Tuesday, December 27, 2011

{TWD} Kids Thumbprints and The End

Good afternoon! It is Tuesday and you know what that means....Tuesdays with Dorie and a delicious recipe. This weeks recipe was chosen by none other than Dorie Greenspan herself. You should check out her post because if you have been following along for almost the last four years it just might make you cry...plus she has the recipe for these delicious cookies in her post.

I am writing this post with mixed emotions. On one hand I am slightly melancholy because this is the last recipe in the book. On the other hand I have learned so much about baking over the last few years and have tackled things I may have never tried. I feel like I have had far more success than failures and my darn dog has had her share of goodies she swiped from the counter. As good things come to an end though there are new good things on the horizon. In 1996 Dorie published Baking with Julia, the cookbook that accompanies Julia Child's PBS series. This is the book the TWD crew will start baking through starting in February of 2012. If you would like to tackle this cookbook and join an amazing community of bakers I would love to see you there!

This all started with Laurie Woodward and a few friends almost 4 years ago. I thank her now for starting this group and creating a fun, informative community of bakers. Thanks for sticking with this all of this time and for inspiring so many!

Now, on to the cookies!
In the tradition of not looking terribly closely at the recipe before going to the grocery store I didn't realize I needed peanuts....not to fear! It is Christmas and I can obviously just coat these babies in sprinkles, because who doesn't love sprinkles...right? I did end up having a red sprinkle emergency and had to run to Dollar General for more red sprinkles but it all worked out.

Little Man lent me his thumb to press the centers of these...he was not really a fan and ran to rewash his hands as soon as we finished. After the raspberry jam was (almost) set I packaged these up and sent them to school with the kids as teach gifts. I also sent a plate to each class for the "holiday" party. Honestly, I am glad I sent them because I really could have eaten the entire plate of these myself. I love cookies that have jam like this in them. Bobby is not a fan but even he liked them.  These will definitely go in the Christmas Cookie line up next year.

I hope you have enjoyed baking along with TWD or living vicariously through the posts and the other bakers in TWD. I know I have and hope that the next four years will be as sweet and tasty as these last four!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Aug/Sept/Oct/Nov/Dec Wrap Up

This is one of those posts that is here to remind me what happened in the last few months. Since my last few posts have all been baking related this is just a list of things we did.
August:

  • Disney World Extravaganza
  •  Kids started 1st grade and 4th grade
  • Little Man bought a skateboard
  • Trophy Ceremony for baseball for Little Man
  • Went to Throwback Thursday Sounds game
  • Munchkin had strep that we initially thought was a spider bite
  • got Munchkins TCAP scores..they rocked!
  • Took the kids to Cedar Creek Batting Cages and Go Karts
September
  • Kids learned how to make armpit farts
  • I turned 37
  • Took Munchkin to the Perch for Crepes
  • Huge limb fell off of our tree during a mild rainstorm. Thankfully no cars were under it
  • Kids played Upward Soccer. Lady Owls and the Lightning
  • Little Man told us about a little girl trying to kiss him on the playground
  • Went to the Encore picnic
  • My grandpa had heart surgery and came through with flying colors
  • Went to a preseason Predators game for free at the Bridgestone Arena
October:
  • Salient played at Meridee's Bread Basket in Franklin
  • We tried a new Thai place and the kids loved it!
  • Munchkin attempted to pull her tooth with a remote control airplane (it didn't work)
  • Salient played at "The Stand" in our neighborhood
  • I busted the screen on my 2 month old phone (it still works though)
  • Kids put on a "Crazy Kids Concert" on our porch to raise money for church. 
  • Did a sweet family photo shoot at a park. 
  • Introduced the kids to Edamame
  • Worked on the banners for both kids classes for the school fitness day
  • Went to Atlanta to hang out with the Jacksons
  • Salient played at the Madison Folk Fest
  • Did some letterboxing
  • Munchkin made chocolate almond topped shortbread all by herself
  • Saw Wicked at TPAC
  • Went to Pumpkin Hill for Pumpkins. Little Man won a 75 pound pumpkin for guessing the closest weight
  • Halloween: Bobby was Thor, I was Glinda the Good Witch, Munchkin was Elphaba: the Wicked Witch of the West, and Little Man was a cop with a radar gun
November:
  • Munchkin read Because of Winn Dixie
  • We went to the Hobby Lobby family day where we all shot airsoft guns and drove remote control cars
  • Kids were attacked by the leaf monster that appears in our yard every fall
  • Won first place in photography and baking at neighborhood village fair
  • Munchkin won first place for kids baking and second for drawing
  • Little Man sang his rendition of Taylor Swift's "You Belong to Me":  You wear short pants, I wear long pants...na na na na na....I wear short sleeves, you wear long sleeves...na na na na na.... :)
  • Little Man and I spent several hours at the children's hospital getting a piece of glass removed from his foot. 
  • Saw Breaking Dawn
  • Spent Thanksgiving at Mark and Melissa's house
  • Saw the Muppet movie
  • Saw Santa at Bass Pro Shop
  • Munchkin had "Nature Club" at our house
December:
  • Built a snowman out of pumpkins that I spray painted white
  • Dinner 8 at our house with Lindsay and Andrew and Sarah and Travis
  • Got our Christmas Tree at Lowe's
  • Went to Bobby's work party
  • Celebrated our 14th anniversary by going out to dinner at Outback the actual night and then to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol on Saturday
  • Took the kids Christmas caroling in the neighborhood. 
  • Obviously it is not the end of December yet and there is so much more that will happen in the next couple of weeks. I am looking forward to 2012 and hope that I will be a better blogger in the future. :) *sigh* I suppose it takes the discipline that I lack.... 
Marry Christmas and Happy New Year! :)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

