Friday, February 22, 2013

Bedtime Blues

     According to the diagram, y'all, my darling J is the wife.  Every night when Monkey gets up at an ungodly hour to wake me up for water or a potty break or a hug, J, without even stirring from his lovely sanctuary of slumber, wriggles his way onto my side the bed, and every night I have to finagle my way back into the bed.  Last night was the worst, however.  After tucking Monkey back in after a nightmare about a dragon, I came back to bed to see J on my side of the bed again.  I quietly asked him to get back to his side, and he complied...sort of.  He moved his head back to his pillow, but the rest of him was still on my side.  I gently began prodding him to scoot over, and he responded by grunting and rolling over.  This should have been the end of it, but for some unknown reason he decided it would be most comfortable to sleep with his head and knees on his side of the bed while his rump rested on my side.  I don't even fathom how the man accomplished the feat of taking up the entire bed with just his butt considering baby ain't got much back.  He did it, however, by channeling his inner Will Smith (think Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), and pushed that hinny all the way to the edge.  I was forced to mold myself to the odd V shape in order to pass out for 45 minutes before my alarm to run woke me up.  Thankfully it was raining, so I had a legitimate excuse to stay in the (somewhat) cozy bed.

     I was already sleepy from the restless night, but now I'm exhausted.  J and I decided that in order to spend time together and still have time to get to the gym, we'd start a workout together.  I foolishly let J pick it out, and blindly followed him to the gym.  My reward?  The loss of all feeling in both arms.  That is, until the numbness subsided and was replaced by a burning sensation any time I move them.  I think it's safe to say the workout he chose is effective, if not painful.  It's nice to be able to do something constructive together, though.

     Tonight I probably negated everything we did at the gym with these awesome pan pizzas:

but it was totally worth it.
     The original poster said that these were just like the ones you can get from Pizza Hut, but I can't confirm that, as I've never tasted their pan pizza.  J has, however, and he says that these are even better. This is the first time I've made my own crust.  It turned out to be way easier than I thought it would be.

"Pizza Hut" Pan Pizzas

For the dough:
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBS sugar
1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 1/3 cup warm water
2 TBS oil (I used canola) + extra for greasing pans
4 cups flour

Mix yeast, sugar, salt, and dry milk in a 2 qt bowl.  Add water and stir, mixing well.  Allow to sit for 2 minutes.  Stir in oil.  Add flour and mix until dough forms.  Turn dough out onto a lightly flour surface, and knead for 10 minutes.  Divide dough into 3 balls.  In three 9" round cake pans, grease with oil, making sure it's spread evenly.  Using a rolling pan, roll out each ball into a 9" circle.  Place one in each pan.  Cover with a plate, and allow to rise in a warm location for about 1 1/2 hours.  (I usually stick mine in the oven, but make sure it's off lol)

For the sauce:
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 tsp dry oregano
1/2 tsp marjoram (I substituted dry thyme b/c I couldn't find this)
1/2 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp garlic salt

Combine in a small bowl and let sit for about an hour.

To assemble the pizzas, spoon about 1/3 cup of sauce onto each pizza.  Add a little cheese, then your meat toppings followed by any additional toppings before adding the rest of the cheese on top.  Bake at 475 for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is browned.
     The best part was that we each had our own pizza to top with whatever we chose.  Plus, Monkey   got to assemble hers on her own.

   Well I hope y'all enjoy the rest of your evening.  Here's hoping I can get a full night's sleep tonight, but if Monkey does wake me up, I'm going to skip the middle man by letting her sleep next to her daddy while I steal her bed.

Friday, February 15, 2013

My 3-Year-Old Should Come with a Spoiler Alert!

      Good evening all,  I hope everyone enjoyed Cheap Candy Day.  I know I certainly did!  I finished off a box of Ferrero Rocher before realizing that it's been about a week since my last run, and it's been two weeks since my last trip to the gym.  That certainly motivated me to hit the street for a 4.4 mile run this afternoon.  Not that it helped; according to my app I only burned about half that box of candy.  Oh well; I guess that just means I need to get back on the wagon.

