my quote of the moment: "if you can attain repose and calm, believe that you have seized happiness." ~julie-jeanne-eleonore de lespinasse

April 30, 2012

a quick note

this is just a note to say that i am freaking out. like totally and completely. and i probably won't be writing or posting much here this week.

things are happening in my life, big things. tremendously huge things. things that have my head spinning. good and amazing and wonderful things. things that will change everything.

i am, of course, talking about a house. my house. my soon-to-be my house. all the months of stress and worry are almost done. almost. but still, we must get through this final push of things-to-do.

and until it's all over, i don't think i'll be clearheaded enough to write anything close to coherent. though i do see a lot of "feel better" baking in my very near future.

and so, this is a note and a placeholder and a hope that you stop by to visit again when things are back to their regular level of crazy. until then, send me wishes and luck and happy thoughts that we can get through this a painlessly as possible with most of our sanity intact.

April 28, 2012

no duh

did you have have a time in your life when you're doing something, and you think that there must be a better way? or you're just minding you're own business, when all of a sudden, a brilliant idea just comes up and whacks you upside the head, and you're first reaction is "why didn't i think of this sooner?" or maybe, and one of the things i really hate, you're surfing around online or reading a magazine or just out and about, and you see an idea so simple and yet perfect you secretly start hating the inventor because they became bazillionaires from their idea and you so wish you had thought of it first so you could have been a bazillionaire instead? and if not a bazillionaire, then maybe you could have just made life better and easier for everyone.

yeah, that stuff happens to me all the time. and i love it and hate it. love it because the ideas that come really do help. but i hate it because i really do feel silly for not thinking of it sooner. please tell me i'm not the only one that goes through this.

and just in case i am the only one who feel like this around here, i figure i will share some of my brilliant ideas with you. so even though you might not mind the fact that you didn't think of it first, you too can benefit from my amazing brain.

first i'll share my great idea for taking kids to the beach. well, not taking kids, because it's kind of obvious that kids like playing in the water and the sand. which also means taking all sorts of necessities, and in the eyes of children, a definite necessity is buckets and shovels and other fun toys to make castles and dig for treasure with. which means that the toys get covered with sand. and do you want to know the easiest way i found to clean all those little plastic toys? i store ours in a mesh laundry bag, so not only are they easy to carry and keep together, but i can pull the drawstring closed and turn it upside down to shake all the sand off. and if things are really dirty, you can hose everything off in the bag, so you're not spraying shovels halfway across the yard while cleaning them.

another brilliant idea that kind made me wish i thought of it sooner was the way i deal with my super dry hands. the water here is very hard, and being that i have to wash my hands like ten million times a day thanks to a messy toddler, my hands sometimes crack and bleed. normal hand moisturizer wouldn't work, either it didn't help enough or it made my hands too greasy instead of absorbing into my skin. and so, i created a two step process to fix my problem. first i use a face scrub, something for sensitive skin that won't irritate. and then i use this moisturizer. yes, i know, it's technically supposed to be used on your feet, but i have found foot cream absorbs in better. i think it's made that way because people don't want to walk around with greasy feet, lest they slip. and the best part is i only have to do my two step treatment once a day (before bed) and it works!

most of the rest of my amazing ideas have to do with food. like the easiest way to make pineapple upside down cake. or using these instead of kisses on the top of peanut butter blossom cookies. and when i need to dispose of bacon grease, i line a small, heat-proof bowl with foil and then pour the grease in. then i just put the bowl in the fridge, and after it hardens i can remove the foil and wrap it around the grease cake. that way, i can throw the grease covered foil out without it getting all over everything.

my most recent bout of culinary brilliance came in the form of cookies. i have a very old recipe for chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. it doesn't use any eggs, so it's the recipe i used to make all the time when the boys were little, because they could safely eat the dough when they "helped." i've been thinking about making these cookies again, because fishie is almost old enough to start helping, but honestly, i never really liked how they turned out. the cookies were always very thin and crunchy, the opposite of how i like my chocolate chip cookies. my preference is for a nice chewy cookie, and i knew i had a good recipe for a chewy oatmeal raisin cookie. and then it hit me, i like chocolate chips in cookie and i like raisins in cookie, so what about putting chocolate chips and raisins in the same cookie? and what if i took it a step in a different direction, and instead of using chocolate chips, i used chocolate covered raisins?

and that's exactly what i did. i made oatmeal raisinette cookies. being brilliant never tasted so delicious.

