Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mini Milestones...

January is boring....  

It's cold, slushy and devoid of activities on the scale of Christmas.  

Not complaining, mind you...  

I like the lack of social commitments, the return to routine.  

It's almost comforting....  

Not all January's have been quiet.  

Two years ago, we were thrust into hell when the neighbor's foundation collapsed on January 9th.  

We are still recovering from that....  

But mostly, this month is the one you get through...

in hopes February speeds by and March offers hope of warmth again...  

As January exits we experienced some little milestones to stop and notice.  

Milestone #1:  Jack moved forward to his advanced yellow belt in karate.  

It's getting a little more serious at this point... 

He had to complete a written test...

that was mildy painful....for me...

and he had to train a long time to pass.  

He did so well and now it's a long road to achieve the green belt.  

Milestone #2:  Jack was invited to his first sleepover out of town.  

One of his school friends invited him to his cabin in Michigan with his dad.  

He was over the moon excited.  So were we!  

Jack hasn't been on a sleepover before, other than to his grandparents.  

No worries about homesickness, but would he behave himself? 

Would he turn into Mr. Hyde when the dad accidentally feeds him Cheetos?  

Will he break the 17th century Ming Vase they carelessly put on display?  

Will he fire the antique shotgun?  

Yes, wild, uncontrolled thoughts raced my mind.  

Then I visioned the peace I would feel.  The quiet around here.  

Off he went!

He is on his way home now and when his dad called 

it didn't seem that trouble was afoot....Let's hope!  

Milestone #3:  Kate-makeup.  

We hung around the house this weekend, since venturing out means spending cash.  

So, we baked, cooked, cleaned, watched a LOT of TV, 

decorated the house for Valentines Day and stoked the fire.  

She played dress-up and I applied grown up make up on her little face.  

It looked a little shall I say slutty/freaky, but she loved it.  

Little kids have the LONGEST eyelashes.  

I think the mascara caused those lashes to touch her nose...dang it!  

Note to self:  What goes on must come off, with pain and suffering.... 

Taking off her eye makeup this morning was akin to washing a cat.  

Not for the faint of heart..... 

Milestone #4:  Baby Ty's first birthday.  

My adorable nephew turned one today in Raleigh, NC 

and we all watched him dive his face into the cake via video conference.  


Goodbye, January....Hello, February.  

May you be less snowy, less cold, quick and with a wee bit of romance...

Here are some comforting dishes made this weekend.....

1. Potato Shrimp Soup


  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced about the same size as the onion
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 8 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups milk, whole, reduced fat (2 percent) or low fat (1 percent)
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes, dissolved in 1/2 cup hot milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups salted water
  • 1 pound medium shrimp
  • Crumbled bacon bits, for garnish
  • Grated sharp Cheddar, for garnish
  • Dill sprigs, optional garnish


In a 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion and carrots until both are slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the potatoes, milk, and dissolved bouillon cubes. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are very soft and some of them have begun to dissolve into mush. Add the half-and-half, salt, and pepper.
In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups lightly salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp all at once and stir well. Watch the shrimp closely; as soon as they all turn pink, about 2 to 3 minutes, turn off the heat and drain. The shrimp should be slightly undercooked. When they are cool, peel them, and chop roughly into big chunks. Add the shrimp to the soup and stir well. Serve soup sprinkled with bacon bits and grated cheese. Garnish with dill sprigs, if desired.
Cook's Note: If you don't have access to shrimp, use corn.

2. Individual Apple Tarts


Makes 6
  • Pate Brisee (Pie Dough)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 pounds Rome, Empire, or any good baking apples, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (2 tablespoons)
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons Applesauce, or good-quality prepared applesauce
  • 1 large egg


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat; set aside. Roll out dough to a 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out six 6-inch rounds. Transfer rounds to prepared baking sheet. Reserve dough scraps for another use
  2. Combine apples, sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Toss to combine. Sprinkle each dough round with sugar.
  3. Place 1 tablespoon of applesauce in center of each round. Mound apples over applesauce, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold dough up and over apples, making a crease or fold every 1 to 2 inches to enclose fruit and prevent juices from seeping out. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Lightly beat egg to make egg wash. Brush edges of dough with egg wash, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until apples are tender and crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Pate Brisee - Ingredients

Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pies
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water


  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.
  2. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.

