Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Girls Traveling Without Men

The girls and I took a quick trip to Colorado last week. It took us eleven hours driving each way, but we stopped a lot. When girls travel without men, they don't have to hold it. I think I should make a poster with that little message on it.

Only once did someone-who-shall-remain-anonymous have to pee in a cup, and that couldn't be helped. There was an emergency and we were in Nowhere, Wyoming.

When Peanut Head travels with us, there's an itinerary that must be followed to the letter. "We're going to be in Who Cares, Nevada, at oh-one hundred hours and we'll stop for rations there."  It's a military operation when he's with usI've found a way to get around his itinerary though. I just program a Starbuck's stop into the GPS as a via point, and then it's the lady that lives in the GPS telling him where to go, and he can't huff and puff at me.

Anyway, we went to Colorado to visit my dad and step-mom. It had been eight years since I had been home. Sadly, it was my step-mom's first time meeting Annika. I should be flogged for that, I know. Keeping the grandkids away like that.

Frankly, I don't know how eight years passed without me knowing about it. Time passes quickly anyway, then you have kids and every year comes at you BAM, BAM, BAM, and you walk around in a  stupor, wondering what happened to that baby that you just had yesterday.

All that guilty conscience aside, I've been working on the pictures from our trip, and I actually sat down and digi-scrapped to put together a book as a thank you gift. Actually, I'm using the term "digi-scrap" very loosely here, because I just dragged and dropped my pictures into pre-designed templates. Then I tweaked them a tinsy little bit. It's cheating, for sure, but it's efficient. You know I like efficient.

This is Grandma and Grandpa's uuuuuuuuugly dog. I'd like to tell you that she's sweet too, but Girlfriend is moody like she's perpetually on her period. Click on the layouts if you want to get a closer look, but please, brace yourself.

We had a lot of fun in Colorado, and I made a promise that I won't stay away so long next time.

What about you, are you going anywhere fun this summer?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Jesse James of Cake Decorating

You know this guy, right? Jesse James of West Coast Choppers. Soon to be ex-husband of Sandra Bullock.

Yeah. Well, I just have one word for you.

Cake. Well, he's not cake, but let me explain.

I probably didn't tell you that Janae roped me into another hobby, right? Cake decorating of all things. You know I needed another hobby, and its accompanying storage cases and never ending paraphernalia-that-I-must-have, like I needed a hole in my head.

Yeah. Oh well. Girl Genius and I took the Wilton Decorating Basics course at Michael's this month, and let me tell you, my buttocks did not need one more challenge. Sheesh.

It was fun though, and I learned a lot. It was one of those experiences where I was shown again and again things that I had been doing wrong  for years. 

For example, I learned that you cannot bake a cake without this stuff. It's Wilton's Cake Release, and it is magic. M-A-G-I-C. I know I throw that word around like butter, but I feel very strongly about this. Trust me here. I would not lead you astray.

Forget everything your Mama ever told you about greasing and flouring your cake pans, everything I ever told you about lining your cake pans with parchment paper, and everything your Daddy's brother's mama ever told you about getting cake out of the pan perfectly. This secret substance is all you need. And you can get it with a 40% off coupon. Whoo hoo!

Really. All you do is squinch some of this stuff into your cake pans and spread it around before adding your cake batter. Then when your cake comes out of the oven, you let it cool for 10 minutes, in the pan and on cooling racks, and you're not going to believe this, but your cake will come out perfectly. As in without any tapping, any running a butter knife around the edges, any special voodoo dances around the kitchen, or any prayers. No. Lie.

This was my first cake which I decorated in class. 

It was delicious.

This was my final project cake. We were supposed to put some writing on it to show that we had mastered the writing technique. Or maybe it was so we could show that we were literate? I don't know. All I know is that I didn't have a special occasion for this cake, I was just going to eat it, and maybe share it, so this endearing message seemed pretty straight forward to me.

Besides, it's like my motto in life, right?

This was Janae's final project cake. I know. She's an overachiever. Everything she does is perfect. Everything. I thought I was anal, then I met her and it was true love. Well, true love as it can only be between BFFs.

Nothing creepy here, Fred. That's Janae's husband. He thinks I'm CUH-razy. And he's right, but whatever.

It was a fun, fun class, and we got to get out and meet new, interesting people. People more interesting than ourselves. On account of we don't get out enough.

Like this person. He is just one of those interesting people we met. He's very colorful, isn't he? 