April 26, 2012

personal philosophy

recently, i've seen things on the news and on the internet that honestly makes me sad. people standing up for what they believe in to the point of saying anyone that doesn't agree with them is wrong. and i personally think that kind of thinking is wrong. exclusivity and hate are not good, it is possible to agree to disagree. still, i know there is more than one side to every issue, and sometimes, it's hard for me to reconcile between the different groups i belong to that have very different view points. and when they are at odds, i try to take a step back and remember what my personal beliefs are, the things i think are most important in life, so i don't get swept up and lost in the group-mindset.

there are certain things i believe in. and there are certain values i try to uphold in my daily life. it's kind of the guide i keep in my mind on how i want to live. it also helps me remember what are important qualities that i want to instill in my children. and as different as we are sometimes, these beliefs are something my husband and i share.

now i suppose that these beliefs could kind of fall under the general heading of personal religion. though, really, i hate that word. beliefs can be more easily shared than religion, because organized religions can be very segregating. i think that most people believe in god, some sort of god, but then to break it down to the christian god or jewish god or muslim god then gets into the idea that one is right and everyone else is wrong. and personally, i hate that. so this isn't religion, but more my personal philosophy.

i believe in respect, and i think it's the most important thing. it's the very first intangible value i tried to instill in my children, because respect is the basis that everything else i believe is based on. we need to have respect for others, their physical being and their beliefs, no matter how different they are than us. unless they try to force their beliefs on us, because we also need to have respect for ourselves.

we also need to believe in ourselves and trust ourselves, just as we believe in and trust others. and by believe here, i mean we need to have faith in the people we surround ourselves with, that they won't try to harm us or do us wrong or lie to us. which is also why we need to trust in them. because we can't make it through life alone, we need help. and we need to trust in ourselves enough, trust in our instincts that we wouldn't surround ourselves with bad people.

other, smaller things i believe in are always being truthful and self sacrifice and trying to keep the peace and trying to keep an open mind about new thoughts and new ideas. and that there is always something new for us to learn, if we are willing to look at things a different way.

also, hope. i believe in hope. that no matter how dark things get, no matter how awful the world seems, or how everything seems to be falling apart, there is always tomorrow. and a chance for something better.

April 25, 2012

frou frou juice

this post, i fear, will be filled with non-sequester craziness, based around a theme. but then, if you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that's exactly what to expect from me. if not, welcome, hold on, and enjoy the ride.

first, a word on the title. frou frou juice is fancy coffee creamer, which is something i love deeply and have very strong opinions on. i call it that because my dad calls it that. and i'm not really sure why he calls it that, other than it's a cheap way to make fancy tasting coffee, and i think frou frou things are fancy things, if wiki hasn't lead me astray.

for many years now, i have loved coffee creamer. it always saved me from having to buy expensive, flavored coffees. in fact, because i felt i was dumping enough sugary milk product into coffee, it saved me from feeling guilty about buying the stuff that is pre-ground in a can. i wouldn't buy the cheapest coffee out there, because it was too dark, to the point of being burnt, for my liking. that's also why i refused to drink at starbucks for many years, but that's a different rant.

anyway, i do know the best way to make a cup of coffee, which i will quickly share. first, you need to buy fresh beans, which means purchasing from a reputable retailer that doesn't let their product sit on shelves for too long or in direct light. which means most of the self-serve stuff from the grocery stores is out. also, when brewing, you should used filtered water. bottled is ok, because most bottled water is just filtered tap water with a huge mark-up. don't used distilled though, because that takes everything out of the water, making it pure water but a very poor flavor delivery system. then, right before you brew, you need to measure and grind your beans. the amount of coffee you use is personal preference, but when they say a tablespoon per cup, that's not really far off. however you brew, though, you need to make sure your machine is perfectly clean. the flavor from coffee comes from the oil in the beans, and oil can become rancid or carry other flavors easily, so cleanliness is next to a godly cup of coffee. auto-drip pots aren't bad, though there are some that say the paper filters also filter out some of the subtle flavors, which is why aficionados invest in metal filters. if i want a really good cup, i have a french press pot, which is as simple as it gets, but it does make excellent coffee. lastly, if you're brewing a whole pot and will be drinking it over the course of a few hours, put it in something insulated. keeping a pot on the heat for too long will burn it, hence the distinctive flavor of convenience store coffee at three in the morning. and those are all my tips for a perfect cup of coffee.

if you didn't know, i was a barista many years ago. it was actually the job i held the longest (2 years), and i think the only reason i lasted there so long is because i have a passion and interest in good coffee. which also means i am a wealth of useless knowledge on the subject. the shortest job i ever held was at the waffle house, where i lasted 5 weeks. i have just realized that my social anxiety has given me an "interesting" job history, 24 jobs in less than 10 years, and all but two i chose to leave for various reasons. and now i haven't had a paying job in more than five years. that's got to be some sort of record. or sign i need medication. or something.

anyway, back to the point of this post, which is that i made my own coffee creamer today. which is kind of funny considering i was ranting on facebook yesterday about how silly it seemed to make your own sprinkles. really, i know homemade sprinkles probably taste amazing, but i don't have the patience or piping skills to attempt such a thing. if there is something that is cheap and easy to acquire at the store, more often than not, i will buy it. i admit, though, i have made my own brown sugar and self rising flour and buttermilk substitute, but that was due to needing it for a recipe and not wanting to go to the store. though i am perfectly willing to de-bone a chicken if it means saving a couple of dollars over the price per pound. then too, i will make certain things from scratch that are much better then their premade counterparts. case in point is icing, because the stuff sold in tubs is just gross.