  3. Crepes

Makes thirty-two 6-inch or twelve 10-inch crepes
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 cups whole milk, room temperature, plus more if needed
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for skillet


  1. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together milk and eggs in a medium bowl. Pour milk mixture into flour mixture, whisking to combine. Whisk in butter. Strain mixture into a medium bowl, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 1 day). Batter should be the consistency of heavy cream; add more milk if needed.
  2. Heat an 8- or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, and brush with butter. Ladle or pour 3 tablespoons batter (for small crepes) or 1/3 cup batter (for large crepes) into pan, turning and tilting skillet to coat bottom evenly with batter. Cook until top of crepe appears set, bottom is firm and golden brown in spots, and center is lifted by pockets of air, about 1 minute. Run a spatula around edge of crepe to loosen. Slip spatula under crepe, and gently flip in one swift gesture. (If it doesn't land quite right, that's OK; use the spatula to unfold or rearrange it.) Cook until bottom is firm and golden brown in spots, about 45 seconds. Transfer to a plate, and cover. (The first one will not be your finest.) Repeat with remaining batter, brushing pan lightly with butter as needed (every 2 or 3 crepes). Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bear Food....

It's the big day.....

Bear fans and Packer fans are calling it their own personal Super Bowl.  

The hype has been tremendous and now it's time to find out who is going to Dallas.  

We are a split household.  My in-laws live in Green Bay and are employed by Green Bay Packaging.  

You don't bleed much greener than that.... 

So, my son and husband have their hearts in the Packer endzone... 

Having lived most of my life in Illinois, it's the Bears all the way... 

By dinnertime, it will be a relief to have it all decided.  

We are headed next door to watch the game with our neighbors.  

Gotta make some serious game eats... 

I started the day with Banana Walnut Muffins...

Kate helped stir and toss flour into the three adjacent counties.  

Notice the lovely day old face paint on her.  Baths are overrated.... 

The Joy of Cooking never disappoints and these turned out great.....

although I would suggest following the recipe, such as adding the 6 Tablespoons of Vegetable Oil.  

I got distracted by a small child and forgot it.  

Oh well... Recipe below....  

No serious game day is complete without some good wings.  

I haven't decided which one to make, but here is where I will be perusing.... 

Trader Joes has some fantastic freezer appetizer items.  

They are tasty and look pretty. 

I'll be firing up the Mini Beef Tacos and the Parmesan Pastry Pups.  

Throw in some pre-made guacamole with a fresh avocado tossed in for some chunk, 

a few crudites and we are set for game time!

Go Bears!!


1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour
1/2 C Whole Wheat Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg
2/3 C coarsely chopped Walnuts
1 large Egg
3/4 Packed C Brown Sugar
1 1/3 C Mashed Ripe Bananas
6 T Vegetable Oil (I forgot this today!!! )
1 tsp Vanilla

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.
Whisk together flours through nutmeg in medium bowl.
Stir in walnuts.
In a large bowl, whisk egg through vanilla.
Add the flour mixture and mix with a few light strokes until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Do not overmix - batter should not be smooth..
Divide the batter into greased muffin tins or lined with cups.

Bake 18 minutes.

Makes 12.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Monkey of the Week...

It was 2 degrees this morning.  

It took an extra ten minutes to bundle the kids up.  

They looked like Randy from "A Christmas Story" as they waddled to the car.  

My poor car wheezed to life, whining, as I turned the key.  

As we walked in to school, our nostrils stuck together in the frigid, dry air 
and our fingers burned within seconds of being outside.  
Now what is my favorite wine (whine)? 

