Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cookin’ the Book: Pioneer Woman’s Comfort Meatballs (Could be a GREAT Super Bowl Appetizer!)

I admit it. I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, and I truly do enjoy them! I also like the concept of nibbling on yummy food for 3-4 hours and washing it all down with a cold one (be the ‘one’ a soda or beer). The game? I’m pretty happy with the results regardless because I am such a sports fan, don’t you know?

Anyway, completely unrelated to the upcoming world championship of a sport barely played outside of the US and select areas of Canada I made another recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Comfort Meatballs. To recap, I am attempting to try every recipe in the book by June 2010—get this—as written. The ‘as written’ part is tricky for me, because I am a turd and never make recipes ‘as written’. I thought it would be a good exercise in discipline to actually follow directions.

As The Venerable PW states, these are not Italian meatballs. They’re closer in flavor to meatloaf, with a savory-sweet tomato sauce covering the lot. It’s an easy, but not really quick recipe because the uncooked meatballs are put in the fridge on a tray to firm up for half an hour or so, then browned on the stove before being covered in sauce and baked for another 45 minutes in the oven.

My family’s reaction was favorable, but not overwhelmed. As my husband said, “They’re good, but I like the meatloaf more.” However, later that evening he commented, “You know, those meatballs would be really good as an appetizer at a Super Bowl party or something like that.” The man is a genius… yes, that would be just the way to let these puppies shine.

However, we had them for dinner with fauxtatoes (steamed cauliflower mashed/pureed with some butter/smart balance and light cream cheese). It was quite a yummy meal and we all gave it the thumbs up.

Perhaps Comfort Meatballs won’t make it into the rotation of meals in our house, but I am pretty sure they’ll around a couple of times a year. Seems like they’d freeze perfectly, and also make a great meal to deliver to a sick friend or family with a new baby.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

“Cole’s Class”

Cole and Carter are 26 months apart in age, but Cole is already almost the big brother in a couple of ways.  There’s the obvious difference in their physiques.  Carter is a wiry-lanky fellow of slightly above average height and a bit below average weight.  Cole is SOLID.  He’s also the height and weight of a 3-4 year old.  He’s not fat… and that’s a bonafide medical fact, not just an oblivious mom-pinion.  I can’t, however, see buying him clothes from the ‘slim’ rack anytime soon.

Another way Cole is quickly becoming the big brother in the house is that he’s oddly dominant over Carter.  Carter is a gentle—albeit sometimes cranky—soul.   His feelings are easily hurt.  When I tell Carter I am beginning to feel angry about his behavior it really upsets him, and he worries about me not loving him anymore (as if that could ever-ever-ever happen!).  Cole is mellow, but assertive.  He will get what he wants, and by any means necessary.   He really could give a rat’s patoot what you think of him or what he’s doing most of the time.   Carter is introspective and a little socially awkward while Cole is engaging and always ready for a laugh.

So, it was a real hardship on King Cole to have to accompany Carter to preschool and—get this crap!—leave him there.  Cole showed his displeasure in every way his little(ish) self could:  he screamed.  He flailed.  He arched his back and held up his arms in that way that removes all mom’s ability to pick him up in any dignified manner.  Sometimes, when being buckled into the carseat, still screaming, he’d try his best to slap some sense into his stupid, stupid mom.  (That didn’t work out well for him, at all.)

Finally Cole prevailed!  No, he still needed to leave Carter at school two days a week, but Mama signed him up for a toddler mommy & me class at school on Wednesday mornings. 

Carter also is allowed to come with us, and Cole finally gets one morning a week to play, play, play with all the toys and equipment at Carter’s school.  We still have to call it Carter’s school, according to Carter, but it’s “Cole’s class” those mornings.  Carter loves that he can completely self lead, and doesn’t have to do circle time, and Cole just loves it all.

Cole can ride the roller coaster.

Cole can paint.

Cole can play with the puzzles and play dough.  He can participate in circle time, too!  How he loves the song at the end of class!

It’s been such a good thing for our strong willed guy to be able to do this!  This week we have a family cold work its way around, and Cole missed class yesterday.  This morning drop off was a bit tricky because Cole was sure today was his class, and that his mom is, sadly, again, a complete idiot.  It’s so hard being patient when your mom is struck stupid at times and you have to protest… such is the life of a 2 year-old in a big boy body.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rainy Day, Sick Kids, Colorful Flowers

Yesterday poor Bunny was home sick with a cough and icky tummy… just a general feeling of not being well, and since her brothers also have hearty coughs, we were all cooped up inside with what I estimate to be our 11th straight day of gloom and rain (though, yesterday was not very rainy, just icky, like their tummies).