a few weeks ago, i stumbled across a recipe for homemade coffee creamer. it was simple enough, and included sweetened condensed milk, and we know how i feel about that. it also gave suggestions for customizing the flavor however you wanted. and because i ran out of coffee creamer, but just happened to have all the ingredients called for to make my own, i did. i'm not a fan of vanilla, so i used two cinnamon sticks and a bunch of whole cloves to get that spicy feeling. if i had really been planning ahead, i would have thrown in a chunk of the fresh ginger that is slowly dying in the crisper, then i would have had something similar to pumpkin pie spice. and nothing is better than pumpkin pie spices in coffee.

it turned out well, and makes a nice addition to my morning coffee. my version is much thinner then the stuff i would buy from the dairy section, but then i used 1% milk. if i make it again, i might try using heavy cream, or just half and half, to give it a richer feel. all in all, i am pleased, and will probably make it again. though i'm also the kind of person that always has sweetened condensed milk and regular milk in my house, so for me it's more convenient.

and i'm already thinking about all the different flavors i could add. i don't think melting chips in would work to get a chocolate flavor, but i had other ideas on what might. and i know i could burn some sugar for a caramel taste. it's interesting to think of coffee flavor pairing with certain desserts, like what wine goes with certain meats. even if i never make my own frou frou juice again, all of the possibilities are fun to think about.

April 24, 2012

green marshmallow fluff

lately, things have been very strange. new and strange things happening, with no real explanation. the normal day to day seems to cause more stress than usual. people acting not like themselves. it's all thrown me for a loop.

and i don't like loops. i get motion-sick. like for real. hence why i will never see a 3-D movie, i have enough troubles with my tummy doing flip flops watching regular movies.

anyway, the point i was trying to get at is that there seems to be a new normal going on. and change is scary. and confusing. like, all of a sudden, i now like pineapple. i know, it's like the world's gone bonkers and somebody forgot to tell me.

pineapple and i have a long and storied past. not really, it's just i've never been a fan. and it's funny, because there is something common each of my sisters and i, who will eat almost anything, don't like. for me, it was always pineapple. for my youngest sister, it is the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. and for my middle sister, it is coconut. normal things we just don't like, even though we'll all happily the strangest ethnic cuisine.

since i've had kids, though, my dear hubby and i have a policy that we want the kids to at least try a food before they say they don't like. it's fine if they refuse after they've given it a go, but a flat out refusal is not acceptable. which also means, to set a good example, he and i have to eat a little bit of everything. and how i love him for trying some of my kitchen experiments. casseroles might not be pretty, but they can still taste good!

so yes, the point i was getting at was that i now like pineapple. sometimes. when it's mixed with or eaten with other things. and if it's cold, because just the smell of hot pineapple turns my stomach, so i don't care how awesome you tell me grilled pineapple or sweet and sour chicken is.

this new attitude toward pineapple really started a few weeks before easter. i was looking around at different dessert recipes, as i'm want to do, and i noticed one for watergate salad. easy and simple and just a few ingredients, one of which was a can of crushed pineapple. i'm not sure why it stuck in my head. maybe because it also has mini marshmallows, which i love. or maybe it's because it's green color comes from pistachio pudding, which i also love. plus it has cool whip and chopped pecans, both good things. and really, that's it, the whole recipe. measure everything out and mix it in one big bowl. store in the fridge and enjoy.

so, during easter, i made a pineapple upside down cake, which normally i wouldn't eat. but i tried a piece. and it was good. which got me thinking about watergate salad again. and so i finally broke down and made some. and it is good. very good. light and fluffy and creamy. and even though you can tell there's pineapple in it, it still makes me happy. i could probably eat the whole container myself, which isn't so bad considering i bought the sugar-free versions of all the ingredients.

i let the boys try it, and bumble thought it was good also. because of the marshmallows and the consistency, he called it green marshmallow fluff, which i think is a more descriptive name than watergate. i let lumpy try it also, but he couldn't get over the texture of it. dear fish wouldn't even try it, but i picked out some of the marshmallows to feed her, which she happily ate. my husband and my mother both said it reminds them of ambrosia, which i suppose is true.

so all in all, it's good. and i like it. even if it does have pineapple in it. i guess it's just a new normal for me.

April 23, 2012

a cupcake party is the best kind of party

tonight i am helping my dear hubby host a cupcake party for his lovely cub scout den, as it is the last official meeting of the year. next friday is crossover, and then they don't have any den meetings until september or so.

i would like to say he had to twist my arm, because then i could say that he owed me for all my help, but honestly i'm the one that came up with the idea. his idea was to have a pizza party. i told him, and i think so did some of the parents of his cub scouts, that eating pizza at a meeting that starts at 7pm on a school night is just too late. he had wanted me to make cupcakes to bring, but i told him that if they weren't going to eat pizza, then they could decorate cupcakes as an activity to keep the kids busy while the parents went over all the important info.

and so now i am going to be in charge of all the kids while he talks with the grown ups. under normal circumstances, i would be freaking out. i can barely wrangle my own children, and to have to direct kids that aren't mine, that is a huge source of stress. but i know i'll be ok tonight, because there is cake involved. and i've actually done something like this before.

when bumble turned seven, one of this birthday party activities was letting the kids decorate their own cupcakes while the adults ate the big cake with all the candles stuck into it. i learned much from that experience, like there's no point in helping most of the kids, because they don't care so much how pretty their cupcakes look, they're going more for how many toppings they can stick on it.