     Of course, I also had a good Valentine's Day.  It was nice to have J home for it this year, since last year he missed it because of training exercises.  As y'all have probably surmised from previous posts, J is not very smooth.  He's sweet, but not smooth at all.  Not that I can fault him; I'm a pretty good sleuth when it comes to holidays and gifts.  I'm very rarely taken by surprise, and I have years of experience lifting, shaking, tapping, and feeling presents to determine what's on the inside.  This year, I didn't even have to bother thanks to my adorably talkative 3 year old.

     Tuesday, J got a little shifty when he told me he needed to go somewhere.  When I asked him where he was off to, he said he couldn't tell me that.  When I pressed him, he said to leave him alone because he couldn't say where he was headed.  At that point I told him I knew it had to do with Valentine's Day, and his silence was my confirmation.  He and Monkey left on their mysterious adventure as I left to run a few errands.  When they returned, I asked no questions, and simply continued to work on my homework and they milled around the room.  After they had settled in around me, Monkey turned to me and said, "Mommy, the pet store was closed."  J immediately perked up, but to his credit he said nothing.  Confused, I asked her why they were at the pet store.  Monkey proudly announced, "To get your kitty cat."  I threw my head back and laughed as J did a face palm in the background.  I turned to him, completely surprised, and he just shrugged.  He said the plan was to adopt a cat I had seen at Pet Smart the previous weekend, and see if they could hold him until Valentine's Day.  J had planned on wrapping the adoption papers up for me to open that day, but Monkey spilled the beans.  Monkey was so cute and proud of herself for delivering such funny news that I couldn't even be disappointed.  J was comforted when I told him that was the last thing I had expected, and we agreed to go Thursday to pick the cat up together.

     Valentine's Day came, and I honestly was too distracted by thinking up Louisiana-themed names for my new kitty to really focus in my Computer Concepts class, but when I got to the Humane Society, the cat I wanted was gone.  We browsed the rest of the animals, but I didn't really "click" with any of them.  Monkey was overly excited, too, which made every cat hate her off the bat, so we agreed give it a week before we go back.  Now we're toying with the idea of fostering a litter when breeding season hits, that way we can see how a few different kittens do with Roux and Monkey before we decide on one.  Who knows, though.  I may be back on here in a week showing off pictures of a new fur-baby.

     At any rate, Valentine's Day wound up being a good day, new kitty or no.  J and I brought Monkey home, and we enjoyed a nice dinner at home before tucking her in, and snuggling down to watch Pitch Perfect, which was a really good way to end the evening.

     Of course, I have a recipe to share before I hop off of here.  This is a recipe for stuffed, cheesy, garlic bread like the ones Peeta makes for Katniss in the Hunger Games trilogy.  They are so yummy, and they're the perfect side to any pasta dish, from lasagna to spaghetti.

Yummy cheese, oregano, and garlic on the outside

More gooey cheese on the inside

Peeta's Stuffed Cheese Buns
1 cup warm water
2 TBS yeast
2 TBS sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
at least 8 oz of cheese (I followed along with what the original poster said and used chunks of mozzarella for the inside, but I used shredded cheddar for the outside.)
Parmesan Cheese
3-4 TBS melted butter mixed with 1/2 tsp garlic powder and fresh herbs (oregano, basil, etc) if you have any

Mix yeast and water.  Let sit for a couple of minutes.  Add sugar, garlic powder, melted butter, and oil. Add flour a little at a time, mixing with a dough hook.  Add salt.  Knead for 10 minutes.  (I did this by hand or you could use a stand mixer if you have one.)  Let the dough rise in a greased bowl covered with a wet cloth for about 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375.  Divide dough into about 20 pieces. (The amount you make depends on how big you want your buns).  Place a 3/4 inch chunk of cheese in the middle of each, and pinch the edges up tightly.  Bake for 11-15 minutes until bread is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.  Brush with melted butter, and serve warm.