{TWD} Earl Grey Madelines

 Way back when I was a freshman in college, my grandparents sent me a tea set for my birthday. It included 2 large green mugs, which I still have, and several types of tea in a white basket. Earl Grey was by far my favorite.

For some reason I do not recall there being a microwave in the girls dorm and we were not allowed to have hot plates. For this reason I spent a considerable amount of time microwaving water for tea in the lobby of the boys dorm. Perhaps having to go there made drinking tea even more fun. :)
When I saw this week's recipe I was reminded of my grandparents and that sweet tea set that in turn created many memories.
These cookies were not difficult to put together but they did require some time in the fridge before baking. One new technique I learned from this was infusing butter with tea. I did not have a cheesecloth so I used a coffee filter in my sieve to separate the butter from the tea leaves. Of course, that was not terribly effective either so we had some tea leaves in the cookies. One other reminder to myself....do not set the timer and leave the house...my madelines passed golden and springy and went straight to dark brown and slightly burned. The characteristic hump on the other side looked great though and both of my kiddos ate the madelines without a peep about them being burned.

 Once again there were two recipes chosen. Nichi of Bakeologie chose Earl Grey Madelines and Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table chose Honey Almond Fig Tart. I have every intention of making the tart as well however I could not find fresh figs. Perhaps next week. :)

Like I said last week, I am sad to see TWD coming to an end soon. We are gear up to start a new book though (Baking with Julia) and I am hoping to see my copy under the tree in a couple of weeks. If you want to join in check out this link for the details. I am looking forward to baking with my old TWD friends but would love to see some new faces too! Especially some of my local peeps! ;)
Make sure to check out how the other bakers did with each of these recipes this week!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

{TWD} Normandy Apple Tart and Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie

 Last week was kind of crazy around these parts. It was a rewind week so I made a Swedish Visiting Cake...actually I have made that cake probably 50 times since we posted about it before. It is fast and easy and my students love it!

This summer we did a ton of travelling so we ended up staying in town and going over to Mark and Melissa's house for Thanksgiving dinner. I was in charge of the pies and cranberry sauce.  As luck would have it Judy of Judy's Gross Eats chose Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie and Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures chose Normandy Apple Tart. Perfect recipes for Thanksgiving dinner. If you have not seen these ladies blogs (and I meant to say this about Leslie and Jessica's as well) make sure to stop by and drool over the recipes and photos on their pages!

 The apple tart had a couple of steps. One was making apple sauce that you were supposed to put through a food mill...I do not have a food mill so I tried to press it through a strainer that was too fine and then ended up pressing it through my plastic colander. It all worked out and turned out just right. I didn't add extra sugar to it because Dorie said traditionally this tart is not all that sweet. I was a bit disconcerted when I pulled the tart out of the oven and it looked charred to me. I was heartened to go back and read that it was supposed to look like that...maybe not quite as dark as mine turned out but still kind of burnt.

My poor Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie obviously had issues. My crust cracked....maybe from not baking with pie weights (I am hoping Santa will bring me some), maybe it wasn't cold enough... I don't know. It seemed to shrink a bit. Then the inside cracked....did I bake it too long? I don't know and I actually don't even know how this tasted because I really don't like pumpkin pie. Everyone else did though and now there is none left.

 My husband LOVES Marie Callendars Chocolate Satin Pie and I try to buy it when it is on sale. However, a few months ago I decided to try the Betty Crocker version. He said he like it better than the Chocolate Satin. Win!! :) So, I decided to add this pie to the mix for Thanksgiving. I did make two alterations to it though. I made an Oreo crust for it instead of a regular crust and I poured a thin layer of peanut butter on the crust before adding the chocolate. Bobby thought it turned out great!