and so, tonight, i am preparing for the fun and the mess. i have a box worth of cupcakes already baked off and cooling. dear hubby wants to bring all 24, in case parents want to decorate also. or siblings show up, like how we're bringing lumpy and fishie. i also have rainbow and chocolate sprinkles, a bag of chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and enough plastic cups to divide up the toppings so each kid can have their own. i also a plastic table cloth that will hopefully contain the mess, and the plates and napkins should help too. i have yet to make the icing, but the plan is to put some in a plastic bag so that everybody gets their own. it also means that they kids can just squeeze on the icing, which i'm hoping will be less messy then handing out plastic knives to spread it.

hubby's plan is to let me get all the kids set up decorating their snack, and he will put a movie on for them to watch. then it's just a matter of hanging out and cleaning up after. it should be fun. or at least interesting. and i know it will be good practice for the next brilliant idea i decide to try out at a birthday party.

April 18, 2012

high comedy

people have told me that having a girl would be very different after having boys. and i have to admit, it's not as different as you'd think.

as babies, there's still naps and diaper changes and crying for no reason and all those sleepless nights, whether a boy or a girl. as a toddler, it's been no different. and so far, my dear fish acts just like her brothers when they were her age. she gets into everything, and throws tantrums when she can't. she tries to communicate, and gets upset when she's not understood. she's amazed and amused by the simplest things.

fish is just like any other toddler. she does all the same toddler things, and still, she's her own little person with her own identity. she tries to tell knock knock jokes, she likes to pretend she's a cat, and she loves telling what sounds animals make. just like lumpy was the same and different than bumble, fishie is a unique kid.

and yet, there is one way that my kids are exactly the same. and it's one way that drives my dear hubby nuts. they are all obsessed with body humor.

the boys have finally begun to understand that there are certain bodily functions that everyone does, but we don't need to make a big deal about it. and we should say "excuse me" after. and we certainly don't talk about it at the dinner table. unless their dad isn't home, and it's just us, then all bets are off.

and fish thinks these processes are hilarious. to be exact, she'll pass gas and then yell "i toot, i toot. it stinky!" and of course it's followed by much laughter. certain people in our family can't wait until she's old enough to start pulling people's fingers.

why yes, i am raising a proper lady, just like her brothers are perfect gentlemen. sometimes.

April 17, 2012

falling through the cracks

maybe i've mentioned it once or twice, most notably here, but bumble gets a lot of help in school. which is normally a good thing. he needs the extra help to keep up with the other kids. we do as much as we can at home, but after an hour or more of homework, he gets kind of burnt out after school.

he sees a speech therapist and an occupational therapist for his writing and he's part of a special reading group. and every six months we go over his IEP (individualized educational program), so everybody stays on the same page with what help he needs and the progress he's making and how we might need to change things. and at the meetings i get these lovely 30-some page reports, so i can see how he's doing and what i could change at home so i know i'm also doing my part.

and the program isn't what i have a problem with. and all of his teachers and aides are lovely ladies who do their best to make sure he can do his best. the problem i have is that the school day is only so long and i think there has to be a better way to execute it. as it stands, bumble gets pulled out of class to get the extra help he needs.

normally, that's not a problem. there's chunks of the day where bumble's class does independent work, and for him to miss that stuff isn't a big deal in my mind. it's when they are doing important things, or are going to be doing important things, and he gets pulled out and misses them. and i know, it might be the only time his specialist is available to work with him, and overlaps can happen. but if they do happen, and he misses something, it would be nice if he had the chance to make it up.

specifically, and what has me upset at the moment, is that last thursday bumble was supposed to take his spelling test. spelling is one of the subjects he really struggles with, and he worked very hard to study all his words for his test. then, on thursday, he was pulled out of class to work on his writing, so he missed taking his test. i know this because i asked him how he did on his test when he got home from school and he told me he didn't take it. i figured that his class and his teacher might have been busy the rest of the day, and he would make it up on friday. but he didn't take it friday. he didn't take it yesterday either.

he was probably very happy about missing his spelling test, but it's one of the things he gets graded on, it's something that determines how he does on his report card and how he's doing in other areas of study. i wasn't happy that he missed his test, but i was very upset that his teacher didn't let him make it up for two days. so i wrote a note to her today asking about it. because it's not his fault that he missed the test, and it's not his fault that he didn't have a chance to make it up. i know he has a tricky schedule, but we're all supposed to be working together to help him, and i think missing tests is unacceptable.

bumble has enough trouble in school, and the extra assistance he gets is supposed to help him get ahead. i was always worried about how often he would get pulled out of his regular class and all the things he might be missing because of it. and i know there's no good block of time that he can miss, unless they force him to skip recess or lunch. he's doing his best and trying as hard as he can to keep up and to meet the levels he's supposed to. it's just a shame when somebody else drops the ball.