Enjoy :-)


Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Most Memorable Man

     Today we had to deliver a commemorative speech on a person who influenced our lives.  I chose to speak about my grandfather, who had a huge impact on my life, and I thought I'd share it.

The most memorable man I have ever known couldn’t even remember my name.  The man who taught me the most unforgettable life lessons, couldn’t even recall his own past.  This man showed me what it meant to live, even when he was forgetting his own life.  Marvin G. Chidester Sr, or “Honey”, as we grandkids called him, taught me that life is a challenge that can only be met with hard work, new perspectives, and a sense of humor.

Hardworking from the start, Honey joined the Navy in an attempt to forge a better life for himself.  He became an electrician’s mate, and began working diligently to obtain his place in the world.  A smart man and dedicated to his work, he quickly came up with a design for a motor that would supply power while also charging itself so that it would never have to be restarted.  Even when the government put the lid on that project, Honey never wavered.  He set his keen mind to other projects, such as building a better hog trap for hunting season.  After his Navy career he became a husband and father.  He joined an electrician’s union and travelled the country for work.  As his family grew, he put his smarts towards opening his own electric company in his home town to be on hand should his family need him.  Even on his off days, he’d be seen feeding the chickens, turning out horses, or tending to his beehives.  Honey taught me that idleness and success are like oil and water.  They don't mix.  Through his example, I see what a good day’s work can bring.  For him, it brought a substantial amount of land on which his 6 children and 19 grandchildren could grow and play.  It brought the financial security to care for and provide an inheritance for those children, but more than anything it brought a sense of pride that seemed to hang around Honey’s shoulders like a cape.  He had a presence, a quiet dignity that he earned by getting down in the muck and getting his hands dirty.

Honey was extremely intelligent.  He loved puzzles.  So much so that he took to creating his own.  There was one puzzle he made that had me stumped for weeks.  It was made of metal that Honey had molded into two horseshoes with a chain link connecting them.  On the link, there was a circle made of iron.  The object of the puzzle was to remove the iron circle from the chain.  You couldn’t pull it over the horseshoes on the end; it was too small.  You couldn’t pull the chain apart; it was too strong.  I worked at that puzzle for weeks, becoming more and more frustrated.  One day, I lost my patience with it, and threw the thing down and had myself a good cry.  Honey came in, and seeing the puzzle on the floor, simply nudged me and said, “Come on kid, let’s get some scoops.”  After we had finished our ice cream, and I had time to calm down, Honey brought the puzzle back to me, and, handing it over said, “Try looking at it another way.”  At first, I was frustrated that he didn’t just tell me the answer, but then I saw what he meant.  If you twisted the links in the middle, the iron circle would simply slip down over the horseshoes, then slip off the chain.  I’ll never forget what Honey taught me that day.  He not only showed me how to look at things in a new light, but he also taught me that some of the greatest lessons in life are the ones we have to learn the hard way.

Honey also taught me that life should be met with a great sense of humor.  Growing up, he always had a quick retort to any comment.  These weren’t the dry, sarcastic or biting remarks most people reply with.  They weren’t even cheesy.  They were simply witty.  If I’d tell him “I’ll see you tomorrow Honey” the response was, “Is that a threat or a promise?”  If I told him, “I’ll see you there”  it was “Not if I see you first”.  And if we made plans for another date, it was always, “God willing, and the creek don’t rise”.  Even when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he got a twinkle in his eye as he told me he had “Old Timer’s”.  He taught me that some of life’s scariest moments can be faced head on, if you only learn to laugh at them.  Laughter in the face of fear is true courage, and that’s something my grandfather embodied.  From firing guns on the Navy ships, to venturing into a risky business market, to succumbing to a degenerating disease, Honey did so with a smirk and a shrug.  He taught me that if you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, laugh at it.  If you can’t laugh at it, what’s the point? 

