Friday, July 31, 2009

Tales from the cookie jar

M. is a die hard hardcore chocoholic and I think his most favorite chocolate fix is homemade chocolate chip cookies. I have to admit, they are pretty tasty, but they've become somewhat of an obsession with M. He reports to me frequently the status of the cookie jar, but it's in such a way that might have you wondering, um...does he want me to bake more? Our conversations generally go something like this with M. peering into the empty depths of the jar: "There's only three more cookies left, someone should make some more." Me: "M., would you like me to make some more cookies." M: sly smile and a nod. So, I find myself employed part time as a Keebler elf. I guess there's worst occupation to have. Here's a tasty recipe to make with your own cookie monster.

Chocolate chip cookies

1 cup softened butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 small package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add pudding mix, eggs one at a time and vanilla. In a small bowl combine flour and baking soda; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

It's been a blur of activity around here lately getting everyone squared away and back in school. Looking around I realize that I've neglected my house cleaning routine. That's right, I have a routine. I think I'll take today to get back on track and spiff up my abode. So...I'm off to scrub the toilet. Fun times!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Race relations in America?

The topic I'm writing about is sometimes difficult to discuss, but I think it's an important one and that we as citizens of the world don't talk about it enough. Before you begin reading this you need to know that I'm going to talk about race relations. It's not meant to offend anyone, but it is how I feel. You don't have to agree or understand it. You may have been one of the people that felt after Obama was elected that America had embarked on a new chapter of equality unprecedented in our history. I have to admit I was not one of those people. I was a skeptic. I wanted to believe, but you see I live in a world where things like this and this happen. So perhaps my view is a bit colored by my life experience.
I don't think I'm your stereotypical woman of color (if there's even such a thing). Or maybe I am since most of the woman of color I've known are strong. They are resourceful and self reliant in a way I've never seen in women who are not of color. I'm not passing a judgement here, I just think we've had to be like this because the plight of our men left us to care for our families in a way that other women haven't had to. I'm kind of crafty and domestic, but not because I read about it in some book or a group told me I should be. It's because that's what I knew growing up and that's what made the most sense to me. I had a very thought provoking conversation with one of my white co-workers recently. Let me explain a few things. I grew up on military installations. I wasn't really aware of racism or discrimination on the basis of color until I was much older (college age). It was very shocking and disappointing to me. I mean I had friends of all colors and felt accepted and valued by them for the person I was. Fast forward to present times. I moved to the south. Don't get me wrong, I love it, but it was like falling back in time and not in a sweet Pleasantville way, but more in a Jim Crow kind of way. Moving here really changed my world view and made me a more cynical person than I was. I still have friends of all colors, but I probably am more aware now of our cultural and racial difference than I ever would have been if I never lived here. In fact when I encounter certain experiences I generally wonder if race is a part of it. If I'm treated a certain way such as being ignored in a store by the employee or followed around the store to determine if I'm shoplifting, I always wonder if it's because of the color of my skin. I don't want to think that way, but it happened so many times that it became the norm and perhaps I even came to expect it. It's the little things that chip away at your humanity, things no one considers to be harmful, but when stacked up tall, you realize that the assaults can leave a wound that never quite heals over. For example I've noticed in my work place some people can make caustic albeit funny remarks and their remarks are perceived as harmless and witty. If I behave in a similar fashion I'm thought of as the angry neck rolling finger pointing "big" black woman that will kick your @ss if you cross her (just for the record, I've never been in a fight in my life!). It weighs on me mightily. Often I feel isolated and separate from other women. They don't get my life (and perhaps I don't get theirs either). I mean how could they really and should I expect them to? There's no need for them to extend themselves to understand my world view is there when the world is set up from their prospective. Most images seen on television, most images in magazines...what's considered the norm is not my face. Society helps perpetuate that we are still separate. You rarely hear or read a story discussing a white individual that points out in fact that they are indeed white. But you rarely if ever read or hear a news story pertaining to a nonwhite person that doesn't disclose that fact. It seems that it's essential that we know that the person is black or Hispanic or the story has little merit. I find it a bit ironic because really we are all probably more alike than we are different, but where is the impetus for us to discover that? We all want the same things. To be happy, to love and be loved.
I remember having a conversation with another white co worker about why she wouldn't attend an HBCU to further her education. To me, why wouldn't she? She'd get a great education and because she was a minority on campus she'd have an abundance of funding options. Her response was she wouldn't feel comfortable. How ironic. All my life it's been expected that the world I live in is suppose to feel "right" to me. Most of the times it's fine, it doesn't bother me and I too take it for granted that this how life is. Sometimes though, sometimes I feel something inside of me that objects to this and makes me a little...well, I guess the best word I can use to describe it is sad and maybe just the tiniest bit alone on this planet.
And yet as a mother I am still hopeful. Each time I send my children out into the world I am hopeful for their future and that their experiences will be different. I am hopeful that they will be judged not by their skin, but by their character, their own abilities and by all the gifts they have to offer.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday's meal

