Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Whatcha' Cookin' Wednesday - Chocolate-Chunk Oatmeal cookies with Pecans and Dried Cherries

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving... And despite all the turkey and stuffing (or here in the South, dressing) and cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole and corn casserole and on and on and on... We all need a really good COOKIE.

So here ya go. You can thank me in gold bullion.

Chocolate-Chunk Oatmeal cookies with Pecans and Dried Cherries
(Makes sixteen 4-inch cookies)

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
1 ¼ rolled oats (old-fashioned)
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 cup of dried cherries, coarsely chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks about the size of chocolate chips (about ¾ cup.)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar, preferably dark
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. In second medium bowl, stir together oats, pecans, cherries and chocolate.

In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter and sugar at medium sped until no sugar lumps remain, about one minute. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated. About 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl; with mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture; mix until just combined, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on low, gradually add oat/nut mixture; mix until evenly incorporated. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Divide dough evenly into 16 portions, each about ¼ cup, then roll between palms into balls about 2 inches in diameter; stagger 8 balls on a baking sheet, spacing then about 2 ½ inches apart. Using hands, gently press each dough ball to 1 inch thickness. Bake about 8 minutes, rotate sheet, bake another 8 minutes until the edges have begun to set but centers are still soft – cookies will seem underdone and will appear wet, raw and shiny in cracks. DO NOT OVERBAKE.

Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hair Raising

When I was about 7, I got a HAIRCUT. The long, blonde hair I'd had for all those years:

...came off in one fell snip.

I think the new style was meant to be some sort of modified Dorothy Hamill cut only it didn’t turn out so cute.

But apparently was really good for dance class.


I don't remember much about getting the haircut but chances are I was told to sit in the chair, get my haircut and keep my mouth shut.

End of story.

Now there are special salons just for kids.

Holy. Mackerel.

The last time the kiddos needed a trim we just popped into Fantastic Sam’s on a whim and that was that. But this time I thought it might be fun to try the neighborhood “kid salon.” Why not?

This place was a scream.


It was LOUD and colorful and crazy-looking and full of sparkly stuff to buy and FULL of flat-screen TVs that were blaring some sort of hair salon-branded cartoon show. Yup, the place had it's very own CARTOON SHOW.

The kids froze.

I instantly had a headache.

When they got in their chairs they were handed bubbles and a computer mouse so they could "control the action" on the aforementioned flat-screen TVs.


"Control the action?"

When did haircuts become entertainment?

And why do we need to hypnotize kids just to their hair cut? (Old lady question: Did we need such distractions when we were kids?)

I guess the important thing is that we got the deed done:

And they had a good experience, I think, although they had that "deer in the headlights" look almost the entire time.

What about the next cut? Not sure. I'm doing my best to raise kids that enjoy the experience for what it is... Does something as benign as a haircut need to be masked in such drama and sensory-overload? Maybe. Maybe that's what a haircut experience looks like these days and I should lighten up and enjoy the ride. Maybe I'm raising myself as much as I'm raising S & J.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Whatcha' Cookin' Wednesday - Pumpkin Bread

In honor of Thanksgiving, and in honor of keeping things SIMPLE at Thanksgiving (don't we get a little wacky with the food, people?), posted below is the yummiest, easiest and healthiest Pumpkin Bread recipe around. Most pumpkin breads are no more than glorified cakes with cup and cups of sugar to each loaf. Not this one. Only ONE cup of honey for two loaves.


The kiddos LOVE it. And we do too. And it freezes well. (And did I mention it's really, really good?)

Enjoy. :)

Pumpkin Bread
(yields two loaves)

1 cup honey
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
16 oz. of fresh, roasted pumpkin (or one can of solid-pack pumpkin) [ed. note: Roast fresh pumpkin by halving and removing seeds then place flesh-side down on cookie sheet lined with foil coated with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for one hour or until soft and mushy.)
4 eggs
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In Cusinart or blender mix honey, eggs and butter. Add pumpkin. Blend well. Transfer mixture to big bowl. In seperate bowl sift together dry ingredients. Stir into pumpkin mixture. Divide batter equally between two well-greased loaf pans. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let loaves cool in pans for 10 minutes; invert pans to remove loaves and allow to finish cooling on racks.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The End of the Poop Initiative - Cheerio!

