Monday, May 31, 2010

The Little Ballerinas

We spend the year driving and waiting

stretching and plie`-ing

learning Positions and Pirouettes

Jete`s and Releve`s

and in the end

we realize

that it's not about turnouts or grace

talent or poise

It's about being a princess

(or a Jail Bird!)

for a day.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Before and After

It was time for the summer shave.
Do you think dogs ever have an identity crisis?


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Beurrista Without Butter?

Beurrista's Bolognese

My college BFF and fellow blogger, Rebecca, has a baking and cooking blog called Beurrista.  Her motto?  "Butter is Better!"  When she posted this recipe for Bolognese Sauce, I knew I had to try it.  The beautifully executed photos proved that this was no ordinary spaghetti sauce.  This cook-all-day sauce looked like noodles wrapped in love.  

According to the master, a key ingredient to this sauce is San Marzano Tomatoes.  They are heirloom plum tomatoes grown in the sun-drenched volcanic soil of Mt. Vesuvius, and they have a sweeter, more intense tomato flavor.  After some preliminary shopping, I could not find these at either Super Target or Publix.  Much to my delight, however, I finally found a giant can of these tomatoes at Costco!  The 106 ounce mega-tin was only $3.89!

After doing the math, I decided to use the entire can and quadruple the recipe.  Because this recipe called for an all-day simmer, I started as soon as the kids left for school.

First, it starts with - Butter!  Since I inherited all the bad genes, I wondered, could I make this delectable dish without butter?

I started with olive oil and minced onions, carrots and celery.

Next I added ground beef, (Her recipe called for beef, pork and veal, but that just sounded way too complicated.) fat free half and half (instead of whole milk) and white wine (hint:  the sweeter the better). You cook it forever until almost all the liquid has evaporated.

Finally, the San Marzano Tomatoes!  In my excitement, I poured the whole tomatoes in before chopping them, so I had to take my kitchen shears and try to chop them in the pot!

As you can see, after quadrupling the recipe, my very largest pot was filled to the brim.  The estimated total simmer time for a doubled recipe was about 4 hours and 45 minutes.

At noon, I turned off the stove and picked up Ella.  As soon as we got back home, I turned the stove back on.  By 2:00, hardly any liquid had evaporated. 

I decided I needed to speed up the process, so I divided the sauce into two pots.

At 2:50, I turned off the stove again and picked up the other three kids.  By now, my kitchen had turned into a tomato sauna!  Upon my return, I continued to simmer for another 2 hours.  The sauce would not thicken!  Finally,  in desperation, I threw in...... a stick of butter!

Like magic, the sauce began to thicken.  After cooking all day, we would finally be able to eat dinner!  I tasted the recipe and added some kosher salt, a couple spoonfuls of brown sugar and my secret weapon - Modenaceti's Balsamic Glaze.

So here is my version of Bolognese.

The family seemed to love it (of course, they love anything when they get to use the cheese grater!) and after eating it, my husband said in all seriousness, "Do you know what I think this could use?  Some stewed tomatoes!"

Simple Girl's Bolognese Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup minced onions
1/2 cup minced carrots
1/2 cup minced celery
3 lbs. ground beef
1 quart fat free half and half
1 bottle white wine (the sweeter the better)
106 oz. Costco can of San Marzano Tomatoes
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 really big squirts of Modenaceti's Balsamic Glaze
1 28 oz. can of Muir Glen Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes
Kosher salt to taste

Heat olive oil your biggest pan over medium heat.  Add onion, carrot and celery and saute until softened, but not browned.  Add ground meat and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.  Crumble meat and break into tiny pieces.  Cook until the meat loses its raw color but has not yet browned.

Add half and half and bring to a simmer.  Add wine and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until the wine evaporates.  Add tomatoes and their juice and bring a simmer.  Pour half into a large saucepan to speed up the evaporation process.  Simmer all day until the liquid has evaporated.  Add one stick of butter to thicken.  Add Fire Roasted Tomatoes (to make the hubby happy!).

Serve over your favorite pasta and serve with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Divide the leftovers into quart-sized freezer ziploc bags and enjoy this sauce for many meals to come!