It just goes to show you that looks can be deceiving. Like you might expect to see this guy on a Harley, wearing leathers and draped with chains, right? The only leap your mind is going to have to make here, is to picture the Wilton Deluxe Cake Decorating kit strapped to his sissy bar.

His name is James. Well, was James. I've renamed him.
He's sort of scary in his cake decorating abilities. He has skillz that he brought with him to class. This is the basics class dang it, and he was decorating circles around us.
For starters his frosting is always the perfect consistency for the purpose for which he intends to use it. It's disgusting. Well, in an I'm-Jealous-of-Him kind of way.
Plus, he's nice and helpful. He lent his perfect consistency buttercream frosting to Janae and I when we were struggling to keep our bags loaded to move on to the next technique.

After he handed over his perfect consistency frosting, I said "You're like the Jesse James of Cake Decorating." 

He gave me a little raised eyebrow.
Then I was having trouble getting my not so perfect consistency frosting to extrude from my bag. If your frosting is too stiff you can add a little water to it.
Or you can ask someone with hot hands to hold it for you. Yep.
"Jesse Cupcake, will you please hold my bag for me?"
And that was it. The name stuck.

Jesse Cupcake is really good at flowers.

After I gave him his new name, my little gift to him, I asked him if he would please wear a tank top to the next class so I could get a proper picture of all his tats.

You know how I like a good juxtaposition.

And I was up front when I told him that a few people that read my blog might see his picture.

He was cool with that.

I think. Well, he wore the tank top, didn't he?

And he didn't swat me away when I was hovering with my camera.

See look. Jesse Cupcake has a sense of humor.

He was a little shy about posing with his cake though.

And he got a little sunburned when we bestowed him with his new shirt.

I just hope he doesn't hold any hard feelings and he still invites me to the opening of his new shoppe, West Coast Cupcakes. What do you say Jesse Cupcake, are we good?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Feta Burgers

Finally, grilling season is here. I only make these Feta Burgers in the summer when they can be grilled on a proper grill. I'm not 100% convinced that summer has arrived in Idaho, but the grass is green so that's good enough for me to pull out the grill.

Well, Peanut Head can do it. He loves to cook for me.

I think.

He loves to eat. I can say that with confidence.

I originally got this recipe out of the July 2007 issue of Bon Appetit. Bon Appetit tends to have a lot of hoity toity recipes with obscure ingredients, but occasionally I find a really good one that ends up being a keeper. In fact, some of my best recipes came from Bon Appetit.

Now the Gunny Monster has a special spot in his heart for Feta Burgers, since we made him a burger of his very own. 

Here's the recipe card if you want to give them a try. Happy grilling!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some Kind of Crazy

There's a whole lot of crazy that comes from living with Gunny Man. As if we didn't already have enough of that around here. Gunny Man is . . . ahem, special. 

He has lots of quirks.

When we first brought him home, we put him to bed at night in his crate, in our room next to our bed. We put him in the crate to ensure there were no potty accidents, and that we didn't wake up on the floor because he had eaten our bed. He loves him some wood, that's for sure.

Well, we took his crate away a couple months ago and gave him a little rug. He liked that just fine until recently. He has taken to army crawling his way under our bed to sleep. There isn't a lot of space under there, hence the army crawl. He thinks it's quite cozy, and I'll let him stay as long as he promises not to eat the extra leaf to our kitchen table that's under there. It's wood, so you'll understand if I'm a little nervous.

Since Gunny likes to chew so much, we buy him dog toys constantly. Every time we go to the store, we come home with a new toy for him. He's so spoiled.

I think it has helped some with his chewing, although Peanut Head would probably disagree with me. Gunny has completely ripped out Peanut Head's drip system, yanked out all the weed cloth in the planting beds, eaten the sandbox cover, eaten the wood rails off the wagon, and ripped out and eaten all of the dog deterrent fencing that Peanut Head installed around his raised gardening beds.  I'm sure he's so glad he bothered with that fencing.

Anyway, my point was going to be that Gunny's chewing also extends to his toys. I brought home this CEE-UTE little Hedge Hog the other day, and within 20 minutes Gunny had ripped off his face.


I'm thinking it takes some talent to extricate the face so perfectly.

Peanut Head gave Gunny Man a stern lecture about taking proper care of his toys.

And Gunny listened intently for about 20 seconds. Then he jumped onto Peanut Head's lap and gave him a kiss with lots of tongue. I would have taken a picture of that, except he launched off me and knocked me over.

