Friday, April 29, 2011

Can You Send A Five Year Old To Boarding School?

I had a post mentally written today (thank you ear buds for breaking today for the time to write that post while I was running) all about how I am probably the only person in the world who has no interest in the royal wedding today. It was a good one, but it isn't going to happen.

I got home and was putting laundry away when I realized I have a far more important (to me) post to write, and the royal wedding one won't be timely after today.

I'm used to parenting Mister Man. He's a pretty good kid. Sure, he does things he isn't supposed to and gets in trouble both at home and at school periodically, but it's never malicious and purposely being bad. He always feels horrible about it afterwards, and much of it is related to his autism. It's frustrating, but I get it.

Little Miss is a different bird altogether. She's got "a lot of personality" I tell people, which is the nice way of putting it. She's the one I worry about as she gets to the teen years. She is "mischievous" but oh so sweet and wraps everyone (sans me) around her little finger. She's just got that perfect personality.

And I'm having a problem with her. The good news is that she isn't good at being sneaky and hiding evidence - yet. Last week, I caught her eating candy that she can't eat because it contains dairy that she's allergic to. In a way, it was my fault as I'd left it sitting on the kitchen table after the Easter Egg hunt until I'd sorted it and dealt with it all. Mister Man would never dream of sneaking candy, and I had assumed the same was the case with Little Miss.

When she walked into the office with a cheek puffed like a chipmunk, I knew it had been wishful thinking. After prying her mouth open - she refused to tell me what was in her mouth, but I could tell by her reaction that it was something she shouldn't be eating - I asked her to show me what she'd taken. In the garbage, I found more candy wrappers. And later, I found more on the floor.

I explained the necessity of not eating the candy she's allergic to (and thankfully, it isn't an anaphylactic shock issue, but it makes her sick) and to always ask me before she takes any food so that I know what she's eating. We talked about the treats that she does get from me fairly regularly and the importance of trust. And then I kept her home from the open gym we were headed to, just taking Mister Man.

Yesterday morning, I discovered more candy wrappers upstairs in her room. She claims that they were from that same day, and I have no way of proving otherwise. This morning, I found two more wrappers shoved into her closet that were not there when I'd done laundry on Tuesday. We discussed the problem with this. I did tell her that because she was honest with me about where she got the candy and why she was eating it, I wouldn't take away her soccer game this afternoon. That said, she'll still be punished. We had planned to go out for a nice Japanese dinner tonight, just the two of us, while my husband was at a school event and Mister Man was at a birthday party. Nope, we're going grocery shopping and then coming home to have sandwiches for dinner. There will be no special night for us tonight.

This afternoon, I headed upstairs to put away the laundry I'd done that morning when discovering the candy wrapper stash. I was admiring how well she'd made her bed this morning when I discovered this:

That isn't all of it. There's more, including her name written backwards and other doodles.

I am so angry right now that I could spit.

I'm frustrated and angry and bewildered why she would do this. She will definitely be cleaning it off herself (umm how do you remove crayon from painted wood?) this afternoon when she gets off the bus. If it makes her late for her soccer game, so be it.

But there has to be more of a punishment than that, right? Something has got to sink in to her that she needs to respect her things, not destroy them, tell me the truth, and trust me so that I can learn to trust her again. Because she's five. If she's doing this at five, what happens at 10 or 15 or 20?

I'm debating clearing everything out of her room except her bed, dressers, and clothes.

I'm debating telling her she can't go to her birthday party on Sunday.

I'm debating telling her that she isn't mature and responsible enough to be in the pre-team gymnastics class she was just invited to join.

I'm debating telling her that she's banned from the computer for a week - and she loves doing her Compass learning program on the computer when we have a free moment.

Somehow, I'm missing what's going to get through to her. I know I can't be the only mom going through this with a "spirited" child. How have you handled it? What should I do next? Any suggestions for punishments for this latest transgression?

$35 gift certificate to DaySpring here
Wacoal br@ or shapewear giveaway here

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Teacher's Best Gift

We all remember the horrible days of middle school, right? Or at least, I hear from friends all the time how much they hated them and how hard they are for their children, too.

