Sunday, February 27, 2011

Books, Books, Books.

I'm something of a book junkie. I need a serious book intervention. The Library just doesn't cut it for me. I'm a horrible book borrower. I'm pretty sure they have a picture of me behind the counter that says, "DO NOT LEND TO THIS WOMAN!" Oh, and I don't have a kindle. There are piles of books all over our house. It's the one thing I hoard, besides for canned goods. We leave for Florida tomorrow, and I just packed 4 books. HAHAHA! That's hilarious. But I packed them anyway! Here's what I'm bringing:

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels - A Love Story, by Ree Drummond

Life, by Keith Richards

The Opposite Of Me - A Novel, by Sarah Pekkanen

Gods in Alabama, by Joshilyn Jackson

I've been dying to read Black Heels ever since I heard that Ree was writing it. I read the first 10 pages and had to force myself to stop reading it. I even tried the old "book in the freezer" trick. It actually worked!

The second is for my trashy book club. Our meeting is two days after we get back from vacation. The book is about 600 pages long. Whoops! Oh well, it's more about the wine and food and the girls night out. The last book we read was, Here's the Story - Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, by Maureen McCormick. TRAIN WRECK!

The last two I read about over on JennsylvaniaJen Lancaster's hilarious blog. She did a Winter reading list post a few weeks ago and mentioned new books by both Sarah Pekkanen, and Joshilyn Jackson. Since I'd never read them before, I decided to order their debut novels. I'm so excited for these two! I love discovering "new" authors.

I highly doubt I'll finish them all. I'll be happy if I finish one! But I'll be damned if I won't try.

Happy Reading!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Old World Comfort Food - Sauerkraut and Pork

I've been drooling about this recipe over on Tasty Kitchen since I read about it in October.  I decided last night was the perfect night to try it. Oh my word. It was awesome. It reminded me of dinners at my Polish grandparents house. It just smelled like comfort. I honestly can't wait till we have it again tonight for dinner. And I might just have it for lunch too. I served over mashed baby red potatoes, skin on. 

This recipe is from PattioDaddio (otherwise known as John). Whose blog you can find here. Thanks PattioDaddio!!

Sauerkraut and Pork
  • 4 pounds Country-style Pork "ribs", Bone-in
  • 2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
  • 3 cups Applesauce, No Sugar Added
  • 2 jars Sauerkraut, 32 Oz Each
  • 2 whole Medium Yellow Onions, Peeled And Quartered
  • Chicken Broth As Needed
  • Kosher Salt And Pepper
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Season the pork with salt (lightly) and pepper.
Heat your Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add and heat the oil, then add two or three of the pork pieces. You don’t want to crowd the pan, so work in batches.
Cook the pork until it is nicely browned on one side, about two minutes. Flip the pork over and cook another two minutes, or until the other side is nicely seared. Repeat with the remaining pork.
Turn off the heat, remove the pork to a plate, and set aside. Add the applesauce to the pan and stir to deglaze it.
Drain about half of the juice from the sauerkraut. Add it to the pan and stir to incorporate it with the applesauce.
Arrange the pork on top of the sauerkraut and applesauce mixture. It’s okay to sort of cram them in there if need be, but try to keep them from being completely submerged.
Arrange the onions on top of the pork.
Cover and bake at 325 degrees for an hour and a half.
Check the liquid content and add chicken stock if the top looks at all like it’s starting to get dry. You want to see the sauerkraut just barely under the surface of the liquid.
Cover and continue cooking another hour.
Uncover and cook another 30 minutes.
You can use this time to make your favorite plain mashed potatoes. Another option is to add chicken broth and make dumplings right on top.
Put a pile of mashed potatoes on a plate, make a well in it, ladle on a bunch of kraut and juice, and top with some of the tender pork and a wedge of onion.
Dive in!

My family circa 1981 - I'm the little one on my Great Grandma Anne's lap. My sister thinks I look scared (my ggma was 10,000 years old and only spoke Polish), I think I look pissed. All I know, is that my brother's outfit is a winner and my parents are only 4 years older than I am right now. Mind blown.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Totally Random Tuesday (The Big One)

My 4 year old is an odd duck. She speaks like a 45 year old with a slight lisp (we're working on our L's), looks a good 3 years older than her age (it's the height) and could win an Oscar for the drama. Oh yeah, and she's a beauty. Which is dangerous. She also could seriously use a nap every once in awhile. Which never happens. Sigh.

