Monday, February 28, 2011

Dr. Seuss Snacks!

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.  I admit it.  I love Dr. Seuss!  A collection of these sing-song-y rhymes was the first thing I put on the bookshelves of our very first baby nursery.  Four kids later, I now have talents that include being able to recite The Cat In The Hat from memory!

In honor of the late great Dr. Seuss (He would have been 107 on March 2nd) we are making these cute snacks!  Absolutely no skill or talent required!

Simply start with a box of blue Jell-O.....

and divide into four clear plastic cups.
(The fish have to have a place to swim!)

After the Jell-O has set, have the kids add their own fish!  (Swedish Fish, that is!)

Ella's kindergarten class gets a Dr. Seuss party after they have collectively read 107 books!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

iheartfaces | The Hand of Spring

Pink Buds have emerged 
on the apple trees. 
Daffodils are stretching their arms 
toward the sun. 
Kids are playing in the driveway 
with scooters and chalk and bubbles.  
Don't be envious, my northern friends, 
but it 
smells like
 looks like 
feels like spring, 
here in the deep, deep south.

For more photos without faces (this week), visit iheartfaces!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pachelbel: Canon in D

The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Who remembers the name of this song?
Ella:  Taco Bell's
Me:  Close - it's Pachelbel's Canon in D.  What do you hear?
Ella:  Slow.....Violins......  It sounds happy and sad both.  I think they play it at weddings alot.

Insightful, I thought, for a girl who's only been to two weddings, neither of which played Pachelbel's Canon.  Was she already perceiving that weddings are intuitively both happy and sad?  The celebration of new love and that bittersweetness of leaving home?  This is why my children are simply not allowed to date.  Because, if they do, then someday they will leave me.  And if they leave me, then I will make them walk down the aisle to the beautiful, bittersweet happy-sadness of Pachelbel's Canon in D.  This will remind them that while they might be blissfully happy, I am only happy-sad.  Happy-sad like Pachelbel's Canon in D.

Although the circumstances of the piece's composition are wholly unknown, one writer hypothesized that the Canon may have indeed been composed for a wedding.  The wedding was that of Johann Christoph Bach, on October 23, 1694.  The music for the occasion was provided by Johann Ambrosius Bach, Pachelbel, and other friends and family members.  Johann Christoph Bach was a former pupil of Pachelbel's and was also Johann Sebastian Bach's oldest brother.

Canon in D major is the most famous piece of music by German Baroque composer, Johann Pachelbel.  It was originally scored for three violins and basso continuo and paired with a gigue in the same key.  Like most other works by Pachelbel and other pre-1700 composers, the Canon remained forgotten for centuries and was rediscovered only in the 20th century.  Several decades after is was first published in 1919, the piece became extremely popular, and today it frequently played at weddings and included on classical music compilations.  

Pachelbel's Canon combines the techniques of canon and ground bass.  Canon is a polyphonic device in which several voices play the same music, entering in sequence. (Think a round like, Row, Row, Row Your Boat.)  In Pachelbel's piece, there are three voices engaged in canon (see below), but there is also a fourth voice, the basso continuo, which plays an independent part.  The bass keeps repeating the same two-bar line throughout the piece.  This is called ostinato, or ground bass.

Source:  Wikipedia

What did the other kids think?

Kid Critique:

SAMUEL:  (the human calculator) say, "It's simplistically beautiful, I guess."

ANNA:  It makes me feel like I'm in a boat on a lake with my family and having a good time.

ARIELLE:  I can't even tell it's a canon (a round ) because it's so beautiful.


TRANSLATION:  Sweet sounds, pretty music.  It kind of  sounds like Swan Lake.  It sounds like a princess music.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

I received the email late last week requesting breakfast food for a middle school party today.  I immediately signed Samuel up, since the instructions stated, "Please involve your child!"  

Since I am in the panic-stricken process of trying to domesticate my 13-year old son (I only have FIVE more years!!) I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for him to make his choice of Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins.

We always have LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of frozen bananas in the freezer, not to mention a few overripe ones on the counter, so our first step was to find six bananas and mash them.  Unfortunately, both of my mixers were out for repair, so we started the mashing process by hand.

