Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happiness is: Ikea Trains


Frankie loves trains. I mean, LOVES them. He has a tote full of tracks now and will happily play with them for a long time. He needs help to form a circular track; if it was left to him, he would just drive his train from one end of the house to the other. He says, "Pease yous help me with my train tracks?".

Here's a shot at one of our better tracks.

Building these elaborate tracks takes more mental effort than you would think...
Especially when the "engineer" is driving the trains on the track as you go.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What's Cooking: Alber's Sweet Cornbread


Some people swear Marie Calender's cornbread is THE BEST cornbread on the planet. It is good. And I think it's great you can pick up their mix at pretty much any grocery store, even at Costco. However, I am trying to stay away from mixes; I like the idea of knowing what all the ingredients are that my family is eating. (I'm currently on the hunt for great chocolate cake and yellow cake recipes. If you can suggest a good one, please do! One that's light and fluffy.) So, a long time ago, I tried the recipe on my box of Alber's Cornmeal. It was so good. I mean, so good. When I make cornbread now, I leave the other starches (potatoes, rice, what have you) out of the meal, so we can eat an extra big piece, carb-guilt free. Or at least carb-guilt less...

I make this recipe using all kinds of different pans; square, 9x13, pie plate, bunt pan. Making it in a baking dish requires around 40 minutes, so start it first. If you've planned on making cornbread and forgot to whip it up before you started the rest of the meal (I never do this... ha ha), it cooks in about 15 minutes in a muffin pan. You can still be a dinner hero! Love having that option.

Also, I cut the butter out, just using the oil. Still tastes great. It's been so long since I've made it with butter that I can't really remember the difference, but I'm sure if I was to try them side by side, I'd know. I mean, come on... Who are we kidding?

EVERYTHING tastes better with a little pat of butter, doesn't it?

But I try to reduce where I can. I hope you like it as much as we do.
Frankie is even fooled that it's cake.
Can't beat that!

Alber's Sweet Cornbread serves 12 (sure pal...)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. White or Yellow Corn Meal
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 3 T. butter or margarine, melted

PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Grease 8-inch square baking pan.

COMBINE flour, sugar, corn meal, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, eggs, vegetable oil and butter in small bowl; mix well. Add to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour into prepared baking pan.***

BAKE for 35-40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

***I just make a well in the center of my mixing bowl and add all my wet ingredients, then combine. I'm all about using just the one bowl.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Circus Day! Part Two



All the kids were split up into different groups: tight rope walkers, acrobats, tigers, ponies, elephants and strong men. Then each group had a routine. The tight rope walkers "performed" on a balance beam. The tigers, ponies and elephants walked (crawled) around in a circle making appropriate noises (only they didn't actually make any noise. The Ring Master kept telling them to be louder, it was funny.) Then they did tricks like jumping through a hoop or standing up on a platform. The strong men lifted giant dumbbells, slooooowly, then switched hands. But I think the acrobats did the best. Their time was a little short because one of the kids was sick and didn't make it. But they each did some tricks. Grace chose to do a log roll.

I love the second one.

At the very end, you can hear Frankie saying, "My turn!"

Enjoy!

Circus Day! Part One


Grace's preschool had a circus day this past Friday.
She was an Agile Acrobat.
She took her "job" very seriously.

I was so impressed with what a great job her teachers did with 20 4/5 year olds. Thank you to the teachers out there for being patient with little kids and giving them great opportunities to do fun, creative things.

Come back tomorrow for part two. There may be a video.
Maybe...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring List Progress Report

So here's the list I worked on this week.
And I'm happy to say, I checked off all but one.
Not too shabby.
  1. Wash kitchen window. check. What a crazy difference.
  2. Finish sewing new pillow covers for the couch. check. Scroll down to see.
  3. Finish sewing new pillow covers for Grace's bed. Hopefully this afternoon...
  4. Get rain pants for Grace. Not in the store, but ordered.
  5. Start parsley seeds. Again. (Thanks to Frankie dumping the first attempt out onto the floor) Finished this morning!
  6. Finish designing/planning garden layout and seeds. Just look at all my pretty seeds.
  7. Paint my toes and Grace's toes a pretty color. Done. It's fun to be girlie with my girl.
  8. Clean out refrigerator. Done. Whew. I don't like that job.

Summer Pillows!

From top left to bottom right:
French radishes, green onions, basil, Blue Lake green beans, zucchini, European Salad mix, carrots, parsley, romaine lettuce.

{image via here}

I am going to plant the beans in a tepee form.
Something like this.
I thought that would be fun for the kids.

Did you get through anything on a list?