We have February break this week, which means no school. Which means I had to bring both kids to the store with me this morning. I hate bringing both kids to the store with me. I'm not good at it. My kids aren't good at it either. They each got a donut, I got a large coffee. Good start! We had a few moments when the Big One wanted something we weren't buying but it was all in all, OK. Until the end, when I somehow got in a line where they were selling kids books along w/ the magazines. Thanks a lot, evil geniuses. The blubbering and badgering started. I'm trying to be calm and quiet and patiently explain that we're not buying the horrible Barbie book but instead are going to quickly pay and go home to eat lunch. And, since she'd been pretty good and it was vacation, we could make cake balls when we got home! Didn't work. Blubbering, badgering, crying, begging. I hate the begging most of all. And of course everyone is starring and the baby starts crying and throwing things out of the cart and I drop my coffee and UGH. February break can suck it.

Drive home:

Big One: "What do elves drink?"
Me: "What? Who?"
Big One: "What do elves drink?"
Me: "I don't know, what do they drink?"
Big One: "I'm not sure, I thought you knew."

(Hee Hee. Ok, Captain Random. But I'm guessing hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps. Right?)

Five minutes later.

Big One: "I want to get a little dog when I get older. Wait, little dogs pee on paper right? I don't want a little dog, I want a big one."

(Wha?? I think maybe she's concerned that little dogs just pee all over every bit of paper they see and was worried about her "Masterpieces".)

When we got home she found my husband's old View Master. I forgot how awesome this thing is! Score!! He has E.T, Superman, Dennis the Menace. It's brilliant. She was pleased.

And while I know we shouldn't make the cake balls because of the earlier incident at the market, I don't feel like punishing myself too. So, we might make them anyways. Mama's hungry.

Tuesday Meal Planning (because I kept thinking yesterday was Sunday)

Monday:  This is my friend Joanna's recipe. It's outrageous. I changed it up a bit (based on what I had on hand) and noted my changes. We loved it!

Cheeky's Creamy Campanelle 

1 Pound(s) campanelle or penne pasta ( I used Trader Joe's Egg Pappardelle - 2 bags is a lb)
1 Pound(s) casing removed chicken or pork sausage 
(I used roasted garlic chicken sausage and half a package of Trader Joe's chopped pancetta)
1 Tablespoon(s) olive oil
1/2 Teaspoon(s) crushed red pepper flakes 
(I used a pinch of cayenne and about 2 tsp. of smoked paprika instead of the pepper flakes)
2 Clove(s) pressed garlic
4 - 8 minced shallot (I used 3)
1 Cup(s) dry white wine or chicken broth
2 Cup(s) light cream
1 Cup grated parmigiano-reggiano 
1 Cup shredded fontina
(I used about 1 cup of shredded gruyere and swiss instead of the fontina and parm)
1/2 Teaspoon(s) salt
1/2 Teaspoon(s) black pepper
fresh basil or fresh parsley
lemon zest

Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water) until al dente.

Meanwhile, remove sausage from casing and cook in a nonstick skillet over high heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces, until no longer pink. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl, leaving fat in skillet. 
(I left the sausage and pancetta in the pan)

Add one tablespoon oil to skillet. Add garlic, shallots, and red pepper flakes then cook over medium-high heat until shallots start to caramelize. (I added the garlic, shallots and spices)

Return sausage to skillet along with cream, white wine, salt, and pepper and boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 4 minutes.
(I de-glazed the pan with the wine and cooked it off a bit before adding in the cream and then put the cheese directly into the sauce)

Pour over pasta, then stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano and basil or parsley, and salt to taste. Finish with lemon zest and more Parmigiano-Reggiano

(this was supposed to be for last night but sometimes a girl changes her mind)

Thursday: Leftovers. Whoot!

Sunday: Leftovers. As we leave the next morning for Vacation, BABY!!!

If I'm feeling a little adventurous I might make this Sauerkraut and Pork recipe that I've been drooling over for some time instead of leftovers on Thursday. We shall see. 

Happy Meal Planning!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Traveling with Lunatics (aka Children)

I've flown alone with the girls more times than I can count. When your family lives all over the country, it's sort of a necessary evil. I've gotten traveling with kids down to a science. My main two rules are: over prepare and start early. We're leaving a week from today for a trip to my in-laws in Florida (woohooo!!) Here's how I do it.