"I wanna go to Bocaaaa!"  

Feeling it today.....  

We knew this Arctic blast was coming....

It comes with the deal of living here.  

At least there aren't piles of snow everywhere... 

In celebration of this fabulous weather, I actually made the igloo cake I mentioned last week. 

I felt the call...

Don't ask me why...

You can find the instructions in the January/February issue of Food Network Magazine.  

The cake was delivered to the teacher's lounge as a morale booster 
for all the trouble the teachers go to bundling up kids in the winter....

Can you imagine buttoning, zipping, scarfing and hatting 30 kids two or three times a day?

Not to mention the petri dish that is school...drippy noses....hacking coughs....

These teachers need a break! 

The igloo cake is actually quite simple to make.  

Here are the instructions:


  • Unsalted butter, for the pans
  • All-purpose flour, for the pans
  • 1 18.25-ounce box yellow cake mix (plus required ingredients)
  • 1 pound white chocolate, chopped  ( I used half that amt and it was enough...)
  • 1 8-ounce container white sanding sugar
  • 2 16-ounce tubs vanilla frosting
  • 2 drops neon blue food coloring
  • 1 cake doughnut, halved
  • 4 drops green food coloring
  • 3 sugar ice cream cones  ( I did not make the trees...)
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


Make the Igloo:
Butter and flour an 8-inch-round cake pan and a 1.5-quart ovenproof bowl. Make the cake batter; divide between the pan and the bowl. Bake at 350 degrees F until a toothpick comes out clean, about 35 minutes for the pan, 40 to 45 minutes for the bowl.

Let cool, then unmold the cakes onto a rack.

Microwave the white chocolate at 50% power in 15-second intervals, stirring, until melted, about 2 minutes. Pour onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and spread to 1/4 inch thick with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with the sanding sugar. Chill until set, about 10 minutes.

Remove the chocolate from the refrigerator. Break most of it into rough 1/2-to-1-inch pieces to form the ice that covers the igloo.
Use a paring knife to cut a few even 1/2-inch tiles from the remaining chocolate (these are for the tunnel entrance).

Assemble the igloo: Mix 2 1/2 cups frosting with the blue food coloring. Spread some blue frosting on the flat cake, then cover with the bowl-shaped cake.

Spread some frosting on the cake where you want the tunnel to go, then attach a doughnut half, cut-side down. Attach the other half with frosting to extend the tunnel.

Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of blue frosting (this is called a "crumb coat," which is like a primer; it doesn't have to be perfect). Chill, uncovered, until the frosting sets, about 15 minutes.

Spread the remaining blue frosting evenly over the cake and doughnuts.

Arrange the white-chocolate pieces on the igloo in a mosaic pattern. Place the even white- chocolate tiles around the tunnel entrance.

For the trees, mix 3/4 cup vanilla frosting with the green food coloring. Spread on the cones, flicking the frosting with the tip of an offset spatula to form branches. Arrange the trees around the igloo and dust with confectioners' sugar.

It really was easy and pretty eye-catching.
Today it's Jack's day in class.  

He is the "Monkey of the Week", aka star of the week, I guess.  

So, earlier today I attended his class and witnessed his "Show & Tell" presentation.  

He brought his karate stuff and he and his dad made a video over the weekend 
where Jack shows off his dad's armored car factory.  

It's pretty cute and the bloopers are funny.    

Here it is:

He did a great job and beamed when the kids laughed at the bloopers and asked him a ton of questions. 

I felt that motherly pride for my son.....sigh!
Well, it's colder than a welldigger's butt.  

We will be congregating around the fireplace tonight, 

hopefully drinking a bevvie or two and watching bad TV.  

Stay warm.......

Monday, January 17, 2011

Too Pretty to Eat....

It's MLK day and I have been busy entertaining kids... 
That's right....It was a day at Pump It Up....
Otherwise knows as Parents In Purgatory...

