Saturday, March 31, 2012

PW: Chicken Pot Pies

shhh ... I thought I had chicken in the house to make this today, but I don't! 

I'm going to cook this tomorrow (which is technically April) and link back, though ... it will be our little April Fool's joke, to do it a day late, ok? 

Update Sunday, April 1:  Okay, I am back!  I don't have photos yet, and I feel terrible -- whatever plague Mick's had since last weekend, it's on him with a vengeance this weekend, and I woke up with a nasty sore throat today as well -- but let's put it this way:  this dinner was DELICIOUS.

Chicken Pot Pie

Verdict:  Fabulous!
Cook it Again:   Definitely!
Cost Factor: Not too bad.  As usual, we had most of the stuff, and I got the chicken on sale.

The recipe is super easy, and calls for one chopped onion, three carrots, and three celery stalks, all diced.  I didn't feel like dicing, so as PW would say, ours were a little more "rustic."  Also, the recipe calls for frozen peas, which I almost never have in the house.  But I do almost always have canned peas, so I subbed those in.  Because peas tend to mush, I added them at the very last possible moment before adding the chicken.  We still had quite a few casualties, but I actually quite enjoy smushed peas.  I think they add a texture and a sweetness to meals like this, and I had no complaints to not have perfectly round peas.  (We had some, but only half as many as we started with!)

For the chicken, rather than measure, I just boiled up three bone-in chicken breasts with some seasonings and a bay leaf -- it probably 3 pounds of chicken before cooking -- and when the meat fell off the bone, I took it off and chopped it.  After stirring it in the pot, it looked shredded. 

I added the called-for two cups of chicken broth (not the fresh stuff I had right in the adjacent pot, now that I think about this.  Hmm.  I have no idea why I didn't think to do that!), the heavy cream, and the seasonings.  I also added the chicken bouillon, but we don't have the cubes, just the granulated stuff so I probably added a few teaspoons.  I had a lot more chicken, I think, than the recipe called for, but it was fine.
The filling mix.  It looks chicken-salad-y, doesn't it?

We skipped the white wine because, as usual, I don't keep it in the house.  And I did not feel up to doing much today, (and in fairness, I'd just baked another three pans of strawberry cake to practice for CAM's birthday cake -- so I was kind-of done with wanting to be in the kitchen) so we used the good old Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts.  Seriously, you can't go wrong with those (even when you manage to mangle one and you're not sure if you should say you "unrolled" it or if you just "won" ... in which case, you clearly only won the war and not the particular battle... ), and they cook perfectly light and crusty every time.  We had extra filling, so I made one full pie dish and one smaller casserole's worth.

Getting ready to go in the oven.  Note that they're on a cookie sheet, just in case. And the one on the left is mangled.  Oh well.

Don't they look so pretty in my nice, clean oven?!

All done!  Still pretty!

Mick hasn't eaten a real meal in about three days, and he stopped after his first bite to say how "oh,
this is a keeper!"

WHM, ready to eat.  Not sure about his silly face here.  I don't take good food photos (yet, still learning), so I don't have one of just the plate.
 Good pick!  And photos to come soon, je te promis, as you can tell, have been added!


Caboose Days

Earlier this week, I asked on Facebook if friends had any ideas for fun, touristy things to do here in Georgia.  I didn't care where -- in fact, I preferred outside the metro Atlanta area -- but I wanted to be sure that we didn't wake up on Friday and wonder what had happened to our Spring Break.  I got some great ideas, but in the meantime I also visited some Georgia Tourism sites, and stumbled upon the Southeast Railway Museum's "Caboose Days," which was happening this very weekend!  (I had an awareness of the museum, but we'd never visited it, and that they were having an event the opening weekend of Spring Break was just perfect.)

Today was supposed to be rainy and dreary.  It turned out to be muggy and sunny, but this morning when we left it was actually quite perfect -- a little overcast to give some shade, breezy, and warm enough for shorts.  Excellent!

The kids got to ride on a caboose, and our ride was a little strange because there was a controlled burn going on where they (oops) forgot to call the Fire Department.  So we had to pause a few times to let firetrucks go past -- it added to our adventure, for sure!  We also walked through about thirty different train cars, an old bus from the '40s, and an indoor exhibit.  The kids made necklackes, and colored pictures of trains, and they got to have "cookies and juice in a caboose," too.  It wasn't a crazy crowded day, either, which was especially nice. 