April 16, 2012

co sleeping is not for me

first, let me explain for those that don't know, co sleeping is the practice of parents sharing their beds with their infants and young toddlers. some of the benefits are that it helps babies stay asleep and get back to sleep faster if they wake at night, because they are already next to their parents. also, it's easier when breastfeeding babies, because when they get up at night, everybody that needs to be together already is. lastly, those parents that work or can't be with their children all day are at least able to spend time with them at night, getting all the hugs and cuddles in that they can.

in truth, i don't like this practice, and don't subscribe to it. it was recommended that i try co sleeping when i was having so many problems breast feeding fishie. the thing is, i know myself, and i know that i am such a sound sleeper, and roll and move so much, that if i had my baby in bed with me, chances are i would roll or smush or something equally awful would happen to them. and that it part of the problem with co sleeping, which is why most doctors warn against it. studies show that babies get crushed. or, because they're so small, they can get themselves tangled in pillows and blankets and smoother themselves. i never tried co sleeping with my boys, i was always against it, and i really didn't want to do it with fish.

with the boys, from the outset, i set them up in their own bedrooms, in their own beds (really cribs), and they understood that is where they were supposed to sleep. when they came home from the hospital, they slept in the nursery right away, none of that sharing our bed or even our room. the crib was right across the hall from my bed, within sight if i left both doors open, and i felt that was the place they were supposed to be. and as they grew, because they were used to sleeping in their own bedrooms, i didn't have to worry about them wandering to find me if they woke up in the middle of the night. they stayed in their rooms, they didn't try to share my bed, and i liked that just fine.

unfortunately, fishie never quite got that message. it probably didn't help that maybe two months before we had to leave our old house and live with my mom, she just started sleeping in her toddler bed. she did not get used to it as quickly as the boys. when they were little, when it was time for bed, i would put them to bed and they would stay there. i might hear them wake up, but they were very good about putting themselves back to sleep. though the house that the boys were babies in had two floors, so when they would wake up, it was easier for them to go back to sleep then to try to make it down the stairs. the house that fish was a baby in was all one floor, and her room happened to be right next to the living room, so whenever she would wake up, she could stumble into where her dad and i were and climb on our lap instead of putting herself back to sleep.

another fun fact about my kids and toddler beds is that we put dear bumble in a toddler bed shortly after he turned one, simply because we needed the crib for lumpy. and then we got bunk beds and had bumble sleep on the top and lumpy sleep on the bottom when they were very young, because we had to turn the nursery into guest room for a guest that had to stay with us. so, thinking back, lumpy never actually made it to a toddler bed, he went straight from the crib to the bottom bunk. fish's transition was a more interesting story. one night, she woke up maybe an hour after we had put her down to sleep. dear hubby and i were letting her cry for a bit to see if she could get herself back to sleep. suddenly we heard a thump, and before we could even get up to see what had happened, she was standing in the living room, confused and still crying (she was completely fine, by the way). that was the point we realized she was big enough to climb out of her crib herself, and we converted it into a toddler bed, which she's been sleeping in since then.

fast forward almost a year, and we are almost to the point of moving out of my mother's house and into our own. which means, for the first time since september, fishie will be sleeping in her own room all by herself. at the moment, her toddler bed happens to be in the same room that my hubby and i are in, and any time she wakes up now, she just gets up and climbs in bed with us. it's very frustrating, because now that she's gotten bigger, she's become a bed hog and steals my blanket and pillows. more than that, i am worried how she'll do when we move to our new house. i know people that shared rooms with their babies and toddlers, and how hard it was for their children to transition into their own "big kid" room. i can remember hearing the stories about the fights and the tears, and how the kids wouldn't stay in their bed and would only sleep if they were with their parents. it's one of the main reasons i did everything i could to avoid it with my boys, but now i'm afraid i'll have to face that fight with my fish. and i'm not looking forward to it.

April 13, 2012

pineapple upside down cake

today i want to talk about pineapple upside down cake. specifically i want to share the super easy recipe i used for making the cake we had for easter dinner at my in-laws.

i have been searching for a pineapple cake recipe that would work consistently when baked in a 9x13 inch pan. my standard go-to recipe was actually made for an 8 inch square pan, and i would double it and play around with the timing. which meant checking it constantly. and there were quite a few times that it came out over or under baked, sometimes way under baked.

so, for whatever reason, doubling didn't work for me. and most of the recipes i had found were baked in round cake pans or smaller square pans, which is fine if you're not trying to feed 15 people. which i was. or maybe i just wanted to make enough that there would be left overs. not for me, though, because personally i think pineapple is gross. unless it's in a pina colada, then bring it on!

anyway, i was looking around at random cake recipes, as i am known to do, and found one for chocolate cherry cake. it uses a box of chocolate cake mix, and replaces some of the water with maraschino cherry juice. i thought that was simple and brilliant, and could totally be adapted to a pineapple upside down cake.

