Friday, January 29, 2010

A Quest for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I have a problem.

Ok, ok, stop laughing. I know I have more than just one problem. But one step at a time.

This particular problem is that I haven't found a chocolate chip cookie that I just love and adore. The one that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. The one that I turn to in happy times and sad times, for celebrating or consoling. You know, THE chocolate chip cookie.

Oh sure, there are a couple of recipes that I like, one that I'd probably term my favorite of those, but it's not a purist recipe. (It has cinnamon and nutmeg and some oats...good stuff, but it's not just a plain chocolate chip cookie)

My husband has his hands down favorite recipe. Meh-it's ok, but I don't love it. He fell in love with it about 10yrs ago. We've made it countless times since then. Still, it's never hit the spot for me.

I have a handful of recipes that other people love and have made their default recipes (a number of them love my husband's favorite). Most people love the good old back of the bag Nestle Tollhouse recipe. It's alright I guess....but mostly it just makes me think of that Friends episode.

It always comes back to a Friends episode, doesn't it?

So today I begin the quest for my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. One that is "just" a chocolate chip cookie recipe. "Just" meaning no oatmeal, nuts, fancy spices....a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe.

There are three recipes I found to start with. Unfortunately with all the frosting I've made this week I only have enough butter left for one recipe, so instead of a grand cookie day bake-off, I'm settling for one batch of cookies today. Which should be ok considering that I still have the rest of that little cake (and a chocolate one like it now too), and a handful of cupcakes sitting on my counter.

Will it live up to it's name?

I'll let you know.

(also, if you have any suggestions, I'm open to any recipes you recommend!)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Frosting perfection

I have issues with sugar.

There's a big shocker, right? ha!

So naturally I love frosting. A-what's not to love? B-it involves sugar C-and also usually cake. Mmmm....cake.....

I have frostings that I use frequently, some are great, some are ok. I've never quite reached the perfect consistency and taste at the same time. At least as far as cake frosting. Cookies I'm good with. But cake.....still searching.

Until this week.

For the aforementioned baby shower (previous post), I made cupcakes. This required practicing the frosting.

(and the decorating too of course)

So I played with a buttercream frosting recipe last weekend. I had a cold so I couldn't taste a darn thing. But the consistency was perfect! It worked just right with the decorating tip!

But I couldn't tell on the taste. I asked the 11yr old who told me "It's different." Like bad different? Gross different? WHAT?! "Just different. But I'd certainly eat it!" Well, that's good, but she has my affinity for sugar, so not a great litmus test.

Enter the husband. The picky about sweets husband. He doesn't much like the frosting I usually make. So this is a good test. He tasted it and replied with "Wow. That's the best frosting you've ever made!"
And later that night as we were headed to bed he snuck out to the kitchen. When he finally returned to our bedroom he walked in with a grin and a half full mouth.

When he swallowed he finally spoke.

"Do you know what's better than a cupcake?"

uh, no?

"Three cupcakes and a glass of milk!"

Three more comments about the frosting at the shower today. Very nice.

Mission accomplished-Frosting perfected.

Also, just in case you were wondering, I ate this for dinner last night:

(though let's be brutally honest, I was tempted to just eat it like this...)

Sweet dreams.


The little neighbor girl who made my day

Today wasn't a bad day. A little hectic, but that's pretty much par for the course. If you lived here I think you'd agree.

This afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a baby shower for a friend who also happens to live just down the street. It is always so fun to get together with a bunch of cute ladies and eat entirely too much. Also to see all the cute little girly things being doled out to the cute girl having the baby.

(also, baby girls are taking over my neighborhood. Not one person that I know of who is due between now and June is having a boy. And including the two that gave birth in the past two weeks, that is what....7? 8? people....Wow. It's lovely!)

