Friday, August 9, 2013


Remember when I said I was a wee bit behind all year?  Well file this under that.

Back in December, Mick was traveling a bit for work and in order to make it work out with my own work schedule and CAM's school schedule, my parents took WHM for a week.

Around that time, it was all the rage at my own school for the students to make paper snowflakes.

What was cool about them was they weren't the folded-and-cut paper that make beautiful lace patterns -- these were three-dimensional!

Naturally, I had to have a student show me what to do, and one night CAM and I stayed up and made a whole bunch of them for the house.

We kept them up until St. Patrick's Day (I mean, it snowed in April here in Maine, so snowflakes were allowed!) and I kept telling myself I'd make a tutorial for the blog for Pinterest so I wouldn't forget how to make them next year.

It only took me 'til mid-August.

But I did it -- and here you go!

Keep in mind this example is just made with computer paper.  It makes a giant snowflake (perfect for hanging in windows), but you could also make smaller ones for a tree, and certainly you could use prettier paper.

If you make these, let me know what you think!


Be sure you don't go all the way across!  
Tip:  If you're not good at eyeballing this, break out a ruler or at least draw yourself a guide so that you stop cutting in roughly the same place each time, and so your strips are roughly the same widths.

Now, pinch together the two cut parts of the center ... 

Tape them together ...

... and turn your square over and repeat with the next set.

 Keep going ...

I used a stapler here and stapled the outsides to each other, but you could also use double-sided tape to make it prettier.


Aren't they pretty in a window?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Food Network, I love you

When I was a kid, before most of my extended family moved to Florida (as all good new Yorkers eventually do, it seems), we used to visit my mom's Aunt Lily and Uncle Joe pretty regularly.  Aunt Lily always had pickles and olives for me, a fabulous doll collection in china cabinets -- I could look, but not touch -- and pound cake.  We never could visit without Aunt Lily having a freshly baked pound cake at the ready.

As you can imagine, there's a soft spot in my heart for pound cake.

Well, Uncle Joe left us a few years ago, but Aunt Lily is still doing great down in Florida, and my sister Courtney had a chance to visit her a few weeks ago.  For some reason, we texted instead of just calling, but in any case, I got to "talk" to Aunt Lily.  I asked Courtney if she'd had any pound cake, and Aunt Lily couldn't believe I remembered it.  (As if it would be possible to forget?!)

Ever since, I've had a hankerin' for some homemade pound cake.

I had no real reference to go on (and why I didn't just ask Aunt Lily, I have no idea ...) so I went to and searched.  I settled on this recipe from Paula Deen.  When in doubt, if you want a good old-fashioned Southern recipe, Paula never fails.  Also it helped that it had 500-something ratings and was still 5 stars. I figured this was pretty well vetted.

The recipe, like a lot of older recipes, calls for vegetable shortening.  I decided to use the equivalent in butter and take my chances.  So, instead of two sticks of butter and a stick of shortening, I used three sticks of butter.  It seemed to bake fine, and it is not overly buttery.  (I don't know if that makes sense, but you know how sometimes you can have a "butter pound cake" and really taste the butter?  Lord only knows how much butter that must take -- because here with three sticks, it's just a moist, dense pound cake but distinctly not a "buttery" cake.)

Even so, with three sticks of butter let the record show that I never said this cake was good for you!

We have been enjoying that for two days now (well, three, now that today's Wednesday), and yesterday CAM and I were watching Food Network (shocking, I know) and Trisha's Southern Kitchen ... and she and her college roommate made a chocolate gravy.

You read that right.  C-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e g-r-a-v-y.

They were serving it over fresh, hot biscuits but mentioned how it would also be good on ice cream or pound cake.


Guess what we had for breakfast today, my friends.

Go ahead and be jealous -- it was totally worth it!

Don't judge my decorating skills.  Also, I took this picture about 30 minutes after we'd all eaten, so the gravy was even thicker and drizzling it all pretty-like was all not-happening-like (mostly because I was too impatient to reheat it).    