all i did, to make my version, was to grease a 9x13 pan, and then lay parchment paper in the bottom. i mostly used the parchment because i wasn't going to be turning it out while warm, and was afraid it would stick if i didn't. though for how nicely it worked, i'll probably keep lining my pans next time i make this cake. after i prepped the pan, i took a large can of crushed pineapple in juice (not syrup), and drained it well through a strainer. i mixed the pineapple and half a stick of melted butter and 3/4 cup of brown sugar, and spread it in the pan. then i halved cherries and made a pretty patterned by pressing them into the pineapple layer. for the cake, i took my favorite brand of yellow cake mix, added the eggs and oil called for, and the juice from the canned pineapple with enough additional water to make the amount of water called for. if you happen to be one of those people that has pineapple juice on hand, you could certainly use all juice, but i'm not one of those people. anyway, i mixed the cake as per the directions on the box, and carefully spread it over the pineapples and cherries in the pan. bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, then wait until it's mostly cool to turn out on a serving platter.

first off, i have to say, this cake was a hit, and even i couldn't tell that it wasn't completely from scratch. also, because i traveled with my cake, and made it on wednesday but didn't turn it out until friday, the parchment paper was a must. though, if you like really pretty looking cakes, or want to ensure that no pineapple bits are lost to the pan, i recommend lining it. foil would also work, and wax paper might too, but parchment is definitely recommended.

maybe i'm silly in thinking i'm clever in making pineapple upside down cake like this. maybe everybody does this and nobody told me. like everybody else is part of some exclusive pineapple club. which is fine, i'm not bitter or anything. but, just in case there was somebody else out there wondering about the best way to make a 9x13 sized pineapple upside down cake (i can't be the only one, can i?), i felt like sharing my trick. and sticking it to those exclusive pineapple club elitists.

April 12, 2012

bubbles, tiny bubbles

one would think that after all these years of having kids, the wonder and amazement of children about the simplest things wouldn't surprise me so much. and yet, it does. the way the boys get when they learn new things, see an interesting new bug, or realize something that they can do all by themselves, they get so excited.

fishie, of course, is just as excited and amazed with herself and her new abilities. with her, though, it's even more amusing to watch, because the things that captivate her are sometimes such simple things. i forget how young she is, and how things are still so new for her. like blowing bubbles.

every easter, the big bunny puts bubbles stuff in their easter baskets. maybe he knows how much the boys like blowing bubbles. or maybe he realizes the ridiculous amount of candy my kids get from everyone else and knows they don't need a basket full from him. so for whatever reason, every year my kids get bubble stuff.

now, this year wasn't fishie's first easter, technically it was her third, but in the previous years, she was a little young to realize that she got anything beyond lollipops. this year, though, she's been able to sample most of the different types of candy in her basket. and a few days ago, it was nice enough that i took her outside to show her the bubbles she got.

every year, my kids and i blow bubbles. the boys still like it, and they've gotten big enough that i've started buying them the special wands that make the huge bubbles. so now it turns into a competition about who can blow the biggest bubbles. or they let me blow giant bubbles and they have a race to see who can pop the most.

this year, fish finally gets the concept of blowing and not trying to drink the bubble stuff or put the wand in her mouth (huzzah for being non-toxic). so i took her outside and was showing her how to blow bubbles. then, being the independent sort of toddler that she is, she took everything out of my hands and did it herself. and she was amazing at blowing bubbles. and of course she was amazed at herself. we had to stay outside until she ran out of bubble stuff.

the next day, we "borrowed" some of her brothers' bubbles and blew more. and then we blew through everything we had and i had to go buy more. now i'm looking around for a good recipe to make more, because i see many days of blowing bubbles in our future.

April 11, 2012

my boys are funny without even trying

allow me to set the stage: last night, at dinner, it was just my boys and fishie and one grammy and me. dinner was pretty much a flop, i should have started earlier or set the oven temperature higher, and even a quick shot in the microwave at the end didn't save it, but i'm over it. anyway, while the boys are finishing up eating, we were all trying to get dear fish to name her body parts. it helps to keep her distracted from throwing things when she's done eating, plus i think it's important stuff for her to know.

so we were going over her knee and her elbow and her chin. and then lumpy was trying to get her to say "feet," because he kept asking her about a body part that starts with an "f." i was trying to tell him that she doesn't understand which words start with what letters, that's a little beyond her at this point. she didn't understand she was supposed to say "feet," so she said "toes" instead. with little boys, and a sister that is starting to say anything, that got us on a discussion of stinky feet and stinky toes.

and then the one dog started barking, as he often does. and fishie's new favorite thing to ask is "what's that noise?" i explained it was probably a squirrel at the bird feeder. the boys didn't want to let the talk of stinky toes drop, so they asked her again who has stinky feet, and she came up with squirrels are stinky.

and then dear lumpy said that "squirrels are stinky because they smell like nuts."

yes, really. i almost died trying not to laugh. because it was funny, but i don't think it was funny the way he meant. he honestly doesn't like the smell of tree nuts, like walnuts and pecans. still, we were talking body parts, and they are boys. and body humor is hilarious when you're seven. it's just not appropriate dinner conversation, hence the trying not to laugh.

of course, it was pretty funny. the things they come up with sometimes amaze me, and they things they can get away with saying.