Here are some photos from our adventure.  I love, love, love doing stuff like this as a family and am so happy that it all worked out so well today.


Looking out the window at the start of our caboose ride.

Fire, fire!  I have other photos of the actual flames rising up, but the truck's cooler than the flames.  At least when you're 2 and 4, anyway!

Enjoying the caboose ride.

At the back of the caboose, trying to look out.  Possibly the cutest picture ever.

"Look, Mommy, a real live Shiny Dinah!"  (A Kindermusik story.)

Checking out a Pullman car.

Mail car.  The kid in the yellow shirt was tearing the place up.  I tried to not get him in the photo, but had no luck.

Up in the Cupola of the snack and juice caboose.

A kitchen in one of the cars.

Some of the cars were amazing in their luxury. I can only begin to imagine what they must have been like when they were new, and travel was a privilege.

This steam engine was made in Schnectady, NY, in 1910.  The kids posed near the wheels for a sense of scale.  AMAZING.

Checking out the firebox.  WHM is very concerned that there is no fire.

Looking for coal.  How can this "steamie" run without coal for the firebox?!

In the back of an Atlanta bus from 1941.

Driving the bus.

Part of our Craigslist score.  More trains!

So, Today ...

... we had a great day, even if it was a little clouded by Mick's not feeling so hot.

First, we slept late.

Then, we snuggled and watched Thomas and Curious George.

Then, we got up and went to the Southeast Railroad Museum for Caboose Days!  (Pictures are posted here, because it was too much to put in this post.)  It was great! 

Then, we *finally* went to Whole Foods to spend our Groupons we bought almost fifty years ago.  I love Whole Foods, but we live so stinkin' far away, and this was the perfect opportunity.  We bought my favorite things:  cheese we can't get at Publix, olives from the olive bar, fresh bread, and some salads from their "deli" counter.  (We didn't buy wine, but that's okay.)  Can't wait to partake!

But while we were at Caboose Days, I got a Craigslist alert on my phone that this set

was available for $20.  I emailed, and was the first person, so we detoured to pick it up.  If you know anything about Thomas the Tank Engine's wooden railway, you understand that the trains alone are worth way more than $20, and the mountain track is usually on craigslist for no less than $40.   I just cleaned it and set it up in the living room, and there are seven wooden cars in great condition, plus four of the cast-metal take-along trains WITH their tenders, PLUS a Trackmaster Thomas with Annie and Clarabel!  All for $20!  Choo-choooooo, this was a phenomenal pick-up today! 

Because we had already detoured, as part of our detour we went to a nice family lunch at Taco Mac.  And that was fine and all, and lunch was good, and the kids behaved, but they had Sam Summer on draught!  SAM SUMMER!  ON DRAUGHT!  WAHOO!  (If you don't know, that's my all-time favorite beer, even over Hoegaarden. But it's seasonal.  And can be hard to find on draught here in non-New-England suburbia.)

So, let's recap:

slept late.
went as a family to not just a museum, but a train museum.
went to Whole Foods and got lots of yummy stuff.
got a huge, huge, huge Craigslist score.
went to lunch.
And to top it off, I got to have the first Sam Summer of the season!

Yes, my friends, as promised, today is a great day!   I really do wish Mick felt better (both mentally and physically), but we'll take what we can get!

One downside:  my phone suddenly stopped seeing my SD card and I may have lost literally thousands of photos (including the one of the Sam Summer, which I took to email to my friend Tara, as is something of a silly thing she and her husband, Russ, and I do ... ).  But Mick's going to work on that later, and I am not going to be upset about it until we know what really happened.  I am hopeful that the error is with my phone and not that the entire SD card went kaput.

In any event, what a great start to our Spring Break today turned out to be! 

I hope you're all having great days, too! 


Target Deal!

Not to brag or anything, but to totally take a minute to brag here, but I got a great deal at Target yesterday and I just have to brag share.  WHM is invited to a birthday party in a few weeks, and it's a little girl's party.  I noticed this Sunday that the Target circular had coupons in it -- something that's rare, at best.  One of the coupons was for 50% off any Disney Princess item.  Well, bingo, that's a GREAT present for a 3-year-old girl!

