Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Minty Fresh

My youngest daughter, aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgh!

Last night, as we were putting the girls to bed, I froze in my tracks. Outside the laundry room door, ON THE CARPET, was a bright blue spot about a bazillion inches across. Well maybe it was only four inches, but it was quite large. Especially, when you realize it is Crest Gel toothpaste.

It took awhile longer, but after I had tucked Stinkles into bed, I came to understand the full extent of her sassiness.

Stinkles is a red-head and has the stereotypical attitude, temperament, and personality to go along with it. She is stubborn, prone to tantrums and can be generally mischievous. She thinks defiance is funny. Most of this can be blamed on the fact that she is three-years-old, but some of it is just Stinkles, being Stinkles. My life is going to be a living hell when she’s a teenager – I can feel it.

Anyway, Hubby got out the little carpet cleaner machine and got to work on the spot. As he worked on the spot a minty smell wafted through the air. Much better than the poop, pee or puke we normally have to clean up with the machine.

I got Stinkles to her room and into bed. That’s when I saw her “baby sisters” propped up at the end of her bed with a little plate from the play kitchen in front of them. On the plate was a mound of toothpaste. When I say mound, I mean mound – it looked like she was trying to feed them spaghetti with meatballs on top.

To further the sassiness, she had a Dixie cup of water next to each of them as well as one for herself on top of a pile of books next to her bed. We have a "children do not take food or drink out of the kitchen or dining areas" rule - NO EXCEPTIONS! At least she had the sense to put the one cup of water on a hard surface.

If it wasn’t so sweet of her to take such good care of her babies, I would still be mad at her this morning. As it was, she woke up this morning, immediately gave us a hug, and, in her little voice (she’s very soft spoken; Kate was “blessed” with my voice that carries five miles), said “I love you.”

Silver lining:
1. The toothpaste did not bleach out the carpet.

2. She can turn on the “cute” factor and melt your heart in an instant – maybe that’s not a good thing, hmmmm.

3. You gotta admire her creativity. Instead of putting an empty plate in front of them or using some piece of plastic food from the play kitchen, she found a way to give her babies something real.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Houston, We Have A Problem

We're experiencing a heat wave in St. Louis - 43 degrees on Wednesday; possible 55 degrees today! Compared to the icy wind of the last week or so, this is balmy. Everyone is breaking out their shorts and t-shirts, running up to the volleyball courts and getting out the fishing poles only to find there is still a skating rink open over the sand and ice mostly covers the lakes.

Honestly, this weather couldn't be more inconvenient for me - our deep freeze may be dying. With it warming up, I can't get a bunch of coolers & ice together so I can put it all in the garage.

After the kids are in bed, we (Hubby and I) selfish adults like to have "scoop". This is a custard cup (6 oz.) full of orange sherbet - and I mean full, as in how high can I pile the sherbet on before it falls over and makes a mess? Really, you would think we could admit to ourselves that if we wanted that much sherbet, perhaps a larger bowl would be in order. Nope, not us. As long as it's only a custard cup, we're being prudent in our calorie intake.

We usually keep this "healthy" ice cream alternative in the upstairs freezer so it is easier to scoop out; thus, easier to create skyscrapers of sherbet. However, to our dismay, on Tuesday night, a new container had to be retrieved from the deep freeze. That was a bummer because when the sherbet is rock hard, we give up on trying to scoop out a lot and only have an actual cup.

When Hubby began to dish up the sherbet with ease, my first thought was, "Why is that so easy?" A not so good feeling started to form in my stomach. I pointed this anomaly out to Hubby, we looked at each other, then immediately headed for the basement.

I opened the freezer and there was still a three inch layer crust of ice around the top edge and cold air was coming out. It was weird though because some stuff was really frozen and others were starting to melt. Granted, the melty stuff was mostly items that defrosts quickly - sherbet, frozen orange concentrate, frozen lime concentrate, frozen lemon concentrate, frozen daiquiri concentrate. We concentrate a lot.

I got an empty storage tub and started loading it up. I grabbed all the concentrate first because we use that to make our lime-berry smash & famous margaritas - can't be losin' ingredients for that! Then, I went for the Butterbraids - you can't get those just anywhere, ya know. And finally I picked up the chicken, pork steak, hamburger, fish sticks (kids - you gotta feed them), etc.