While enjoying myself at the shower, my cell phone rang. It was the kids. (I was just a few houses down the street, figured they'd be fine for an hour) Blah, blah, blah...."be nice to each other, I'll be home soon." 10 minutes later, same drill. Then again and again...5 phone calls. Things were breaking down at home, so I dutifully left the shower and returned home to put it all back together.

I'm responsible like that you know.

Anyway-as I was leaving the shower-and let's be honest, not thrilled at what I was headed to-my neighbor's cute little almost 3yr old girl ran to the door in her princess dress-ups. After I was down the front walk she got the door open and yelled "Goodbye Miss Catey! I'll miss you! I love you! Come back again! I love you! I miss you!"

Seriously adorable.
Maryanne, please tell your cute little Tanner thank you for making my day.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Steve Martin, Styrofoam Peanuts...Invaluable Life Lessons

It's Friday. Thank heavens it's Friday.
(also once I get my act back together I'll get back to Friday Freebies if anyone is still interested in doing that. Anyone?)

Aside from the fact that Friday is just a good day in and of itself (who doesn't like Friday?!), this Friday is particularly welcome as it means that we have endured the first week of the new life. My husband has been gone from 5:30am until 11:00 each night this week. The kids have not seen him since Sunday night. We get about 15-20 minutes together each night before he crashes. hard. Actually last night we got almost 45 minutes together because he made it home early-at 10:30. It was wonderful.

So what does this have to do with Steve Martin? Or styrofoam peanuts for that matter?

I'm getting there.

This week aside from the adjustment of not having a husband at home, I have also had more work that usual to get done. I do some work from home part time, and usually I keep it for the night after the kids are in bed. That way I can put in a few hours and not consume my days. Usually I have the help of my husband, so we crank right along at a good pace and get the bonus of a few uninterrupted hours together. It's no hot date, but hey, I'll take time with him whenever I can get it! Since his help has obviously not been available this week, and I obviously work more slowly alone than the two of us together, I have had to resort to working during the day. While I get some things done, my productivity level is much lower while also wrangling 3 kids and two dogs, as well as trying to get anything around the house done. This has translated into around 8-10hrs each day spent working. Not fun. For me or the kids. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the work, just feeling stretched a little too thin.

Mom stretched very thin + Dad gone +7 kids + homework, cub scouts, girl scouts, Activity Days, basketball practice, church meetings, laundry, dishes, and all those other things that are life right now = Me being not the kind of mom I want to be. At all.

I have been short on patience, horrible at getting my kids a real dinner (only twice this week-sad), seriously behind in keeping up with the house, tired, ornery...... *sigh*.....I think you get the idea.

Enter Steve Martin.

I love Steve Martin. How can you not? Give me a Steve Martin movie and I will soon be laughing.

Yesterday while I was working my boys sat next to me watching a movie. Their movie of choice was Cheaper by the Dozen.
I love this movie for a number of reasons. First, Steve Martin. I believe we've covered that, thank you. Also, how can you not love Bonnie Hunt? She's just cute. And then there is the family factor. While I do not have a dozen of my own, just seven so far, big families are a rarity. They are complained about, looked down upon, and chided by much of the world. Even here in Happy Valley where having a large family is more the norm than anywhere else I know of, I have had horribly rude comments about having more than the average number of children. (note to naysayers: When you are paying my grocery bill and doing my laundry, then you can think about commenting) To see a movie that portrayed the ups and downs of a large family, in an uplifting way, and focused more on the ups than the downs, thrilled me. It still does. Every time I watch the movie I laugh. Most of the times I watch the movie I cry-sometimes at things that were meant to be laughed at. But more than anything, I appreciate the chaos.

Yesterday while watching the movie I was particularly struck by the scene where the kids are playing "Apple Schmear" with dad. They are pitching apples at him and he is hitting them with a tennis racquet. It's messy. There's really no point to it. But they are having fun.

Not long after that scene comes a point when the entire mood of the family changes. Dad is busy with work, Mom is out of town, and everything is falling apart. Suddenly Dad isn't fun anymore, just short-tempered, irritable and overwhelmed.