We have a birthday party to go today.
See you on Monday for pictures and stories from preschool Circus Day!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

DIY Egg Bagels

I love me a good bagel. Nutella spread bagels,oven toast bagels, toasted with cream cheese (maybe with a little jam), lox and cream cheese with a little tomato and capers... Mmmmmm. I could go on and on. The kids love bagels too. I won't even get started on Frank and bagels... However, I'm really unsatisfied with the bagels around town.

So last Saturday, I made my own.

Resting before their water bath.

First batch in the water bath.


And they turned out tasty.

Hot, crusty, tasty egg bagels.

Frankie and Grace both came back to the kitchen with their little plates for seconds.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What's Cooking: Spicy Asparagus

I don't know about you, but sometimes I'll be cooking along and I stop to do a quick food check to make sure I'm on track. It goes something like this, "Okay, meat - check, roasting the oven. Rice - check, seven more minutes. Okay good, I'm in good shape. Ahhhhh, a vegetable! I need a vegetable!". When this happens and depending on what I'm making (and if I was in a similar position the previous night...), I grab the broccoli for a quick steam or the asparagus. I like my asparagus plain. I think it's great that way. However, Frank doesn't agree. Actually, he only eats vegetables because I make him. Much like the kids... But, if I add just one more step to my blanched asparagus, he happily eats it up AND I get credit for serving up something spicy. Really, it's a win-win.

This vegetable dish is fast + easy and is able to satisfy even your spiciest critic.

Spicy Asparagus serves one

Ingredients

8-10 stalks of Asparagus (hold one end of the stalk in each hand and slowly bend in half until the tough, root part of the stalk breaks off. You will be left with the tender, tasty part.)
1/4 t. Dried Red Pepper (or enough until you look at the pan and think, "that ought to teach 'em!) ha ha
2 t. Olive Oil

In a medium size skillet, bring about two inches of water to boil. Add prepared asparagus. Let the asparagus cook in the water for about five minutes. When they look bright green, add another minute. Take out the asparagus and drain the water. Put the skillet back on the heat and add your olive oil and pepper. Swirl the pepper around in the oil just a bit then add the asparagus back to the pan. Toss the asparagus with the oil to coat, reheating for about a minute. Serve.

See! I told you it was fast.




Monday, March 22, 2010

Indoor Picnic

The weather was so nice this past Tuesday. We played outside, stomped in slush and were warmed by the sun. When it was time for lunch I decided the next best thing to having a picnic outside, would be to have one INSIDE.

I told Grace to spread out a blanket in the living room and the kids ate their lunch in the sun.

(Sort of.)


They loved it!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Great Big Dog Song

Just about every Monday, someone at preschool drop off will ask me if I had a good weekend or what did I do over the weekend. I never really know what to say because unless it's summer time, we don't do much of anything that's super interesting. It's almost like any other day. But. Today I have an answer. Today I can say, "I listened to The Great Big song all day on Sunday expect for that too short of a time during quiet time."

Holy, holy.

Grace was obsessed with this song. All she wanted to do was lay in my bed (which is where she was finally asked to go due to the self-taught constant repeat) and snuggle with the iPhone playing this song. So, if my Sunday came with a soundtrack, it would have been this song and my little so-not-the-next-American-Idol singing in it monotones. All. Day. Long. Don't get me wrong; I actually like the song. It's very celtic-y, Old World Folk-y. And I really like Laurie Berkner, she has great songs for kids. There's just only so much I can take. At one point Frank said, "I get it. I won't take your baby."

For your listening pleasure.

Whaddaya Think Of That?

by Laurie Berkner

Saturday, March 20, 2010

8 Things to Do to Get Ready for Spring

It's official. Spring is coming. Last night I saw my first bug of the season outside, a moth inside by my kitchen light and ANOTHER bug outside this morning. This started me thinking. With all my moaning and groaning about wanting spring to show up, I have some things I need to wrap up before it's actual here in full force. Here's what I've come up with.

I'll let you know how I come along with it next weekend.

  1. Wash kitchen window.
  2. Finish sewing new pillow covers for the couch.
  3. Finish sewing new pillow covers for Grace's bed.
  4. Get rain pants for Grace.
  5. Start parsley seeds. Again. (Thanks to Frankie dumping the first attempt out onto the floor)
  6. Finish designing/planning garden layout and seeds.
  7. Paint my toes and Grace's toes a pretty color.
  8. Clean out refrigerator.
What's left on your list to get ready?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shades of Green


My favorite part of spring, outside of the snow melting and hanging up my clunky boots, is that color of green when the leaves first start coming out. The trees shift from a sleepy, dull brown to a green haze. It's the time I take a deep breath.