We found all kinds of stuff at the bottom of the freezer. There was at least one package of bulk chicken that had busted open and was all freezer burned. There were packages of meats and side items that said they were best if eaten by July of 1981. We found a box of long forgotten Girl Scout cookies - I didn't care what the "best if" date was, we were keeping those. Four boxes of Texas Toast garlic bread were hidden in there - four boxes!!! We even found Elvis! Kidding on that last one, but suffice it to say a freezer cleaning was a little over due.

Spacial girl (that's me - I specialize in filing nooks & crannies - could I put that on a resume, "Spacial Specialist"?) got the majority of the savable food in the upstairs freezer, sent two bags of unsavable/undesirable food to the trash can, and put the remaining savable food in Ken & Roxie's freezer. Thank goodness really good friends live right around the corner - who else can you call at 10pm with this kind of crisis? Although we took all of Roxie's ice, it was for a good cause - meatballs and pierogies are irreplaceable.

Had I still lived in Wisconsin, we could have just put everything into a snow bank outside the back door. As long as the Bumpes' dogs don't get your Christmas turkey, you're good. Honestly, I'm not sure anyone has a deep freeze up there. Why pay for something to take up space in your basement/garage, when nature provides a free one nine months out of the year?

Anyway, when Hubby asked me what we were having for dinner Wednesday night, I immediately said, "Spaghetti - we have four boxes of Texas Toast to eat."

Dinner was served with three pieces of toast per person. Just kidding, I don't want to waste yummy garlic bread! And, dang it, no meatballs - I forgot there were in Roxie's freezer.

Now, how else can we use up the Texas Toast (only 26 more slices to go)? Make dinners consisting of chili, lasagna, mastacolli, or any other Italian dish. Cut it up into little pieces & call it an "appetizer" for Bunco group? Oo, oo, we can string a piece in each window and the exterior doors to ward off vampires. I suppose the possibilities are endless.

Silver lining:
1. The appliance stores didn't have any financing deals we liked or applied to our purchase so we decided we would eat up the food we had and wait for a better deal. Another thought was to save and pay cash for a new freezer. Save? Cash? Foreign concepts for sure.

2. After not buying a freezer we realized we could try to save the freezer we have by fully defrosting it (it is more than five years old and it's never been defrosted) and then checking the freon levels. What a "duh!" moment. As in "Duh, try to fix something before you throw it away." If it works, God was definitely watching out for us on this one. If it doesn't work, God still gave us the good sense to realize a deep freeze is nice, but not a necessity.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm Goin' For Grass!

When my mother lived in St. Louis, she lived in a subdivision that had some pretty flat areas. My sister had just gotten K2 rollerblades and was having so much fun. I happened to find a pair of rollerblades at Gordmon’s and decided to pay the $40 for them and join her.

I started out with a wobble but soon got the hang of it. I was thinking it was going to be kind of like roller skating; where you push a few times, then you glide for a bit. It was nothing like roller skating.

I had to push the entire time – there was absolutely no gliding. Sissy kept skating ahead and then coming back for me. As it was I hated her for being a size five, but now I had to deal with my baby sister skating circles around me. By the time I got home I was super sweaty and completely exhausted. I never wanted to look at a pair of rollerblades ever again – what a stupid “sport”!

As I was relating this story to Hubby (we were dating at the time), he took a look at my rollerblades. Apparently, you get what you pay for. A $40 pair of rollerblades gets you crap wheels.

He wanted to take up rollerblading as well so we headed over to the Sports Authority. I was really only going to support him, but he convinced me to try on a pair of K2’s. He wanted me to feel the difference. They were so smooth! We ended dropping about $300.

We got back to my mom’s and immediately strapped on our new skates (and knee pads, elbow pads, and helmet). Like I said my mom’s subdivision has a lot of area that is flat – or so it appears. Until you are a novice on super smooth rollerblades, you don’t realize how “steep” a 3% grade is.

We worked our way to the back of the subdivision – pushing and gliding. This was much more fun. We turned around to come back and hit the grade. I was doing ok at first, but it was a long “hill” so I kept gaining speed. I had no confidence in my ability to turn at this speed and had no idea how to stop.

