Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sweet Distraction

This has been one hell of a month.  No...it's been one hell of a few months.  Is it April?  I don't even know anymore.  I thought February was bad, and it was, but I thought... Well, it's a short month so it'll all be over soon.  February was the month we got a little snow, which shut down school, which put the family on top of one another for far too many days, which in and of itself it torture.  It was also the month that we started getting colds... And colds for me inevitably end up in sinus infections, which puts me on antibiotics that I really and truly can't stand.  Then came March and the snow disappeared, but the sicknesses did not.  More colds came, more sinus infections, and then towards the end of the month we started dropping like damn flies.

We all had little colds (what else is new?) and my daughter, after spending a lovely time at a birthday party at a 'bouncy' location that shall remain nameless, but is on my list of places to never bring my children due to it's uncleanliness and stench, contracted pinkeye.  So I took her to the doctor late one afternoon, got her the eyedrops and kept her out of school for the week, while my cold keeps getting worse.  Meanwhile, all week, my husband and I are forcing drops into my 4 year old's eyes while she screams and writhes and tells us we're hurting her feelings and heart.

Two days pass and my cold turns into something far worse.  The cold is bad, but the throat pain is unbearable.  What is with this throat pain?!?  It felt like there were tiny men with sandpaper just going to town in there.  I went to the doctor after suffering through it for 4 days and find out I have strep throat and get put on another antibiotic.  I've never had strep before so I had no idea what I was dealing with but HOLY CRAP, that stuff sucks.  My prescription started working on the strep, but the cold was still there.  A few days later my 7 year old son comes downstairs one Monday afternoon with pinkeye.  So, now he's out of school for the next week, right when my daughter gets to go back in.  And this is the week before Spring Break.  So, now he's on the heartbreak drops (improving), my daughter only has the sniffles, and my strep is healed and cold is getting better.  Things are looking up!

A few days later, as I'm starting to feel a little normal for the first time in months, my husband wakes up to pinkeye.  He looks like he's been tiny-punched in the eyeballs.  Somehow his pinkeye is worse than the kids.  I mean, listen... I love the guy but he looked horrid.  And terribly scary.  This is now a couple days before Easter.  And here's the family status- Both kids have small colds, I'm feeling pretty damn good, and my husband looks like a zombie.  But Easter was great.  We had a great time.  That one day we all managed to get through it and have a fun time, even with my husband looking creepy.

I woke up the next morning feeling kinda crappy again.  Not horrible, but not great.  I rest that day, then come Tuesday morning I feel like dog biscuits.  The next several days I develop this cough that is like none other I've ever had.  And I have yet another terrible cold.  This goes on for a week, the cough and cold both get worse, and I finally go to the doctor, yet again.  Turns out I have another sinus infection, bronchitis and walking pneumonia.  Awesome.  I get on yet another antibiotic, that I'm still on at the moment, this one having the lovely side affect of making me nauseous with every dose (which is 2 a day, for 7 days).  So not only am I coughing like an old smoker and blowing my nose like grandma, I'm nursing cans of seltzer like an addict and lying down at various, inconvenient points throughout the day.

All I gotta say is May better be damn good.

So in honor of all of that CRAP, I would like to shamelessly show you various images of myself to distract from the current state of my immune system.  Mind over matter- that's what I'm goin' for here...

The first shot is from a few months back, taken by me, but recently re-edited as a gift from a friend.

The second is from this past weekend when I still felt yucky but managed to pull it together for a great shot.  My husband took it and he's just swell.

And the video is from a couple days ago, when I found myself with far too much time on my hands on a sick day, and wanting to try out new tricks.  It's my newest obsession.  I may or may not be upside down at this very moment.  (note- It's about 1:30 long, which is pretty long to watch someone on their head moving their legs about, so feel free to skip it... I was just darn proud of myself for staying up that long!!)






video




(link below takes you to my youtube page if the videos above don't show up)
https://youtu.be/7JQcGBdpgO0


*coughs*   *sniffles*   *sips seltzer*   *lies down*

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Another Agave Marshmallow

If you've been reading my stuff for awhile you've already seen me write about my homemade agave marshmallows.  But it's been so long and I thought it needed an upgrade.  And with Easter around the corner, I thought it the perfect time to do so.  (Plus, most of my older stuff needs upgrading anyway, to be honest.)

I used to make these with my son when he was younger... and when I was pregnant with my daughter I went through a time when some kind folks were trying to market them.  That never panned out, for many a reason, but needless to say, I was making these marshmallows every day for a very long time.

So the other day when I went to look for my recipe post online, I couldn't believe what I saw... my little man in the pictures blew me away!  I even sent it to my husband and we giggled together.  He was just so tiny!  THAT'S how long ago it was when I posted it... And my daughter was inside my tummy at that time... just amazing.  So it then occurred to me that my little girl, now 4, had never made them with me, nor had she even tried them.

