"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. but do it in private
and wash your hands afterwards." --Robert Heinlein.

We've moved!

For the next two years (Summer 2014-Summer 2016) I'll be blogging our family's adventures in China at www.chinesemileposts.wordpress.com

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Club Schedule for a Year

My book club suggested books last night and we voted, here's what our next year looks like:
March: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
April: Entwined by Heather Dixon
May: Sold by Patricia McCormack
June: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein  (some bad language: see here)
July: Plain and Simple by Sue Bender
August: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
September: The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card
October: The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
November: My Seinfeld Year by Fred Stoller
      (This is a Kindle Single.  It's a short a quick read and it's only $1.99. If you have a Kindle, simple enough. 
      If not, Kindle software can be downloaded to computers and iPhones, etc.)
December: Gift from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh
January: Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale
February: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Other books mentioned/suggested for your leisure reading:
  Undaunted by Gerald Lund
  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
  Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
  The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett
  Seeking Persephone, Courting Ms. Lancaster, The Kiss of the Stranger -  a series by Sarah M. Eden
  The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
  Fire in the Bones by S. Michael Wilcox
  Follow the River by James Alexander Thom
  From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury
  The Planets by Dava Sobel
  The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll
  Enchantement by Orson Scott Card

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Facebook Status Updates

I have a billion random thoughts to share on Facebook today, but I try to limit how often I'm bombarding people on Facebook with my random thoughts. You poor souls who actually come to my blog, or subscribe to it in some sort of Google Reader feed, you're stuck with me.  Sorry. 
  • Buddy questioned me about when Mother's Day falls in relation to his birthday (after it).  Apparently it's because he needs something from Mother's Day so that they can do something on his birthday. It's a surprise, so he won't more fully explain it to me.  It did include the sentence, "Ah!  I don't want to have to buy you something just because." Thanks, son.
  • I need some Lego/computer nerd to invent a program where you can punch in which Lego sets you already own, and it comes up with a list of links to directions for other cool Lego things you can build.  I'm fine with Buddy loving Legos.  And he's super creative his own.  But I hate watching him save up $20 for a Lego set that he builds an 30 minutes and then refuses to take apart again.  I wish there were directions using all the random blocks we already have littering the floor of his room.
  • Every frosting I've made lately, Buddy has declared that it tastes like mint.  I'm not tasting it.  But I did realize last week that my mint extract tipped over in my baking drawer, and I think the smell of mint got on my powdered sugar bag.  But really, I still don't think any of the frostings have been minty.  Maybe he's got super power taste buds.
  • Improvised a taco salad for lunch with leftovers but didn't have any salad dressing that went with taco stuff, so used enchilada sauce and salsa. Now my mouth is on fire and my nose is sweating. I'm such a wimp.
  • Does anyone buy cheap ink refills online? Site recommendations?
  • Book Club. My house. Thursday at 7PM. Come with two book recommendations for the upcoming months and we'll discuss and decide. Plus, I'll be trying out a recipe for Lemon Crinkle Cookies. Join us!

  • Got in invite to a Sprinkle Shower.  Had to look up online what that meant.  Cute idea.  A smaller baby shower for a not-first-time-mom.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mardi Gras

I had big Mardi Gras celebration plans for this year.  Well... not really, but I keep coming across Louisiana/New Orleans foods that I want to try, so I figured we'd do it in March around Mardi Gras.  Mardi Gras itself is sort of a joke to me.  At least the modern, Spring Break in Cancun-like partying that I see going on nowadays.  Go wild and party before you give up stuff for Lent, it kind of does away with the "giving up" something for Lent when you've just been partying hard.  Oh well.  My biggest problem is that I thought Mardi Gras was in March and it turns out it's tomorrow. I'm unprepared.  Not that I was going to throw beaded necklaces at passerbys, but like all holidays, I had food plans.
We were going to have red beans and rice.  And beignets.  And I was going to at least show my kids a picture of a King Cake.  I'm not really a fan eating cake, so I wasn't going to make it.  I liked the fried dough sound of beignets better.  We can probably pull off beignets with little ahead planning, but we've also been eating Girl Scout cookies all week.  That might not be the best plan.  Maybe we have been living a Mardi Gras, eat all the sweets we can, kind of lifestyle this week!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bored Jars

I just typed up a list of things for a bored jar for the kids.  Now, when they come to me bored, I can direct them to the bored jar.  I looked around online and on Pinterest (mainly on Pinterest, it's made me lazy) for ideas to put in the jar.  What's with all the moms who included stuff like "bake a cake for a friend" and other, highly involved mom activities.  My bored jar is stuff to direct the kids away from me.  I'm not the one who is bored.  I don't need to drop everything I'm doing to help bake a cake because my kids are bored.  I suppose maybe those moms have older kids.  I could *probably* set Princess Sparkley loose with some sort of mix and not have it turn out horribly.  Except she won't break an egg.  And she can't put things in and out of the oven.  So... still, mom-involved.
Some of the activities in the jar are fun.  Some are not fun.  After I typed up "clean a toilet," PS, who had been reading over my shoulder ran off and had a frantic, whispered conversation with Buddy on the stairs.  Maybe they'll never tell me they are bored again for fear they'll get stuck cleaning a toilet.  And for that, the bored jar will have been worth it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Greatest Sugar Cookie: Cookie 13

I suppose this sugar cookie isn't really in the running since it's a chocolate cut-out cookie.  But I feel like I should at least mention it.

Last time I made the Darth Vader cookies, I just dyed the dough black.  Eating a black cookie is a little gross (except to Little Guy).  This time I made a chocolate cookie following this recipe.