It didn’t take long to weigh my options – crash on the rough pavement or crash on someone’s lawn. Hmmmm, pavement or grass? I decided on the grass and shouted back to Hubby, “I’M GOIN’ FOR GRASS!”

There weren’t actual curbs, just a slope from the road to the lawn so I figured I would just slide up and then make myself fall. That slope definitely led me to the lawn. I hit the edge of the road and flew up in the air! Fortunately, I was still moving forward so I fell into the grass – flat on my ass!

While landing in the grass instead of the road was better, I got news for you, “Grass is not a soft landing spot!”

Silver lining:
1. I eventually got better and could manage the long path around Creve Coeur Lake with a hill that is actually steep.
2. Nothing was broken. I haven’t gone rollerblading for several years. If I went now, I’d be a bit rusty. If I took a fall like this now, I might break a hip.
3. I learned that I am no good at judging the impact of an angle in the path a moving object (that would be me).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Head Fake

At Carnegie-Mellon University, it is somewhat of a tradition for departing professors to give their “last lecture” to a public audience. In 2007, one of their professors, Randy Pausch, was dying of pancreatic cancer and delivered a (now quite famous) last lecture – so much so that the term “last lecture” has become synonymous with his presentation that day. In case you’ve never seen it, the link is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo It’s a little over an hour in length, but it’s a very good presentation – definitely worth watching.

Anyway, one of the things he talks about is the “head fake”. Essentially, it’s the art of distraction – getting you to pay attention to one thing, while something entirely different is happening on the side, such as with an illusionist. Now that you know what the term means, you’ll understand the title a bit more. You see, we went out to dinner with my mother-in-law over the weekend, and she didn’t want to become the subject of one of my blogs. So, on Monday, I published something entirely different, knowing full well that I was going to be publishing this one later in the week. Therein lies the head fake.

My brother-in-law, Steve, and I have birthdays in January. Every year, my mother & father-in-law graciously take the adults out for a nice dinner. This year was at Kitaro, a hibachi restaurant where the chef cooks your food right in front of you.

We did not all arrive at the same time (they only seat your entire party) so there was a little time to belly up to the bar. My in-laws had already had a couple of drinks, but there was one in particular they said was really good and the bartender was just itchin’ to make it. The “Volcano” is billed as a two person drink. Thinking it was something like a fishbowl margarita, I told her I could take it on myself. She raised her eyebrows and went to make the drink.

Dude, it was sooooo cool. Obviously, she didn’t believe me when I said could drink it myself because it came with two super long straws. But the niftiest feature was the flame in the center. That’s right, the drink was on fire! I took one long sip and made the “whah” pucker face and shivered. It was pure alcohol. This must be a standard reaction because the bartender was standing by with a cup of juice. She asked if we wanted juice poured in (only an alcoholic would say no). All I could do was nod my head because my face was still contorted in the pucker.

After we were seated and ordered our drinks, my mother-in-law ordered some spring rolls as an appetizer. Apparently, there were a few too many made while they were at the bar so the bartender let them have them for free. She said they were really good and wanted us all to try them.

When the spring rolls arrived and were placed in front of her, she said, “Who ordered these?”

You did.”

“I ordered these? Well, ok. Here, pass the plate for everyone.”

I did not want one so I didn’t even look at the plate, but apparently there was some kind of sauce.

Now, my sister-in-law has once or twice, at various meals, dirtied up the table cloth. Since then, there is always a comment telling her not to spill on the table cloth – fortunately, she is good natured enough to take a joke.

I tell you this because as the plate is being passed between my mother-in-law & sister-in-law, it got tipped and the sauce slid off. There wasn’t a table cloth so I guess my mother-in-law's plate was a good enough substitute. Needless to say, my mother-in-law needed a new plate.

During all this commotion, one of the straws from the Volcano fell to the floor. Had this been a utensil or a soda straw, we would request a new straw. But since it was going right back into the alcohol, we figured all the germs would be killed off. Besides, the five second rule was still in effect.

