So, anyway, they have used almost every nail imaginable in this play fort…..drywall, roofing, finishing, common. Common nails…as opposed to your more distinctive ones.

And yesterday when I took the T & R Wrecking Crew out to burn off some energy, I mean play, they spent almost all their time playing Tim “The Toolman” Taylor on their fort. Except they don’t seem to have the “more power” grunt down pat the way Tim Allen does.

And we wonder why he goes
to the ER so much?

With the help of their father, Ryan and Timmy had recently taken some parts to an old bunk bed set that was destined for the refuse collection vehicle (ß read: trash truck) and used them to make the fort seem more like a jail.

Well good gravy marie, didn’t I say in last Wednesday’s post that I was pretty sure they were trying to turn the fort into something like the ADX Florence, a supermax federal prison in CO?

What they ended up with was something more like the jail in Mayberry, NC, and I almost expected Barney Fife to walk out adjusting his pants at the beltline, saying, “Nip it in the bud.”

All those nails and wood…..and they end up with something as redneck as we are. Or maybe because of all those nails and wood. ;)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese.....

Last night was a wonderful night for a casseroley kind of meal. So we had baked macaroni and cheese with ham chunks and a buttery crumb topping.

It was so good, and for some reason I really enjoy taking pictures of cooking and baking, and explaining in a commentary of sorts about what I am doing. Maybe it’s because I love cooking and teaching, especially with my children.

So….you are my captive audience for this account of last night’s meal. I will share the recipe also, just in case you’d like to make it yourself.

Any choice of pasta is cooked until al dente, which means, literally translated, “to the tooth.” You don’t want it over-cooked, because during baking the pasta will absorb liquid from the sauce, and who likes mushy pasta? No one. Just do as I say. ;)

I chose shells for this dish because I love how they are like eating tiny little pockets of cheese sauce.

While working on the pasta, the sauce can be made.

And the buttered bread crumbs for the topping is quickly mixed up.

After draining the pasta, it is placed in an 11 X 15” baking dish.

The sauce is poured on and mixed, and ham that was cut into chunks by one of my Food Prep Fairies is added and then mixed in.

The buttery crumb topping is sprinkled evenly on top, and the dish is ready to head into the oven for baking…..

Until 45 minutes later, it is done and ready to serve up in all its cheesy goodness to the family.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb pasta, cooked and drained
½ c butter
1 c flour
5 c milk
1 lb Velveeta cheese, diced
2 c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 c sour cream
1 tsp black pepper
1 ½ tsp salt
3-4 c ham, diced

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add flour and mix well with whisk to make roux. Slowly add 2 c milk, stirring with whisk constantly, until roux is thoroughly mixed in and there are no lumps. Add remaining milk and whisk well. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until thickened. Add next 5 ingredients, stirring frequently until cheeses are melted. Pour over pasta and ham in 11 X 15” baking dish and mix well. Sprinkle with crumb topping if desired. Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes.

Crumb topping: ¼ c melted butter mixed with fork into 1 ½ c bread crumbs. Crushed saltine crackers are also delicious in place of the bread crumbs.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The ER Fun File

This afternoon was one of those times that I had so much fun I just didn’t know what to do with myself. It started like this: I had taken the boys out to play for a while before we had a late lunch. I was on the laptop working on writey kinds of things.

Ryan and Timotheus were playing in the yard on their fort, doing the kinds of buildy things that young boys with a lot of old extra tools like to do. You know, take nails from their father’s hidden supply, use them to bang wood anywhere on the fort they can fit something else.

Basically turn the fort into something more secure than…..well, what’s the tippity-toppest security prison system in our country? A supermax, like the ADX Florence in Colorado?

Okay, so I’m pretty sure the boys are trying to transform this simple fort that was built from a clearance-priced $30 kit into something akin to that federal prison.

And they will use whatever wood they can find: leftover boards, furniture they pull apart without our knowledge, sticks, bark from trees, woodchips. They’d pound nails into sawdust if they could hold it up there.

So, the boys were using their hammers to bang, bang, bang, when unbeknownst to me, Timmy went BANG right on his left index finger. Just when we were going inside for lunch.

