Saturday, November 28, 2009

Collecting Fall

One of my favorite blogs is SouleMama.  Though I have to imagine it’s often far from the case in her home, her blog resonates a serenity I crave many days with my three and the comings and goings and nonstop noise-noise-noise of it all.  So, nearly every morning I spend a moment with my coffee and Amanda Soule, enjoying her projects, marveling at how she manages to do so much, and laughing my butt off at the thought of me trying to do about 20% as much in any given day or night.  I have periodically wished I was the sort of person who could stay up late in the nights creating this or that, driven by a fever to complete a project, but… I seem to enjoy sleep a little more than that.

However, there is one idea I have incorporated into our home.  She calls it their Nature Table, a place where the odd pine cone, shell, rock, etc. finds its way inside to be enjoyed.  We refer to the idea as “Collecting.”  Over the summer beautiful shells greeted us as we entered the house and both the older kids really enjoyed contributing their new finds.  Most everyone enjoys beach combing, but it seemed to add something, taking the time to really admire a shape or the mother of pearl inside an otherwise unremarkable shell.

Now that fall is firmly upon us, we’re on the look for what Mother Nature gives as her finale to the growing season.  And there is so much!  Lemme tell you, that old broad can really bring down the house, so to speak!

By the library we’ve found magnolia seed pods with bright red seeds peeking out and branches with red and orange leaves and seed pods.  At the park we discovered the pepper berries, which are both spicy smelling and a surprising red against the yellow leaves. 

We also found long seed pods that curved and curled, rough and knobbly bark, and maple seeds, which can fly like helicopters…. and of course all the leaves!  The kids have delighted in creating the display, which changes almost as often as they walk by it.

Often we’re so overwhelmed by all that we must do every given day.  It’s been a great treat to slow down, look around, and really take in and appreciate everything around us, and to watch change as it happens.

I’m not sure how we’ll collect winter, as puddles are hard to capture.  However, something tells me, with open eyes and a bit of patience, we’ll do a fine job of it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pie Party Participant

Possibly perfection.


There is no way to compose this post entirely using words beginning with 'p'.

However, this pie? Poifect!!
Every year I face the same quandary. Pecan pie, pumpkin pie, or cheesecake? Nevermore. This one has it all. Check out, because if you're not reading her, you SHOULD be, and also because the recipe for this pie is there. I will post the photo of a cut slice tomorrow. The textures all combine and work amazingly, and I will go to my grave proclaiming this the king of all Thanksgiving pies. Until I find a new favorite.. and I'm pretty fickle, so pie, enjoy your time in the sun...

Oh, and I have had 2 glasses of wine. Fair dinkum.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Potato Turkey, originally uploaded by Kristianna.

May you all enjoy a wonderful day in the company of those who you love and who love you.

And, may the Great Potato Turkey bring you many blessings. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Today, eating lunch at the kitchen counter.

Carter:  There is no such thing as cucumber.
Me:  Sure there is, silly!
C: No, there is absolutely NO such thing as cucumber.

Cookin’ the Book: Pioneer Woman’s Meat Loaf

Along with about a bajillion others, I bought Ree Drummond’s cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, named after the cooking portion of her website—on preorder, even. Her style is casual, yet she makes everything look delectable while also completely doable for the average home cook.
I decided it might be fun to ‘cook the book’—to try out each recipe in the book—though it might take me a while, as there are, to my quick and distracted by three kids home the day before Thanksgiving count, 62 recipes. Some are sides, one is sangria… might take at least until May 5 to find reason for that last one. :)
Anyway, last night I made my first recipe from the book: meatloaf (pp 150-151). And it was a definite success! I had to alter it a bit, as I felt totally wrapping the meatloaf in bacon was a little too rich. Ree may have a house full of cattle ranchers working cows all day, but we don’t! So I used half slices just along the top, and I also cut down the bread and milk to 2/3 of what was called for, to not be over the top carby, in semi-respect for my husband’s dietary preferences.
The meatloaf was moist and simple to assemble. I’ve never been a huge fan of tomato sauce on meatloaf, but this worked out wonderfully, too. I dropped off my daughter at swim, came home, assembled and put the meatloaf in the oven, and when I returned home… oh MAN, the fragrance greeting me as I opened the door was drool worthy.
Paul said this should be our new meatloaf recipe, and declared it a keeper. I agree. 1 down, 61 to go. :)
Edit: This just in! Pioneer Woman has shared her recipe for this awesome meatloaf. Find it HERE. Yay.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cookie Pops

Cookie Pops, originally uploaded by Kristianna.