So I set out to change that.

AGAVE MARSHMALLOWS
(usually makes 16 large marshmallows...she just made super jumbo ones for the picture)

First you need a standing mixer.  If you don't have a standing mixer, you can use a giant bowl and an electric handheld mixer.  If you don't have an electric mixer, you can use a whisk but may the force be with you.

Place your bowl in the sink and fill it up with hot water.  Place your mixer's whisk attachment (or electric beater attachments) in the hot water as well.  Let this sit and warm up while you start to prepare your ingredients.  (Note- you're doing this so when you add your gelatin mixture, it doesn't seize up in a cold bowl.)

In a microwave-safe cup or bowl (I always use my 1 cup glass measuring cup), dissolve 2 packages of plain gelatin (I use Knox original/unflavored gelatin) into 6 TB of cold water.  Stir with a fork until fully dissolved...

(she did all of this herself...my favorite is her checking the 1 cup line on the measuring cup)

...Microwave the gelatin/water on high for 15 seconds, stir and again for another 15, stir and again for another 15.  It should now be liquified and hot.

Dry off your now hot mixing bowl and beater and place the gelatin mixture in, along with 1 cup of agave nectar (I prefer the light instead of the amber because it produces a whiter marshmallow, but we only had the amber on hand), 1/4 tsp kosher salt, and a good splash of vanilla extract.

Turn your beater on medium at first to get it started, then begin to increase the speed as more air becomes incorporated and the mixture becomes lighter and fluffier.

See stages below...


This takes 8-10 minutes, sometimes 15, depending on the weather and your mixer.  But I highly encourage standing by and watching the magic take place...




It's done when it's completely white and fluffy and holds its shape when it drops back into the bowl from the whisk...


And do not forget to give that whisk to your little chef.  She earned every bit of that gooey goodness.
(And be sure to work quickly because it will soon harden and become un-lickable.)


Using a rubber spatula, spread the mixture into a greased and well floured 9x9 inch pan.  Wet the spatula to make spreading easier and spread evenly.

Let it sit at room temperature for about 3 hours until it's firm.  The longer you wait, the easier it will be to remove, but 3 hours is fine.


When you're ready to remove, run a knife around the edges of the pan...


...Dust your counter with flour and invert the pan.

Slap the back of the pan to release it onto the counter.

Using a pizza cutter dusted in flour, cut into desired sizes (you can see here the chef chose the extra large size...and mama later cut them in half).

Toss your cut marshmallows in some more flour to prevent sticking, although they will remain a bit tacky.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for as long as they last in your home.

*These are great to add to lunchboxes, they're fun to make crispy rice treats with, they're fun to even cut into different shapes for different holidays.  We've even dyed the whole mixture before and then cut into bunny shapes for homemade 'peeps'.

*I do not recommend using these in hot chocolate.  THEY WILL SIMPLY PUDDLE.  These are made from an already liquified sweetener, unlike traditional marshmallows that boil white sugar and corn syrup until they 'candy', so they just melt back into liquid.  And they're just not as fun in that sense.

But they are entirely fun in every other sense...



Thursday, March 26, 2015

Call Me

I haven't baked in awhile... My apologies to any of you who were following me only for my sweet goodies.  But if there were ever a recipe to win back your love and affection, it would be this one right here.

Holy.  Sexy.  Goodness.

These are just too good.  TOO good.  It should be illegal how amazing these are.  I have yet to feed them to anyone who didn't roll their eyes in the back of their head and moan.

They're only as sweet as they need to be, delightfully rich, and with the perfect amount of saltiness to make
every...
single...
bite...
Mouth watering goodness.

I do hate to be demanding and forceful with you kind people, but GO OUT AND MAKE THESE BABIES NOW.

Then Call Me in the morning to thank me for how much sweeter and sexier I made your day.


CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER BLONDIES

Whisk together your dry ingredients and set aside...
-2 cups AP flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 heaping tsp kosher salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream together...
-1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened (10 TB)
-1 1/4 cup light brown sugar

Mix, using an electric beater if you have one, until light and creamy.

Beat in, one at a time...
-2 large eggs

Then, while still mixing, add in...
-a good splash of vanilla extract

While you're mixing, slowly add in your dry ingredients, a little bit at a time, until completely mixed together.

Switch to a spatula and mix in...
-1 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips/chunks
-1 cup peanut butter chips

Spread into a greased 9x13 inch glass baking dish.  Use a wet spatula to spread evenly, as this is a very thick batter, much like a cookie dough.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  DO NOT OVER-BAKE.  You want there to be a gooey center.  This is part of their charm.

Cool before slicing into desired sized squares.

These are amazing on their own, but if you really wanna get sexy, warm it and top with some vanilla ice cream.



You're welcome.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more yummy fun...