I start by organizing everyones clothes/belongings into piles on my bedroom floor. We have a large open space so this works best for me. If your room is small you can organize on your bed. I put each type of clothing into its own pile. A pile of bathing suits/cover ups, a pile of pajamas, a pile of shirts, and so on, ect. Once I have everyones piles organized, I take half and put it back. I've gotten so used to packing for myself that I really only have to do this for the girls. I never pack more than two pairs of shoes for each person, plus whatever pair they're wearing on the plane. (I always wear flats when traveling, easier to slip off and on when going through security - yes that means bare feet in the airport, oh well.)

If I'm traveling alone I pack my purse and bring a backpack.  Hands free all the way. The Big One has her own backpack and I use my Joovy Caboose Ultralight stroller, which makes traveling through the airport a lot easier on everyone. I pack IDs/Birth certificate in their own compartment in the front of my backpack for easy reach.  A ziplock bag of baby/kid medicines goes into the backpack as well a ziplock bag for me of lip balm, hand sanitizer, a small can of Evian spray, Rescue Remedy, and hand cream. When the Big One was little I had a ziplock bag for her pacifiers too.  If I'm traveling with my husband I usually bring a large tote-type bag instead of the backpack.

I always bring a ton of snacks and two empty sippy cups. We usually fly Jet Blue (hurray free tv!!!) but if we don't, I bring a portable DVD player and a few movies. I sometimes will pick up a new $5 movie from Target that they've never seen and hide it away. Each girl gets a new toy (something little, that I also hide in my backpack) The Big One helps me decide a few things she wants to bring in her backpack and then I usually hide something new in there too. Polly Pockets tend to be a big hit. I always bring stickers (lots!), crayons, color wonder markers/paper, a travel doodle pro and a few small books. I pack an extra outfit for the babe, a bunch of overnight diapers (she travels in them too) and a travel pack of wipes. Forget packing a book for you for the plane or buying magazines. Not gonna happen. At least not when they're this little!

This is going to sound ridiculous, but dress your kids in their most comfortable and absolutely cutest outfits. Seriously. At least if they look cute, their craziness doesn't seem as crazy or loud or annoying.

Try to check in at the curb! So much easier and worth it, even if you have to pay a little more money per bag.

The most important tip, kill EVERYONE with kindness. The person checking you in, the security people, the people at your gate, the people around you, the flight attendants, the get it. The nicer and calmer and easier you seem, the better everyone around you will feel about having you and your brood around.

And if all else fails, have a drink.

p.s. The Big One ate a fortune cookie this morning that was leftover from our dinner last night. This was the fortune. Sweet!!!!

What travel tips/advice do you have?

Microwave Playdough

There are a million and one recipes for DIY playdough.  This microwave version is my favorite. I keep it in a ziplock bag in the fridge. 

Microwave Playdough
1 cup of water
1 cup of flour
2 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1 tablespoon of cooking oil
1/2 cup of salt
Food coloring

Mix all of the ingredients, except for the food coloring. Microwave for one minute and stir. Cook for 30 more seconds. Keep microwaving at 30 second intervals until playdough is doughy. Knead until smooth. Mix in desired food coloring. Knead till well incorporated. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Funday (Family Edition) - Stepping Stones Museum for Children.

This morning we decided to have an impromptu Sunday Funday, family style.  We quickly ate, got dressed and drove over Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, CT.  We're so lucky to have such a wonderful children's museum so close to home.  We haven't been since the fall and they've undergone a huge renovation! There's a new Energy Lab, with an awesome water play area. And a new Tot Town area, for the littlest peeps. The girls also loved the Multimedia Gallery, with the interactive floor projection and music and movie animation. In the summer the girls go crazy for the outdoor Celebration Courtyard. We had an absolute blast!!!

(And only one small temper tantrum when it was time to leave..I consider that a win!)

Drunken Ribeye

This recipe is so insanely delicious and only 4 ingredients. It does take 24 hours to marinate, so plan in advance!

Sweetwater's Drunken Ribeye

1 Pound(s) - 1 1/2 pound rib eye steak
1/2 Cup(s) pale ale 
1/2 Cup(s) soy sauce
1 Tablespoon(s) ketchup
1 Pinch(s) salt

Combine and marinate meat for 24 hours.  I find that this grills up really quickly. I grill it two minutes, rotate steak, grill two more minutes, flip, grill two more minutes, rotate steak and grill two more. 

(this is Trader Joe's Spinach Salad with Cranberries and Blue Cheese. Yum. )

Friday, February 18, 2011

Warm Day - take 2!

We had another gorgeous one today. So we took advantage.

(no more pics lady!)

Happy Friday!!!! 

(We're tapping our Maple trees this weekend! Stay tuned!)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"She Did What??" "Made" a Heart.