By later afternoon the bigger kids were fully over movies and didn’t want to play with toys.  Bunny had done her reading for the day, and squabbles seemed to dominate the family room.  I believe, in a weak moment, I may have told them I really didn’t like sick days… the scene was getting ugly, man!

It was time to set up an art activity, something they could do near each other, but by themselves all the same.  I had a project from Pink and Green Mama tucked away in my brain and set us three to work making colorful flowers to brighten up the gray day.

Armed with watercolors, nice, non-bleedy paper, and our imaginations, we all created some visual happiness, and also brightened our moods.


Bunny drew the flowers in pencil, then traced with a black Sharpie before adding watercolors.  Carter is only beginning to be interested in drawing and unsure of his abilities, so he asked that I draw flowers for him, which he then painted.

I love this colorful flower that Bunny created!  The multicolor background makes me smile.

At Bunny’s suggestion, I made this rose, which we’re calling the Roy G. Biv.  :)

Carter normally sticks to one color—blue, his favorite.  It was a wonderful treat to see him branch out a little, though clearly blue remains a foundation in his palette.

To my dismay, today is another sick day at home.  Bunny is still complaining of a hurting tummy, and coughing just enough to make me feel it’s a good idea to keep her quarantined (hopefully only) one more day.  We grownups feel the knotted stomach, too, so we know it’s a real bug, and not a case of fakey-monia.  Carter seems to be much on the mend--he was the one who brought this bug to share with us from school, and is ahead of the curve in recovery, so he may end up going in to preschool…  no matter how it works out this morning, the afternoon will be long, and I am very thankful for the plethora of ideas at my fingertips through so-called Mommy blogs.  They’ve saved my sorry butt more than a few times!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cookin’ the Book: Pioneer Woman’s Spicy Shredded Pork & Sherried Tomato Soup


That week after Christmas is a hard one sometimes.  It’s the in between time, when the kids have been home too long, the toys have all been played with, everyone is probably technically ready to get back to a normal routine, but the normal routine is not ready to return to you.  Summer vacation always seems to fly by, but the second week of winter break is glacial in its passage.

With the long days however, came an opportunity to try one of the “all day” recipes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  I make Carolina-style pulled pork a few times a year, so pork shoulder and I know each other well.  Hers is such an easy recipe that I decided to try one of the more interesting sounding sides as well.

Ever since she posted it on her website, Sherried Tomato Soup has been tempting me.  Paul and I had dinner the night we became engaged at a wonderful restaurant in Carmel called L’Escargot, and as odd as it may sound, their tomato soup is what I remember best from the meal, which was divine from start to finish.  I’d never really liked tomato soup in spite of being served it approximately 57,000 times as a child.  Campbell’s Tomato Soup is an icon, but I really don’t like it.  L’Escargot’s soup was divine!  I would happily eat it every day for a long time before even becoming a little bit tired of it.

Yet, I’d never made tomato soup myself.  In my imagination it seemed like it would have to be time consuming, or complex to be SO good.  It was time to get over that!

PW’s tomato soup is made almost entirely with stuff you would already have on hand, with the possible exception of the sherry and cream.  In my experience, a bottle of sherry keeps for years and lends a necessary taste to some surprising things—it’s excellent in some Asian recipes—so the cream was the only ingredient bought special this time.

It’s wonderful soup.  It’s not even remotely dietetic.  Make it for a special meal, and be advised a small cup is plenty.  Even my ravenous husband found it to be extremely rich.  This is not a complaint, mind you!  Keep it in mind when ladling it… a cup really is enough.

A couple of days after I made these recipes we had friends over for a very impromptu dinner and served the leftover pork and soup with some other sides I made on the fly.  It was a hit the night I made it, and, I daresay, even better two days later.  The only tricky part was reheating the soup slowly enough to avoid curdling the cream.

You can find recipes and photos illustrating how to make the recipes HERE and HERE.  I hope you try these and enjoy them!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tryin’ It, Brownie Style

Way back in a time called the 1980s I was a Brownie Scout. I loved wearing my brown jumper, brown knee highs, and that funny beanie/yarmulke thing to school once a week. I loved the songs, the friendship squeeze, all of it! The one thing I never seemed to be able to do was earn badges in my own time. We had the handbook at home, but I never had the right resources or materials on hand to complete enough activities. My sash was seriously badge deficient.