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Music Box

Friendships end, people drift apart, marriages dissolve...lots of relationships end every day for various reasons.  It's just a part of life.  Things open and bloom and then they fade and disappear.  And after they do, it's difficult to look back on it all with a smile, isn't it?  Usually when relationships end, they end for negative reasons and unfortunately that negativity overshadows all the wonderful things you no doubt shared with that person.  What once was so sweet and special suddenly turns dark and sour.

One of the things I always share with people I'm involved with is music.  I generally don't make friends without music being involved in some way.  Music is such a big part of my life so I suppose I don't make true connections without it in some way.  And music is just one of those things that can trigger a memory unlike any other...like a smell.  You can hear a song and immediately be transported back to a certain place with a certain person.  It's our own little time machine.

I hear 'Centerfield' by John Fogerty and I'm 9 years old again, at a Braves game, sweaty and dirty-kneed, peanut shells at my feet.

I hear 'You Can Call Me Al' by Paul Simon and I'm 6 years old- jumping on the couch, barefoot in a nightgown with my brother while my dad does his little 'dad dance' in the middle of the living room.

I hear 'I Am A Town' by Mary Chapin Carpenter and I think of my sweet cousin, whom I don't have anymore.  My mother and his father used to sing this song during their set and he, sitting at that dining room table, said it was his favorite.  Nobody heard it but me.  It's his song now.

I hear 'In My Life' by The Beatles and it makes me think of my mother quietly singing it in my ear as we rode along the dirt path in St. John to the beach where I was to be wed to my best friend.

I hear 'Hallelujah' by Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley or k.d. Lang and I think of my college friend whom I no longer have.  I think of my sweet friends singing and playing it at his funeral and me not being able to breathe from all the tears.

Every song that means something to me has a person and a place attached to it.  But what happens when that person leaves?  Breaking up with a friend means breaking up with the music that came along with it.  A song that once brought you so much joy is now something that you simply can't listen to anymore.  And that's almost as sad as the breakup!  And that just doesn't seem fair, does it? This song, this perfectly good song, this amazing song is now tainted.

That's the power of music.  That's the power of the brain.  Of memory.

I think that time can heal this though...I think that eventually you'll be able to listen to that song again.  Maybe a new memory will attach itself to it as you go on and live your life, or maybe you just let go of the negativity and take it for what it is now...a song that even though isn't about someone in your current life, still has good memories attached to it- sweet smiles and giggles, hugs and days in the sun.  It took me years to be able to listen to 'Hallelujah' without sobbing.  But now I can.  I still get misty, but it's ok.

So what happens to the songs until you're ready to accept them again?  Maybe there's a little music box somewhere.  Maybe every time you skip over a song on your playlist because you can't take the memories, it goes into that box.  Maybe your heart keeps that box hidden away until one day you don't skip over that song.  One day you let it play.  And you allow yourself to remember the things you shared with that person, the places you went, the conversations you had, and you take it for what it still is.  A beautiful song that brought you to where you are today.


What songs do you have in your music box?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

BIRTH day.

By the time most of you are reading this, my daughter will be four.  Four.  In a lot of ways it totally feels like it's been four years since I've known her, if not longer (those of you with daughters know exactly what I mean by that) but then in a lot of other ways it's just so hard to imagine.  I look back on old photos of her and I don't even recognize the face looking back at me.


I look back on my maternity photo with her and I don't even recognize the woman hiding from the camera.


My pregnancy with my daughter wasn't awesome. It was my second one, my final one.  I didn't glow, I didn't feel magical or strong...I felt weird and tired and weak.  And it feels like that was a different person going through all of that now.

But it was me.

It happened, she happened, and she's now turning 4.

In the past, my kid's birthday posts have always been tear jerkers- filled with old photos and words about all the beautiful parts of raising a child.  They're all nice to look back on, I know my husband and I still do from time to time.  But I'm taking a different approach this year.  And it has nothing to do with my little girl- she's still awesome and beautiful and super rad.  It has everything to do with my week.  My dumb damn week.  My week began with the roofers coming early (so so early) on the first school day of the daylight savings time adjustment (Argggh) and therefore waking everyone in the house up- including my daughter, who never sleeps in.

So I was kicked out of my house due to the noise said roofers were making, hoping to find a peaceful spot to begin writing this here birthday post...hoping it to be as eloquent and awesome as my past birthday posts.  I went to my local coffee shop- a quaint spot with outdoor seating.  It would be perfect on this slightly chilly day in March.  I had on jeans, boots and a leather jacket- perfect for the outdoor writing weather.  I was gonna put on my glasses and drink my coffee and write my eloquent story outdoors.  So very poetic.

Guess what was happening outside of the quaint coffee shop?  Construction.  A bunch of loud tools drilling and digging things.  AND the wifi wasn't working.  So... I spent the two hours of allotted writing time responding to people's comments on my Instagram account while I waited for photos to upload onto this post (they never did).