Silly me, I transferred schools (voluntarily, ironically enough) at the beginning of 8th grade. I couldn't imagine taking the "computer" class the old school was offering, nor Spanish from the non-Spanish speaking teacher. I convinced my mom, and we registered for the local public school where I knew essentially no one.

I went from a small Catholic school with around 40 kids in my class to a several hundred student school with sometimes 40 students in a classroom. It was a big change - both socially and academically. Socially, I was lucky that I walked up to a table at lunch my first day and made friends with the people sitting there, some of whom I'm still in contact with today.

Academically was more of a challenge. We hadn't had any gifted classes at my old school. I literally was handed an algebra book in 7th grade and told to let the teacher know when I wanted to be tested (thank you, Mrs. Robinson). For reading, Kari and I were sent into the coat closet to work on our more advanced books on our own. I'm not joking. And looking back, I'm not sure how or why my mom thought this was ok. I may have to ask her.

I was overwhelmed with the academic side of things, not knowing how to participate in these classes or whether I really fit in. Mrs. Vickery was my lifeline. She was my English teacher that year and my newspaper adviser. She. Was. Awesome.

She made me believe in myself again. I was capable of doing the work, but she made me love it. Beyond that, she took the time to find out what I loved and encouraged me with it. She was the one who suggested I join the newspaper and who pushed me to keep at it in high school - something I am ever grateful she did. And she was the one who encouraged me to join the Knowledge Masters team, to look into Odyssey of the Mind, to compete in the Battle of the Brains (we lost badly, but it was FUN!). She was the one who forced me to apply for the AP history program when I went to high school, something I was scared to do for fear of rejection.

She isn't teaching there any longer, as she was a veteran teacher when I was in junior high, but I still think of her fondly. I love that she helped me, and I know I wasn't the only one. I just hope and pray the wee ones have teacher experiences like that with the same type of help and encouragement I received.

Who was your support and motivation?


I am writing this post in support of the Clever Girls Collective's Heart of Haiti Mother's Day post series about a woman who helped me. Heart of Haiti is an initiative that uses business as a strategy for economic empowerment of people, especially women. Through a partnership with Macy’s and their Shop For A Better World' initiative, Heart of Haiti offers artisan-crafted decorative arts and jewelry for sale. All income derived from sales of the products on the Heart of Haiti site enhances an artisan’s family’s nutrition, educates children, and brings access to healthcare and dignity.

If you wish to support them, you can receive a 15% discount off Heart of Haiti and Rwanda Path to Peace products from May 3 to 8 with the promo code CLEVERGIRLS. They've got some really gorgeous pieces, and I love the meaning behind them!

I was selected for this very special “CleverHaiti” opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity. All opinions are my own. I will receive a Heart of Haiti necklace in thanks for my participation, but there is no compensation involved.

$35 gift certificate to DaySpring here
Wacoal br@ or shapewear giveaway here

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Garden Update

How does your garden grow? And to think I originally entitled this Wordless Wednesday! Ha!

I am so sad that my green beans and French beans aren't coming up at all. That said, my kohlrabi went wild (and was the first up) - they're the ones in the middle. I think I'm going to try to thin them and replant in another egg container. Any thoughts as to how to help them survive?

I also planted tomatoes two weeks after the other ones - both Roma and Beefsteak. They came up quickly and successfully; I put only 2 seeds per cube.

I neglected to read the instructions for carrots: plant them directly to the ground so their roots grow straight. Oops. Crooked carrots will still taste good, though, right?

My "herb" mixture is coming up well. It's all sorts of chives and basil an such.

Only one of my peas sprouted. I'm debating growing another one. It was so cool to watch it pop up. For awhile it looked like Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors. I was actually concerned that I had done something wrong when the peapod part (at the bottom) started popping out from the soil; I thought I'd planted it too shallowly. Unfortunately, I also noticed that one of my cats ate the first leaves to pop up. I think I need to find a way to protect them from not just the outdoor vegetation theives but the indoor ones, too!

With the weather still wet and chilly here, I haven't put them outside yet (thanks to those who explained what hardening means). Once we get into the 60s in the day, I'll start putting them out during the day.