No time for much tonight, 

 I am waaaay to tired to be clever, 

but I wanted to share this gorgeous tutorial for flower topped Cupcakes.  

Jessicakes has this fabulous 

blog with amazing talents. 

I found her in the TomKat Studio blog.  

Aren't these cupcakes crazy cool? 

I can't say I have the chutzpah to make these beauties, but they look fantastic. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Crafting Among the Chaos...

I don't know about you...

but when I am frustrated, angry or just plain cranky,

the house becomes cleaner, crafting happens and the kids get cupcakes. 

I have this insane, urgent need to control even one little tiny bit of my world when life deals me lemons.

  If the dryer is tumbling, the dishwasher is humming and the oven is firing up,

I feel a little better. 

Usually, my kids avoid me like the plague at these moments,

because when mommy's not happy, nobody's happy......

Am I right? 

Let's just say the last few weeks have been fun..... 

Fun as in, cabin fever,

frequent spats,

husband working LITERALLY 24/7,

salt on my cute new boots,

the rigorous ritual of dressing kids for cold weather,

over and over and over again,

runny noses,

sinus infections

and late tax bills. 

So much FUN! 

After a while it becomes a little much....

Even a few glasses of white don't really kick those winter blues... 

Why we don't live, say, in Fort Myers, FL, is a good question....

But here we are in the frigid Upper Midwest. 

Might as well be Fargo....   Yah....You betcha! 

It does no good to have an old fashioned tantrum...

you know, throw things,

lie on floor,

scream and kick my legs..... 

I'd just have to clean up whatever I threw and broke.... 

The kids would laugh at me and I might feel inclined to scream at them..... 

Not the best idea... 

So, I clean, cook and craft.  

Last night after I learned Tom would be home very late for, oh, the 7th night in a row,

I decided to channel my frustration into making this earwarmer

One of my favorite "Friends" on Facebook is the Tip Junkie

She daily posts many many great ideas. 

She is awesome! 

I wish I had the time to try half the ideas she posts... 

This earwarmer tutorial intrigued me... 

With a JoAnn Fabric gift card from Christmas in hand, I bought the materials.

(fleece is 40% off right now, too!) 

 It took about two hours,

with bedtime rituals thrown in and a good watching of "Top Chef". 

What do you think? 

I did get some compliments at school drop off this morning, so I plan to make some for Kate, too. 

Now, a quick getaway to Aruba with Tom would be better medicine for the winter blues,

but at least I have something to show for my Heat-Armor widow angst! 

Tonight I may bake an igloo cake for the teachers....I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Too Cold to Play in Traffic....


It's Saturday, it is bone-chilling cold outside and the kids are bored. 

 Barely two weeks past Christmas and
the joy of new toys is replaced by plaintive cries for entertainment. 

Sure, I could dump them off at Pump It Up or take them to the movies,

but this IS the month of austerity. 

I am the reluctant Julie McCoy
as I dream up ways to keep the kids from killing each other... 

While Tom gleefully escapes to work for the day,
I have set the children to work, making beds, vacuuming the stairs and emptying trash. 

While the kids toiled I organized the spice cabinet. 


I didn't realize how many bottles of chili powder I had. 

I have enough cookie decorating sprinkles to be a contender on "Cupcake Wars"... 

Now this is a thing of beauty....tomorrow the pantry! 

Back to the kids....

 Apparently I am the evil mom,

one step above Voldemort, for making kids do chores.... 

Reminders of child labor in third world countries

does not instill any sort of gratitude in these cretins.... 

The attitude of entitlement is disturbing. 

And yet, no level of negotiation worked -

I held firm; chores were done! 

Now what?! 

Let's see, we played Scrabble,

IPod Touch Checkers,

Hide and Seek,

made peanut butter suet for the birds,

and  made ruggelah.
Now they are beading.... 

 It's 3pm. 

Tom won't be home for two hours..... 

Is it wrong to break out the wine yet?