I love fish. I would eat it every day if I could. Alas not only are we not near any decent bodies of water (and once you've gone down to the docks to get the fresh catch somehow getting it from the grocery store isn't quite the same) but, Mister is allergic to seafood. Even though the planets have aligned against me, occasionally I get an overwhelming urge for some catfish. I like it best fried. I know that's not very healthy, but there it is. It's super easy to do and so delish I could just eat it straight from the frying pan with nothing but a fork, lol.

Southern Fried Catfish

1 cup buttermilk
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp of garlic powder
1 pound catfish fillets, cut in strips
1 1/2 cups fine cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon Old Bay or the seafood seasoning of your choice
Enough vegetable oil for deep frying

In a medium bowl, mix buttermilk, salt and pepper. Place the fish in bowl making sure to coat each side, and set aside to marinate.
In a resealable gallon sized plastic bag, combine the cornmeal, flour, garlic powder and old bay seasoning. Add fish to mixture, a few fillets at a time, and tumble gently to coat evenly. Lay the fish on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and let set for 10 minutes before frying. Heat oil to medium high (365 degrees f)in deep fryer or skillet deep enough to fully cover fish. Deep fry fillets until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Fish should be slightly crisp outside, and moist and flaky inside. Remove and drain paper towels.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cheap fun! Fabulous Friday Find!

Always on the hunt for a good deal I couldn't resist when I came across this Whirley Popper for $2.99 at one of my favorite thrift stores. It makes absolutely delicously perfect popcorn. Yummo! Plus the kids had loads of fun turning the wooden handle. It even pops up almost as fast microwave popcorn to boot. I highly recommend it as a fab find!

Flights of fancy!

So, I've been on this major spray painting kick. Wondering about all the things I could tackle with my trusty can of spray paint. Just yesterday I was dropping off a donation at the local thrift store and I wandered in to check out the offerings. I hit pay dirt. Coming out with 5 sweet little bird figurines that I promptly painted white. Five tropical colored fish plaques that will get hung in my newly painted powder room. A Longabergerish basket to corral the many shoes we own and best of all a nice solid wood collapsible craft table. The top is not in the best condition, but since I plan to place a cutting mat on it. I won't bother trying to paint or refinish it. I scored all this along with a huge zippered canvas tote bag for under $30.
Check out some of my loot below.

Here are the birds prepaint redux. I have to note that O. was disappointed in the monochromatic scheme of my make over, but M. declared that they looked great!

Fabulous craft table. It's got wheels and it folds out to 48" of work surface. Score! Like I said there's some water damage or some such to the top, but who cares? Not me.

Talk about the perfect accessory. After we finished repainting the bathroom M. observed that it was just like being underwater and that we needed some fish on the wall. When I saw these little plaques I knew it was meant to be and M. was thrilled as punch.

