Saturday, January 31, 2009

When Make-Believe is Reality

It’s been a busy week.

By Tuesday I had already taken a swim in the ocean, ridden a train, tamed two horses and taught someone how to fly.

On Thursday I chased down about a dozen school buses (lost count), had a picnic with champagne and pizza and chased away some monsters. I also starred on a cooking show, explored a secret tunnel, rode motorcycles and went camping.

Yesterday I prevented a butterfly from hitting his head on the ceiling and went on a wild turkey hunt. And then I dined with a fireman and a pink bunny.

Right now? I'm signing off so I can take an astronaut to the potty.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Whatcha' Cookin' Wednesday - "Pancakes"

If you don’t know who Mark Bittman is you should. If I ever see him in person I’m going to kiss him on the mouth and thank him for vastly improving my life. Mark Bittman is the author of “How To Cook Everything.” Think of it as a much hipper “Joy of Cooking.” Every single recipe I’ve ever tried from that book has been pure gold. And easy.

Thanks to Mr. Bittman I will never buy boxed pancake or waffle mix again. The recipe listed below took less time to make than boxed and was way, way tastier. Sometimes we add raisins or dried cranberries. Mushed up, super-ripe bananas are an awesome addition too.

Pancakes (Bittman-style)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar (you can substitute with honey or maple syrup)
2 eggs
1 ½ -2 cups milk
2 tbsp. melted and cooled butter (optional), plus unmelted butter for cooking (I use non-stick spray)
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat a griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat while you make the batter.

Mix together the dry ingredients. Beat the egg(s) into 1½ cups of milk, then stir in the 2 tablespoons melted cooled butter and vanilla (if you are using them).

Gently stir this into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to moisten the flour; don’t worry about a few lumps. If the batter seems thick, add a little more milk.

If your skillet or griddle is nonstick, you can cook the pancakes without any butter. Otherwise, use a teaspoon or two of butter or oil (or non-stick spray) each time you add batter. When the butter foam subsides or the oil shimmers, ladle batter onto the griddle or skillet, making any size pancakes you like. Adjust the heat as necessary; usually, the first batch will require higher heat than subsequent batches. The idea is to brown the bottom in 2 to 4 minutes, without burning it. Flip when the pancakes are cooked on the bottom; they won’t hold together well until they’re ready.

Cook until the second side is lightly browned and serve, or hold on an ovenproof plate in a 200-degrees oven for up to 15 minutes.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Older... Wiser... Better...

Happy Birthday, dear Danger Dad.

It's hard to believe that the first birthday I celebrated with you was 18 years ago, in Galveston, Texas, with a long, fun, romantic dinner at our favorite not-there-anymore spot, Candy's. (I was visiting from NYC and we were still trying each other on for size...)

It seems like just yesterday that we celebrated your 26th birthday in our Santa Barbara love-house, that was almost completely furnitureless so we had a lovely dinner, and cake, picnic-style in the middle of the living room.

It didn't seem like too long ago that we partied it up for your 35th with new but dear Atlanta friends and lots of wine and shiny power tools and that kick-butt cake recipe that I found that has since become a Herbert tradition.

And your 40th is still a new memory, with me as big as a house pregnant with twins and your brother flying in from Miami and that amazing and crazy scavenger hunt and surprise party, the Clicquot flowing, an elegant dinner and the showing of that tear-jerking movie of your life...

Happy 43 years to you. You are a fantastic person, husband, friend and papa. I'm so glad you are on this planet. And that you chose me as your life-travel partner.

We love you. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Beyond Description

Overheard from the next room:

"Let's get the chicken wings for the picnic... And we'll have champagne! And coffee... Get the surfboards... And we'll get in the BIG pool!"

Pretty much an awesome description of our life (and eating habits), at least in the summer... (Sans surfboards since we're 5 hours from moving water... But they hear me talk about surfing a lot so maybe they think that they're surfers.)

It's 22 degrees outside right now. DO you think they yearn for warm weather as much as I do?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Whatcha' Cookin' Wednesday - "'Perfectly Chocolate' Chocolate Cake" (and icing)

Today is Danger Dad's birthday! So, cake is in order...

When I married Danger Dad I inherited The Cake Recipe. This was handed down to me by his mother and handed down to her by her mother-in-law and not sure where it came from before that but it’s been in his family a very long time. This Cake was made for every birthday. This Cake was legend. And revered.


It tasted like chocolate-flavored dry wall and had to be smothered in tons of frosting and ice cream just to make it edible. After Year Two of marriage I’d had enough. I couldn’t bear to make the cake and had no intention of passing the recipe along to anyone else. A new recipe needed to be found. Enter the “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake. I found this life-saving/marriage-saving recipe on the Hershey’s site. Who knew? It’s easy and absolutely scrumptious. The icing recipe is included below too. I usually double it. We're crazy like that.

"Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa (I use the darkest I can find… Ghiradelli makes a good one...)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water


Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. (I use a bundt pan with a hole in the middle since Danger Dad likes icing on all FOUR sides of his cake. Weirdo.)

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes.

Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pan(s).

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost. Eat. Go into sugar coma.

(If you use a bundt pan bake for 50-55 minutes.)

No-fail Chocolate Frosting
(Note: I double this recipe for a two layer cake.. And sometimes I even triple it…)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. Yields about 2 cups frosting.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ode to the Internets

I’m not ashamed to admit it. When Sam and Jane were first born my lifeline to the outside world was the Internet.

On most days I was pretty good about getting showered and dressed in a (somewhat) clean change of clothes and venturing out into the outside world, if only for a spin around the block. But when I just couldn’t get it together I found solace, advice, support and a good belly laugh just a few clicks away.

Now that my kiddos are nearly three (OMGWHENDIDTHATHAPPEN), and even though I'm out and about LOTS more, I find that my relationship with the internet hasn’t changed all that much. It’s where I get my news, recipes, perspective, giggles and, most importantly, connect with friends.

Yes, I wish that I could I connect in a more personal way... like seeing folks IN PERSON or talking by phone or maybe even actually handwriting (gasp!) a thoughtful letter…

But that’s not gonna happen. Not these days anyway…

So, I’m thankful for the internet. And more specifically, I’m thankful that dude who invented Facebook.

Facebook is
not perfect but it allows me to stay in touch with dear friends and connect with old ones too. (Shout out to the SRVHS class of ’86….) "Status Updates" announce pregnancies and births and job loss and break-ups and hook-ups and happiness and sickness and celebrations and sadness and all sorts of life changes that are tough to stay on top of in these days that are already FILLED with work and kid-rearing and volunteering and keeping the house running and staying civically involved and on and on and on… I have handfuls and handfuls of pals that are scattered across the globe and connecting with them via Facebook almost makes me feel like I’m having a cup of coffee with them nearly every day. It allows me to be involved and to let them know I care. Am I lazy? No. I’m lucky that there’s a tool that allows a busy mom/wife/employee to stay engaged with a world that might otherwise slip away…

So thanks, Facebook Dude, for helping me stay afloat in my relationships. (Or maybe I should be thanking Al Gore?) I'll be sure to give you a proper kudos in my next Status Update.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Whatcha' Cookin' Wednesday - "Easiest Baked Ziti Ever"

I have twins. I have no time. I love this recipe. 'nuf said.

Easiest Baked Ziti Ever

16 oz. ziti pasta
15 oz. ricotta
1 cup parmesan
2 cups mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste
2 - 28 oz. cans of diced tomatoes (I'm partial to Muir Glen organic)
1 medium onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
***(you may also use 2 bottles of prepared tomato sauces instead of making your own "quickie sauce" with onion, garlic, diced tomatoes and spices)

***(optional - 2 cups of browned ground turkey or beef)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease (I use non-stick spray) 9 x 13 pan.

Boil pasta until "al dente", about 12 minutes. While pasta is boiling, sautee onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add diced tomatoes and spices and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain pasta and put in large bowl. Add ricotta, tomato sauce, 1 cup of mozz and mix well. (Add meat here if desired.) Pour into greased dish. Top with remaining mozz, then parm. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until brown and bubbly.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Outta the Mouth of Mama

Things I've actually said recently to the kiddos :

"If you're not careful you'll slip and crack your head open and your brain will fall out."
(It's the best I could come up with at the time...)

"Get your hand OUT of your bottom. ALL THE WAY OUT."
(I'm not going into detail on this one in case of the kiddos gets their mitts on this in the future and I have to pay my way out of it...)

"If you don't start behaving I will put. you. in. a.... JAR."
(In all fairness, this was said around 4 a.m during a very sleepy moment.... and I didn't follow through... )

"Please don't use that toothbrush on your penis."

(We let them brush their teeth after the nightly shower or bath.. They enjoy it. Sometimes it get a little out of hand...)

"S, get over here and let me adjust that tutu."
(O.k., so he likes to wear the occasional tutu. SO what... My only concern is that he wears it correctly...)

"Please don't wear your bathing suit on your head."
(I lost this battle. Behold:)

The Bathing Beauty

Friday, January 9, 2009

More... Outta the Mouths of Munchkins

S: "Mama, don't panic."
This was after I found that they had filled the tub with toys that I had not given them permission to play with.

S: "Let's go chase the school bus!"
Said so emphatically from the backseat of the mini-van that I almost thought it might be a good idea.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Outta the Mouths of Munchkins

S: "I can't hold your hand because it has bugs on it."