Knowing that not everyone enjoys a big old banana chunk in their muffin, we decided to put the liquids together in a blender - sort of a banana-olive oil-egg-sugar smoothie, if you will!

This idea was working out quite fine, until the blender went on the blink, too!  MOM, HELP!
Fortunately, we saved enough liquid to continue!

Next, he added the dry ingredients....

.... and mixed, mixed, mixed, mixed!
A cup of mini chocolate chips were the favorite add-in.

I find that a 1/3 cup measuring scoop works out perfectly for filling the greased tins.


And now for lesson #2..... the clean-up!!!

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
Makes 30 Muffins

1 cup extra light tasting olive oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
6 ripe bananas, mashed
4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 Tablespoons buttermilk (or plain milk works, too)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray non-stick cupcake pans with cooking spray.  In a large bowl, combine oil, sugar and eggs.  Blend in bananas.  In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Stir into banana mixture.  Add milk and vanilla.  Mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Scoop 1/3 cup batter into each muffin tin.  Bake for about 15 - 17 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from pan and cool.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Aunt Barb's Corn Chowder

This is my go-to soup recipe for soup luncheons or cold Saturdays.  It's super easy to make (no pun intended!) and serves a crowd.  The shredded hash brown potatoes  make this soup so thick and hearty, no one would ever guess that it's low fat!

Corn Chowder

5 cups skim milk
2 cans creamed corn
2 cans 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup
3 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 bag (32 ounce) frozen shredded hash browns
2 cups cubed ham
1 small bag frozen chopped onions
4 teaspoons dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Dump all ingredients into a large slow cooker.  Cook on low for 8 hours and serve!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Problem With Bowling.....

After a weekend filled with celebration, sadness and a giant science fair project,  we thought we would spend the remainder of our President's Day Weekend with a little family team building - specifically, bowling.  Now let me start by saying that I am not a bowler.  I did not grow up in a bowling family.  To me, bowling was something that you got to do on your birthday with a couple of friends - if you were lucky.  

My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a family where bowling was a sport, played for trophies, in matching shirts.  If you doubt me, just check out the trophy collection in their basement.  

So on this particular day, when we decided to go with our son's pick of $2.00 President's Day bowling, my consolation thought was, "At least we can practice our math skills!"  That's what I remember about bowling.  I remember graduating to third grade and finally being old enough to be considered a reliable scorekeeper.  Simple addition wasn't too hard (which was most of the time), but get a strike or a spare and things got a little more complicated.  (You know,  wait to total until the next frame when the next ball counted twice - once added to the previous frame and once added to the current frame!)  This is when things got interesting.  

Unfortunately, this is no longer the case!  Gone are the days when the man behind the shoe counter handed you a score card that you got to keep and put in your scrapbook.  Gone are the days when you got to argue with your friends on whether or not there were four or five pins still standing.  Gone are the days when scorekeeping could qualify bowling as a homeschool field trip!  These days, scoring is all electronic, and my children may never have the the joy of doing mental gymnastics while holding an 8-pound orange ball.  It reminded me of the last time I went to the store and the cashier couldn't count back my change without looking at the cash register.  Are computers that do all the thinking for us, really making us smarter?

I'll tell you one thing they're not doing - and that is making me a better bowler!  For the record, the reason my six-year old beat me was because she was playing with the bumper guards up!  Who knew I could actually bowl my age?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

iheartfaces | Saying Goodbye

This weekend, Samuel said good-bye to a teammate and friend.  It's hard to lose someone your own age.  The reality of your own mortality becomes impossible to ignore.  It's a sudden wake-up call that that we are on this earth but for a moment.  This life is just a stopping point.  It's a chance to discover our Creator and choose for ourselves with whom we want to spend eternity.  This life is a gift.

Some say that writing is a healthy outlet for grief.  I would have to agree.  It's an expression of the soul.  For me, photography is also an outlet for grief.  I took dozens of photos three years ago at the consecutive funerals of my two remaining grandparents.  I didn't care if people thought it was inappropriate.   It was grief therapy - an expression of my soul.  My cell phone camera was a little less conspicuous on this night.  Even now, as I look at this picture, I know that healing has begun.