Our old shoe collector lasted about 10 years. So finding this Longaberger knockoff for $3 was enough to have me singing a happy tune. Especially after seeing just how hefty the price tag is for a basket of this size.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

There's just a few days before my younger children head back to school. I have lots to do to get ready so that is what I'm working on. Making a last pass through the closets and dressers to see what needs to be purchased. Reviewing the school supply list and shopping for what's needed. Cutting hair and otherwise getting them spiffed up. I also want to update my home management binder and the file box I use to keep kids stuff (you know all those forms and papers that have to go back) organized. So, I'd say that should keep me busy enough for the next day or two.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is craft the new black?

Recently I have stumbled across an insane amount of craft/diy/home decor blogs. It's like it's the new "black" or something. Everyone is doing it. You're not cool unless your crafty. It's actually find it really validating. You see, I was crafty years before it was "the thing". If I have to be honest I was crafty when it was kind of geeky and suddenly I'm hip and cool without having to change a thing about myself. I'm slightly amused. I sort of think with the economy people are thinking more about how they can feather their nest or create things that are personal without going into debt. You now have sites like Etsy that give home artisans a venue to sell their wares. As a society we are thinking more about how to keep what we have or make a little coinage doing something that we love. I think it's a throw back to the concept of local artisans hawking their wares in a central market place. I've observed that there are a great deal of sahm's who have jumped on this bandwagon too. I think it's empowering in a way that is separate from being a mom and I so get that. Plus it really gets the creative juices flowing. I've even observed it in my "real" life. Several enterprising women that I know have jumped on the bandwagon and are offering their wares and talents to the public. You go ladies!
I think about my own craft/diy journey. I've been sewing off and on since I was in junior high school. I've always dabbled in some type of creative pursuit; knitting, cross stitching, jewelery making, ceramics, you name it and I've probably tried it. I love creating stuff. In terms of my home and diying it I think it's simply my nature. I'm pretty frugal and I love to thrift shop. Sometime I've joked with my friends and family that I'm the idiot savant of thrift. I can generally see the potential in something that someone has cast aside. I get a visual in my mind of how it would look painted or a new color, with new fabric or hardware. That's a gift I tell you, lol. It's fun and rewarding to see the diamond emerge from that lump of coal I brought home. Plus I get to try out new skills. I can teach myself to paint furniture, use power tools, rewire lamps and other machinery. I get the satisfaction of knowing I did it myself and while it might not be's really perfectly fine in my eyes. I've also come to think of it as an educational pursuit. I left academia long ago, probably to never return. But, I still want to learn new things. Crafting/Diying provides me with ample opportunities with my home as my laboratory. My latest interest is my yard and gardening. I know nothing, but with the Internet and all the talented folks online I feel like I've just signed up for a master course. Wish me luck. Hopefully you'll be seeing a beautiful yard and garden emerge over the next year or so.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday's Meal

One of my most vivid memories of growing up was making homemade ice cream with my sister. We'd all sit around the dining table sharing laughs and the goodness of that favorite summer treat. The recipes we always used were simple and no cook. We'd add in various seasonal fruit for a change of pace, but what I remember most was the delicious taste of simple homemade vanilla ice cream. Vanilla is still my favorite. I realize it's an indulgence to have an ice cream maker, but there really isn't anything better than homemade ice cream. I'll give you a hint, if you check those thrift stores, you are bound to find one on the cheap. So go out and grab one and have a bowl of homemade ice cream and remember me.

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

2 quarts half-and-half cream
1/2 pint heavy cream
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch salt

Combine all the ingredients in freezer container of ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm Elinor

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

I could have guessed it. Although Persuasion is my favorite Austen, I do think I'm most like Elinor and after taking the little online quiz, it seems it agrees, lol.