But don't be jealous of my food styling.  It looks awful, I know.  But trust me:  deeeeelicious.

I followed the (very simple) recipe and made it with the plain old Nestle baking cocoa I had on hand, but I imagine you could dress it up with a darker chocolate cocoa, or add in some raspberry ... I can think of a bunch of ways to start with this and keep going, but the truth is that it was absolutely delicious just the way I made it -- not too rich, not too sweet -- and I might not change a thing.

Whenever I read a recipe that says calls for "good cocoa," I feel guilty that this is what I have in my pantry.  I am sure need to get whatever the good stuff is ... but in the meantime, this has never failed me.

Not a bad way to start a summer morning!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sweet As Pie: A February Recipe

So ... I'm a bit late.  Wait 'til the next post, though, where I make a recipe from last August!

This was our bonus February recipe, so I'm only six months late.  It's Betty Crocker's Chocolate Raspberry Cobbler.

Hold the phones, because whatever I'm doing, it's not important.

This was two important things:




Now yes, it comes from boxes and cans, and so it's not technically from scratch, but it took almost no time at all to cook.  It's one of those things that would impress a crowd at a cookout or that you could whip up if you had unexpected dinner company, and no one would know just how easy it was.  Either way, I've had the ingredients* on hand, minus the raspberry pie filling, since February.  Our grocery stores are just weird around here, though, and I couldn't find the raspberry pie filling -- and I try at all costs to avoid our local WalMart, which I knew was the one place I was likely to find it.

Finally the other day, I just broke down and was craving something rich.

Something like chocolate.

But not just chocolate.  Something even richer, preferably with a sauce or compote.  Something decadent and unhealthy and that I was not likely to find in the fridge or a local restaurant.

And because Mick loves me, he obliged my otherwise random request to go to WalMart, and he kindly went with my tiny shopping list and found me (as I suspected would happen) the raspberry pie filling.

This was what we had for dinner that night.  (We eat healthy in these parts, I know.  But it's summertime!  We also stay up way too late and sleep equally late and who cares?!)

So, here's the deal:

Raspberry Chocolate Cobbler

Verdict: Oh, so very delicious -- and rich.  Oh, so very rich.
Cook it again:  In a heartbeat.  IF my heart still beats!
Cost factor:  $10, give or take

This recipe is very similar to another one I have from my friend Jenn.  Hers is a cherry crunch that is simple and divine -- and I don't even like cherry stuff, unless they are actual cherries.  I'll share her recipe in another post, but this one is similar in the sense that it's easy and has only a few ingredients.

You need the following:

That's Betty Crocker cookie mix, melted butter, and the elusive raspberry pie filling.  White bread is not part of the recipe... whoops!And the bottle caps are for a craft with CAM.  Sorry for the bizarre extras in this pic!

Not the brand I'm accustomed to, but very tasty.  We had to use two small cans, because they didn't have the larger size the recipe calls for.

You put the raspberry pie filling on the bottom of a baking pan, and cover it with the dry cookie mix.  On top of it, pour melted butter and spread it around.  In retrospect, you could probably use less than the full packet of cookie mix, but we had no complaints. 

Throw it in the oven and bake until it's ready.

That's it.

If I were a food stylist I'd probably add a mint leaf or something, or a raspberry drizzle in that open space on the left.  But I'm not, so I didn't.  Didn't affect the taste one bit!

We served ours with ice cream and every one of us went back for seconds.  We had a tiny bit left over, and it reheated really well and was just as delicious on day 2.  It didn't make it to Day 3.


* You know, the cookie mix and a stick of butter.  It was tough, I tell ya.

Sweet As Pie: Pork Chops with Garlic and Wine

When we moved last year, it was almost immediately after we got here that I started work.  As you all know, the entire year I felt behind the 8-ball and never caught up with anything.  (Case in point: the kids still don't have a playroom.  That's my project in the coming days!)  Anyway, it didn't take long for me to also fall behind in my cooking club responsibilities.  I'm trying to make up for that now that the bar exam is over, and I don't have to tell myself that I'm procrastinating if I spend the afternoon cooking.  It feels so good to be back cooking -- and eating!