Went to Target yesterday, and found a Disney Princess Cinderella with her Prince and a storybook.  Regular price, $34.99.  On sale for $19.99.  After coupon, $9.99.

Who looks like the hero now, huh?!  What a GREAT gift!  And for half of what I'd normally spend on a kid's party gift, to boot!

(Seriously, I am thinking about going back to get another one just to keep in an emergency birthday-present stash.  I don't think I could do that great again if I tried!)


Things I Miss about the NORTH

I figured, hey, in the interest of parity ...

(And besides, I woke up seriously craving D&D, and as the saying goes, I am SOL.  Why not write about it?!)

So, the other day I wrote a post about things in and about the South that I would miss, were we ever to move.  Of course it's not secret that Mick and I are not native to this region, and in fact we are from the Northeast/New England areas.  So, here for your reading pleasure I present yet another incomplete list, this time about stuff we actually already do miss.

1.  Dunkin Donuts.  (GOOD ones.  There are a few around here, but they are awful.  I could seriously go in there and teach them how to make their munchkins, sugar their donuts, and make Mick's iced coffee.  And let's not get started on the hot chocolates.  Any hot chocolate that starts with tearing open a little packet should make any good Yankee run.)
2.  Accents.  (ooh, I should put this on the other list, too!)  Let's be clear: I like hearing the Boston ones; like my kids having Alabama ones!
3.  Snow more frequently than every third year.  And all that comes with it:  snowmen, snowball fights, forts, sledding, etc. etc.
4.  The great joy of a snow day -- and the innocence of praying the night before that the snow starts at just that magical hour between 2 and 6 am where the plows can't make it safe enough for school buses in time ... and is just fast enough and heavy enough that a delayed start won't cut it.
5.  Truly having four seasons.
6.  Walking in the city.  Neither Birmingham nor Atlanta are very walking-friendly cities.
7.  Pizza -- but I've posted about this before, and I don't want today's list to be all about food. Besides, we've recently discovered a great pizza place about five minutes from the house.
8.  The fact that supermarkets have way bigger selections than down here.
9.  Pumpkin picking in October, on a real farm, pulling them right off the vines.
10.  February break and late-April break, not just "Spring Break." 
11.  That first day of the year when you don't have to wear a coat, and everyone is just in a great mood because it feels like a holiday.
12.  The smell of a coming snow.
13.  No fear of tornadoes.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Bad Mommy, Sad Mommy

I feel awful, like the biggest failure in the universe, and completely discouraged tonight about oh-so-much.  And this is not going to be the most lighthearted post you've ever read, so if you're not up for it, this is your chance to quit reading.  (I know.  That's the most surefire way to get people to keep reading.  So for that, I apologize.)

Oh, I don't even know where to start.  So let's start with the fact that allergies are kicking all of our tails and none of us feel well.  And I have cramps that are so bad that even Excedrin and a heating pad haven't made a difference.  And although it's been a good day, I've quietly had a bunch of little stuff happen today that has upset me.  And then a few bigger things, too.  And I'm sitting on the couch, reading the Hunger Games (I'm up to page 97 out of 267, so I'm not too far into it; I can't help but wonder where we would fall in District 12.  Surely not starving, but probably only because of Mick's efforts!) and I find the whole thing utterly depressing and that's absolutely affecting my mindset right now.  And we were snuggled in, watching Lady and The Tramp (finally!  it's on DVD so I didn't have to buy the Blu-Ray combo when we don't have a blu-ray player, and I had a coupon -- yes, a coupon! -- for Target, so it was only $15 today) and the doorbell rang.  Today is the first day of Spring Break here, and two of the neighbor girls came asking if CAM could come play.