Check it out, which Austen character are you?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Well, I played hookie and went to see "Harry Potter and the half-blood prince". Very good! A bit different than the book, but in essence they tried to stay true to JKR.
Now, I'm home and going to start on the touch up painting I want to do. Yesterday I finished the powder room and it came out stupendous. I really like the color (I'll have to get a picture soon), it's called "Bottle Blue" and it's just lovely. I got it at Walmart and the paint was by Kilz. I have to say a word about the Kilz brand paint. I was actually super surprised at how great it was to work with. Really nice and thick with full coverage. I'll be the first to admit I'm not a fantastic painter, but having a nice quality product (at a great price to boot) helps a lot.

Monday's meal

Well it's summer time and I've been taking myself and my market bag to the Farmer's market to pickup fresh local offerings. There's so much goodness to be had there and everything taste so much better when it's fresh. In my house we love pasta, but I try and mix it up now and again to keep it from being boring. Here's a quick and easy tasty dish for you to enjoy. You can substitute regular bacon for the pancetta, but I think it's worth it's easy enough to find pancetta at your local market so why not use it. Enjoy!

Linguine with butternut squash, pancetta and goat cheese

8 slices of pancetta
1 large (2lbs) butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/4 cup of onion, minced
1 1/2 cups of chicken broth
1 tsp of salt
2 tsp of pepper
6 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 16 oz. pack of linguine, cooked
1 tbsp olive oil

Cook the pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat until somewhat crisp. Remove and drain it on a paper towel. When cool, chop it up and set it aside. Reserving 2 tbsp of rendered fat in your skillet (if you don't have enough add olive oil to get approx. 2 tbsp). Add your squash, garlic and onions to skillet saute for about 5 mins. Stir in the broth and salt. Cover and simmer until squash is cooked through and softened, approximately 20 mins. While the squash is cooking, heat a pot of salted water over med-high heat and cook the linguine according to the package to al dente, approximately 8 mins. Drain, toss with a bit of oil and set aside. When the sauce is finished add half of the goat cheese to it, mixing well to combine. Put the cooked linguine in a large bowl, add the sauce and toss to mix well. Drizzle with the olive oil and add the pancetta, goat cheese and pepper. Serve with a nice crusty Italian bread and white wine.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Oh my goodness...I'm a quilter

Can you believe it? I'm almost finished. I just have the quilting and the binding to do and it's finito! I can't believe it, I actually might be a quilter, well sort of. By no means is this perfect, but I'm pretty proud of how it's coming out. I altered the pattern somewhat, but I think it'll be fine. It's a bit bigger than a toddler's quilt and it's for my niece's birthday. It's from the Eric Carle book "Brown bear, Brown bear what do you see?"
I'll give her the quilt and the book. I would already be finished accept for a bit of a hiccup. I had thought it would look great stippled. I did a bit and didn't like how it looked. I decided to take it out, but the stitches were so tiny that it took forever to get them all out. Note to self, next time be 100% sure before you stipple your quilt. Anyway, I'm just so glad to see the end of this project. Next up, quilts for M. & E., hopefully I can have them finished by Christmas. I better get started today.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Just two things going on and sun! We're off to the pool. I'll probably take a good book (read bodice buster,lol) and just sit back and relax.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thrift Store Love!

