Sunday, September 23, 2012

and then she was 60.

My mom, that is.

I don't think the lady had a party thrown for her since her wedding reception.

She deserved it. She has worked hard for many, many years. My mom is seriously the nicest person on the planet. If you think I am nice or thoughtful, it is because I learned from her example. My mom was not only celebrating her 60th birthday, but five years cancer-free! She should be celebrated. So my brothers and I set out to do so. She wanted a picnic and we tried to give her the best one we could. That pin she is wearing on sweater? A nurse pinned to that to her tiny clothing after birth as she was a preemie and they feared she wouldn't make it through her first night of life. My mom has been kicking butt since day 1.

It couldn't have been more perfect. Except for her friends that showed up too early or the one that showed up four days late!

 No birthday is complete these days in this family without this cake. Henry sported chocolate cake face for much of the evening.  I've linked this recipe before, but I'll do it again because it always get rave reviews. If you think you are a slave to boxed cake mix and canned icing, this will totally change your mind.

Hershey's Perfect Chocolate Cake


Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. 


Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water--your batter will be very thin. Pour batter into  prepared pans. 

ONE PAN 9X13: Bake 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

CUPCAKES: Fill 2/3 full. Bake 22-25 minutes (Makes 30)


Chocolate Frosting

1 stick butter
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount of additional milk if needed. Stir in vanilla. 

For a two layer cake, I typically double the frosting so that I have generous amounts for the cake. I live with frosting people, what can I say? 


Oh and the band? The Armadillos. They were kind of fantastic and added so much to the party. They are good friends of my brother and happen to be my mom's neighbors. Their performance was their present to her.













Monday, August 13, 2012

Girl Power

I'm on vacation--our longest one ever as family (17 days!) and this morning, it was just me and The Boss at the beach. She's always been inquisitive, but age five seems to have brought along a more mature line of questioning. I like it. We have real conversations now and she tests my knowledge of life and nature constantly.

This particular morning, while jumping some waves and combing the shore for shells worth keeping, it was as if something clicked in her brain and made her realize that my friends and I are something other that just mommies. It's been nearly two years since I left my job so it is easy for her to forget that I ever worked outside of our home. She asked about when I was little what I wanted to be when I grew up and then asked all about what I did for a job. And then we talked about what the mothers of her friends do. These are,of course, my friends. Never have I been more proud and impressed with my friends than when I can spout off: pediatrician, lawyer, photographer, architect, software specialist, art curator, clinical therapist, and teacher to just name a few of the impressive things they do. What role models we have in our lives!
As we are just weeks away from kindergarten, she has chosen artist/art teacher, paleontologist, and "kid doctor" as her future professions and will tell you what time of the day she will perform each of these duties as she realizes this is a tall order. I hope it is all true.




Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Is this thing on?

I know, it's been a long, long time. Let's get on with it, shall we?

Things that consume my life right now:

Kicking around the soccer ball with my big girl. She loves being on a team for the first time. This is my happy and excited Green Hornet. Soccer mom status realized.

Enjoying the green everywhere, even in my knitting. 

Playing trains, planes, and automobiles with my not so little boy.

Baking. Always baking! This time, soft pretzels, Auntie Anne's style. My boy looked at the mixer and said "Dough". My job here is done! These are slightly sweet, buttery, and tasted just like the mall staple. 


Auntie Anne's Copycat Pretzels

2 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
6 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons fine salt

1/3 cup baking soda
3 cups warm water
Coarse salt
 8 tablespoons butter, melted in a shallow dish 

Warm up the milk in the microwave or on the stove for just about one and a half minutes. It should be about 110º.  Stir in the yeast and let it sit for about 3 minutes. Add the butter and sugar. Add the flour about 1 cup at a time and the add the fine salt. Knead for about 10 minutes with a stand mixer, or by hand. Put it in a greased bowl and cover with greased cling wrap. Let rise for 1 hour in a moist, warm place until doubled in size.

 Preheat the oven to 450º. Divide dough into 12 pieces.  Roll them all out as thin as you can. Combine the warm water and baking soda in a wide bowl. Form the dough into pretzel shapes, then dip in the baking soda water. Place on a greased baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for about 7-11 minutes or until browned. Brush melted butter over top of each pretzel. I actually just run a stick of butter over top of each butter and let a bit melt on contact. 