Our chef, Sam-I-Am (who likes green eggs & ham), was excellent! He was the most entertaining of all the chefs I could see. He was constantly clattering on the grill, flipping stuff up in the air and/or into his hat, making flames (more fire!) while cooking our food the entire time. I turned down the onion soup and grilled onions, but accepted the onion fried rice with no onions – he made it special for me.

While we were watching Sam-I-Am, I looked at Hubby and said, “He’s noisier than you.”

Hubby in turn said, “Yah. If I had a flat stove, I could do this.”

I thought, 'My ass, you could cook like this.'

Do you know how dirty my ceiling would be? Never mind the floor. We have a textured ceiling and I would never get all the eggs he flipped up in the air off it. As I think about it now, he may have been referring to the amount of noise he could make. Note to self: NEVER buy a flat stove.

At the end of Sam’s cooking show, he was tossing grilled shrimp at us. He used his spatula to flip it up and we were supposed to catch it with our mouths. He had really good aim, but none of us actually caught it with our mouths. My mother-in-law technically caught a shrimp. A hot shrimp hit my mother-in-law in the neck and bounced into her shirt so she did end up with a shrimp hickey and a little surprise for my father-in-law later.

Silver lining:
1. I am very blessed to have in-laws that I love and even like. And I think they generally like me, but after this, I might be in the dog house.
2. Dinner was fantastic, not to mention entertaining. Almost as entertaining as Thanksgiving at Hubby’s aunt & uncle’s.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Mother-In-Law Didn't Want to be the Subject of Monday's Blog . .

. . . so I left her out of it.

Several years ago, Hubby had grilled some pork chops and was saving them for lunch during the week. My mom happened to be in town for a week and I took a week of vacation. Hubby was on call, but at home.

Mom was hungry, started looking in the refrigerator, and found the pork chops. She had hardly taken them out when Hubby practically pounced on them.

“These are for my lunch this week.”

“Well, could you share one with your mother-in-law?”

“No, I made these special for my lunch.”

Pitifully, my mom said, “All I ever wanted was a pork chop.”

Now, any time we can’t have what we want, that phase has a funny way of coming up.

Fast forward to this weekend.

On Friday night, we dropped the kids off at the “Parents Night Out Co-Op”. On the check-in table was a flyer for a great discount at the Brickhouse Bistro, we had nothing better to do, so we decided we would go there for dinner.

Hubby loves their pork chops and was salivating all the way over just thinking about it. We sat down, ordered a couple of beers and briefly looked over the menu. The biggest decision we had to make was what kind of appetizer we were going to get.

Our waitress was ready to take our order. Hubby could hardly wait and blurted out, “The pork chops, please.”

Oooo, sorry, we’re out of pork chops.”

He was so deflated.

After the waitress left, he said, “All I ever wanted was a pork chop.”

All I have to say is “What goes around, comes around.”

Boy, am I due for a huge kick in the pants because of this blog.

Silver lining:
1. We had a nice dinner without kids constantly needing our attention or climbing all over us.
2. Fortunately, the eating experience this weekend would only get better. Saturday night, no kids (again), Kitaro’s – mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Friday, January 9, 2009

I'm a Glutton for Punishment

Here I go again – thinking I’m organized enough to whip something up for an event!

A new Bunco group was starting up in New Town and in LI style, I wanted to bring something homemade.

I had just gotten a cookie press for Christmas. It’s super cool because it runs on batteries. The cookie press came with recipes for both cookies and appetizers/crackers.

I make cookies for my other Bunco group, but I didn’t want to do the same thing. So flipping through the recipes, I chose as appetizer called “Gougeres”.

That’s a fancy-schmancy way of saying Basil Cream Puffs! The recipe book even has them titled as Gougeres and in parentheses, Basil Cream Puffs. It’s like the Wilton people putting the recipe book together decided to include Gougeres, but the editor said it was too high faluntin’ when it’s really as simple as Basil Cream Puffs. I’m sure there was a huge outcry by the Julia Child Fan Club about this, and after heavy debate, a compromise was reached. The recipe would be titled “Gougeres (Basil Cream Puffs)”. There, I hope everyone is happy.