My next step is to thoroughly weed the patch that will be the garden. It was somewhat clean, but all the rain we've gotten has sprouted everything you could possibly imagine there. At least the soil is soft, right?

What else should I be doing?

$35 gift certificate to DaySpring here
Wacoal br@ or shapewear giveaway here

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tasty Tuesday - Super Scalloped Potatoes

One of these days, I'll put up a holiday recipe before the holiday so people can take advantage. Then again, there are some recipes that are good anytime and should be pulled from your repertoire more often. This is one of those.

There is just a teensy tiny bit of it left in our house. And a total of four people ate any. In related news, I really, really need to hit the gym tomorrow!

Super Scalloped Potatoes

1 1/2 to 2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes (ok so since I was at my mom's house, I used Idahoes, which doesn't work as well but they do in a pinch!)
1 pint half and half (don't go skim milk on this one. Whole milk can work, as will heavy cream, so lets split the difference and use half and half shall we? Get it? Ok so I'm a little punchy today)
2 T butter - or less, this time I used right around a tablespoon or a little more
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 c Parmesan, fresh grated (don't use the green can, although again... I was at my mom's house and that's sadly all she has, so it's possible, but I highly advise against it)
Salt and pepper

Butter the bottom of your casserole and preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Slice your potatoes super thin. I used my mandolin to do it, which gives them an even slice. Your food processor likely has a slicing attachment that will also work nicely. Or you can slice them yourself, which will take longer but works as long as you're more careful than I am!

Mince your garlic.

Place a layer of potatoes in the dish. Over this, drizzle your half and half just enough to lightly douse the potatoes (you want to save enough for each layer).

Cut your butter into tiny cubes. I find it easiest to dip the butter into a bit of garlic so that both the butter and garlic are distributed across the casserole dish with neither garlic nor butter sticking to my hands. Whatever your method, dot the potatoes with bits of butter and sprinkle some of the garlic atop that.

Atop this, sprinkle some of the cheddar cheese, then salt and pepper the layer.

Continue this layering until your potatoes are gone - mine is generally about four layers. On the top layer, sprinkle the grated Parmesan.

Cover the casserole dish with foil, and bake at 325 for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and turn up the heat to 375 degrees, baking for an additional 15 minutes to get the cheese completely melted and the top nice and crusty.

Serve immediately, although leftovers are pretty darned good, too. Yum! Enjoy this and more at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed with Grace.

$35 gift certificate to DaySpring here
Wacoal br@ or shapewear giveaway here

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Innocence of Easter

This morning, the wee ones raced downstairs to check to see what the Easter Bunny brought them. They found baskets filled with Star Wars books (our Easter Bunny is apparently a little non traditional) and bubbles and Lego toys and Yummy Tummy lollipops (no HFCS!).

They were thrilled. Absolutely thrilled. They couldn't wait to show me what the Easter Bunny had brought them. They love the Easter Bunny. And to be honest, I love that they love the Easter Bunny.

My philosophy has always been that I only answer their questions... primarily with other questions about what they think. I don't lie to them directly, but I don't want them to lose their innocence too early. (Ok so too early in my mind might be something like 20 years old?)

Today was a close call.

While we were at my parents' house this afternoon, I picked up the paper. The comics were on top, and I skimmed through them - always interested to see what new comics are being printed now that I don't get the paper in print anymore and of course to see what my old favorites are up to.

And then I saw it. Comic after comic referred to issues parents had with regards to the Easter Bunny. Were the wee ones to see the comics, they would insist my dad read to them, as he does any Sunday we're at their house.

Seriously? The comics aimed at young children unrepentantly destroy some of the beautiful innocence of childhood. I had to hide the comics. Today was not to be the day.

So of course, that's when the wee one walked up and saw what I had in my hands. Ooooo, Grandpa! Grandpa! Read us the comics! they chanted.

My brain moved into high gear. What's called for in this situation? Distraction.

Hey, my monkeys! Who thinks they can hide an Easter egg where I can't find it? I asked in a gushy, overly enthusiastic tone.

They bought it. And that's how their Lego Easter baskets now have only six eggs instead of the eight eggs that went to Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Happy Easter to all celebrating!