Enjoy one and then hand out to neighborhood kids so you don't eat them all. At least that's what I had to do!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Forgetta bout it.

I am a woman of my word and let's just say, we've been having some ice cream 'round here. Big thanks to my babe Henry for healing his gut in time for me to partake in the seasonal dairy deliciousness.

While I've taken the easy way out and just scooped the ice cream out of store-bought containers, the other night when we had friends over for dinner, I decided to try a homemade topping to make it a little more fancy. First, I chose to make a salted butter caramel sauce which looked and smelled so amazing that we were hovering around the pot with spoons. Then we tried it and I'm just going to assume I took the caramel too far because it was incredibly bitter tasting and disgusting. We were in such denial that we thought it would get better as it cooled or better with ice cream. Nope, it didn't. Burnt sugar is burnt sugar, people. I felt defeated. Actually, I was just plain pissed at myself for wasting the cream and butter! I don't take kindly to kitchen failures.

Thankfully, friend time cures all. After a lovely afternoon noshing and chatting, I was up for another try. I changed gears though and went for a butterscotch sauce.

I have to ask you to do something first.

I want you to forget about everything you think you know about butterscotch sauce.

I want you to forget that it is usually an odd brown with a sometimes hint of nuclear yellow.

I want you to forget it usually comes out of a pump or a squeeze tube.

I want you to forget that it's usually so sweet you could go into sugar shock after a bite.

I want you to forget that you don't like butterscotch.

I want you to forget that you ever bought an ice cream topping in a store.

I want you to forget that you think you can't make ice cream sauce at home because it might be 'tricky' or take a long time.

I want you to forget all those things and remember to add dark brown sugar and heavy cream to your grocery list this week. I'm going to assume you already have the salt, butter, and vanilla, ok? If you don't have those things in stock, why are we friends? I kid!

Because here's the deal. Even though 'they' say it's cooling down this week, it's still going to be hot and it's your right to eat a whole lotta ice cream in the summer. And you need to promise me you are going to try this at least once. It's going to take you maybe 10-15 minutes total. Really. That includes fumbling around for the right pot in your 'very organized' cabinet and gathering your ingredients Rachel Ray style.

Seriously. You are going to want to top it on everything, but I highly recommend at least starting with vanilla bean ice cream and topping it when the sauce is still a touch warm. You will thank me and remember how right I was about that whole butterscotch thing.

You're welcome in advance. Now go win friends and influence people with an ice cream topping.

As usual, this is from Smitten Kitchen. You can go there for prettier pictures for sure.
Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce
I usually hate when recipes are titled with 'ridiculously easy', but this time, it's really, really true.
Smitten Kitchen (She writes that it was adapted from The Washington Post who adapted it from The Perfect Cake)

1/4 cup (or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark or light brown sugar (I used dark)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt or 1/4 tsp regular table salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Melt butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, cream, and salt and whisk until well blended. Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about five minutes, whisking occasionally.

Remove from heat and add the vanilla and stir to combine. You can add more vanilla and salt at this point, but I really liked the flavor of the above proportions. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Make it right after dinner and it will be perfect consistency by the time you've digested enough to have room for dessert.


This can be served cold or warm (please, go for warm) and easily stores in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Can be reheated in the microwave or small saucepan.

The end.






Thursday, June 30, 2011

Travel quirk.

Hey Y'all! Tell me, why is the southern accent so infectious? After two weeks in the south, The Boss and I were getting pretty impressionable as far as the language goes;)

We were beaching it as well as visiting family and friends over the past few weeks and I just had to laugh at myself after some gentle ribbing by family members regarding one of my apparent travel quirks.

I seem to bring an apron and microplane grater along more often than not.
What? Is that weird?

Such is my life! Well, I don't hear anyone complaining about the cooking that results from this type of travel packing!

And it's no crazier than say, my four year old who refuses to take off swim goggles during dinner!
Beach life was good. Now off to figure out what day it is before I sink any further into this post-vacation brain mush.

Ahh...summer.