This was a recipe that actually wasn't too delinquent.  It's from July, and it is a Pioneer Woman recipe from her blog.

Here you go ...

Pioneer Woman Pork Chops with Garlic and Wine

Verdict:  Very good, but not quite what I expected.
Cook it again: Probably ... it would have to be a weekend or an "open" weeknight without activities
Cost factor: Pork chops typically go on sale.  The rest of it all we keep on hand.

This is an easy recipe, but it was surprisingly time consuming.  Be prepared to stand at the stove for about an hour.  Actually, that's not that time consuming.  But you can't really multitask very well with this one, so it wouldn't be an ideal weeknight recipe for us.

First, peel 18 garlic cloves.

Do you see the size of these cloves?  Monstrous!
For some reason we had the biggest non-elephant garlic I've ever seen, so I counted a few double and didn't peel 18 cloves.

Also, if you don't have one of these and you cook with garlic a lot, you need one.  It's a stainless steel "bar of soap," and you wash your hands with it.  The smell of garlic magically disappears.  It's amazing.

But back to the recipe.  Then you sear your salted-and-peppered pork chops.  Thank goodness for Bobby Flay -- because of him, I know that your food will tell you when it's done.  The hardest part of cooking is waiting, and the more you mess with it, the worse it is.  I think I've grown a lot in terms of being patient and letting the food cook without checking it 99 times.  (Wow!  There's a teaching analogy there!  Let's let our kids learn instead of testing them 99 times.  Not to turn a food post into an education rant, of course ...)

See?!  What a pretty sear.  Thanks, Bobby Flay.

Point of fact: I realized after the fact that PW used tenderloin center-cut chops, so hers were boneless.  And hers also were much thinner cuts than ours.  I was very pleased with our chops, but I think if we'd used boneless chops, they'd have all fit in the pan at one time ... which became important at the end of the recipe.
Anyway.  Once all the chops (we had six, and could fit three in the pan at one time) are seared, you set them to the side and brown your garlic and then add your wine.  I think I used a touch too much oil for the searing, so it was a little more liquid-y than I expected at this stage.  Of course you reduce down the wine.  Once it's nice and thick and sauce-y the recipe says to add beef broth and set the pork chops all back in the pan so they are "swimming" in the sauce.

Again, so pretty!

I hate this part about recipes.  It took me two full pan-fuls to get all the pork seared.  How am I supposed to get the pork chops all in the pan swimming in a half cup of sauce?  The chops are supposed to finish cooking at this point, so I was afraid that if I didn't have them "swimming," they'd dry out and be undercooked.  So I said "oh well," poured in about a cup and a half of the beef broth, which meant that the chops were swimming, but my sauce just never thickened back up the way it was supposed to.

No worries.  It wasn't the prettiest plate ever, but it was a really tasty meal -- especially so since it's been about a week since I cooked a real meal, and I miss that.  I think if the sauce had been thicker, it might have been richer (it was diluted by the beef broth, of course).  But the pork stayed moist, the sauce was flavorful, the whole garlic cloves were tasty and not overpowering, and the wine had cooked off nicely -- something that always worries me.

I paired it with potatoes I'd tossed in light olive oil and then roasted with salt, pepper, and rosemary, and grape tomatoes I roasted with salt and pepper.  They don't much go together (or, for that matter, make a pretty plate photo), but man -- they were delicious!  In retrospect, I think the plate would have benefitted from a green -- maybe, as Pioneer Woman suggests, a crispy green salad.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Corn Dogs and Slides are What We REALLY Need Around Here

Earlier today, CAM was displeased with what I said we were having for lunch.  (It was quesadillas.)
She stomped up the stairs, saying, "If I was a grown up, I would make sure we had corn dogs for lunch every day."  (Mind you, corn dogs never even entered the conversation today, so this fit was a bit of a surprise to me.  And by "a bit," I really mean, "hello, random!")  I told her we didn't have any corn dogs to make or I would have been happy to.