Freschetta By the Slice giveaway here
$35 gift certificate to DaySpring here
Wacoal br@ or shapewear giveaway here

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Grand(?) Reveal

As you may have noticed from my post on Wednesday, I donated my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. This isn't the first time I've done this. I donated my hair almost two years ago, as well.

When it donated my hair that time around, I went to my usual hair place, and while I was a little nervous about short hair - having not had it for a long time - they found a way to work with my hair: the partial curl, the cowlicks, the tendency to flip, etc.

This time around, I'd been told that Great Clips does this on a regular basis - they'll cut your hair for free and send it off for you. Or so I'd been told. Me being me, I looked it up on their website. I called to ask about this, and my local salon verified. I was set.

I went into my salon a few days later and explained to them what I wanted to do. The woman knew what we had to do for the donation and asked me what I wanted for my cut. Hmm.

Since I haven't done short hair in a really long time, I don't know what works so well for my hair. I explained that it's curly and that makes cutting and styling it fun. I did not want bangs, and it needed to be long enough to pull back for sports and the like. I showed her my two cowlicks, as well. Beyond that, so long as it was flattering, I was open to suggestion.

She recommended cutting it about ear length, which was fine with me. She asked again if I wanted bangs, and I reiterated the no. My hair went into a few different ponytails, and snip snip went the scissors.

And let me be clear ... I'm not looking for compliments here. I'm being honest in my assessment.

When the woman was done, she started tucking my hair behind my ears furiously. As a public service announcement, that is never a good sign when your hairdresser tries this maneuver in an attempt to keep it from sticking out everywhere.

A) I now have bangs. Lots of bangs. The bounce in my eye as I run.
B) The bangs accentuate my cowlick on my forehead because the hair isn't heavy enough to control it but too long to hide it.
C) This is not ear length hair, except for the longer part in the back of my head.
D) It is not long enough to pull back for sports by a long (pun intended) stretch.
E) In fact, there is much of my hair that is not long enough to even tuck behind my ears.
F) My hair isn't long enough to straighten.
G) My hair is too short to curl properly.
H) My hair is short enough that it is "extra full bodied" as one friend put it. That cowlick in the back of my head? It's taking massive effort to keep it from popping up like Alfalfa.

All in all, when I left the salon, my hair looked to my eyes like the late 70s or early 80s perms with the super short hair. Very androgynous. And it stuck out in various places.

My motto was to give it a week. In a week, I'd have time to adjust to it and learn how to style it. It would feel more natural to me. Today is that week. And I still hate it. I've tried different things each day, and nothing looks good to me. At the same time, I feel like I don't want to cut it shorter because it will just have to grow out later anyway.

Any styling suggestions? And no, I won't be heading back to Great Clips again until it's for a simple trim of my once again long hair. This should not scare anyone away from donating hair - it's a great cause and so easy to do. This was my fault for trying something new while attempting to save money.

Oh, best part? When I went to the front, the woman charged me full price. When I asked about the hair donation and free haircuts, she looked at me blankly. And yes, by that time I was just done and wanted to leave to lick my wounds.

Done whining. Here's the hair:

Styled to minimize the "poof" - in person you can see more of the issues than the photo shows.

This is as straight as it gets. Note the still super high poofy cowlick in front.

This is me after walking down the stairs - note how my hair is now falling in my face and flopping around. Boo.

Hair donation is way cool though. I will be growing my hair out and then donating it again. There are several places that will accept hair - each with varying requirements.

The most common is Locks of Love - it can be colored but not bleached and must be 10 inches or longer, stored in a ponytail or braid before cutting.

Pantene Beautiful Lengths is the charity I ended up donating to (though I would have done it to Locks of Love had the Great Clips done that for me), as they are the only ones I know of making wigs for adults and not just kids. For them, your hair must be eight inches or longer, and only semi-permanent dyes are allowed.

Wigs for Kids is another option where hair needs to be at least 12 inches and free from any permanent dyes.

My last suggestion for donation organizations is Children with Hair Loss. Hair needs to be 8 inches or longer. While they will accept any hair (including grey hair - most will take hair that is 5% or less grey only), they prefer it to have not been chemically treated.