Can you spot my green explorer?

Thank you for walking down my warm memory lane with me.
Next week we'll be back to what's happening day to day.
See you then, friends.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Warm Days


Popsicle faces.
Shorts and carpi pants.
Sun hats.
Skinned knee.
Kid-sized sun chairs.

How did Frankie get a drumstick?


{at our old house}

This picture was taken on our first real warm day in Alaska.
We went for our first family bike ride.
We went to the park.
We set up our new, fresh-from-the-box-tent, that we would later go camping in.
We ate lunch outside.
We laid in the sun on the grass.
It was a great day.
Looking at this picture transports me back to that day.
And makes me smile.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What's Cooking: Ben and Jerry's Peach Ice Cream

{image found here}

In sticking with looking ahead to green pastures (literally! ha ha), here's one of my favorite homemade ice cream recipes, complements of the boys we all know and love, Mr. Ben and Jerry. So when the peaches come to you and they are sweet smelling and give just a bit to your squeeze them, grab some up and take them home to your ice cream maker.

I promise you won't be disappointed.

Fresh Georgia Peach makes a generous one quart

Ingredients

2 cups finely chopped ripe peaches, peeled if you prefer
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine the peaches, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for two hours, stirring the mixture every 30 minutes.

Remove the peaches and drain the juice into another bowl. Return the peaches to the refrigerator.

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the remaining sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about one minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Add the peach juice and blend.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions. After the ice cream stiffens (about two minutes before it is done), add the peaches, then continue freezing until the ice cream is ready.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Shades of White






I love white flowers.
They look so clean and fresh.

Yesterday turned out pretty great. A little bit of a rocky start with some morning snow, but by the afternoon, the temperature sky rocketed into the 40's! Wow.

Spring? Is that you knocking?
{images are mine.}

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Fresh Perspective

It has been cold here, really cold. Temperatures dipped back into the negatives and we are slowly, slowly climbing back out. It's hard to feel good about spring coming when you have to break out the long underwear again.

So. In an effort to keep a happy mind for the coming days of spring and summer, I am going to spend the week posting pretty pictures that I have taken of Alaskan springs and summers past (and maybe some from other sources that make me feel warm and sunny!). Please indulge me.

{image via here}

{image via here}

These are crab apple trees in bloom. I love, love, love these trees. I think they look like a huge bridal bouquets. I would love to have one in my front yard. Wouldn't a picnic underneath one of these beauties be lovely?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tirvets

I don't know if you noticed or not, but in the background of some of the pictures from this post, you could see one of my Christmas presents. Months ago, I found this tourtial and emailed it to my brother, Mark and to Frank, in hopes that one of them would make it for me. At the time, both of them were super into tying knots. Mark for his rope access work on the North Slope and Frank for his anchor line on the boat. Well, time went by and no one said anything; I wasn't surprised. Who's going to remember something from some girl-y (sorry DesignSponge! I love you!) website. But, come Christmas, I was lucky enough to get not only one, but TWO of these lovely things, handmade, by my little brother.


Aren't they just great looking.
That's one piece of rope, people!
I love them.
Love.
Them.
I keep them in the front so I can see them everyday.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sick Kids

The kids have a cold. Frankie, as usual, isn't really bothered by his. Over the course of a week, his occasional cough became a nasty sounding cough, which turned into a slightly runny nose. We are on about day seven and he's on the up swing. Grace however started with a rash (normal for her, very weird), runny nose, turning to so-stuffy-she-snores nose, turning to 103.2-degree-fever-I-need-to-spend-the-day-on-the-couch-and-drink-smoothies full blown cold. Her words.


Here's the kids together.

Grace is getting her temperature taken (under the arm) and Frankie had just brought her one of her animals to hold and told her it was going to be fine, while giving her cheek a little pat. Then he said, "Gace, I sit with you". So cute. When he's not crashing into her or taking her toys away, he's really very sweet and sensitive. When the chips are down, Grace will do the same kind of things for him. I guess they do love each other. Deep down.

What's Cooking: Linguine with Fennel, Garlic, and Lemon

I picked up this cooking magazine a few months ago and I love it. It's from Cooks Illustrated (LOVE them!). I found it at Lowe's, of all places. I love that you get a little discount on magazines there. Costco offers a discount too. Makes me feel like I'm pulling one over on The Man.