Only he didn’t tell me. He grabbed a tissue and tried to stem the flow of blood, ran into my room, and suffered as quietly as a child can with a finger split open and a blood blister under the nail. Until he couldn’t take the pain anymore and was forced to man up about it.

After taking initial steps to clean it and apply first aid, with Timmy hopping about like a lizard on hot tar, we were off to the Emergency Room.

The infamous metal rod.

Soon x-rays were taken and an examination performed by the doctor, whereupon it was decided that stitches were not necessary, and his finger was wrapped well and a splint put on.

Funny thing was, this was the same doctor AND nurse who had treated Timotheus in the ER last year for a metal rod put through his foot. And yes, they both remembered him.

Timmy had, for reasons known only to him and the wind, stomped on the metal axel to a toy truck, which 3 days later had become infected, requiring hospitalization and IV antibiotics.

Upon returning home bandaged and on bed rest, it was one of only three times in his life he has sat still for more than 4.5 seconds.

Before going into the OR for surgery.

The first was a year before that, when he split his knee open in the yard, wedging a pyramid-shaped chunk of glass in his knee that was only discovered later, months after being stitched shut, and required surgery to remove.

The metal rod stomping incident was time number two for sitting still.

The third and last time was earlier this year, when he had fractured his foot while sledding.

Jumping off the sled at the end of the hill, Timmy stepped right into a deep hole in the crusty snow and twisted his foot.

He was in a boot cast for about a month and a half.

So, this latest installment in the Fun File of ER Visits just made my day today. I cannot think of anywhere else *I’d* rather be than a hospital on a Wednesday afternoon.

I am thankful, however, that we were in and out fairly quickly, and that Timotheus didn’t need stitches. Wouldn’t have slowed him down any. We all know that. ;)

After today, I almost can’t wait to see what excitement tomorrow holds. Almost. ;)
Timmy doesn't hold the corner market for
emergencies: just 4 days after Tim was released
from the hospital for the foot infection, Ryan was
hospitalized for surgery on his eye for lacerations
from being scratched by the cat.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Darn Those Socks!

Remember the post about socks? And how much I love them? Well, my love affair with socks stops seriously short when it comes to folding them. Which is why sometimes they pile up. And up and up and up. Until finally there is an entire laundry basketful.
Then it takes a very long time to go through all those socks and match them up. Since there are so many of the same color, especially white, it can be a daunting task.

Which is why I put it off until no one has any left in their drawers anymore and I am forced to finally bite the bullet.

But matching up the socks is a long process….first you have to separate each person’s socks into piles. Then each pile has to be gone through, finding matches.

And again……with so many white or dark blues/browns/blacks…..it gets tricky.

 So the process can take an hour or two, and to help get through it, I watch television.

The last time the sock pile built up this big………Timotheus was in the bedroom with me, and he wanted to watch the new movie we had gotten the boys. Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Okay, so I watched it with him. And even when he walked out of the room 27 times. I was mesmerized by the action. And Shia LaBeouf isn’t too shabby to look at.

And when it was over, when there were no more socks in the basket…..

I actually went and got the first Transformers and popped it in the DVD player. Oh yes, I watched Transformers. Of my own accord. No gun to the back of my head.

And before the night was over, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was watched also.

.I have no idea why I liked these movies. I’m certainly not into any other of this genre of movie.

I didn’t get the Happy Meals at McDonald’s in order to collect the Transformer toys. Although the Bumblebee they had was kind of cool. ;)

For whatever reason, I just did. Like how I love the movie Anne of Green Gables. And I also love The Shawshank Redemption. The Dutchess. And Robin Hood.

Hey, it got me through that mind-numbing laundry basket full of socks, didn’t it? Isn’t that the important thing?

This time, when I had that mound of at least 183 socks (yes there was one loner), Timmy was otherwise occupied.

And there was an NCIS marathon on the USA channel. So I watched that. After all, they were showing “my favorite episode.” And Mark Harmon is in it. The Silver Fox. And we all know I will watch him any time of day or night. J

I’m just not sure the socks all got matched up right this time. ;)