For those of you that want an update on The Poop Initiative:

I've estimated that over the next year we'll save about $438. in diapers.


I would HIGHLY recommend the "No Pants Day!" strategy and go cold, um, turkey for a few days until, um, success is had.

The kiddos wear diapers at night and naps and have the occasional slip during the day but I think we can safely call The Poop Initative a done deal.

Now to get Sam to aim for the Cheerio....

A mother's work is never done...

(I can't WAIT for them to read this blog someday... WAY more embarassing than naked baby pics in the bathtub. Maybe I can arrange for this to be played during their respective wedding receptions...)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Twice as Aware

As a child, death was an unreal concept to me. I was absolutely, positively convinced that someone would discover a way for people to live forever. Maybe it was a pill. Or a machine. I just knew that I would live forever.

I can tell you the exact moment I realized I would die.

I was a freshman in high school and was sleeping over at Alison's. We were watching some funny TV show, stretched out on those comfy, expensive-feeling couches in her den and it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. I have no idea what spurred the thought. A cold chill ran through my body and I absolutely froze. I literally felt ice-cold. I remember thinking that one day I would not be on this earth. And I was absolutely terrified.

And then I quickly pushed the thought out of my head.

In the years that followed I didn't really think about death much, in fact, I’m not sure I thought about it again until I turned 21 and was quite surprised that I was still alive. I rarely said no to a dare. I took lots of chances. I didn’t follow instructions. I didn’t listen. I had FUN. All the time. I made bad decisons to see what would happen. (Usually nothing too bad.) I experienced all I could. I drank it all in, I lived life fully. (Some people might tell you TOO fully.) I never did anything illegal (not entirely true, let's just say nothing FELONIOUS) but I didn't always put safety concerns at the top of the list. I had no fear.


Everything changed after the twins were born.

I was suddenly aware of death again.
Twice as aware.

This morning, at daybreak, a fried of mine died. For 16 years she fought a brilliant and brave battle with cancer. She was at home, surrounded by her husband of 43 years and her loving children and their spouses.

Death seems to be very much around me these days. We lost someone we knew in that horrible train wreck in L.A. in September. A neighbor's cancer has returned.

Having children paired with recent death experiences has made me more aware than ever

And I think it’s good that I have this awareness back.

Despite the extreme exhaustion and lack of brain power these days, I try my best to live my life fully and yearn to experience everything. My “life” motivation is different than before. It’s not because I know I will die one day. It’s because I want show our children this incredible world before I die; I want to share all that I have… I want to make a difference, if only in their lives, but hopefully beyond that too.

I am aware.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Whatcha' Cookin' - Coke Butt

Seriously. Coke Butt. As promised last week, it's Wednesday so we're cookin'. (And, no, this recipe is not meant to go with the past few days' theme of potty training. I swear.)

So, back to Coke Butt. Not a very appetizing name, I know… Perhaps "Boston Butt ala Cola" is better? Or "Butt Surprise"? "Butt Bonanza"! O.k. whatever… Call it what you like, just call it GOOD.

I made this last week and it almost changed my religion. It was amazing.


4-4.5 lb. Boston Butt roast
1 – 12 oz. can or bottle of Coca-Cola
½ cup of soy sauce
1 Tblsp. oil
1 medium onion, peeled and halved, then thinly sliced

Trim excess fat then salt and pepper meat and sear/brown all sides in hot oil in a cast iron pan or Dutch oven, about 3 minutes each side.

Take meat out and put in 6-quart crock pot.

Sautee onion in pan with meat drippings until clear. Add coke and soy sauce and scrape all the brown bits on bottom pan.

Pour coke/soy sauce/onion mixture on top of meat, put lid on crock pot and set to low for 10-11 hours, turning twice.

Take meat out and pour liquid in Pyrex cup to cool so you can separate fat. After skimming fat strain the mixture and use as “au jus.”

This makes great BBQ (just flake apart and add fave is Montgomery Inn, you can sometimes find it at Wal-Mart of all places) and is also good in soft tacos.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bring it, Day #4

Reporting from Day #4 of The Poop Intiative....




Wonderful successes so far and now can see the light at the end of the, um, tunnel.

More inspiration:

(Thanks to Guy Kawasaki...)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Selling Our Souls for Health

(We now take a break from potty training to bring you a message about germs and Hell... Oh, don't worry, poop talk will continue soon. MUWAHAHAHAHA...)