And I saw myself.

Not just for this week; I realized that I've let myself become that with everything that has gone on over the past couple of months, but obviously this week has kind of been a pinnacle in that. I've worried about me, what I need to get done, how much I'm not getting done, and completely dismissed how our current changes in life, and my attitude, have been affecting my kids.

That's not what I want.

So today is different. I want to be me again.

Thankfully yesterday I finished up all the work that needed to be done, so today, no work.

I have forgotten how much I love what I do. The reasons I chose, and the reasons that we have sacrificed, to be a stay at home mom.

Today the dishes are done. That will only last for 16.3 seconds, but it's ok.
Laundry is getting done. See above duration, but again, ok.
My room is clean. (That had better last at least a day)

And I played with my kids.

We threw random fruits in the blender and made smoothies.

We talked. Well, they talked, I really did more listening. A 3yr old and 4yr old have all sorts of things to say.

Did you know that a small box of styrofoam packing peanuts will provide over an hour of play?

And the bubble wrap was just icing on the cake.

I ate lunch with them instead of intermittently taking bites while getting something done.

I want to be the parent who plays "Apple Schmear".

Who spends more time reading stories than lecturing about chore charts.

Sure things need to get done, but I've focused so much on that that I have forgotten to do many of the more important things.

Years ago I was the kind of mom that I always want to be. Today I got back to that. I have missed it.

Lest you get any strange ideas, no, the rest of the day wasn't all fun. There were tantrums, arguments between kids over pointless things, complaining about chores, and even a couple of time outs. Bedtime was a hassle, the washer and dryer are both still running (with no end in sight) and no matter how many times I have helped Charlotte back to sleep (not usually needed), she wakes back up crying. I still have two more hours until I get my husband back and I miss him desperately. But I am glad for a step in the right direction today-even if it was a small one.

So here's to Steve Martin and Styrofoam Peanuts. And may the little bits of those foam peanuts that will inevitably be found around the house for the next 5 years remind me that sometimes playing a game of "Apple Schmear" is the most important work to be done.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Day One: The new routine

I've been very lucky that I don't have a husband whose job requires frequent travel. I'm used to the luxury of having him home.

We've done the school thing before, he was gone at least 3 nights a week, sometimes more, so on those days he was up to work before the kids started the day, and home hours after they were in bed. At the time we had 3 kids, and added a 4th about a year before he finished. They would go sometimes 4 or 5 days without seeing Dad.

Here we go again.
Today is day one of our new schooling adventure. Thankfully I get broken in with just a 2 week course as he gets his CNA so he can apply to the RN program. Hopefully he'll get in this next available start (April). Apparently there are usually close to 80 applicants for 12 available slots, so the odds aren't especially high, but we are hopeful. Worst case he doesn't get to start in April, he applies again for the next round, and I get the luxury of having my husband home for a few months longer before he is immersed in 2yrs (or more depending on where this goes) of constantly being gone.
For the next two weeks he'll leave home at 5:30am like normal, but instead of coming home after work will head straight to school. With any luck he'll be home by around 11 each night.

Hopefully I'll hold up.

Worst case we have a really bad day and the kids go to bed a little earlier for "extra reading time". While I'm big on reading time, and the kids don't usually complain about extra reading time, I'm hoping they don't have to spend too much extra time reading over the next couple of years!

Here's to new adventures. May your life never be boring.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's cookie time!

Girl Scout cookie time.

That means Thin Mints people!

And Tagalongs!

And Samoas!

(and I'd better start running every day again apparently)

Now here is the shameless plug for my daughter.
Malia has recently joined Girl Scouts. So if no cute little piggy tailed Brownies come knocking on your door but you want your cookies (and another 4 boxes to go in the freezer if you're like me), she's happy to hook you up.

Let's just hope I don't blow an entire month's grocery budget on the beloved little boxes of joy.
(but if I did I could call a year's worth of cookies our food storage, right?)