I owe a lot to Honey.  He taught me to work hard, to look at things in a new light, and to always keep my sense of humor.  To paraphrase one of Loretta Lynn’s songs, “They don’t make ‘em like my Honey anymore, guess they’ve thrown away the pattern through the years.  In a great big world of freedom, in a time we really need ‘em, they don’t make ‘em like my Honey anymore”.

   At the end of the speech, I knew I had done Honey justice when my Public Speaking teacher told me she would loved to have met Honey.  She said she wished I could bring him to class.  

   In honor of Honey, I'd like to share a recipe for a chocolate cake.  Like Honey, chocolate cake is a simple concoction, but it's a favorite of many.

Moist Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
For the cake:
1 3/4 cup flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed coffee**

Preheat oven 350.  Grease and flour 2 round 8" baking dishes; set aside.  In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add eggs, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Stir in hot coffee with a rubber spatula.  Divide batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes away clean with only a few crumbs.  Cool for 15 minutes in pans, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

*If you don't have buttermilk, you can substitute it by pouring 1 TBS white vinegar into a 1 cup measuring cup and filling it the rest of the way with milk.  Let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken.
**Coffee brings out the flavor of chocolate.  Decaf can be substituted for regular.

For the frosting:
1-8oz block cream cheese
1 stick butter 
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 lb powdered sugar (varies slightly based on the consistency you want)
1 TBS milk

Allow cream cheese and butter to soften on the counter for 30 minutes.  Cream together butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer.  Add in cocoa powder and vanilla.  Beat until well combined.  Add powdered sugar.  Add milk.  Mix, then use to frost your cake.

This really was the most delicious chocolate cake I've had in a long while, and I'm seriously considering it being Monkey's birthday cake this year.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. :-)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Then they gave me drugs

     Well the teeth came out yesterday, and I am still here.  The anesthesia didn't kill me, but it sure put up a good fight after the surgery.  I'm feeling a lot better this morning, and I'm finally holding down some food.  My husband thought it'd be a good time to fill me in on all the randomness that came out of my mouth after the surgery was over.  Apparently there was a nurse who helped him get me into the car, and I told her she was too short, and that I'd crush her if I fell on her.  Once seated in the car, I kept grilling the poor nurse on whether or not my husband actually listened to the directions.  Apparently I expressed my concerns rather adamantly because she had to reassure me that they went over everything several times.  I responded, "Good, because he forgets things a lot!"  I remember this slightly because I heard the nurse reassure my poor husband that it was just the drugs.  Ha!  I think that was my only lucid moment.  Next J got into the car too, and was nice enough to video the following conversation:

     I have to give my husband props for being an excellent nurse yesterday.  He was really freaked out that I'd bite my tongue off from talking so much, but thankfully that didn't happen.  After getting me settled in at home, he helped me change my gauze and take my meds before making sure I was asleep so that he could go pick Monkey up from daycare.  Monkey has a pretty yucky cold right now, so he was going to bring her to a doctor's appointment, but they got into a wreck on the way home.  It wasn't a big thing.  No one was hurt, and his car was barely scratched, but they were too late for Monkey's appointment, so J was on double duty with two sick girls, and he did a fabulous job!  It helped that a really good friend of mine brought over some soup, bread and cookies for dinner, so that took some of the stress off of his shoulders.  Finally around 10:30, I was starting to feel like me again, so all I wanted to do was stay up, but poor J was exhausted.  He soldiered through an episode of The Big Bang Theory anyway before I let him pass out.

    Since I'm not allowed to have any real food, I want to share the recipe for the shake J made for me this morning, which was delicious.

Apple Pie Shake
1 pkg Spiced Apple Cider, prepared and chilled (We used Alpine brand)
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 scoops vanilla ice cream
Scoop of Whey Protein (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Enjoy!