We didn't go to church yesterday. In fact, I don't remember when we last attended.

I think it was when S & J caught an awful cold from some snot-nosed kid in the church-provided daycare so we decided to take a "church break" until cold season was over.

O.k., that's telling... So, clearly (since FALL is cold season) we maybe haven't been in a year.

I suddenly feel even worse.

We had a good run there for a awhile but the church we attend really doesn't enforce the "no sick kids" rule and time after time we brought home some Super-Horrific-Sticky-Green-Mucus-Pukeazoid-Bug that felled the kids, and sometimes us. And to say that it's tough to deal with sick twin toddlers when you are also sick is a massive understatement.

Like saying that breastfeeding twins is a gigantic freak show.


And now I'm feeling so guilty.

And now I feel like maybe I have to make a choice: Eternal damnation or healthy kids?

S & J aren't in regular daycare and very rarely have a playdate with more than 3 or 4 kids at a time. As a result they aren't little petri-dishes of Cholera but also maybe don't have the same resistance to all the Kid Krud that most daycare kids do.

I've talked to other "no daycare" moms and they don't take their kiddos to church daycare during cold and flu season.

So at least I'll have people I can share recipes with in Hell.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Holiday Fun

Holidays can be either fun, fun, fun or totally unbearable.

Same goes for potty training.

Um, NO. Maybe the latter but definitely not the former.

They were all over it back in MAY but since then they won't even discuss it. They enjoy the books. They enjoy the fun underpants. But peeing in the potty? FORGET IT.


Since Easter was fun, July 4th was a hoot and Halloween went really well I decided to try the "holiday" strategy (everything's MORE fun on a holiday!!!) with potty training to see how it goes.


Today is "No Pants Day!"

YAY. (No, really. YAY.)

We refuse to bribe with candy or food but have promised copious amounts of monkey, elephant and excavator stickers.

A picture of after a successful, um, deposit:

J in all her sticker-fied glory. (Tally included a monkey, two elephants and one giant excavator.)

It seems that S has other uses for the potty:

At least he's creating SOMETHING.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Whatcha Cookin' Wednesday" Debuts

I am a food LOVER.

I'm often asked to share my recipes and such so I'm dedicating my blog a day each week to food (my favorite thing next to my kiddos and Danger Dad and maybe warm, sandy beaches) and share some of the stuff that goes on in my very busy kitchen.

I plan to call it "Whatcha Cookin' Wednesday."

(If you have a better name PLEASE let me know. The current title beat out "Sustinence Saturday", "Tuesday's Table" and "Friday's Fare." Yeah. My brain is on vacation.)

I think featuring this sort of thing in the middle of the week makes sense since that will give you time to get all the ingredients and such and perhaps make this a weekend meal.

Moving forward... Today I need comfort. LOTS of comfort.

And comfort = Crock Pot. As soon as the leaves turn I find that I use the Crock Pot about once a week, maybe more.

Here's one of my fave recipes. It's so easy it's crazy. (Crazy GOOD.)

Chicken a la Herbert

2 cans of cream of mushroom soup (I use Wolfgang Puck organic.)

4 medium-sized chicken breast (frozen or thawed - I usually use frozen)

1 jar of roasted red bell peppers (julienned, I get mine from Trader Joe's)

one medium onion (chopped)

2 cloves of fresh garlic (chopped)

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until clear then add to crock pot. Add soup and peppers and give a light stir. Layer chicken breasts in the soup mixture, spoon some on top.

Cook on low for about 8 hours. Enjoy over rice or noodles.


And for more inspiration check out these awesome food blogs:
Bread and Honey & Crockpot 365

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bunnies and Firemen

(In light of today's election I need to think happy thoughts and there's not much that's happier than kiddos dressing up for Halloween. Right? Right. So here's a post-Halloween post to keep things light and HAPPY. Gosh darn it.)

I think that all parents must think this at one time or another,

"Did we really make such cuteness?!?"

Holy mackerel. I just can't stand it. The cute factor is WAY off the charts.