Thirty years later my own daughter is a Brownie Scout! Many things have changed: the meetings are hours after school, so she doesn’t wear anything out of the ordinary on meeting days, and the uniform is really only a vest (no jumper? really??). Some of the differences are subtle. The merit badges are now called Try-Its. Since Bunny joined a troop that was already established—and we are SO happy to have been able to do this!—many of her friends have a lot of badges already. A neat difference from when I was a Brownie is that there are so many opportunities to earn Try-Its outside of a meeting, but without having to basically get your parents to buy a ton of stuff, then more or less ‘Do-It’ for you.

The Tech Museum of Innovation hosted a Try-It workshop Friday night for the ‘Movers’ Try-It, which is about wind. Bunny and I went, and a friend came along.

A whole level was sectioned off for the girls, who moved from table to table, completing 5 activites, earning a badge in a neat and tidy 2 hours. They had a lot of fun, too!

They made paper bag kites, and they flew, too! Well, if you run fast enough, they fly inside. ;)

These pinwheels were CUTE, cute, cute. So were the ring gliders, paper copters, and wind socks. Afterwards we explored the floor, messing with various robots and other gadgets before heading back home. Bunny was very happy to fill out her vest’s Try-It area, and I enjoyed some girl time with my big girl. We can’t wait for the next workshop that, um… works for our schedule.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cookin’ the Book: Pioneer Woman’s Braised Beef Brisket and Homemade Ranch with Iceberg Wedge


Brisket and I are only barely acquaintances.  I believe I had a bite of it once, and it seemed fine… never caught my fancy enough to make it myself. 

One of the reasons I want to work my way through an entire cookbook was to push myself to try recipes I’d normally skip, and this weekend it was time to find out a little more about the mysterious brisket.

An inspection of the meat department at my usual grocery store led me to surmise that brisket is not a particularly popular cut ‘round these parts—there was exactly one puny 2 lb roast put out.  If I’m braising something for 6 hours, I am going to cook more than two measly pounds!  Thankfully the butcher had one—no more, no less--in back that was 5 pounds.  Done and done.

This recipe is time consuming only in that it marinates for a day, then bakes for most of another day.  Technical difficulty?  Not a factor unless using can openers is not your strong suit.

I decided to make this meal a two-fer on the book-cookin’ front, and also made homemade ranch dressing, which also is easy-peasy.  If you can chop and stir, then you can make this.  I normally wouldn’t even glance at a head of iceberg lettuce, but I am making *the* recipes as written, and dutifully bought some.


Both the brisket and salad dressing were tasty!  I rounded out the meal with crusty bread and some yummy cooked greens.   Step by step directions and photos are HERE and HERE.  Of the two, I think I personally like the ranch most—it is so fresh, with none of that bottled taste.  With kids around, believe me, I will have noooo problem finding ways to use the leftover ranch!  Heck, with me around, I’ll have no problem… but that is another, sadder tale… involving  pizza crusts… lonely, forgotten pizza crusts… I’m just saving them from an inglorious end in the trash, really!

Splashin’ Good Fun

We’re in the midst of what looks like a multiWEEK rain here.  The best day in the forecast is Sunday, when there is only a 20% chance of rain in between big systems.

We need the rain.  We need the rain.  Better than a drought.  Better than a drought.  These are my mantras I repeat over and over, and perhaps at some point in February you will find my manuscript of that typed over and over again, putting that last nail in the coffin that was my sanity, haha…..  All rain and no sun makes Kris a batty girl….

I really should not complain (yet).  We’ve had little breaks that allow the puddles to recede, we have good foul weather gear, and an array of options to keep the little ones entertained during these long days.

However, we’re used to spending a good amount of time outside, and we already miss it.  Sometimes the rain is coming down in sheets, and even with raincoats and boots, we’re soaked just going to and from the car—and guess who gets wettest?  I’ll give you a hint: it’s the person who stands outside buckling seat belts and car seats…. ;)  I do not want to go full on Gorton’s fisherman, so my pants are pretty soaked from mid thigh to top of the boots.

I should take a note from my youngest.  He fell face first in a puddle yesterday, but he didn’t mind.  Since he was already as wet as he was going to get, I let him play in the rain for a while.