Talk about your easy variation on something simple, that results in delight for children: cookie--on a stick! These were ridiculously quick and uncomplicated. If you can bake a cookie, you can make a cookie pop, as long as you have the sticks.

These used the larger size that were already lying around, left over from The Great Cupcake Pop Spree of March Ought-9, and I used a packaged cookie mix--the entire stick of butter called for makes 'em taste homemade, but without any fuss, which makes it also a reasonable "I wanna help" project with small kids. The only adjustment I made to baking was to set the oven down to 365 instead of 375, because either my oven runs hot or my dark pan browns cookies too quickly. After they cooled, each little guy was tucked into its own little cellophane bag... presto, cookie pops!

Kids love treats that have wrappers and sticks. You can embroider that on a pillow, I promise. It's just the truth.

Lunch Date

Lunch Date, originally uploaded by Kristianna.

While his little brother was sleeping in his stroller, Carter and I had a little lunch date at the establishment of his choice. Being 4, he chose every single 4 year old's favorite place -- McD's! Happy Meals are well named. :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Menu Plan, Monday Nov. 23

This week, of course, has Thanksgiving on Thursday. We plan a little bit of a special meal here, and we’ll enjoy it among us 5, but it’s not a ‘going crazy’ meal this year. We don’t like turkey, so we're having ham—I know, how DARE we! Well, we really don’t like turkey, so there!

Anyway, here is the plan, Stan.

Monday: roast chicken
Tuesday: meatloaf (trying out Pioneer Woman’s recipe from book)
Wednesday: enchiladas w left over chicken (then going to PIE PARTY!)
Thursday: ham, fauxtatoes, asparagus w/hollandaise
Friday: leftovers
Saturday: split pea soup with leftover ham
Sunday: Pioneer Woman pot roast

I also decided to work my way through as many of the PW recipes in her book as I can, to ‘cook the book’ as it were. So, this week an extra will be her cinnamon rolls, which is Bunny’s request. I’ll be writing up these PW recipes along the way. :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Carter totally nailed his school portrait!



Just kidding.  This is the ‘if you smile, you get to make the craziest face you want’ reward.  A photo acceptable for family, and *possibly* holiday card consumption, was achieved.  Phew.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fingers Crossed

Today Carter is having his first school photo taken.  It’s not really an official school portrait (no wagon wheel or cheesy background), but still, it is his first photo at school.

This morning we chatted a bit about how much I’d appreciate him smiling.  He does not ‘like’ to smile for photos.  He likes to make what we call the ‘monkey boy’ face.

Here is hoping they get one nice photo.  And not only ones like this:



I have a lot of these.  Let’s hope for something a little more conventional.  :)

Friday, November 13, 2009


Mama, I brought you something!

I was hanging my bag and Cole’s jacket as Carter jammed his little hand into his jeans pocket.

Oh no!  Your flowers…

Tears began to fill his eyes as he let two crumpled dandelions drop to the floor.  I quickly picked them up and sniffed them.

Are these for me?  Oh honey, you are so sweet to always think of me.  I love you so much!

I kissed his  freckles, we hugged, and Carter beamed.  Cole swept around behind Carter to create the perfect ‘sandwich hug.’  All was well.


Monday, November 09, 2009

Playing with Food

My favorite part of my little ones' birthdays is, of course, the CAKE!  Not really eating it, though I suppose I like birthday cake as much as anyone, but decorating one.  I love trying something I have never attempted before, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  Last year my Iron Giant cake resembled a rock with two bright green spots of, I don't know, perhaps fungus on it.