Mick stumbled with that, and asked where they would play; outside at one of the girl's homes.  So I politely declined, explaining (truthfully) that we were watching a movie as a family and we'd have to play tomorrow instead.  But although I didn't lie, the truth is more than just that movie night:  the truth includes the fact that I wasn't feeling up to sitting outside and watching them, and I don't trust them to play alone (we're talking a five-year-old, a four-year-old, and an elementary-age girl -- it has nothing to do with "trust" and everything to do with "age"), and I can't let CAM go alone because, well, it's my job as her mom to not let her go alone, first of all, but also at the bottom of it all, because we don't have health insurance.  She simply can't play on the trampoline and break a bone.  It's not an option.  (For that matter, I really prefer that we avoid any and all ailments that might reuire a doctor's visit, if we can help it, but I think that's pretty normal for any mom!)  So maybe it's not really why we declined the invite, but that we declined the invite.  Because the thing is, we almost always decline invites from the girls, and it breaks my heart to have to.  And when I say "almost always," I really mean it.  We find an excuse (usually legit, it's not so much finding an excuse as genuinely having one) 99% of the time.  So we look like asses, as if we don't WANT our CAM to play with the girls, as opposed to the fact that we can't AFFORD for her to play and have something happen.  Anyway, tonight even Mick was concerned that we'd managed to look even worse by first asking where they would play and then coming up with a reason to say "no."

So, why, after all that other pitiful and ridiculous and trivial stuff, do I feel so bad, if this is par for our course? Because when we politely and truthfully declined the invite on CAM's behalf and tried to resume the movie, CAM sobbed and sobbed.

And I feel awful.

And guilty.

And with everything else going on in our worlds, I feel like an epic failure.

(Now, truth be told, even if we had the best health insurance in the world, I would not have let CAM play tonight because we were watching a movie as a family, and that trumps invites to go play. But the timing was just lousy, let's agree on that, shall we?!)

And the Hunger Games had me already somewhat glum, and the news Mick came upstairs with made me even more so, and breaking my little girls' heart that she couldn't play outside with her friends in part because we'd started family movie night, but also in part because I couldn't watch her and we couldn't risk trampoline or other injuries, made me even more so.   

(Okay, so look:  I know it's totally and completely uncool to talk about money, and so let's just say we're not talking money in the specific sense here; just that we don't have as much as we used to, and it's getting harder and harder to do more and more with less and less.  Is that reasonable to establish, without being totally poor form?  Okay?  With me here?)

I am trying so incredibly hard to be strong.  We've made a lot of sacrifices in the past five years, and so incredibly many in just the past two years, and I am grateful every. single. day. for the outcome:  that I have gotten to stay home with CAM and WHM and be a Mommy.  There isn't a day that goes by that I am not thankful for that, or sad at the prospect that CAM's about to go to kindergarten and I'm hopefully going to have a job and lose this time with WHM.  So trust me when I say that every sacrifice has been worth it to me beyond words.  Tonight is just hitting home that sometimes, it's still not enough.

And so I'm sad, and stressed, and feeling overwhelmed, and yes, feeling a little self-pity, and you can slap me and call me silly if you like. But in my crazy, rest-less brain, these emotions start about 99,000,000 scenarios going, and I can't turn my brain off, and the stress gets worse and worse.

And I just want a hug and a nod from God that it's going to be okay.

Because I know it is ... truly, I know it is.  I have seen all that has been provided for us, every time we thought we were at our worst, something -- some little thing -- has happened to allow us to keep on keepin' on, chin up, optimism high. 

Tonight, I suppose, is just the strange amalgam of all the junk in our day, and in our lives, really getting to me.  And it's my blog, and I can write what I want, and I decided that it might be a bit cathartic to write all this out.

Thanks for reading. 

I promise to be back to being witty, sarcastic, and crafty tomorrow.  And charming.  Oh, so very charming!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Things I Love about the South

I was sitting there with WHM, eating our "chickaway," thinking to myself, "if we ever move, I'm going to miss this."  I have no idea what put that in my head, but it got me thinking about stuff I love about the South in general -- stuff that, if we ever did move, I would miss because it's not available in quite the same way anywhere else.

Here is a very incomplete list.  I am quite certain I will add to this as I think of things.  In the meantime, PLEASE feel free to comment on things you love, or which you think I obviously left off in error, and I will add those (well, those I agree with!) as well!