So I returned home with an even bigger headache than when I left, a major coffee buzz and nowhere to put it, and the beginnings of another round of stomach flu and sinus infection.  The days that followed were pretty much more of that.  But my baby girl's birthday is tomorrow (or today now that you're reading this) and it's a big deal.  I know it is.  Of course I'm excited about it, she's incredibly excited about it, but I am just dog tired.  So here we are.  And here we go.

When you're a child, birthdays are the most important thing to you- they're so exciting and fun.  It's all about you and what you want to do and what you're gonna get.  It's amazing.  Birthdays were always made incredibly special in my house.  My mother won the game of birthdays.  She dominated that field.  She rocked.  We always felt super special on our birthdays.  (Thanks, mom!)  But then you become a mother yourself and all of that changes.  Like everything else, once you're a mom your priorities shift and it's no longer about you and what you want.  And so the meaning of your child's birthday changes as well...

Let's think about this for a second- why are we celebrating and doting on the birthed?  What did they do on this day?

Nothing.

They just appeared.

They literally just showed up breathing with no effort on their part whatsoever.

You know who needs that day?  The moms.  We did all the work!  THEY WERE INSIDE OF OUR BODIES UNTIL WE PUSHED THEM OUT OF IT.  You know how incredible that is?  I mean...who does that?  WE do.  Moms.  We're the ones who need a party and cake and presents and a big ole smack on the back for doing damn hard work.  It's called BIRTHday.  WE BIRTHED!!!!  It's not called SHOWUP day.

And this doesn't cross our minds until we become a mom ourselves.  It never even occurred to me to think of my mother on my birthday and everything she went through to push me into this world.  It honestly never did.

But then, of course...we have our children.  The greatest gift of all, right?  Our beautiful children who we love and cherish and would do anything for.  And we want to make them happy.  We want to give them a party and presents and congratulate them for just being here.  For just appearing because we made it so.  And we suddenly forget all the pain we went through to make the day occur.

And that right there is what it's like being a mom, isn't it?  We blindly give and love and then thoroughly enjoy watching our children light up when we do.  It's just one of the perks of the job.  Tiny laughs and little smiles reminding us that we really don't need a thing but them.



But I would totally still accept a party and a cake and presents.  I'm no idiot.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Want more?  Here's her birthday post from last year...turns out that one wasn't very sentimental either.  

But I do talk about her party, the dress I made her and her extremely colorful Princess cake with the recipe for the Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting I used on it... that has to count for something, right?

I'll be back with more recipes and better words soon, y'all.  You've got my word.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Released

OK, So I'm gonna keep this fairly brief.  Cause my brain is dog tired.  But, it's time for me to share with you all a secret I've been keeping for months.  Since November, specifically.  Not even my family or closest of friends knew...

Just this past week I was officially released from my agreement with Food Network on being cast in their upcoming show, Food Network Star.  I made it to the final rounds of casting and was just informed that they have gone in another direction.  So, to put it simply- my life has been on hold since I got my first email and phone call in early December, telling me I had advanced to the next round and to continue to stay available until April.  I'm incredibly glad I went through with it, as having my own show is my ultimate dream, but the timing apparently just wasn't right for me this year.  I was told that they really liked me and that they would keep me in mind for the future, among many other incredibly kind and generous things.  And those are always nice things to hear.

Although I can say I'm a tad disappointed that things didn't go the other way, I'm just glad the process is over, if I'm being honest.  Spending 3 months waiting for a phone call or email to tell me I had to pack my bags and leave for New York the next day was not my cup of tea, but it was an exciting process and I'm proud of myself for making it as far as I did and getting the positive feedback that I got.  Unfortunately, I had to turn down a few excellent offers during my holding period, which were very difficult decisions to make, but all in all, they were made for the right reasons.

The unknown is a tricky thing to live with- especially for me.  So, now that I know where my tomorrow will be spent, I can rest a little easier and cherish what I have in my life at the moment.  I also want to take this time to apologize for any mood I may have been in over the past 3 months...I'm sure I wasn't always as calm and kind as I would like to be...and now you all know why.  But I'm back now and have no plans of going anywhere any time soon!

I would now like to share with you my initial audition video that got me my first callback.  I'm so very proud of it, as my husband shot it and edited it in just a few hours.  He has been my rock throughout this process and was willing to allow me to chase my dream, knowing that he would have to stay home with the kids on his own for months...longer if things went my way.  He's amazing.  And I'm incredibly lucky.

So now I would like you all to see how brilliant he actually is...


(If you can't view the above embedded video, 
follow this link to my Youtube page and view it there:


Thanks for listening, as always.  

Follow your dreams.  No matter how out of reach they may seem.  If they don't come true, it only means that they haven't yet.