I am happy to have donated. It feels good, and I love that someone will be able to make use of it. But the grand reveal? Sadly, it's not so grand after all!

Freschetta By the Slice giveaway here
$35 gift certificate to DaySpring here

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Poetry Was Never My Strong Suit

Kim from MomImpact is giving away a ticket to Type-A Parent in Asheville. All we have to do is write a haiku discussing why we want to go. And - of course - we have to be members of MomImpact.

Easy, right? Then why did my mind go blank? I couldn't even remember the form of a haiku. Three lines, I remember that. And umm 5-7-5? 5-7-6? Thank you Google. A haiku is 5-7-5, so some of my high school English classes stuck with me. New knowledge? A haiku traditionally contains a seasonal reference and a cutting word. Now that's pressure.

So here goes:

Summer, let me go:
Knifing my way to Asheville
Vision board, fulfilled!

Hmmm... not quite up to standards. Then again, that might be as best as it gets for me. More tries:

Type-A Parent opp:
Spring-like renewal for blog
Slice away stale edge.

Kids home for summer.
Husband home, too, then there's me.
Kim: help a girl out!

Blissdom: learned to
create Facebook page for blog.
What will Type-A add?

Asheville, peace, learning.
Good reasons all, yet there's more.
Friends... and alcohol.

Oops, those last two forgot the season and the cutting word. Last try!

"Cut it out!" I say
Summer returns old routine.
Save my sanity?

My ambition to be a poet has been killed. My apologies to all who enjoy good poetry! As for the hair donation reveal? Tomorrow. I'm giving it a full week to get used to it, but I promise - details and a picture tomorrow.

Freschetta By the Slice giveaway here
$35 gift certificate to DaySpring here

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Truly!

Freschetta By the Slice giveaway here
$35 gift certificate to DaySpring here

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

M&M Cakies - Tasty Tuesday!

Sometimes inspiration strikes just when you need it - for example as you need to make something for a child's school activity and you're staring into your fridge and realizing you have way too much of a particular item.

With apologies for Pat who had requested something less sugar and carb laden, my inspiration this month was beyond tasty. In fact, I'm going to continue tweaking this a little to turn it into another couple recipes, I think. They have long since disappeared, much to my husband's chagrin. And yes, I hid the last two cookies from him and ate them myself.

They are cookies, but they're more than just cookies. They're puffier and fluffier and softer and yum. Sorta like cake. Except they're cookies. Thus... cakies! I'm brilliant, I know.

M&M Cakies

1 c butter, unsalted at room temperature
1 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1 8 oz package cream cheese at room temperature
2 eggs
2 1/3 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3 c M&Ms - orrrrr just dump them in until it looks good to you

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Once they are well-combined, add the cream cheese. Cream until lightened in color and texture and very fluffy. Don't forget this step!

Add eggs and beat until fluffy.

Add the baking soda and salt and mix well. Add the flour, and stir slowly until almost all incorporated.

Add the M&Ms at this point and stir until just distributed. Your flour will finish incorporating while you're doing this step.

Scoop your cookies into extra large balls. I use my muffin scooper. Leave plenty of room between your cookies in your greased cookie sheet (or sil pat!).

Bake for 15-17 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.

Yum! Try not to eat them all in one sitting. I love this twist on the classic M&M sugar cookie. In fact, I think I prefer it now. Enjoy this and more at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed with Grace.

6 month membership to the Math Blasters website up for grabs here
Freschetta By the Slice giveaway here
$35 gift certificate to DaySpring here

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hello? Spring? Hello?

There are some things that will ensure I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, the day off to a bad start before it's even begun.

Stepping into a pile of cold cat vomit

A child running into my room to announce an illness

My husband's alarm clock that he snoozed now going off loudly and repeatedly since he's gotten up and left the house

Realizing that it's a cleaning lady day and I haven't done a thing about it

You get the point. Then there's today. April 18. April, people!

I know I say this every year, but really spring? Can we not get our act together anymore? I'd like a redo.