This year I had to make up for it, though Carter actually kinda dug the idea of a rock cake.  :)

He's really into the movie Peter Pan nowadays, especially 'Captain Hookhand,' so I decided to try my hand at a pirate ship.  Really, all the boy cares about is that his cake is chocolate, but I have to play too, ya know!  I found instructions for a cake that was both cute and doable all of 44 hours before the party was scheduled to begin.  I like to plan ahead, you know...

Last spring my friend Laura gave me the coolest cupcake book, Hello Cupcake!  In it are so many wonderful ideas and very helpful instructions, I may well spend the rest of my adult life trying to come up with reasons to try every design.  Since not every child would want chocolate cake, I rationalized that as an excuse to also make vanilla cupcakes--with sharks on them!

Armed with a crazy list of treats I never-ever-ever buy (Twinkies??), I collected everything to make both, and baked the cake layers the day before the party so as to not repeat the 'cake won't cool quickly enough to decorate in time for the party' debacle of 2008. 

Then it was simply a matter of putting all the components together in a way that would hopefully look nice.

With the book very close at hand, and a strong coffee to keep my mind defuzzed, I started to cut off pieces of Twinkie.  By the way, Twinkies suck!  I popped a little piece of an end into my mouth and... ewwwwww.  It didn't taste at all like cake or whipped cream.  I always cringed when my mom claimed this or that tasted like chemicals when I was a kid, but these just tasted like unpronounceable preservatives.  Blech.  However, they did work well for this, and a Twinkie every year or less probably has never killed anyone.  (As far as I know.)

The Twinksters were then glued onto the tops of cupcakes.  Is it just me, or could these also be the start of some really morbid Titanic sinking commemoration party treats?  Huh, huh?

Then I cut little slits into the cakish yellow things, and inserted some lemon waffle cookies that were trimmed a bit into the slits to make a dorsal fin shape.  The book said to use a different kind of cookie that I could NOT find without going to a second store, and probably not finding them there either, so these had to do.  And they were fine.  If I had not bought these, I would have gotten yet another thing I never buy, Oreos, and "unscrewed" them to use just the cookie part.  After this step, they were put in the freezer for 10-15 minutes or however long it took me to dash around tidying up and ordering the kids to NOT MAKE ANY MORE MESSES (so probably closer to 30 minutes).

I used ordinary icing from a can tinted gray and heated in the microwave until kind of like melted chocolate, and dipped the shark part of the cupcakes into that to coat it, then added a few details to transform the sad Titanics into...

SHARK ATTACK CUPCAKES!  Perfect for aquarium parties, people afraid to swim in the ocean... so many uses!  By the way, true story:  the first movie my parents ever took me to was Jaws.  I was three.  This explains so much, no?

The pirate cake was really a lot more straightforward to assemble and decorate than it appears.  The cake layers were cut into half circles and laid all in a row with the rounded sides down, and bunches of different premade treats were used in pretty neat ways to fashion cannon balls, cannons, and railing.  Bunny and I made the sails with construction paper and skewers, and the pirate is part of one of Carter's toy sets.  I was extra fancy and washed the toy before using it... Party Guests, you're welcome for that.  :)

As much fun as it was to make, the real payoff was that Carter was delighted, and it tasted good, too.
Arrrrrrrr, matey!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Not my words, but a good way of explaining the nature of parenting...

Parenting means you give and you give and you give and you give. And when you have given all you can give, your kid walks up to you and says, "Can I have that?" and you think to yourself, Wow, I didn't even know I had that. I really could have used it. Then you turn to your child and say, "Here you go."

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Carter's Cupcakes

Carter's Cupcakes, originally uploaded by Kristianna.

I wanted to make some special cupcakes to take to the pumpkin carving party at Christ's house this year. It was on the same day as Carter's birthday, and of course, you have to have cake on your birthday!

In a perfect world, I'd have found time to make the cupcakes he's been eyeing for months. But in the real world -- the one where I have been chasing tail all week -- I had to settle for these. I made 'em, but from a mix. I decorated 'em, but with store bought picks.

In the end, Carter had a blast. He got cake. And he gets MORE next weekend when his party is held. Now, for me to figure out what kind I will make that day, and to find time to decorate it in a manner more befitting the world's most wonderful little four year old stinker... but, really, as long as there is chocolate involved, I know he'll like that, too.


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