Up until about a week before Halloween Sam was asking to be either an excavator or an elephant. (Just for the record, I'm always up for a challenge and am pretty crafty but for the life of me I could not figure out how to make an excavator costume.) Janie also wanted to be an elephant for a short period of time but then insisted on being a Pink Bunny. Not just a bunny. Or a rabbit. But a PINK BUNNY. But she wouldn't wear ears. And, up until Halloween night, wouldn't wear a nose or whiskers. So basically her costume was "Cute Little Girl in Pink Leggings with Matching Pink turtleneck."

With a pom-pom on her butt.

Sam's "Fireman Sam" costume consisted of about a roll and a half of yellow duct tape and a navy-blue oxford shirt that was about 2 sizes too big. Voila! Fireman's coat!

It was a hit, and Target was selling Fireman rain boots this year which completed the outfit perfectly. Danger Dad added the soot (yes, it's actual soot, OF COURSE) as a final touch.

As with nearly all aspects of our life, I totally forgot about me. (Which is clearly evidenced in the above pic.) This happens with doctors appointments, eating, and well, just about everything else. I tend to take care of everyone else and put myself last. It's a good thing that I have an abundance of dress-up stuff and general junk. And magic markers. (Couldn't find any eyeliner.) Instant bunny.

I think Danger Dad missed his calling. He is one hot Fireman.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Way scarier than ghouls and goblins

You know by now that I'm terrified by this year's election.

I have friends (literally) shouting the praises of Obama but can't explain why he is their choice to run this country.

They say, "We just don't want more of the same!" but their research is thin and flimsy.

They say, "I want change!" but they can't tell me why.

They say, "Palin is a joke and I don't want her to be one heartbeat away from the presidency!" but not one single person I spoke to could tell me about her voting or leadership record.

(They could, however, recite recent SNL skits nearly word for word.)

One very smart, dear friend, a schoolteacher, told me she can't support McCain because he doesn't support teachers. I couldn't find any evidence of this so I asked her to show me where she saw this (there is NO WAY I would support a candidate that doesn't support teachers) or to send documentation. I haven't heard from her in nearly 2 weeks.

I have friends that believe McCain will raise taxes for the poor (he won't) and that he will keep the war going indefinitely (he has said he won't) so they want Obama in office so he can "CHANGE" things.

Not one single person has been able to tell me what that "CHANGE" is.

And now it just got much scarier.

My mother-in-law is a pollworker in Miami. Yesterday she wrote this to me:

I have been working at the early voting polls for this past 10 days, and I am watching busloads of the elderly, blind, homeless brought in to vote for Obama.

I have had to help people who cannot read English; I have watched the Creole interpreters (whose language I cannot understand – so I do not know if these interpreters are telling the blind, and those who seem to have no awareness of where they are, how to vote); I have watched while the interpreters have filled in the ballot with their own hands while the “voter” stands by with a cane or wheelchair and says nothing much that is intelligible. Is this even legal? A barely alive body with a”maybe” legal card having their ballot filled out by an openly biased interpreter?

I have seen VERY few voters who know what is going on – who have given thought to the issues and who are voting with their intellect.

I HAVE seen thousands ( literally-since we process about a thousand per day) of voters come in just to vote for Obama and say they do not care about the rest - and make loud remarks about it to the crowd. These voters are not voting for the issues –it is for racial reasons.

There is an assumption that voting for Obama is what black people MUST do - no matter if they understand what is at stake or not! Someone has relieved them of the responsibility to think about the issues and told them they will be “taken care of” it they vote for Obama!

It is appalling to watch how the voting is being manipulated.

I am not sure how these people who are barely alive – coming in to vote in a country where they have not bothered to learn English, or to learn about how the government works, and who would not be otherwise voting - [would be voting] were it not an issue of RACE!

I am sick to my stomach.

My worst fears are coming true. This is firsthand info from someone I know very well. Not from a second or third party. She saw this with her own eyes.

More than a few people I know are excited about Making History. They are preserving thoughts and memories so that if Obama is elected they can share that monumental moment with their children when they get older.

Unfortunately, for many of us, this election may go down in history as a moment when someone was voted into office for the color of their skin not for ideals, morals, values or experience. It will be known as a time when the presidency was a "Popularity Contest", when the popular candidate won over the best candidate.

It will be known as a time when the fabric of our country was ripped to shreds.

Racism will get worse. It will. The resentment in this country will grow to epic proportions.

It's a slippery slope and I'm not ready for the ride.