  1. Chick-fil-A
  2. College football
  3. The weather
  4. People are nice for no reason.  And friendly, too.
  5. Good Mexican food whenever you want it
  6. Manners!  Ma'ams and sirs and door holding
  7. Central air.  Everywhere. Without question.
  8. Publix.  I really, really love Publix.
  9. Barbeque (as a noun, not a verb).
  10. White BBQ sauce.  
  11. The fact that we do very little snow shoveling, but having our shovels makes us look like heroes at least every third year.
  12. Sweet tea.
  13. Chicken biscuits as a breakfast item virtually everywhere.
  14. Speed limits over 55.
  15. Grits, properly made, at a restaurant, not just in a canister on a grocery store shelf. 
  16. Shrimp and Grits as a meal.  One of my favorites, and when it's on the menu, it's what I'll have.
  17. Waffle House.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

PW: Breakfast Burritos

It's getting near the end of the month, and we still had to make the breakfast burritos and the chicken pot pie. I keep forgetting to defrost any chicken, but we've had the ingredients on hand for the burritos, so they were destined to be cooked this week.  I am embarrassed to say that I let the peppers go bad -- something I hate to do -- and had to re-buy them, which really forced the issue for me that we were cooking these, pronto.   We didn't feel like making them Sunday morning as we'd thought we would, so we decided to do "breakfast for dinner." Then Jim and Marie stopped by and I invited us to dinner at their house, and so the burritos got pushed back, yet again, to Tuesday night.  (Since Monday, of course, was the kids' spaghetti dinner, we had to skip a day.)

I was tutoring Tuesday, so Mick cooked this while I tutored in order to allow us to all eat as early as possible. (It was a school night, and we work hard to eat almost the very minute tutoring is over when tutoring bumps up into dinner time.)   Consequently, there aren't many photos.  Sorry about that.  But I'm pretty sure you're all comfortable with skipping the typical food-prep photos just this once.  Right? 

Breakfast Burritos

Verdict:  Meh.
Cook it Again:   Maybe.  It'd need some tinkering.
Cost Factor:  Moderate.  Bell peppers, hash browns, cheese, fresh chives, and almost a dozen eggs!  But it fed a lot of people, and there were leftovers.  And none of us went hungry!

I am not really sure what I didn't care for about this recipe, but it didn't wow me the way I hoped it would.  It was good, don't get me wrong, and oh-so-filling.  Mick, Jim, and I even had seconds, and it was a nice, hearty meal (even for dinner)!  But it didn't have the kick I think I expected the sausage to impart (and in fairness, we didn't add Tabasco or anything because we had a mixed audience of who does and does not eat spicy food).  And we did take the "cheat," and instead of using PW Breakfast Potatotes, we used frozen hash browns.  I felt like that was actually a bad call; the ratio of egg to potatoes was not quite right.  It was almost hard to even find the eggs, as Jim pointed out ... as if they'd cooked into the potatoes.

Now, part of this critique may just be what I thought I was getting -- and in my head (influenced by the cookbook's photos) I envisioned this recipe as making more of a casserole-y mixture, which was definitely not what happened.  As I sit here and type this, the more I think about this, the more I am leaning towards the idea that it really may have been the egg/potato ratio.  

So, if we do this again, we'll either use breakfast potatoes or we'll reduce the amount of hash browns we add.  We'll also use hot sausage instead of regular.  And we'll cayenne-or-whatever the heck out of it for a little kick.

Or, all that being said, maybe we'll just find a Jimmy Dean or some other breakfast casserole recipe and try it, and then decide which one to stick with and tweak.

But it's important to say that we all enjoyed dinner.  We added cheese and fresh salsa to our burritos (and Mick, I think, even used some Tabasco) and there were no complaints about the meal being bad, not by any stretch!  We just wouldn't rave about it, either, and so we'll definitely explore other recipes before we commit to returning to this one.

Photos to come. We didn't get many, but we did get a few -- I just haven't had a chance to upload them yet.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Concert and Spaghetti Dinner

The preschool's big event was last night, and it was a success.  Well, mostly.  This time (unlike in the Fall) I didn't have to take WHM off the stage because he was so upset, but you can judge for yourself whether he was enjoying the performance.  (Seriously, he was fine -- if a bit bewildered -- until he saw me.  I even knew that would happen, and for a while was trying to stay hidden.  But photos beckoned, and I went and messed it all up.  Sorry, folks.)

Photos before we left. Happy kids!  (and a "pedicured" CAM!)

Check out the manicure.  We do it up in this house.

See?  Happy WHM.  Happy.  Save that thought.

The four-year-olds walked in down our aisle and this is CAM looking back at Mick.

WHM before he really saw me.

WHM after he saw me.