April 10, 2012

trying to get my head in the game

so easter is over. it's been over since sunday, technically. and yet, i can't seem to get back into gear. i know i need to start focusing on the day to day. and i'm trying. we didn't miss the bus this morning, just almost missed it. and i'm even doing laundry right now.

and yet, i have so much going on in my head and in my life, i'm paralyzed and overwhelmed by it all. i am at the point where i'm afraid something is going to fall through the cracks. and being that somehow i'm the one in charge, it's left to me to make sure everything is running smoothly. so homework and cleaning and cooking and shopping, those are everyday things i can't forget or keep putting off.

plans for the house need to be made too. so i'm trying to focus on all the things we'll need to get, and trying to remember all the things we already have. also, i'm trying to figure out the things that will need to be fixed and cleaned before we move in, and the things that we can let go until later. and i'm trying to set up dates to get things done by. like when we close, and when we can get the floor fixed by (the one main thing to do), and when we can move furniture in. and i'm also trying to line up people to help, with the floor and hanging curtains and carrying dressers up three flights of stairs. the hardest thing is that there is so much still unknown about the whole process. so i need to make plans, but i need to remain flexible, and i'm not so good at that.

the other part i'm focusing on is that we have a lot of stuff going on in the next couple of weeks and months. there's stuff with scouts and weddings and graduations, and the boys are in school until june. and then i'm also trying to line up our summer plans, where we need to be when, so i don't try to schedule too much for one day. and i know there are doctor and dentist appointments in there somewhere.

i know this is just all the ups and downs and ins and outs of life and of mommyhood. and one would think i would be used to it by now. but the house is a new stress. and hubby going back to school is something i'm still trying to deal with. and maybe i just need to realize that the world won't stop if i drop a ball here or there. things will go on. and i know i have enough practice picking up fallen pieces and putting it all back together and moving on to the next challenge. experience yes, but that doesn't mean i like it.

April 4, 2012

chocolate peanut butter ridiculousness

the title of this post really says it all. lately i've been planning what i'm going to make for easter desserts, as i am in charge of that part for two different dinners.

for the one we are having with my family, i decided a long time ago to make a springy cookie pizza, with lemon flavors and cream cheese icing and strawberries. and i promised the boys they could help me make super cute easter basket cupcakes. i feel those ideas are appropriate and will be delicious. and hopefully easy.

for the dinner at my in-laws, i settled on a pineapple upside down cake. it's a favorite of my mother-in-law, and for whatever reason, i've always associated pineapple and coconut as classic easter dessert flavors. so pineapple upside down cake was a no-brainer.

still, i wanted something else, something a little different, something new i'd never made before. and knowing my audience, something with chocolate and peanut butter seemed like a good idea. after looking around at my recipes and online, i found this recipe.

now yes, i know, there is no peanut butter in that recipe. but it was simple enough that i knew i could adapt it for my purposes. the reason i settled on that one is because it uses rolo minis that come in bags. they're a new product, and i've never tried them before, but i am a firm believer in the reese's peanut butter cup minis. they come in a bag too. a very convenient bag where they're already unwrapped. and they're smaller so they mix into recipes better. or top cookies and cakes. and i happened to have a couple of bags on hand, for just-in-case emergencies. wicked chocolate cravings are emergencies, right?

anyway, so i made a pan of brownies, just like in the recipe. i cheated and used a box mix, but it's a mix i've used before, so i know it's a good one. then, after letting the brownies cool, i spread 1/2 cup of hot fudge sauce on top, because i figured the fudge would work better then the caramel sauce. then i sprinkled a whole bag of halved reese's minis. i guess that i hadn't let the brownies cool completely, because the cups got a little melty. at that point i really should have put the pan in the fridge to firm up a bit, but i didn't, so after the next step, things got a little messy. the next step was spreading peanut butter frosting on top of the whole thing. in the original recipe, it said to make easy fudge, but i'm honestly not in love with the fudge made with sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips. both ingredients are fine on their own, but together, i'm not such a fan. so yeah, i spread frosting on top instead, but because the peanut butter cups were soft, they kind of swirled into the frosting.

now everything is in the fridge, firming up. and i know it'll come out of the pan ok, because i sprayed it well (professional cooking spray ftw!). hopefully is travels well. and lasts in the car and out of the fridge for awhile. though knowing my in-laws, they'll love it no matter what it looks like. it probably won't even make it until after dinner. and that is the real reason why i am making two desserts, because i know how things go. and i'm ok with that.

April 3, 2012

"don't touch me"

i have issues with personal space. i need lots of it, and i really don't like it when people get too close.

and yet, i'm a wife and mother, and touching is kind of part of my job description.

see where my issues lie?

there are times when the kids feel icky and sick, or they just want to cuddle. or we're watching a movie or reading a book. or we're playing or wrestling or tickling. or they're tired and need a nap. and so they just hang on me. and i really do love my kids, but sometimes they need to let me breath before i suffocate.

and if it's been one of those days where i just want to hide in the bathroom for five minutes of peace, those are the days my poor dear hubby gets the short end of the stick.

i know it's not fair to him. and it's not fair to the boys if i get grumpy because their sister has been extra needy all day, so by the time they get home from school i'm not really in the mood for their games.

unfortunately, fish's needs trump all, because for the most part she can't do things for herself. it's just the way it has to be, and i know that.

still, it doesn't make me feel any less guilty when i'm snappy and short tempered with everyone. i feel bad if i ignore or neglect them. and i really don't mean to. but there are moments during the day where i just need some time to myself or i feel like i'm going to scream.

and i know it gets better. i remember when the boys finally became more self sufficient, how nice it was that they could do things for themselves and i wasn't forced to follow them around making sure they didn't burn the house down, or cause some equally awful catastrophe. and i really don't have any ideas for an alternative to my current situation. i have to stay home, for many different reasons. i'm the one that chose to have these crazy little monkeys, and i'm the one that agreed to take care of them.

still, it would be nice to get a bit of understanding from those around me. i know others are working just as hard as i am, maybe we all need to show each other how much we appreciate what they do. or maybe, we all just need a vacation. though some days i'd even settle for a nap.