I didn't love them unfrosted.  They were a little too... unsweetened chocolate tasting to me.  I spread some vanilla frosting from a tub on one of the cookies and that was a huge improvement for me, sweetened it up.  Sort of like frosting on a chocolate flavored graham cracker.

Plus, I really hate baking cookies that you can't tell if they are done by their color.  These cookies baked for their alloted time, came out of the oven and went back to looking unbaked, so I stuck them back in for a few more minutes, probably over baking them. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Greatest Sugar Cookie: Cookie 12

I think what started my obsession with sugar cookies was a trip to Utah when I was a kid, and a gas station that sold these individually wrapped, enormous Granny B pink sugar cookies.  I was old enough that I was a bit disturbed to read the nutritional label and discover that each cookie had a ridiculously high level of grams of fat.  I still devoured them.  Yum!  Since then, the Lofthouse or Lofthouse-style cookie than can be found at any store, decorated for any holiday, has been my substitute for Granny B's.  But after making all these sugar cookies in my search for the greatest one, I'm not really sure the thick, crumbly cookies like this are my favorite or not.  They're good, don't get me wrong.  But maybe not my preferred sugar cookie.

That being said, I found a recipe on Pinterest for Loft-house style cookies so I made a batch for our homeschool Valentine's Day party. (And, while looking up Granny B, I've found some copycat recipes as well.  My search is never ending!)

They were okay.  Not fabulous.  Not bad.  Jed described them of having a dense, cake-like consistency.  The kids enjoyed them, but I don't think they'd turn down a frosted sugar cookie no matter what.  The homeschool party loved them (two moms requested the recipe).  They are definitely thicker and fluffier than any of the other cookies I've tried.  And they definitely tasted better on day two at the party, all frosted up, than they did right after I made them.  If you like thick, fluffier sugar cookies, this might be your recipe.  I'm starting to think that everyone is going to love a different cookie, so this search might only benefit me.

Here's Little Guy at the party with his cookie all frosted up.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Greatest Sugar Cookie: Cookie 11

I know, I know. You probably thought I'd given up on this search.  But I keep finding different recipes and I figure I might as well try them.  I made these for Little Guy's Doggy party as a dog bone, never got around to frosting them and only took a pathetic picture of one cookie.  BUT... I planned ahead and knew I had to take a treat to church the next day, so I only made one sheet of dog bone shaped cookies and the rest I made cute and little, frosted up and sprinkled for the women at church.

These were delicious.  I sort of feel like part of their deliciousness was that we ate them the next day, so they had time to moisten up, or something.  If that makes sense.  And, I just used a tub of frosting from the store so no crazy frosting fiasco (frosting is not my specialty). Jed and the kids agreed that these were DE-licious!

The recipe is actually from a friend from our Kansas ward, Mandy, and her blog is private.  Hopefully she doesn't mind if I share the recipe here:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
2 1/2 - 3 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Mix well. Add baking powder and salt. Gradually add flour. The dough should be a little sticky. Flour a surface and roll out dough to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, adding flour as needed so it doesn't stick to the surface or your rolling pin. Cut into desired shapes. Bake 350 for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not over bake. Frost as desired.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Our 2012 Valentines

Little Guy's Valentine is the Darth Vader cookie. We used this chocolate roll-out cookie recipe (review coming soon) and Buddy's Star Wars cookie cutters.  I stole the phrase "Come to the dark side, we have cookies" from a vinyl lettered sign a friend of my sister-in-law gave to her.  I've been trying to come up with an excuse for my own such sign, but we (kids aside) aren't really that into Star Wars.  Then again, neither is my sister-in-law.  I forgot to make the kids each write their names (except for Buddy), so I had Little Guy draw on a red light saber.

Buddy loved this Swedish Fish Valentine idea, but since we homeschool, and our Valentine's Day party is with other homeschoolers, the "same school" phrase was a stretch.  My Facebook friends came through for me though with a handful of suggestions:
        Of all the fish in the sea, you're the one for me.
        Hope your Valentine's day goes swimmingly.
        You've o-fish-olly stole me heart.
        No need to fish for compliments this Valentine's Day, you ROCK!
        I'm sweed-en you!
        What a catch!
        You're Fintastic!
        You've got me Hooked!
        Best Fishes for a great Valentine's Day!
        A Swede treat for you!
        I got you a fish for Valentine's Day. And it doesn't even stink!
        Fishing for compliments? Here is one - you do swimmingly.
        Row on over to sea me some time.
        This isn't your typical fishy valentine.
        Halibut you be mine valentine? Jed came up with a Napoleon Dynamite reference "I caught you a delicious bass" and wanted to include a little drawing of Napoleon. Buddy adamantly refused.
Princess Sparkley's Valentine was supposed to look more like this, but she wanted the phrase "I've got my eye on you!" and our party grew to 40+ kids so she didn't want to write that out 40+ times.  We typed it, then we got lazy about gluing the white paper onto nice, colorful cardstock.  She fancied them up by drawing monsters or animals on some of the eyeballs and added a lollipop on back.

Valentine's Meals

A friend recently mentioned in passing that they have a red dinner for Valentine's Day.  I usually make us a Valentine dessert, but nothing meal wise other than maybe heart shaped cinnamon rolls for breakfast (which I only did once, but I'm sure PS considers a tradition). 

Last year's treat was the heart box of cupcakes that looked like chocolate candies from here.

This year, I'm going to make these, but with this homemade Oreo recipe and pink tinted frosting.

But I'm still stumped on a meal.  When I Googled "Valentine's Day recipes" the suggestions are all romantic meals for two that involved lobster, clam or oyster.  Gross.  (I'm not a big seafood eater.)  So I'm still stuck.  I could do red foods, or heart-shaped pancakes, or heart shaped pepperoni on pizza.  I don't know though.  Any suggestions?
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