I was still getting up.

We discovered recently that Gunny is quite alarmed by the sprinkler. He barks at it incessantly, chases the spray, and bites the sprinkler head over and over and over again. Our neighbors love us.

Who needs a Neti Pot when you can give yourself a nasal enema in the comfort of your very own backyard?

It takes care of ear wax build up too.

And toothbrushing.

I found some similar pictures of Stinkerbell as a baby. She was pretty curious about the sprinkler for awhile too.

Thankfully she never barked at it.

She did learn about cause and effect though--something I'm not sure Gunny will ever get. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

As Seen On T.V.

Have you ever seen this thing? It's the Tooth n' Brush Hands Free Toothpaste Dispenser. The first time I saw it, I was standing in the check out line at Wal Mart and I said to myself, Oh Get Out! Who needs a contraption to put toothpaste on their toothbrush for them? LAME-O.

Then I grabbed it and stuck it on the belt deep underneath the rest of my purchases. Yep. On account of I was embarrassed for myself. Of myself. Ashamed.

The entire time I was waiting to be rung up, and I'm not kidding you, I was mentally flogging myself for my stupidity. You are NOT going to buy that thing. It's $20 and WHY?!!!! Look at you. Up here in this line, people starving all over the world, and you're going to throw down $20 for an As-Seen-On-T.V. hoojit. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Then a little Virtual WWF match started in my brain. My conscience against the Devil.

Put it back.


Put it back.


Put. It. BACK.

N. O. 

And guess what? The Devil won.

But here's the rest of the story. The why that allows me to rationalize my purchase.

My kids pushed me over the edge. Yes, I did not have far to go, but I up and went. You see, it's their toothpaste. The toothpaste that they cannot, for the love of Peter Pan, keep in the bathroom, where it belongs. Why must it always leave the bathroom? Why? Why? Why?!!!

The toothpaste leaves the bathroom, and then the next kid cannot brush their teeth because they cannot find the toothpaste. They walk all over the house looking for it, staring up at the ceiling kind of looking. Unproductive looking and, surprise, no toothpaste finding is happening.

Then when the angry parent finds the toothpaste because the parent knows how to scan a room actively, as in aware and involved looking, the kid cannot seem to extract any toothpaste from the tube. It gets past the half gone point, and then suddenly they can't seem to squeeze their delicate flower hands hard enough to get the ding dang toothpaste on the toothbrush.

Really! This is not rocket science here, kidlets. It's dental hygiene. Get some.

And I'm not even going to go into the mess that follows the toothpaste extraction, I'm just going to tell you that this purchase from the Devil actually turned out to be quite Heaven sent. No lie.

We have not lost the toothpaste once since this device was so tackily installed in our bathroom . . . um, suction cupped right to the mirror. I'm pretty sure you won't see that in Martha Stewart Living. The toothpaste is always right there. On the mirror. No child needs to waste their precious energy on unproductive looking anymore.

Not only that, but there is no toothpaste on the counters, smeared on the cupboards, the toilet, the walls, etc. It's still in the sink though, can't seem to fix that one.

And the best part of it? We get every last molecule of toothpaste out of every tube of toothpaste. Peanut Head explained it to me. Something about gravity and the tight seal creating a natural vacuum, blah, blah, blah. Who cares, Peanut Head?!

It's magic. That's all I need to know.

And no, I am not being paid to blow sunshine about the toothpaste dispenser. They don't even know I exist.

Now it's confession time, are you going to run out and get yourself one of these white trash hoojits for your kids? Spill.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cheese Bread

Peanut Head makes this A-MAZING Cheese Bread that I looooooove. Sometimes I beg him to make it for me. The Barefoot Contessa taught him how to make it, and I remember the first time I had it at her house. It was the day I knew I was going to make her my Mother-in-Law, it's that good.

Then she told me the secret ingredient was mayonnaise, and I had to rethink that whole marrying her son to get to her table thing. In the end, I decided to just pretend the mayonnaise wasn't there so I could enjoy myself properly. You really can't even taste it. Trust me. I'd be gagging on it if I could taste it. I loathe mayonnaise.

The recipe is super simple, and you can make it with any kind of cheese you want. Often we just make it out of whatever we can scrounge out of the fridge. Like if we had tacos the night before and we still have shredded cheese, we'll use that and just supplement with whatever else we can find. Then we'll dig around in the freezer for french bread that's been buried. Of course it's better if the bread is fresh. It just depends on how desperate you are.