The silver lining is that not everyone in my household feels quite the same. Some, in fact, managed to get up and ready for school early so that they could play outside in the snow before we had to leave.

Good thing I'd been procrastinating on putting away their winter gear. (hey - this snow was not my fault!)

And ahhhh yes, that is Little Miss actually leaning over on the grass to lick the snow. I have a very odd child. A very odd one. But she makes me giggle - even this morning!

6 month membership to the Math Blasters website up for grabs here
Freschetta By the Slice giveaway here

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Very Hungry Kindergartener

There once was a little girl who was not a little egg on a leaf in the light of the moon. No, she was a little girl with a stomach bigger than her eyes.

At 8am, she ate a bowl of Cheerios with three slices of turkey bacon, a glass of rice milk, and some strawberries.

At 10:45am, she ate...
a waffle

a plate of scrambled eggs

two peaches

five slices of bacon

and two sausage links.

She was still hungry, so she went back for seconds. And she ate...
five slices of bacon

one and a half sausage links

and two peaches.

At 1pm, she was hungry, so she ate a banana.

At 2pm, she was hungry again, so she ate some mango.

At 4:30pm, she was at Costco and had samples of chocolate chips (whoo hoo - Callebaut's dark chocolate is dairy free!) and crackers.

At 5pm, she was hungry again, so she ate a quarter pound Costco hot dog.

At 6pm, she asked, Mommy, have I had dinner yet?

Mommy groaned and insisted she had. We're waiting for her to crawl into a cocoon of her own making and come out in two weeks as a beautiful butterfly.

$25GC to Moe's Southwest Grill up for grabs here
6 month membership to the Math Blasters website up for grabs here
Freschetta By the Slice giveaway here

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wanted: Gardening Advice

I've always wanted to have a garden. I love the idea of it. The thought of just stepping outside and having fresh veggies that I know haven't been sprayed with who knows what or traveled how far or cost I don't even want to know... it's so appealing to me.

But I've never actually succeeded.

Three years ago (four?) I had an area in my backyard created to be my garden, but other than keeping it relatively free of weeds and successfully growing chives gone wild, it hasn't amounted to much. Every year, I say I want to do it, but the time gets away from me.

This year is going to be different. This year, I'm finally home full time and not working, so I don't have the excuse of not being able to keep up with weeds or to water. I can clear the ground of weeds and prepare it before it's too late to grow anything.

Besides, you should see the seed collection I have in my garage from past good intentions.

So I gathered up my egg and strawberry and blueberry containers. I bought new potting soil. I went through the seeds with the wee ones who thing this is the coolest idea ever and wanted to help me decide what to grow. Together, we put the seeds into the soil, as directed on the packages. We covered them gently and watered.

Altogether, we have French beans, kohlrabi, carrots (oops, learned just now I'm supposed to only sow those in their final spot to keep the roots from being crooked), peas, green beans, spinach, basil, parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, and roma tomatoes.

I'm worse than a new mother. I'm determined that my little greenhouses will sprout the best little veggies and herbs (and fruit, ahem tomatoes, I'm not forgetting you!) possible. I'm monitoring the soil level at least once a day, and I have checked the dirt to see if anything is sprouting more times than I can count.

Plus, I want to make sure they get plenty of sun. So I'm ahhhh moving them around my house. In the morning, I open the blinds on the east side of my house and set them in the sun. I shift them over a bit as the sun moves. Then I move them to the south side of my house to get the late morning/early afternoon sun. By 1:30, they're on the west side of the house soaking up the rays there, being shifted every hour or so to ensure they remain centered in the peak of the sun.

I've even taken them for an outing on the deck the two beautiful, warm, sunny days we had. Just for a few hours though - I wouldn't want the wind to damage them at all....

I'm insane.

Worst part? I've yet to prepare the ground, although it's currently 42 degrees and snow is forecast for Saturday. I have some time yet. I've bought new topsoil in addition to the Miracle Grow potting soil to mix with my current soil. But I'll get there.