I can't believe I'm blogging this, but I have to. In the middle of eating dinner the Big One gets up and runs to the bathroom.  This happens every night. What doesn't happen is this..

Her: "Mama!! Come here, look what I did!!"

Me: (running into the bathroom) WHAT??"

Her: "LOOK!! (she stands up from the toilet) I made a heart!!!"

A poop heart, people. A poop heart. So awesome. So gross. She is amazing.

A little warmth in February.

It's warm here today.  We needed it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Playing with Actions - Paint the Moon's Moxie and Blessings action sets

Sigh...I just got the new glorious action sets from Paint the Moon. I'm smitten! I purchased both Blessings and Moxie. I couldn't help myself, they're just too gorgeous for words. The thing I love best about these actions is the complete control I have over them. I can manipulate each layer inside the action to suit my taste. Too bright? Turn down the opacity on the brighten layer. Too blue? Too creamy? Fix the layers you need, leave the ones you don't. Turn off some, turn on some. You get it. You have a ton of control. I try not to go too crazy with actions, but I'm having a lot of fun! I've been playing around with them for the past two days and here are a few before and afters for you to feast your eyes on. Some of these straight out of the camera shots aren't my best, you can see how using the actions can really fix some of the problems and make them something special. A few are pretty good SOOC but the tweaks just change them up a bit and make them fun. Enjoy! 


(edited with Flirt and Catch a Falling Star)


(edited with Eclipse)


(edited with Twinkle Eyes - not from the new sets, it's a basic action from PTM, and Shrinking Violet)


(edited with A Little Zest, Ambiance and Beloved)


(edited with Blue Pearl)


(edited with Rumors and De-yellow whites)

Be sure to check out the other great actions from Paint the Moon.

Happy editing!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My 52 week Challenge - Week 7

This weeks theme was Handmade or Macro.  I decided to go the handmade route.

This is my very good friend and her 3 year old who is currently undergoing Chemotherapy for Leukemia. This is by far NOT my best picture in the world. The focus isn't great and the lighting isn't very good, I didn't expose it quite right but still...I love it. I love the expression on her face and the joy on his at having just cut that paper heart out for his giant valentine. I love the little moment that they are having without knowing I was taking a picture. It's been a hell of a year for them and seeing them enjoy this little party so much, this "seemingly" small event, it was truly awe inspiring. 

(edited with Paint the Moon's Glimmer and Catch a Falling Star actions)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dinner for two (or 4 or 6) on V-day.

This is one of my all time favorite meals to cook or eat. The husband agrees. The girls agree. They won't be joining in tonight. They're having mac and cheese and broccoli and calling it a night. Carbonnades a la Flamande (Flemish Beef Stew) is basically a beef and beer stew with onions. It's delicious. This recipe is my combination of three different recipes. I tend to serve it with PW's Creamy Mashed Potatoes. 

Carbonnades a la Flamande 

  • Family Size package of stew beef OR a 2.5 to 5 lb chuck roast
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 3 medium yellow onions sliced about 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups)
  • 1 cups beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz bottle) Newcastle Brown Ale (you could use a Belgian ale or pale ale)
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary (have omitted before)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves chopped or smashed garlic
  • 1 Tbsp whole grain or Dijon mustard 
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp brown sugar 
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar 
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Pat beef dry with paper towels, season well with salt and pepper. On the stove top, heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy bottomed dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot, almost smoking. Working in batches, brown the meat, without stirring, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer browned beef to a separate bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to dutch oven; reduce heat to medium. Add the onions, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt; cook until onions are browned, about 15 minutes. Add garlic; cook until garlic is fragrant.  Stir in broth, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits; stir in beer, herbs, browned beef with any of the accumulated juices, and salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a full simmer. Cover pot and cook in oven 4 to 5 hours. About half an hour before it finishes cooking, combine cornstarch and vinegar, add to pot, also add the mustard and brown sugar. 
Discard herbs. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles. 

For dessert,  My Granny's Chocolate Cobbler and vanilla ice cream. 

I'm drooling in anticipation. 

(The Carbonnades before going into the oven)


"Mama, that was a really good day!"

Today was the Big One's special Mama's only Valentine's day party at school. "No Daddies and NO BABIES allowed!" It was adorable. The kids all sang songs and then we made a giant valentine together and ate cupcakes and jello jigglers and fruit and drank punch. At the end as we were leaving she turns to me and says.."Mama, that was a really good day!"

(such concentration, look at that scowl!)



It really was a really good day.

Happy Valentine's Day!