If you're suspicious, halve the recipe and just give it a try. I promise, you'll love it. Unless you don't like bread, then I'm going to have to tell you the same thing I tell people that don't like chocolate . . . you're a freak.

Come one. Give it a try, won't you?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jammin' . . . and a new Recipe Card Divider

Hey Peeps . . . I'm officially on summer vacay. Whoo ha! I mean, WHOO HA!!!!!!

Yes, I am quite excited about it. The first few months back in the classroom kicked my butt, I think I told you, but I did get into the groove and I had a great year. I absolutely adored my class, and I don't think I would have made it without such a great bunch of kids.

The last day of school is always such a surprise. It's like you come out of this fog and you realize, "Jiminy Cricket, I made it! I'm at the light. The one at the end of that looooooooong tunnel." Whoo. HA!

It's the best.

I'm so tired.

Anyway, to celebrate I decided I was going to learn how to make jam. I know. Everyone wants to celebrate by making jam. Let me just remind you that you don't come here for original, you come here for crazy.

The Renaissance Woman was going to teach me how to make jam last summer, but then she got into a tragic fight with an Adirondack chair and she was out of commission until Christmas. I'd like to tell you about that riveting WWF match, but she forbade me to talk about it. I don't think casually mentioning it on the internet really counts.

I should shut up now.

Anyway, since I'm very new to this whole food preservation business, I turned to that scary book to get the 411 on jam.

I'm going to tell you a little about my experiment in just a sec, but first I want to calm you with some pretty pictures. You know, before I bring on the gore.

Aren't these berries pretty? They made me want to make jam.

And isn't this little jar so pretty?

And this little jar . . . isn't it just the cutest?


Is just a small glimpse of what it did to my kitchen. I made blackberry-raspberry jam, blueberry jam, and strawberry jam, and this was the result every ding dang time.

And I was the bonehead who cleaned up between batches. Doy.

Sorry, I just can't stand it when my feet are sticking to the floor. It was EVERY. WHERE. I had jam splatters ten feet away from the scene.

That's not even the bad part though. The jam I made was without added pectin, so to get it to the gel stage I had to heat it to 220 degrees fahrenheit. At about 210 degrees it started spitting at me like it was a little Vesuvius or something. It splattered everywhere.

I have napalm-like burns all over my hands and arms from stirring the jam. I was trying everything I could think of to protect myself. What I really needed were some potholder mitts that went up to my elbows.

Sadly we don't have any of those left in the house because of our glory days playing Potholder Monster with Hank.

I dug up this little picture for you. That's me on the left, wearing the highwaters, and Hank is on the right. He was the best cat. Whenever we were in the mood for some rasslin' we'd fetch the potholder mitts and stalk him with them. We turned him into an animal, as you can see by his flattened ears. . . so nicely juxtaposed against his happy face ID tag. I picked it out special, just for him. He was one scary kitty cat.

Yeah. So. No potholder mitts in this house anymore. They retired with Hank.

Since I couldn't protect myself with potholder mitts, I was wrapping my hands and arms with wet dishtowels and pretending like I had to fight my way through a burning building to save my babies.

Didn't work.

Then, doy, I started using my noodle. Right before my last batch I went and put on a long-sleeved shirt. How brilliant is that? Wait, it gets better. Then I rifled through my winter accessories and found a pair of wooly gloves. Perfect!

And you know what, it worked. Except in one tinsy, tiny little spot where one wooly glove fused to my skin.

Did you know that the largest organ in the human body is skin? I know. Creepy little bit of trivia, but my point is that I have lots of skin, and in the whole scheme of things, one tinsy little square centimeter is no big deal.

More calming berries.

And pretty jam. Pretty, pretty jam.

You know, I really don't even like jam. What am I going to do with all this stuff?

I couldn't decide whether or not to make a recipe card for these recipes. I thought I shouldn't because the only ingredients are the fruit and sugar. Not really worth a recipe card, right? But then I decided I needed to put something in my new "Canning" section of my recipe box, so I just went ahead and did it.

And here's that new divider for the new section.

And just in case you didn't like my Slow Cooking recipe divider, like maybe you'd prefer a Crock Pot divider instead, here's that.

And the new divider tabs.

And every single time I start a sentence with the word and, I see and hear my third grade teacher, waggling her finger at me and scolding, "Never start a sentence with and."

And I do it anyway because I'm so naughty.