We'll miss you, Sanders.
We are praying for all those whose lives you touched.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Aunt Margie's Egg Bake

Have you ever been to a potluck brunch where everyone raced to sign up for cups and ice?  Well, this is your chance to be the hero!  This egg dish is easy to make and seemingly fail proof.  I got this recipe from my mom who got it from my Aunt Margie.   It is the only egg dish I have ever made, and really, I have no need try anything else.  This one simply works.   The best part?  It's even relatively not-so-bad for you!  It's hearty enough that you can serve it for a simple supper and fancy enough for Easter brunch.  

Here are the simple steps:

  1.  In a 9" x 13" baking dish, layer one 5-ounce bag of croutons, 
  2. One pound ham or cooked turkey sausage,
  3. And shredded cheese. (The very old recipe says simply "one large bag of cheese," but in this super-sized world I'm just going to call that two cups!)
  4. Pour over the top a mixture of 1 can 98% fat free cream of celery soup, 2 1/2 cups skim milk and 4 eggs.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes covered and 30 minutes uncovered.  (If you make it the night before and store it in the fridge, either bump up the temperature or increase the baking time.)
That's it!  You can swap out ingredients as you see fit.  Last night I added a bag of frozen broccoli between steps two and three and served it for dinner.  Everyone loved it!

Aunt Margie's Egg Bake

1 pound ham or turkey sausage
1 5-ounce box croutons
1 can cream of celery soup
2 1/2 cups skim milk
4 eggs or 1 cup eggbeaters
2 cups reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Cook sausage or dice ham.  Beat eggs, milk and soup.  In a 9" x 13" pan, layer Croutons, sausage and cheese.  Pour egg mixture over the top.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes covered and 30 minutes uncovered.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Happy 80th Birthday, Nana!

Dear Nana,

It's hard to believe you are turning 80 today!  You are ageless.  You are timeless.  I don't think I can express how we feel about you better your own grandchildren can.  To them, you are as beautiful as a poem.  And even though you have set the bar on motherhood so high that no mere mortal could ever attain it, I love you anyway.  Thank you for all the ways you stay in our life.  I wish we weren't so far apart.  God bless you on your birthday and always.  Enjoy your day! 


My Nana
By Anna, Grade 3

I think that
Nana is the best grandparent ever.
The sound of a gentle voice -
this is Nana.
She is joyful, kind, and inspiring.
She is caring.
She is the taste of honey.
Flowers, freshness, and fruit
smell like Nana.
Being with Nana is like
 being with a big, loving heart.
She is beautiful.
When I think of her,
it is like thinking of heaven.
She is my big treasure chest
full of love.

By Samuel, Grade 3

Nana is extremely intelligent
And wise in the Bible.
The sound of crackling leaves 
remind me of Nana.
She is sweet as honey,
loving as a heart,
and caring as a teddy bear.
Nana is as beautiful as a flower
blowing in the wind.
Nana is the taste of pineapple.
Cookies, roses and mints
smell like Nana.
Being with her
is like an unending rollercoaster.
Nana is as gentle as a bird.
When I think of her
It is like the wonders of the world.
Nana is my grandma!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes {MSC}

Martha Stewart's Chocolate Chip Cupcakes were the perfect Valentine's treat!  They seemed so perfect, in fact, that I had to increase the recipe!  I needed 24 for the fourth grade party, 6 for our family Valentine's dinner and 6 for a Birthday Treat at my husband's office.  That makes 36 in all.  The recipe said it made 30, so according to my calculations, I needed to multiply all the ingredients by 1.2!

This, my dear children, is why you need to stay in school.  
Who knew algebra had such a practical application?

There were two additional reasons I was so excited about this recipe.  First of all, I had an opportunity to use up the Cake Flour for which I had searched high and low before the Snickerdoodle Cupcake endeavor,

and SECONDLY, I would have a chance to use these BEAUUUUTIFUL red glassine cupcake liners which my Sister-in-law bought me for Christmas.  Can you see how they just glow in the light?  I'm telling you, she buys the BEST presents!

I'll have to admit, going into this assignment, I thought it would be a no brainer.  Little did I know I would have to pull out ALL my bowls!  (Have I mentioned what a fan I am of Martha's One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes???)  Clockwise you can see:   
  1. Creamed butter and sugar  
  2. Sifted dry ingredients
  3. Liquids of milk and vanilla
  4. Six stiff-peaked egg whites
I never know what to do with all those leftover egg yolks.  
Today I decided to cook them up and feed them to the dog.