I may have even more laundry than normal from the three full outfits he soaked through yesterday, but it’s just laundry.  Sometimes you just have to jump in puddles.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Picking a Ripe Melon

There are many old wives tales about how to tell if a melon is ripe.  The only one I have total confidence in is that cantaloupes should no longer be green under that webbed upper rind surface, should smell like cantaloupes, and not be at all mushy.

When it comes to watermelons, I try to go by looks, as I never figured out what thumping noise is desirable.  Winter is not the best time for watermelons, but my kids love the miniature ones, and I thought I had a winner a few days ago.

That is, until I picked it up off the counter later that same morning.  Now, I have heard of thumping, and tapping, and smelling… but did you know sometimes it might be a good idea to shake a melon?  Okay, maybe it’s not a good idea, but I highly recommend no one buys the ones that slosh.

Our seemingly perfect melon sloshed.  At first I thought, “Well, I’ll give it a chance.”  Then I thought, “I do not want to return a watermelon.  I’m going to take photos so I can show the store and get a new melon without taking anything back.”

It was a decidedly BAD melon.  Now, I can be a bit picky about texture with melons—unable to tolerate anything under or overripe.  Once I brought a bunch of cantaloupe to the park to share with friends, and Carter’s buddy Luke didn’t like it.  His mom chided him, saying, “It’s good!”  I tasted it, and agreed with Luke.  YUCK!  So yeah, I can be a wee bit picky.

I’ll leave it to a vote.  Does this look like I was being picky?


So far, so good!




Oh my.  I have never seen such a thing!  The fruit looked like raw fish or maybe ceviche.  Blech.  I know you’re on the edge of your seat worrying about our melon situation, so you’ll be mightily relieved to know our next melon was perfect.  And I didn’t even shake it.  :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cookin’ the Book: Pioneer Woman’s Rib-eye Steak with Whiskey Cream Sauce

I have a bit of a backlog of recipes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks! I’m working my way through the book in no particular order, attempting to make every recipe by June 2010, and making more progress than apparent… my life is not about these (yummy!) recipes, and I’m loathe to only write about them, ya know?
At any rate, this seemed like a special meal, so we had it way back in 2009. Okay, it was New Year’s Eve. :) We drove around as a family, enjoying the holiday lights set up in a local park, then came home and rang out ‘09 with a little feast.
Rib-eye steaks are yummy just about any way you make ‘em, and this simple, yet just different enough pan sauce worked up quickly. I served this to my hungry brood with creamed spinach if my memory serves me… sheesh, you’d think I made this a year ago, not about 2 weeks ago! I do know this much: my husband and I, plus the two children who actually eat really enjoyed it!
As with her meatloaf, this recipe is not on her website. I’m happy to pass it along individually to a friend who would like to try before you buy, so to speak, but will refrain from posting here. Let me know if you want the recipe—you will not be disappointed!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

They say to savor time...

Corn Starch Peanuts Activity, originally uploaded by Kristianna.

...and I do try to remember to relish as much of the time with my children. While they are small. While I can. While they want to be with me all the time.

However, sometimes you really need to fill some time. When it's rainy. When it's early and still wet with dew outside. When I realize the dishes fairy has once again opted out of adding our home to her rounds.

Corn starch packing peanuts are cool when you get them wet. They become sticky and can be smooshed together. A couple of handfuls of them can provide a mom juuuust enough time to empty--and immediately refill--the dishwasher.

Then we played together with them some, back to our regularly scheduled enjoying time *together*, accompanied by the hum-swoosh-hummm of the dishwasher doing its job.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Simple Second Birthday

Simple Birthday, originally uploaded by Kristianna.

My poor, poor baby is unfortunate. He was born 2 weeks after Christmas. Making a big to-do of it all seemed a bit too much when we'd only taken down the tree so recently. I know a mom whose (only) child was born a day or three after Christmas day itself, and bless her heart, she takes down the tree on Christmas night and really does it UP for her daughter's birthday. Me? That's a lot of work!

However, of course the little man's birthday is important to us, and we made sure to mark it with a little family party. Cole picked out the type of cake mix he wanted at the store, and I kept decorations simple, making the paper chains every elementary student has made at some time or another and hanging streams of curling ribbon. We also picked up a few balloons--always a hit.