Oh and umm, I don't know what to do next. How do I transplant seedlings? Do I really have to kill some of them to thin them out, or can I move them to other containers to continue growing? How big do they have to be before I move them? How warm does it have to be? How big do the holes have to be when I move them? Do I have to keep watering them when they're outside and the rain helps? Do I fertilize them once they're outside? How do I make my little babies thrive and be the best yummy carrots and tomatoes they can possibly be when they grow up?

I wasn't like this when the wee ones were born. I swear. So ummm, anyone have any gardening tips? Or better yet, want to come over to help me?

$25GC to Moe's Southwest Grill up for grabs here
6 month membership to the Math Blasters website up for grabs here
Freschetta By the Slice giveaway here

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Mostly

Little Miss has a foot phone. But when she picks it up, all she gets is a dial toe!

$25GC to Moe's Southwest Grill up for grabs here
6 month membership to the Math Blasters website up for grabs here
Freschetta By the Slice giveaway here

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tasty Tuesday - Cherry Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

Every once in awhile, I totally rock this mom thing. It isn't often, and it isn't always repeatable, but every once in awhile... I do it. It generally involves food, I'll admit.

This time around, it was a half birthday - Mister Man's half birthday, to be specific. I realized yesterday that I'd yet to ask him what he wanted for his half birthday dinner and cupcakes. Fortunately, he went with his go to birthday dinner meal - pancakes and bacon (of all the things I make... go fig!) - but then he asked for cherry cupcakes.

Hmm. I haven't done those before, but it couldn't be too much harder than the strawberry cupcakes I'd made awhile ago, though this time I was determined to use no Jell-O to cheat. My only comments? Yum.

Oh, and yes, I did make this a dairy free recipe, though I've provided the recipe as it would be were you not subbing out a dairy free butter alternative and rice/soy milk for the milk. My most proud moment? I even made them look pretty, and I never succeed at that!

Cherry Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

1/2 c butter (or Crisco or Earth Balance, etc to make dairy free)
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/3 c milk (rice or soy or almond to make dairy free)
2 t vanilla
2 c frozen cherries (or fresh if they're in season)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar until it is lightened in color and texture. Don't skip this, as it adds so much lightness and yumminess to your baking. Add the eggs one at a time while the mixer is still going.

(A side note: As I was making this, I was mentally composing some of the post in my head. Things like "Yes, I do actually crack the eggs into the batter while the mixer is going. It's not like you drop shell into the batter or anything." And so of course I did. While the mixer was going. The good news is that I have fast reflexes and turned off the mixer quickly. And luckily, the egg shells were still in large pieces, but I had to dig carefully through the batter to find them. That'll teach me to be cocky!)

Beat the eggs for a minute or two on high, as you truly want the batter to be well combined at this point. Mine looks like this:

Add the salt and baking powder and mix well again. Add half the flour and gently stir together. Add the milk and vanilla and stir again until incorporated. Add the remainder of the flour and stir slowly and gently again. Note that it's ok to still see a little flour, as shown below.

Now, the cherries. I love the frozen pitted cherries. They taste great, adn they bake up really well, in addition to being wonderfully consistent. But they're awfully big for a cupcake, don't you think?

So just chop them up some. You don't have to get even pieces, but you just want it to be something easy to bite and chew in a cupcake.

Add the cherries to the batter, and use a spatula to gently fold in the fruit. You want to be gentle and not mix too much - if you do, you'll get air bubbles in your cupcakes and they'll be tough.

Fill your cupcake tins about 2/3 of the way full. I use a large cookie scoop and could have been more generous, but they were yummy anyway. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cook the cupcakes before frosting them.

Frosting requires no exact measurements. It's just butter (or the substitute), milk (or the substitute), vanilla, and powdered sugar. I start with a good sized dollop of butter (1/4-1/3 cup?) and mix it with powdered sugar until it starts to look dry. Then I add a splash of vanilla - maybe a teaspoon? - and mix again. I'll add a tablespoon or two of milk, and then some more powdered sugar until it gets to the consistency I want. Mix it well to get it nice and airy, and then frost your cupcakes.

Don't forget to blow out your candles!

Enjoy this and more with Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, hosted at The Well this week.

$25GC to Moe's Southwest Grill up for grabs here
6 month membership to the Math Blasters website up for grabs here
Freschetta By the Slice giveaway here

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