Friday, January 15, 2010

Baby it's COLD outside!

These pictures are from a couple of days ago, but it looks like this every day lately.

At 3:00 this afternoon, when the sun was shining through the fog, everything was still frozen like this!

It's beautiful out here in the winter. The photos don't even come close to capturing it.

I also have to say that I love the fog that settles in on our little valley when it's cold.

Sometimes it's so thick you can actually look at the sun.

Uhhh, not that I'd look directly at the sun. You're not supposed to look directly at the sun!

Driving home from the store this afternoon the fog was so thick that there were some spots where we couldn't even see 100 feet in front of and around us. And anything we could see was very white!
The interesting thing is that driving just a short 3 1/2 miles to the hill that takes you out of our valley takes you out of the fog completely, and out of the lasting frost. 5 minutes away from here it just looks like the dead left over after the January thaw instead of our little winter wonderland. I'm glad I'm tucked away in the valley.

I guess the advantage of it being so cold that your car door is frozen shut, your garbage can is frozen to the ground, and even cold enough that a pipe will freeze-INside your house, is that it sure looks pretty!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Look at Me!

No really-go check it out.

You see that little Mamapedia button over there <--------?
That's there because my blog is on their blog roll.

But tomorrow.......

I'm being published on Mamapedia Voices tomorrow! Woo-hoo! : )
(that would be Thursday btw)

If you haven't checked out Mamapedia, you should. There's some good stuff over there. I found it through Mamasource, which has also come in mighty handy! (and no, I'm just plugging them, I'm serious)

I'm excited to share some of my thoughts (you do remember the jeans, right?), and if any of you, my lovely, dear, wonderful readers, would like to go comment on it and get the conversation going over there, that would be great. : )

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wow-it's like I fell off the face of the earth!

Seriously! What's up with the like 3 week blogging absence?

My sister probably thinks it's so I could leave that last post up here to torture her.

Nope. I promise that's not it!

Trying to get back to life, and back on schedule.

Thoroughly enjoyed the holidays, and the time that the kids had off of school.

I am (a month later) finally feeling human again. The actual recovery from the darn tonsillectomy was so much more than I expected. Add to that the psoriasis outbreak (triggered by the strep I got 6 days prior to the tonsillectomy-go figure), and I've been one heck of a mess. Those outbreaks have really become obnoxiously worse each time they happen-it used to just make me look like a freak, but now they make me physically feel like a mess too. In theory having the tonsils out will drastically reduce the frequency of the strep infections, and thus in turn drastically reduce the frequency of the psoriasis....and should make life easier overall.


I'm going to go with Of course right!

I am frustrated at what my endurance has become; I had no idea that general anesthesia could mess you up so badly. Anesthesia scares the bejeebies out of me as it is, so I am infinitely grateful that everything went perfectly well and there were no real side effects. But I am bummed that I am essentially back to square one in the running department. 13 miles 5 weeks before the surgery? Sure! 2.5 miles a month after the surgery? Still a struggle. You know me and my issues. I'm not dealing well with that.
For now I'm trying to rock out to 30day Shred (especially since the temps have been ridiculously low for the past few weeks). Some days it's awesome. Some days it's a struggle to get through level 1.

Baby steps it is.

There were a bunch of posts that kind of got started in December (you know, like all those Christmas stories we read and such), so random things will be popping up from last month as I finally get to hitting "publish" on those. Feel free to ignore them. I just have to get them out of "draft" mode for my own sanity.

With any luck I'll also soon be restocking the sadly empty Etsy shop.....just in time for Valentines Day! (how was that for a shameless plug?)

So many things going on, I'm sure there will be a freakish number of posts popping up here in the next couple of weeks. I apologize in advance. Also, I may just put some pictures from Christmas up even though it's January. And even though I might not actually get them up until February.

Maybe "do less procrastinating" should be one of my resolutions for this year?