The kids were having so much fun playing that we didn't even get around to eating dinner or eating cake until after 8! Since it was so late, Paul and I decided it would be crazy to give Cole new toys then expect him to go to bed, so he opened his loot the next day and was none the worse for it. In fact, I am just remembering as I type that there is one more present to open! (Go figure -- me forgetting something! Crazy!)

Cole loved his simple birthday, and I love my sweet boy.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Carter is a raven, always finding little treasures.  A simple walk through our neighborhood is a hunt, especially the ‘through’ streets, which get “I don’t live here, so I’ll just chuck my ________ out the window,” treatment.  Now, don’t get me wrong!  I don’t want to make out like we have a bad litter problem, because there really is not, but if you are a treasure hunter, there is plenty to be found.

You simply must be on the lookout.  Being three and a half feet tall helps, too.


Yesterday he made out like a bandit!  Can you believe people just throw away this stuff?  ;)  The drill bit is particularly special, and Carter said it was for Daddy.  The rest is a gift to me.  Since I have plenty of random crap treasures already, the new procedure is for me to keep a photo and toss the grody junk allow the items themselves to go to the great beyond.

Anyone know what that dice (die?) is?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Two Years

My baby… is really not one anymore.  However, I retain veto power on all that, I have decided.  I asked him yesterday if he would stay my baby forever, pretty please, and he meowed at me.  I take that as consent.

I fed him cake to seal the deal.  :)


Saturday, January 09, 2010



My new nephew!  My sister and her husband welcomed this gorgeous guy into their lives and the world in general on Monday.  They’re all adjusting to their new normal and are doing great, if a bit tired.  Thankfully, there is nothing I can think of that is more worth a few lost winks than a new baby.

Welcome, little man.

Friday, January 08, 2010


IMG_4798, originally uploaded by Kristianna.

Today the boys and I had a VERY, VERY FUN errand to run... Radio Shack!

I really don't like that store, but sometimes you just need to go to Radio Shack, such as when you decide you're going to break your (old) TV if you keep forcibly swiveling it to reach the audio/video plugs on the back to switch between the DVD and Wii. You have no clue what the thing you need is called, but reason that there must be something you can use to 'split' the cable input and stop the insanity of moving a heavy TV almost every day. Soooo, you pack up the kids and go to Radio Shack -- if it exists, they'll have one or two.

Radio Shack had what I needed, and also a very fun looking remote control T Rex toy that Carter felt instant passion for. The sales dude very helpfully informed us it's only $10 as it was returned, but I am a mean mother who does not just buy toys any old day of the week, and Cole's birthday is TOMORROW. Oh, and Christmas? TWO WEEKS AGO.

#1 Son has plenty of new toys, and the RC T Rex also is listed for older children. The answer had to be, "No."

Time for the tears. As we pulled out of the parking spot, Carter said, "I miss the T Rex!" After maybe 100 yards more he had made a big decision.

Carter: I quit!
Me: Quit what?
Carter: I quit being 4. Forever!
Me: It's hard being four. If you're not four, then what are you?
Carter: Three!
Me: Then what will you be when you have your birthday?
Carter: Three! Or maybe eight.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Clutter Busting

Desk Clutter 03, originally uploaded by a_d_gimenez.

You know the saying about gas filling its space? That it, um... does?

Well, with 5 people in a house, we seem to be full to bursting with clutter lately. I purged a lot of baby stuff, but it looks like more needs to go, as I'm literally tripping over little bits of this and that everywhere I turn lately. I've had routines that worked, but it's seemed especially hard lately to simply keep up. I personally seem to only have two speeds, and recently have felt simply sitting still would be a nice option.

The kids however, are always on--always full of life, and that is a good thing! It's simply the combination of all the life being lived and the debris generated that is visually overwhelming me lately. So, I've embarked on a new declutter 365 project--simply purging at least one item every stinking day for the year... I did this in 2008 and should have kept going strong throughout last year because I certainly could have.

For some reason we put a lot of value in the things we possess. We might not even like the item in question, but it's 'ours' and therefore important. We might want that later. We won't miss it if we keep it just in case. Our belongings begin to own us. Time to show the 'stuff' who's boss!

Today's purge: a few rubbery dinosaurs that I have diligently put back into their container about 1-4 times a day for a year or more. As far as I can tell, the entirety of playing with these objects seems to be as such: open container, huck toys all over, THE END. So ha stupid little rubber dinos, joke's on you, because you're in the trash can now, losers! ;)


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