Friend for life, I tell you!

But back to the many bowls!

The first three ingredients were combined alternately and then the egg whites were folded in.  Considering it had egg whites and cake flour, I was surprised by how heavy and stiff the batter was!

The last step was to toss the chocolate chips with some flour before adding them to the batter.  The directions said it prevents all the chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom - an interesting tip I may have to remember in future applications!

Here you can see the stiff batter before - 

And after it baked!

Since it was Valentine's Day, I decided to pipe out some white chocolate squiggly hearts with which to top the cupcakes.  I substituted a chocolate cream cheese frosting for the dark chocolate that was listed.  I used the dark chocolate frosting a couple weeks ago when I tried the Salted Caramel Mini Cupcakes and thought it was a bit to dark for the 10-year old crowd.

All-in-all it was a delicious, crowd pleasing cupcake.
Thanks to Rebecca at The Baking Sisters for this month's selection!

You can find the recipe at Martha's Website.

To view more delicious cupcakes, visit The Martha Stewart Cupcake Club!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

iheartfaces | Red

If you think we live on a really cool cattle ranch in Oklahoma like The Pioneer Woman, you're wrong.  If you think we live in Connecticut, make our own maple syrup and play Scrabble with Martha Stewart, think again.  If you think we grow our own vegetables and homeschool our four kids, well -  we've considered it - but this is currently not our life.  Our life is in the suburban south.  Why, oh why, you might then wonder, is Arielle standing in front of this charming, weathered barn?  

This barn stands at the back entrance to our neighborhood of mass-produced homes and postage-stamp lots.  It's the last hold-out of a life that once was.  It's an outpost that makes my youngest daughter squeal  with delight, "Mom, go the barn way, the barn way!"  And so we take the windy road past the barn, roll down our windows and make animal sounds, hoping to entice the delightful creatures that might live within, imagining what we cannot see.

Happy Valentine's Day Y'all!

For more red-hot photos, visit iheartfaces!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Super Easy Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Fudge

I've been making fudge for Valentine's Day ever since I was in the third grade and I made my very first batch of fudge for my Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Stover.  She loved it so much that, even in subsequent years when she was no longer my teacher, I would still make a special heart-shaped batch just for her.  

Those early batches were difficult.  I remember cooking with my mom and testing to see if the boiling candy had reached the soft ball stage by dropping a spoonful of the chocolate mixture into some water.  The results were never guaranteed.   Then one year things changed.  One year we found this Super Easy Fudge recipe that turns out perfectly every time.  Fortunately for me, this recipe does not even require a candy thermometer!

It starts with some basic ingredients.

Bring butter, sugar and evaporated milk to a boil.  Boil for 4 minutes or until a candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees.  Unless you are in love with your candy thermometer, just go with the timer.  Trust me on this one.  Now here's the key.  While it's boiling, stir constantly.  Don't put your cell phone on the charger, don't refresh your computer screen, don't try to squeeze in a load of laundry.  Just stand at the stove and stir.  It's only four minutes.  You can do it!

When the four minutes is up, turn off the stove and add the marshmallow creme and chopped chocolate or peanut butter chips. If possible, use a bigger pan than this one!

Stir until everything is melted and well combined.

There.  This pan, in which I did the dark chocolate layer, is much better!

I found these cute heart-shaped aluminum pans at Target!  They came 24 in a pack.

One batch of peanut butter fudge.......

...... topped with one batch of dark chocolate fudge exactly filled 24 mini heart-shaped tins.

Pipe a white chocolate message on top for a sweet Valentine treat!

Super Easy Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Fudge

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 can (5 ounce) evaporated milk
4 ounces Semi-Sweet chocolate and
8 ounces Unsweetened chocolate
or 12 ounces peanut butter chips
1 7-ounce jar Marshmallow Creme
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring sugar, butter and milk to a boil in a large saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil 4 minutes or until 234 degrees F on a candy thermometer, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  ADD chocolate or peanut butter chips and marshmallow creme.  Stir until melted.  Stir in vanilla.  Pour into a foil-lined 9X9" pan or 24 mini foil heart-shaped liners.  
Cool.  Enjoy!