CAM ... waiting to sing.

"Is this thing over yet?"

"Seriously, don't LOOK at me!"

"I found you, Mommy!  Don't just take pictures of WHM!  Look at MEEEEEEE!"

Not sure if the gestures were early or late or just being silly.

101 Things: #21: Make a Banner -- DONE!

I have long admired various paper-crafts I've seen, and only in the past year or so did it dawn on me (I know, I know) that they were made with things like the Cricut or Cameo or other die-cutters.  You know, things to automate the process other than card stock, patience, and an X-act-o knife. 

My parents got me a Cricut for Christmas, and that meant I finally had the right tools to make some of the things I've seen and admired! 

I've bought and borrowed some cartridges, and just this weekend made banners for CAM's and WHM's birthdays.  CAM is having a Strawberry Shortcake tea party, and WHM, of course, is Thomas, Thomas, Thomas, all the time. If you remember my list, making a banner is item #21!

These banners were inspired by banners I saw on Etsy, and I have to give credit where it is due.  If you like mine, the inspiration was banner 1 and banner 2.  If you click around on the banner 1 seller's store, you'll also see my Thomas inspiration.  I admit:  I really used these as a crutch for design this go-round (you might say I stole the colors, but c'mon.  There are only so many options for making Strawberry Shortcake or Thomas banners).  For future banners, now I really have a sense of how to set the patterns, etc.  and pull highlight colors, and I don't think I'd need any crutch.   

(Because I know some of you, Mom, will ask this:  no, they were not super expensive, and once I got in a groove they didn't even take very long to do.  I way over-purchased scrapbook paper because I wasn't sure what or how much I would need, but in the end, I used about $10 worth of paper for each banner -- maybe slightly less if you take sales into account -- and most of the ribbon I already had on hand. But what I bought, I bought on sale again.  So figure maybe another $5-$7 on ribbon.  The single most expensive thing was the Thomas licensed chip-board accents, and I bit the bullet and didn't even wait for a sale.  They don't make Strawberry Shortcake ANYTHING in scrapbooking, so I printed those myself, but I splurged on the Thomas stuff.)

I am not sure the seller would be pleased to know that I saw her idea and did it myself (but isn't that what crafting is, in some part?  Seeing something, thinking to yourself, "I can make that," and then making it your own with your own twists?)  Well, I made it, and I get to cross something off my list.  And I am really proud of how well they came out -- and my goodness, did I learn a lot, too!

Truth be told, I made four banners -- "Happy Birthday" for each kid, and then their names.  I'm not posting the names here, but each name banner has an image on each end and the name in the middle.

Here are some photos.  As usual, the quality isn't that great.  Sorry! 


Don't judge me for my nasty carpet. 

Monday, March 26, 2012


Or maybe not even "A." I know there are at least a few of you out there who miss me when I don't post, and I apologize for making you miss me a whole lot this past week!  You ever have one of those days that was insanely busy and flew by, and yet as you get ready for bed you wonder what the heck you actually DID all day?  That was my week. 

Mick was out of town Tuesday-Thursday of last week, and it was crazy, but not in the usual Mick's-out-of-town way. Courtney came up and we all went to dinner Tuesday night, which was so nice.  We live 30 minutes apart, but I miss my sister.  Dinners like that are rare and just a whole lot of relaxing fun.  (And the kids' meals were comped -- even better!)

I was insanely busy with tutoring on Wednesday (I say "insanely" not because I had so MUCH tutoring, mind you, but because I FORGOT about it.  All of it.  I have no idea how I managed to eff up my Wednesday, but I did.  Bigtime.   Thank goodness I was even HOME -- even though I was in pj's, had eyebrow wax going, my desk was BURIED, and there was laundry everywhere upstairs ... it was hilariously rough, actually, and I am fortunate that I tutor the best kids in the world, because we just laughed about it)

Believe it or not, I almost did the same thing again Friday, but we won't got there.