This Bunco group is on Thursdays so on Wednesday night I did the responsible thing and fetched all the dry ingredients we had in the kitchen and checked the supply of everything else. I made a tick mark by any ingredients I needed to buy at the grocery store. I wasn’t so responsible as to go out and actually buy these ingredients that same night. I was just going to do it on my way home Thursday.

The grand plan (in this order) was to:
* Bust it out of work right at five
* Stop at the IGA for ingredients
* Pick up the kids at daycare
* Get home & start the oven
* Cook up the dough, pipe the dough onto cookie sheets & throw them in the oven
* Make up the cream cheese spread
* Feed the kids PB&J
* Dig out the centers of the cream puffs & fill with cream cheese spread
* Head off to Bunco at 6:30-ish

Well, I didn’t leave work until almost 5:15. I pulled into the IGA parking lot & got out the recipe (to make sure I got all the tick marks). I needed parchment paper, cream cheese, dried chives, & goat cheese – GOAT CHEESE!?!?!?! Oh, crud! The IGA is good for staples and a decent selection of basic meats, but GOAT CHEESE??

The first three were fairly easy to find. In the cheese section of the dairy department, I found cheddar, American, mozzarella, Gouda, feta. A glimmer of hope rose up, but alas, no goat cheese.

For occasions such as this, I have the New Town Market, Marsalla’s, as a contact in my cell phone. I gave them a quick, frantic call and breathed a sigh of relief – they had goat cheese.

OK, I picked up the kids without incident (by some miracle), got the goat cheese and got straight to work as soon as I got home. The ovens were on and I started preparing the dough (which wasn’t as hard as I was lead to believe). I piped the dough onto cookie sheets, opened the oven to pop them in, but there were no racks!

Rob had cleaned the ovens a couple of nights ago and the racks were still sitting out. Fortunately, that was an easy fix.

Whew, I was in the home stretch. The rest of the process went pretty smoothly and I made it to Bunco just before seven. What an exciting (though time crunchily stressful) couple of hours!

Silver lining:
1. Thank heavens for Marsalla’s Market. They have saved me numerous times before.
2. I have a new recipe to share. Without a stressful time crunch, I would definitely make these again. http://lifemakesmelaugh.blogspot.com/2009/01/gougeres-basil-cream-puffs-herbed.html
3. At Bunco, I met some new people, got to know others better & had a grand time with my friends; new and old.

Gougeres (Basil Cream Puffs) & Herbed Cheese Spread

Basil Cream Puffs

1 Cup Water
6 Tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1 Cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs
½ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Place water, butter & salt in medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat and add flour all at once.

Continue to cook, stirring constantly until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball.

Remove from heat, but keep it in the warm pan.

Add eggs one at a time. Make sure each egg is fully blended (no slime) before adding another one.

Stir in Parmesan cheese, garlic powder & basil.

Fill a cookie press or pastry bag with the dough.

Pipe dough into a spiral on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

After the puffs have cooled a little, push the centers down with your thumb and fill with dip of your choice.

Makes about two dozen.

Herbed Cheese Spread

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (4 oz) package goat cheese
1 teaspoon dried chives
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Place all ingredients in a food processor (or use a hand mixer) and process until smooth.

Using either a star tip on a pastry bag or cookie press, fill Basil Cream Puffs.

Makes about 1 cup of filling.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Rhymes with sit, fit, zit . . .

Cupie is in the goofy phrase/rhyming stage.

She says things like, “Twinkle, twinkle little house” and laughs hysterically.

She also makes up words like, “Whack-corn” – what is that?????

Lately, she has really gotten the concept of rhyming too. It’s not just the repetition & parroting of Dr. Seuss type books that you see from younger children. She is taking one word & figuring out what rhymes with it – sat, cat, mat, etc.

Saturday night, while I hosted Bunco, Hubby took the girls to McDonald's for dinner & to get a movie out of the Red Box. Now, Cupie was probably babbling on rhyming or thinking up goofy stuff and Rob wasn’t really paying attention until she asked him, “We’re going to get a tit movie, right?”

I’m sure the blue hairs sitting near the Red Box about had a heart attack!

Silver lining:
1. Hubby did explain that "tit" is not a word nice girls use.
2. They did not get a tit movie.
3. McDonald's Red Box does not carry tit movies.

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