Anyway, I've made so many great, new things out of it. All the ingredients are available at a regular grocery store (always a plus) and these things are actually ready in 30 minutes. I don't know about you, but I rarely finish something in the time the recipe says it will take. It usually always takes longer for me. But these recipes (at least the ones I've tried) are done and ready 30 minutes or LESS! Excellent.

So the recipe I'm sharing today is good and it's different without being crazy. I like to change things up sometimes when I start to get bored with the same ole, same ole. Here it is.


Linguine with Fennel, Garlic and Lemon serves four

Ingredients

2 Fennel Bulbs, trimmed and sliced thin, plus 1/4 c. chopped fennel fronds
1/4 c. Olive Oil
1/4 c. Water
Salt & Pepper
5 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 t. Fennel Seed
1 t. Lemon Zest
1 T. Lemon Juice
1 lb. Linguine
1/4 c. Parmesan Cheese, grated

Directions

Bring 4 qts. water to boil in large pot. Bring sliced fennel, oil, water, and 1/4 t. salt to boil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered until fennel is tender, about five minutes.

Remove lid and cook until liquid evaporates, about two minutes. Stir in garlic, fennel seed, and 1/2 t. pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and fennel fronds. Cover and keep warm.

Add pasta and 1 T salt to boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 c. cooking water, drain pasta, and return to pot. Add fennel mixture and Parmesan and toss to combine, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

It's light and delish.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sealife Center in Seward, AK

We went to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward a few weeks ago. We had a lot of fun. Fortunately, we went on a Wednesday. And from November to February they offer Freezing Wednesdays for AK residents. Get it? Basically, it was free for us. Which was good because we really took our time, saw several exhibits multiple times and were still done in an hour and a half.


This was a little play boat the kids both liked. We came back to this part where Frankie tried to take on a whole preschool class because they were playing in "his" boat.


I loved seeing the Steller sea lion, which was enormous; 2,000 lbs!
So much bigger than I ever imagined.


They also had an octopus that was very cool as well.

Frankie's favorite thing, outside of the play boat, was scale where a whole bunch of people can stand on to see how many it takes to weigh the same as the Steller sea lion and I think Grace like the gift shop best. I was really surprised how uninterested they were in the touch-and-feel tank. I thought they would dig it, but Grace touched just a couple things and Frankie didn't touch anything.


We ended the outing with lunch Apollo's (excellent). It was so great to get out of the house and do something different. I was super relaxed the whole day. Nice drive both ways and the kids had lots of fun running around.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Silverware Drawer

All polished.
Such a beautiful site.



I finally popped into an antique shop I've been driving by for the past two years. It's surprising lovely. The store is set up in such a way as it seems to flow from room to room. In the back left corner, you go into the 50's-era kitchen area. That's when I saw the lone silverware divider. Even though it was a small selection of silverware, I still ponced on it like a cat on a mouse. You have to understand. I miss the antique markets I used to go in California so much. But that was no more in Las Vegas and an even more of a distant memory up here in Alaska. I grabbed up the first set of five spoons for $14 (crazy money; I used to pay a $1 each back in the day), just in case someone else came along at the same time... And an additional set of two soup spoons (my weakness). I loved a fork but it was $6 and there was no way I was paying that. After closer inspection, I could see the silver was really worn on the set of five and even though I LOVED the pattern on them, I just couldn't bring myself to spend that much on something I knew would not clean up good. I settled on the set of two soup spoons for $4. Not bad.

Here they are, all cleaned up.
I had to take a little Barkeeper's Friend to them after the silver polish barely made a dent.

Welcome, New Soup Spoons.



I continued walking around and found (upstairs!) a lovely settee I would love to put in my master bedroom. But it wasn't a steal of a deal, so I left it... Now I will continue on, dreaming of it and will probably go back to check on it again. Maybe bring my camera next time...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Bowl Full of Lemons


Look at all these lovely lemons.
I'm going to have to make something good this weekend...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bag of Chips

Every once and awhile, Frankie will ask me for a bag of chips. He is usually Mr. Sweet Tooth, where Grace loves salty stuff. But sometimes he needs a chip fix. Last week, he got up from nap time (ahhh, strike that, QUIET TIME...), came to me and asked, "Pease, Mommy. Pease I have a bag of chips?" Before I could answer, he took me face between his two chubby hands, got on his super cute face and continued, "Pease, Mommy. A bag a chips a me? Tiple (triple) peeeeease?" What could I do? I gave the cute kid a bag of chips. He and Grace each choose Cheetos. These are the Smallest-Bags-of-Chips-in-the-World so it's not that big of a deal to me. They are supremely happy and think being given a bag of chips (each!) is utterly fantastic. So great.