To read Beurrista's Bolognese recipe, go to
Under labels, click on Bolognese.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Life On Plan B

It actually started last night.  I couldn't find Samuel's swim suit for the Middle School Water Park Day.  His new swim suit.  The one I bought him 3 weeks ago.  I searched his drawers, the clean laundry, the dirty laundry, his closet floor, laundry room floor and behind the dryer.  It was gone.  I did, however, find his last year's swim suit, so I put that out for him to wear.  It was new last year.  How much could he have possibly grown?  At 6:45AM it was clear.  He had grown.  Samuel stood with a look of despair, his swim suit pulled up to his knees.  "No problem," I said, "Put on one of Dad's.  It has elastic, it has strings!" He hadn't grown that much.

At 7AM I left the kids, got in the car and drove to Wal-Mart.  There were actually other people there!  I bought three different swim suits in a couple of sizes and drove home.  When I arrived, Perry and the kids were waiting in the driveway.  Samuel chose a swimsuit that fit, slipped it on in the garage and off they went.

Today was not only middle school's Water Park Day, it was also class awards and class party day.  I had 10 minutes to finish getting ready and load the car.  When I arrived at Arielle's 8:15 awards ceremony, I asked her, "Did you brush your hair?"  "No," she said.  "Did you have breakfast?"  "No."  "Do you have a lunch?"  "No."  I pulled out a hairbrush from my overstuffed purse and fixed her hair.  In the same purse, I found a slightly smashed Fiber One bar.

Arielle performed 1st grade Reader's Theater and got her awards.  I got out my camera and realized I had forgotten the memory chips on the kitchen counter.  I grabbed the video camera and used the still camera feature.  I ran upstairs and caught the last 20 minutes of middle school awards.   I had exactly one hour before the K4 party and scavenger hunt (of which I was in charge).  I drove home to get the memory chip, dropped off Samuel's papers and drove back to school.  As I unloaded 6 treasure boxes, fourteen sand pails, 2 baking pans and mini-corn dogs for 20, I realized that when I dropped off Samuel's papers, I had accidently also dropped off the scavenger hunt clues.  I called my husband who was working at home.  Could he pretty please bring my scavenger clues back to school?  He obliged, of course.

At the K4 party, I surreptitiously filled a plate with food and brought a plate of pizza and fruit to the lunch room for Arielle.  Anna's party started at noon.  Math Awards were at 12:30.  I went to the teacher's lounge and pre-heated the oven for the mini-corn dogs I was bringing to the 1st grade "Carnival" party.  After the Brief Math Enrichment ceremony, I baked the corn dogs and brought them down to first grade.  I stayed for twenty minutes and went to the third grade class awards.  (They stagger the times purposefully, so a parent with more than one child can attend each event!)   On the way up, I stopped back at the teacher's lounge and put the leftover corn dogs in the fridge.  At 2:15 we headed back down to the first grade party.  When school ended, Perry took the girls home and I stayed and waited for the middle school water bash bus.  I finally arrived home at 4PM - exhausted.  How do teachers do it?

After perusing the pantry, the fridge and the freezer for dinner inspiration, I decided that I had no problem serving - leftover corn dogs - for dinner.  On paper plates, of course.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Ultimate Princess Party

I love having friends that do things better than I do.  They inspire me to improve. They inspire me to go outside my comfort zone.  They inspire me to reach beyond my realm of familiarity.  Take my "perfect" friend, Kathy, for instance.  After a visit to her meticulously decorated, immaculately clean and organized home, I am determined to keep my kitchen countertops clear for at least three or four days!  

Today, my friend's daughter, Lily, celebrates her fourth birthday.  Another perk of such a great friend?  Getting invited to awesome birthday parties!  Enjoy these pictures of, what I call, "The Ultimate Princess Party"!

Guests met at Lily's house for brief refreshments.

Each girl was given a Hello Kitty ring with lipgloss and then....

.... they were swept away in a bright pink stretch limo!

When they arrived at Sweet & Sassy, they were given the red carpet treatment!

Each little girl was assigned her own personal stylist

who worked on hair,


and nails!

Next, the Photo OP.

And dancing center stage.

A beautiful birthday cake finished off the afternoon.

Each girl went home with lipgloss, princess silly bands, a silly bands case and, of course, a princess crown.

Happy 4th Birthday, Lily!

Lily and her mom