Huh? What?!?

J: "Mama, I want to be a princess, like Cinderella. "

Me: "Cinderella is my favorite princess. (I played her once in a professional children theatre production, I have a soft spot for the gal.) She wears a pretty blue dress."

J: "I want to wear a RED dress. With cherries on it."


Let's just be clear: I have never, at any time, introduced the Cinderella or princess thing. Does Disney reach our kids by some kind of weird retail osmosis??? We simply walk by their branded stuff in the store and it's burned into our kiddos subconscious...? Weird...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Whatcha' Cookin' Wednesday - "Fiery Beef Satay Skewers"

Let's start out the new year with BEEF. Easy, quick, yummy. A great appetizer OR dinner.

Fiery Beef Satay Skewers

1-1/2 pounds boneless beef sirloin steak -- cut 1/4" thick
5 green onions -- white part only-- cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup Dijon-style mustard
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons bottle minced or fresh crushed garlic
1 tablespoon ground red pepper

In large shallow bowl, combine marinade ingredients; whisk until blended. Remove and reserve 1/2 cup for basting. Trim fat from beef steak; cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes. Add beef to remaining marinade in bowl; toss to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 20 minutes. Remove beef from marinade; discard marinade. Alternately thread an equal amount of beef and green onion pieces onto each of four 12-inch metal skewers. Place skewers on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, uncovered, 10 to 12 minutes for medium rare to medium doneness, basting frequently with reserved 1/2 cup marinade and turning occasionally. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Road Trip - Part 2 - the pics

We arrived in Miami in 14 hours and 13 minutes. With only 4 stops.

And we didn’t watch a single DVD.

(I may consider writing a book. It really wasn't that bad.)

Our holiday vacation was wonderful; I think the pictures say it all:

Christmas Eve - S & J are mesmerized by the lighted tree

Moxie Mama reads to S & J and cousin Mary

Scooter Girls. Yo.

G'ma helps the kiddos with the piano.

"I want to be a tiger, mama."

Yeah! Aveda hand lotion! Sweet!

J decorates her first ever Gingerbread Man cookie.

S at the nearby playground...

A quiet moment... A girl in her tutu enjoying a book...


The neighbor's Air Pogo. Must. Order. One. Now.

S with his cousins, who are also twins.

Frolicking on Miami Beach.

The obligatory family photo. (Which came out surprisingly well, I think.)

Cousin Josh reads to S & J. (We do a lot of that...)

Great memories.. Can't wait 'til next year! (I really mean that.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Road Trip - Part 1

Happy New Year! We are back from the Road Trip. And finally ready to write about it.

The plan was to get up in the dead of night, put sleeping kiddos in the car and drive half-way to Miami before they woke up.

This was Danger Dad’s plan.

Danger Dad doesn’t understand that our children have never, EVER slept in the car.

Except for J.

After hand surgery.

So, here’s how it started:

1:45 a.m. – DD and I gently scoop sleeping kiddos out of their beds

1:45 and 10 seconds a.m. - S pops up head and says excitedly, “We’re going to Miami!”

1:47 a.m. – depart Atlanta

1:47 – 3:20 a.m. – S and J chatter about Miami! and Cousin Mary! and “This is really funny!” (meaning “driving in the dark”, which they have rarely experienced) and “Miami is THIS way” accompanied by lots of pointing and finally several rousing choruses of “Baa Baa Black Sheep”

3:21 a.m. - S announces, “All done.”

3:21 – 5 a.m. – S whines, chants and begs… “All done, all done, all done…”

(During this time I’m singing, reading, singing, soothing, playing music, talking, reading, soothing…. Lather, rinse, repeat…)

5 a.m. – S falls asleep

5:30 – S awake

(More reading, singing, reading, etc.)

7:30 a.m. – Breakfast stop at a Cracker Barrel. Those rocking chairs are from heaven... and the best jungle gym on the planet.

9 a.m. – back in car

(I think everyone looks pretty good...)

9 - 11:38 a.m. - "We Might be Giants" serenades us with "Robot Parade", "I'm Not Your Broom", "Middle. Middle, Middle" and on and on and on... We also sample a bit of "Philadelphia Chickens" (fave is a toss up between "Belly Button" and "Silly Lullaby", "Snacktime!" (no clear fave) and an assortment of ABC and 123 songs. (I LOVE THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS. Even after nearly 2 hours. LOVE.)

11:39 a.m. – J sleeps

11:49 a.m. – J wakes up

(that was a whole 10 minutes of sleep in case you're good at math...)

Noon – J and S see the ocean for the first time.


Much frolicking on beach. Unbridled enthusiasm and boundless joy. Amazing to watch. No fear. Total happiness. I am spellbound and do my best to capture it:

…to be continued…