Thursday, the kids and I got up early (and by early, I mean 5:15, not 7:30 -- the kind of early where the kids rightly think it's the middle of the night), went and picked up Aunt Honkey (aka: Courtney), and headed to Tuscaloosa for the day.  Things of note:  it monsooned all day, which ruined my favorite summer shoes; we picked up a craigslist item that was/is awesome; Sbarro changed their meatballs; the vote is split on whether American Eagle capris look good on me; I once again didn't get to see anyone in town that I wanted to see, and so we basically "snuck" in and out, which makes me sad every time it happens that way; we struck out at Gap Kids but rocked the house at Gymboree; we almost got killed by a car that drove through the grassy median on 20, went airborne, and would have driven right into us, the wrong way, had we been one lane over from where we were; and no, we didn't make it through the day without WHM throwing up.  Oh, and the Alabama "A" patches are all sold out. 

More on all that later.  Because we had all that, and still it was a glorious day, and I am not even being sarcastic. I am sad even thinking about the day when such trips won't be possible, because Courtney will be in Florida, or CAM will be in kindergarten, or any of a million other likely reasons.  It was a great trip, and bittersweet knowing it's among our last.

I am going nuts with birthday party prep ... I really want to make CAM's party extra special, and am quite sure I am forgetting a zillion little details.  But what I am accomplishing so far, even if it isn't much, is still pretty cool (even if just to me!) and I am learning a ton. I will post photos soon, I promise!  First, I have to take some.  And I just don't feel like doing that right now, and I hope you understand.  (But if not, too bad, because I'm still not posting pics at the moment!)

I closed my biggest Initials, Inc. party ever this week, and it was a fundraiser.  The way we defined it, the group (Endo Hope, a support group for women with endometriosis) gets all my commission, and I get all the hostess rewards -- which turned out to be $125!  Not too shabby, huh?!  I got CAM a birthday gift I've had in mind for her and some fun stuff for, well, little old me.

Craftiness and other productivity:  I made Bea a fitted sheet this weekend (yes, I made a fitted sheet for a doll bed, go ahead and laugh -- laugh harder when you learn that this project was sitting in my office untouched since August, so it's about dang TIME I made Bea a fitted sheet!), made the kids sunglasses cases (so when their glasses are scratched to all scratchiness, it won't be my fault for carelessly throwing them in my purse every time), and made CAM a birthday banner with the Cricut (this thing -- the banner -- is hardcore and I can't wait to share it with you!), and am 3/4 of the way done with one for WHM, too!  And as of this moment, I am in the middle of a practice run for CAM's birthday cake.  I really hope I can pull this off.  I am making a layered strawberry cake with tiers and fondant and I have never done tiers or fondant.  As you, my dear, loyal, two readers, already know.

And finally, the pollen count around here has been insane.  This week it was up in the high 9,000s.  It dropped by more than half and was still at 4500.  Then this weekend it has been in the 1000s, but both kids have had eye crud.  I am fairly confident it's not pink-eye, since their eyes are puffy but not continuously gunky, and both kids are happy -- just tired.  Cross your fingers and pray for us -- taking two kids to the doctor this week is in neither my plans nor my budget!

Gotta go.  Jerseylicious is on.  Oh, how I love this show!  


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Three Funny WHM Things

Yesterday.  (Because sometimes, you just can't make it to the chair before you pass out.)

This morning, WHM and CAM were at the kitchen table and I was making their lunches for school.  WHM won't eat a jelly sandwich, regardless of whether it's with Biscoff spread or cream cheese, and we can't send in peanut-butter, and I never get deli meats because they don't last long enough to actually make it to the school lunches in this house.  So, we make him chicken nuggets, which he devours. 

ME: WHM, how many chicken nuggets do you want in your lunch today?
WHM:  Six housand.
ME:  How about four?
ME:  Okay ... that's a lot of nuggets!
WHM: I hungry.

Both kids are exhausted.  Everyone was up really late last night. Aunt Courtney came to visit, we went to a late dinner, then when we got home we watched the first hour of "Dancing IN the Stars," and so everyone was just a little fussy this morning.  It wasn't until we actually got to the school that WHM stopped telling me how he didn't want to go to school today.  (He had been telling me that he wanted to stay home and keep me company.  Sweet boy, knows the way to my heart!)

At our preschool, the assistant teachers come to the car line and take the kids out of their seats and walk them to their classrooms.  It's a wonderful system and I honestly dread the day when we allll have to get out of the car, walk CAM to her classroom, all go back, buckle back in, take WHM to his school, etc, etc.  It's efficient this way and the parents don't linger, because they can't.