April 2, 2012

here comes peter cotton tail, hopping down the bunny trail

easter is now less then a week away, so today i decided to get my butt in gear and go get what i need for easter morning. and i really had to do it today, because the rest of the week is pretty much scheduled full of family fun.

tomorrow i have to try and find suits for the boys to wear. or at least a dress shirt and pants. i believe bumble has outgrown everything he had, which means lumpy is covered with hand-me-downs. but they both also need new dress shoes. honestly, they wouldn't need them if i hadn't gotten them such awesome fancy shoes to wear for their aunt's wedding last year, but they loved those stupid shoes so much they barely made it through christmas looking nice.

then on wednesday we are going to have dinner with my dad. we are also picking up the boys' old bunk bed so we can take it with us when we go to visit all the in-laws on thursday and friday and saturday. dear hubby and i have a plan for the new house, one that involves loft beds for the boys so we can store their stuff under them. and so we are taking their old wooden bunk bed and trading to my father-in-law for the loft bed he has for when the grandkids stay.

sometime while we're uptown we plan on having an easter dinner with my hubby's family. it's supposed to happen on friday, because our goal is to leave by noon on saturday. saturday is already going to be busy, what with dying eggs and making dessert for the big dinner that is happening on sunday.

and so, today while the boys are in school, fish and i went easter shopping. i picked up paper grass to put in the bottoms, which made me so happy that they've finally come out with it en-mass so it's cheap enough for me to buy. i always hated that plastic grass stuff, it got so static-y that it would stick to everything. i also bought buckets to put all their candy in. i figured buckets would be more useful than baskets that we'd only use once. they do have proper baskets, which are in a box somewhere amongst the rest of our stuff.

i'm guessing it's because we are very close to getting a house, but the need to buy replacement baskets because i couldn't get to their's wasn't panic inducing like it was with their christmas stockings. i just hated the fact i had to get them cheap stockings, and was probably overly upset by it. but it just didn't feel right to me. now though, with these baskets/buckets, it doesn't seem like such a big deal. it's a momentary speed bump on the way to better things. and because i can keep the bigger picture in mind, it's one i can totally handle.

April 1, 2012

the spice of life

yesterday, for some family, we went to baltimore. the point of the trip was to go see the fresh beat band, the real people from a preschool-age tv show with a band that sings and dances and has fun. it's cute and fishie loves them, but they're musicians in the same way the monkees were real musicians.

because the show wasn't until later in the evening, we went early to have some more grown up type fun in the city. or at least older than a preschooler type fun. so we went to fort mchenry, which was neat to see, and i'd never been there before. they do special flag ceremonies at 9am and 420pm, so we made sure to be there in time for the later one. we just happened to be there on the day civil war reenactors were also there, in full uniform, so that was fun. what also made it extra special is that there was also a high school from washington state there, and their chorus sang the national anthem while they lowered the main flag and raised the storm flag. fun fact: fort mchenry was the first place approved by congress to fly a flag 24/7, which is why they take the huge main flag down at dusk and fly a storm flag at night. the storm flag is much smaller and will stand up to high winds better.

we also ended up driving around the city a bit, when trying to find fort mchenry, and then again when we were going from fort mchenry to the theater where the show was. we were on lombard street for a couple of blocks, and i have to say that dear hubby and i were kind of excited. the hotel we stayed at for otakon last year, and the one we're staying in this year, are both off of lombard street. we also went past one side of the convention center where the whole crazy thing is held. needless to say, it was great looking at all the places we were, where we ate and where we walked and where we hung out. we are both getting very excited for this summer.

the best thing about the whole day, in my mind at least, was actually what we had for dinner before the show. after finding parking, we decided it was time to find something to eat. lucky for us, there was a pizza place next to the garage and across the street from the theater. and it was the best pizza i had ever eaten!

some people thought it was too spicy (my poor mother), but i thought it was just tangy, not really spicy-hot. it had a familiar flavor that i couldn't quite put my finger on. then, after looking at the menu to read the descriptions, and also after realizing we were in maryland, i figured out that delicious, familiar flavor: old bay.

i love old bay. it's one of those random things i just adore, a standard in my kitchen, something i use in so many things. like the can says, i use it on eggs and pizza, in sauces and crunchy casserole toppings, and, of course, all sorts of seafood. there's no other spice mix quite like it, and i've never been able to replicate it at home. it is unique and all it's own, familiar to me and totally unforgettable.

it's a happy yellow can in my kitchen and on my table.