The past few weeks have been awesome thrift store shopping weeks. I got a bunch of shorts for me and the boys for next to nothing. Some great sewing patterns for $.25/each. A great vintage book on clothing constructions called The Bishop Method of clothing construction. I found a wicker hanging file storage basket to store my home management binder in. I found 2 awesome barrel lamp shades ($2/each) that I gussied up with black grograin ribbon. I found a bunch of assorted clear glass vases that I will spray paint with various colored glass paint (scored for $.99 a can at Ollie's). I'm contemplating purchasing a buffet of Craigslist for storage by the front door. I really want to have a place to put all those shoes (they are driving me nuts). I'm on the fence though, because I've sort of been on this use what you have, repurpose it kick. I also found a nice sized ceramic mixing bowl and a tall square glass storage jar to put my coffee beans in.
All these great finds are inspiring me to do a bit of rehabbing. I have to laugh, I mean I'm always in a constant state of home rehab. I wonder if I'll ever finish or be satisfied with it. Probably not. There's so many things I want to do. I wish I had a bit more time. The latest thing I want to buy for myself is miter box. I really would like to do some crown molding in the dining room and if I could do it myself I would save a ton. I also need to make curtains for all the bedrooms. We've had miniblinds forever...but I think I'm over that look, fabric is where it's at. I just need to finish painting the bedroom first. Oh and I've been thinking of doing a tufted headboard in our bedroom. I wouldn't have to start from scratch. I have a headboard from IKEA that I can repurpose. Also I have a rustic table in my kitchen that I'd like to do a high end fakout on. I have some ideas, now to find the supplies inexpensively. I'm still thinking about the end tables. I found something close to what I had in mind at thrift store for $22/each, but I think I'm going to hold out for the exact ones I want. Or who knows I might just use what I have and redo it. I mean after all a little paint, a little fabric, a little glue can make for an amazing transformation. Plus who knows, I might find a better deal to boot. Where to start? Where to start?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday's Meal

Okay, you might be getting tired of it, but I had this weird dream about chicken so I thought, oh the universe wants me to share another chicken recipe. So here you go, can't mess with the universe.

Rosemary Chicken Breasts

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
5 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

In a medium bowl, stir together the olive oil, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, salt, lemon juice, white vinegar and pepper. Let stand for 5 minutes. Place chicken in the bowl, and stir to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the grill for medium-high heat(or alternatively you can bake these in a preheated oven at 350 degree F until done). Discard the marinade.
Grill the breast for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and the juices run clear.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What $6 will get you

A whole new look. Check out these barrel shaped lampshades I got at the thrift store for $2/each. Paired with a bit of black grosgrain ribbon bought on sale at Micheal's and I've got a whole new high end look. The shades were actually pretty nice to begin with, a nice quality linen and solid hardware to boot, but I still couldn't resist a little change. I feel like I scored big time! Just check out this similar style lamp & shade from Ballard Designs. . It can be yours for $300 clams, or if you're budget minded you can get this one from PBTeens...or you can just make one. I already had a lamp that I got for $1.98 + tax some time ago. It's ceramic, but done in this hideous faux wood treatment complete with the wood grain. Initially I antiqued it, but I had a yen to paint it white. Still not 100% sure about the white though, I may go back and paint it black instead. That's the beauty of paint, if you don't like it, you can just paint over it.
So what do you think?
P.S. Ignore my posing "assistant" in the last picture, lol! She just had to be in the picture.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th!

Happy 4th to you and yours!
We're just having a bit of relaxation and fun! The kids and I made cupcakes and I made Miss O. a little patrioitic frock with lots of twirl power! She's in heaven and what little girl wouldn't be? In all honesty, I want one too.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My new toy!

OMG! This is too much fun. I got an Apple iphone. I'm completely smitten! I can't stop playing with it. Hey, I have an apps for that! I think I bought it just so I could finally say that line. Seriously I had a very basic phone that I didn't really use for much more than calling out (just ask Brandy), but now I am going to become fully intergrated into the modern age. I might not even need my wall calendar anymore. Woohoo! This is an exciting day. I do need to order a few accessories for it such as a case and a stylus so I can text super fast, lol. Who knew a phone could be so much fun?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

It's the first day of summer vacation for my kiddos so I'm working on giving them a fun kick off. They have asked to go to the park and to have a fondue party/game night so I have a bit of shopping to do and preparation for the dessert fondue. They really just want chocolate and whipped cream and assorted goodies to dip it in. Easy Peasy. We'll play Apples to Apples Jr. and have lots of laughs. M. usually wins, but I'm pretty sure he cheats! Otherwise my day is all about relaxing, but you know sometimes that's work too.