In any case, one of the teachers came to get WHM out of his seat, and he very seriously informed her, "I left my underwears at home."  (This is especially funny because he has never worn underwear.  Ever.)

Alrighty then!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

PW Woman: Braised Short Ribs

One of this month's Sweet As Pie Cooking Club's recipes is Braised Short Ribs, from the the Pioneer Woman blog.

I bought the ingredients -- minus the short ribs, and I forgot the fresh rosemary and thyme and shallots -- about a week-and-a-half ago.  So maybe all I really bought was the pancetta. 

Mick ate it.

So I sent him to Kroger last week (the same trip where he bought the giant cabbage), and he got the short ribs.

But I didn't have all the other stuff.

Finally, after debating, denying, deferring, freezing them before they went bad, and then thawing the ribs, we made them yesterday.  I promised Marie and Cindy they could come eat them when we made them (we were going to do them Sunday, but -- surprise -- WHM was sick), but I was desperate for a dinner idea for last night, and the ingredients were all here.  And I probably would have punted again, but I didn't want the pancetta or the herbs to go bad and then go to waste.  And I justified this decision by telling myself that the past two times we've had Jim and Marie over for a PW recipe, it's not been the best "test kitchen" experience. 

So I quietly made the ribs yesterday, as a test-run, if you will.  They were delicious.  But good thing we didn't invite anyone over, because I completely forgot to make a side.  In the blog the ribs are shown with mashed potatoes, but I made some killer mp's to eat with our corned beef, so I was a little potato'd out.  And when I dismissed the potato idea in my head, somewhere with that went the idea of any side.

It worked out fine, though -- the ribs and the "sauce" it made were hearty enough to work.

Braised Short Ribs

Verdict:  Very good.  Time-consuming prep, but easy.  But for a group, make a lot more than 8 ribs.  And don't forget the side. 
Cook it Again:   Yes.
Cost Factor:  Costly, both for the ribs and because it calls for fresh stuff (shallots, thyme, rosemary) that we don't always have in the house.

I'm mostly going to show photos here, because I took a gazillion.

My helpers.  They wanted to try a little of everything, so I let them.  Even the flour. 

Rendering up the pancetta.  This is before I smoked up the entire downstairs.  Whoops.
About the only thing we did differently from the PW recipe is that Mick bought "flanked" beef short ribs, which means they were cut long-ways, instead of with each rib bone.  (You can see what I mean in the photos, I hope.)  I ended up basically stacking them side-by-side in the stock pot, and it worked fine.

The short ribs.  See how it says "flanken?"  Mick bought three of these packages.  It was perfect.
These are the ribs with the salt and pepper on them.  I was liberal with both the salt and pepper -- perhaps too much so.  But nothing was inedible.

Less than half the dredged ribs.  

WHM decided it was time to mess with my phone.


The crisped pancetta.  Well, what was left of it.  I ate about 2/3 of it.  Soooo good.  Chef's snacks!
Because we had the flanken ribs, they took less time to sear than the stockier ribs would have, but we had more of them.  It was probably a wash, time-wise, but I ended up needing a touch more oil towards the end of the batch.

The veggies and wine, after the ribs were seared.

Just because it's silly.  Nice boogers.

BEFORE going into the oven ...

At the top of the PW recipe it says to allow 20 minutes for prep and 2 hours to cook.  WRONG!  Later in the recipe, it says to cook 2 1/2 hours, plus an additional 45 minutes.  So, my dear cooking club members, be aware that if you make this you probably need a solid 4 hours lead time.  I started prepping at 3ish and we ate around 7.   Side note:  I know this is just from the blog and not from a (theoretically) proofed cookbook, but I've noticed these kinds of inconsistencies a fair amount, and I've learned to read the recipe through at least twice before planning what/when to cook. 

Almost three hours later!  Those white-ish things?  The ribs! The meat fell off!  Sooo yummy.

See what I mean about it being stew-like? Definitely hearty enough to eat alone, but over potatoes (or rice, even) would be/would have been awesome. 

Oh -- one last thing.  I used the web-version of the recipe rather than the printed one.  (That's why you see the iPad in the top photo.)  I liked having the various photos along the way so I could see what she was doing, rather than just following the recipe.  The step-by-step descriptions are richer and more conversational, and for this kind of recipe that was helpful.