{Please excuse the sans-pants picture of Frankie, part the ease of his potty training}

Then after about two or three Cheetos into it, Grace says, "Mommy, why did this Cheetah Tiger make some yummy chips named Cheetos?!" I thought that was so funny. I even wrote it down.

Staying Home

Today we are staying home and it's lovely.


Frankie has some sort of cough, so I'm keeping the OJ flowing...

Things we are going to do:

Clean the oven.

Work on Grace's homework packet.

Make raspberry jam and raspberry syrup.

Finally get on top of the laundry and ironing.

Build the best train track ever.

Should be a good day.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pay It Forward

If I'm checking out at Costco or the grocery store and I see that you have just a few items, I'm the person who will let you go ahead of me. It's fine and I'm happy to do it. However, lately I haven't been feeling the, shall I say, karma love. I would like to think that my fellow man would repay me with the same courtesy. But it hasn't felt like that's been happening. I've still let people go in front of me because I feel it's the right thing to do, but I haven't been as happy about it. Until last week. I don't know what happened, but suddenly, nice things were coming my way for no reason and let me say, My Fellow Man, I appreciate it!

BJ, down at his garage, didn't charge me for my oil change. Frank goes there a lot and sends him business and BJ said that since Frank takes such good care of him, not to worry about paying him. Thank you, BJ!

Ray, our neighbor with the snowplow, plowed all the excess slush around our driveway and wouldn't let me pay him. Thank you, Ray!

Mark, my brother with the photo and matting skills, bought the mat, custom cut one for me and finished framing my new poster, just because. Thank you, Mark!{My new poster. Love it.}
It's a WWII Propaganda Posters.
It makes me proud to be an American.

Meagan, my dear friend, sent me a pound of my most favorite coffee, La Colombe. Thank you, Meagan!

Now if i see you only have a couple items, I will happily let you cut in front of me.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What's Cooking: Monkey Bread

This is originally from Martha Stewart but I found it via angry chicken. I thought her idea of including cinnamon into the dough itself was great. I'm always disappointed once the tasty outside is gone, leaving only the plain bread. I don't bother rolling the dough anymore (I've made this a few times now...) I just cut it up with a pastry cutter (or a floured knife would be fine too). This is much faster too. Another change I make is in the coating. I leave out the nuts and just kind of dunk a bunch of the dough pieces in and then move them into the pan, bringing some of the gooey-ness along. I have been leaving off the icing as well. I feel like it's enough as it is.

Just because this is a yeast based bread, don't skip it. I have made several different kinds of yeast breads and this one is REALLY easy, dare I say, fool proof... Give it a try. This is fun for kids to help with too. They can be involved in lots of the steps. Especially the messy ones...

Monkey Bread makes one loaf

  • BREAD
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus pinch for yeast
  • 3/4 cup milk, warmed
  • 2 tablespoons shortening, plus more for pan and bowl
  • 1 package yeast
  • COATING
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup nuts, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup light-brown sugar
  • ICING
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk

Directions

  1. Put the warm water and a pinch of sugar in small bowl; sprinkle yeast over top. Stir; let the yeast soften and dissolve, about 5 minutes.
  2. Place shortening, warm milk, sugar, salt, and egg in mixer bowl. Grease Bundt pan and a medium bowl.
  3. Once yeast is dissolved and foamy, add it to mixer bowl; mix well with dough hook. Slowly add flour. Knead on medium-low 1 minute or by hand 5 minutes. Place in the greased bowl; cover with plastic. Set dough in warm place and let rest 20 minutes.
  4. Make coating: Put melted butter in a bowl. In another bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts; sprinkle 2 tablespoons of nut mixture in Bundt pan. Cut dough into 1/2-inch pieces. Roll into balls.
  5. Dip balls in butter, then roll in nut mixture; place in prepared Bundt pan.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes in pan.
  8. Turn bread out of pan; cool 20 minutes on rack or plate.
  9. Make icing: In small bowl, stir milk into confectioners' sugar. Drizzle over bread.
From Martha Stewart Kids

Vintage Measuing Tape Growth Chart

I've been meaning to share this with you because I think it's just so cute. I've wanted to find something similar for a long time. The only thing I've come across that's close is wood and huge, so that was out. But I can make this myself (very easily) and I can take it with me and have it forever.


Cathe, over at Just Something I Made, created this. You can find her full tutorial here with all kinds of pictures. She gives such great, detail instructions and has excellent tips like using a marker to color over the edges to make it look more authentic. I would have skipped that all together, not thinking twice.

Just look at the finished product! So cute. I have the perfect spot to put this. I can't wait to make it.

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