She asked, "Why not?"

And WHM jumped in to help me:

"Because.  We have no corn, and we have no dogs. Soooo we can't make corn dogs, CAM.  That's why."

About an hour later, my mom called.  She was all excited to let the kids know that she and my dad had just bought new swing seats for the swing set at their house, and she wanted to speak with WHM.  Unfortunately, he happened to be tending to a "potty emergency."  Not two minutes later, I had WHM call her back. I told him that Grandma called to let him know that she and Grandpa just bought new swings for their swing set, and he should call to say "thank you."

He got on the phone, and as my mom said, "hello," he jumped right in:

"But, did you get a new sliiiide?  Because the one at your house is kind-of old and yucky."

My two grateful, thankful kids.  They make me so proud.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Maine Bah Exayam (say that in your best Mainah accent)

Lots of folks have asked me about the bar exam. So, I figure I'll try to answer some popular questions here.  What you're about to read is actually an expanded version of something I posted on my personal Facebook page.

1. I only had to do Day 1, which was the essay day. I had six essay questions (in three 90-minute sessions) and then another "case file" 90-minute question. We started at 9 and ended at 6:05. I hand wrote it all. About 150 of us took the exam, and 30 of us were hand-writers.  If you're wondering why I chose just to hand-write it, that was the default in Alabama -- so it was in my head, if you will, that that's how one takes a bar exam.  Also, I much prefer only having to worry about my six pens working than dealing with technology.  It turned out to have some small side benefits: we didn't have to buy the testing software, first of all, but the day of the test because there were comparatively few of us, we were able to head to the breaks, lunch, and finally, to LEAVE, first.  I'll take the little things!  

Mick and I made the decision for me to spend the night in a hotel in Portland Monday night.  I actually stayed at the same hotel where the exam was held.  It was an expense to our budget, and arguably unnecessary since we live close enough that I could have driven to Portland in the morning.  It turned out to be very worth it, though:  WHM woke up in the middle of the night and Mick got almost no sleep Monday night.  That was exactly what I had hoped to avoid.  Also, I had a night to cram if I wanted, sleep in if I wanted ... and I didn't have to stress about potential traffic or parking issues.  I was able to eat both breakfast and lunch right at the hotel and to charge it to the room, and I essentially had nothing to worry about except the exam itself.  I like to have my ducks in a row and taking so many  potential worries off the table was worth the cost of the hotel.   

2. I don't know how I did. I won't know until September. I don't even want to guess, as the exam is graded on a curve. My essay score will be combined with my multiple-choice score from Alabama. (The multiple-choice component in Maine is the same as the one in Alabama, which is to say that both states use that part of the Multistate Bar Exam.  It is a brutal day of multiple-choice and I did well enough on that to feel comfortable relying on my old score again.  If I'd scored slightly higher originally, I would have only had to do the first two Maine essay questions, but even with falling slightly short on that I still don't have a score that's worrisome to me.)  

I don't think I necessarily knocked the essays out of the park, but I don't think I power-failed, either. I had an intelligent answer for every question, but maybe not always a perfectly right answer, and in least one case I had a partially wrong answer where I incorrectly stated the number of years a marriage must last for a party to be entitled by default to spousal support in a divorce proceeding. (Point of fact: I got it wrong because at the very last moment I changed what I had written originally -- which was the correct number of years. I know better than that; shame on me!)  In any case, I also got lucky -- again, as I did in Alabama -- because there were no straight commercial paper, secured transactions, bankruptcy, taxation, or wills/trusts questions.

3. No, I don't have anything lined up with a legal job. I just know that if we're in Maine, I didn't want to be in the position of saying, "I wish I'd taken the bar exam" and having to turn down an opportunity. We don't know if we're staying in Maine forever, but for as long as we are here, I wanted to have the exam under my belt.

So, I'm waiting ... and will let you know when I know. Thank you to the 8 million people who have asked how I did -- I know you ask because you care about me, and for that I am incredibly thankful!