Overall I think the pies were a success and I was thrilled to see them eaten and enjoyed. The best part though was spending time with our friends! :)

{TWD} Bittersweet Brownies and Alastian Apple Tart

I have been baking with Tuesdays with Dorie since August of 2008. This year I have not been the most consistent and I am pretty sad about that. I have learned tons of tips and techniques in baking over the past few years and have found baking friends around the world.  As of December we will have baked through the entire book. Little Man's pumpkin looks kind of scared that it is going to meet the same fate as the apples in this Alastian Apple Tart. This recipe was chosen by Jessica of Cookbook Habit. I took it to my cooking club to go along with minestrone soup and salad.
The second recipe for the week was chosen by Leslie of Lethally Delicious. My kids were quite excited that I left a few behind for them as most of these went to my class. They were easy to whip up, rich and delicious! I can see adding all kids of variations to these but they are also perfect the way they are. Thanks ladies for choosing fun recipes! :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fall Break is Wicked!

Like I said in my last post it is fall break and that means finding things to do. Monday we played outside and hung out at home. Munchkin and Little Man had no desire to go anywhere after being in the car on Sunday. I had a meeting at work so we did go out for that.

Tuesday included grading papers, Munchkin writing a report on kudzu bugs and baking Almond Fudge topped Shortbread, Little Man playing with action figures, a freak hailstorm, and me and Bobby watching 4 episodes of the Walking Dead.

Wednesday I taught in the morning and at night so Munchkin and Little Man went to a friends house in the morning. Bobby was home in the afternoon so we didn't have to have a sitter for the evening.

Thursday was Wicked. I left for work at 8:30 in the morning. I warned my students ahead of time that we would only take a very short break because I needed to leave early. I hopped in the car and made it to my seat at TPAC with 5 minutes to spare. Bobby got there just before I did. Way back in July we surprised Munchkin with these tickets for her birthday so the anticipation has been building for this show for quite some time. Both kids know all the words to all of the songs on the soundtrack. We made sure to talk to them ahead of time and remind them that they could sing along in their heads but could not sing out loud. I could just see one or the other of them bursting into song and drowning out the actors on stage.

The joy on Munchkins face was apparent throughout the entire show. You could see her making the connections with the story and the soundtrack and understanding it so much better. Little Man stayed awake the entire time and was transfixed! At the end of the show both of my kiddos faces were so excited. They both proclaimed the show "AWESOME!" and Munchkin said "I want to be in Wicked!".

So, all in all Wicked was a hit for our family. If you get a chance to see it you should. It is really really really great!

Once I got out of the parking garage I managed to make it back to work at 5:45 in time to teach my 6:00 class. Needless to say I pretty much fell into bed last night when I got home.


This morning we started off not really having a plan for the day. Bobby asked if we would come have lunch with him so we worked in the possibility of finding a couple of letterboxes along the way. Construction made getting around town a bit tricky but not impossible. After a delicious lunch we managed to find 2 letterboxes! We had to be sneaky though as there were tons of people out enjoying the beautiful day.
One funny thing, today has been a constant musical. Munchkin wants to write her own musical and got a good start on it this morning. In the car both kids sang everything they needed to communicate. It as very funny and very sweet. :)

Tonight we are watching the Wizard of Oz. Outside of soccer I have no idea what else we are going to do for the last 2 days of fall break. I just know I have enjoyed having my kiddos home with me this week. We have had a really fun time together.

Alas, Monday will come and it will be back to reality...until Thanksgiving. :)

Stone Mountain Georgia

Well, it is fall break around these parts and that means finding fun things to do. Munchkin and the Basketball Star have been friends since Munchkin was born and Little Man and the Big Kahuna have been friends since they were born. Unfortunately for us they moved 5 hours away. But what is 5 hours when you have a car? The Basketball Star's birthday fell last weekend so I packed the kids in the car, loaded up on a large amount of caffeine and hit the road. A few things I learned on the way: traffic outside of Atlanta = Office Space, JuJuBe's are disgusting and the Stacker2 Energy shot does not make me flush and shake like the 5 Hour Energy shots do.
 We pulled into town on Friday night and my children immediately disappeared. They reappeared around dinner and then went upstairs to watch Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer. I graded some papers and watched Thor with Ron and Angela. At 1 am I was still wide awake. The next morning I slept until 9:30. I never sleep that late! The Big Kahuna had a soccer game so we got to see him play. His team rocked it and they won!
 We decided a trip to Stone Mountain was in order but thought we should eat ahead of time so we didn't have to buy overpriced food. Munchkin and I shared a salad at Zaxby's and we headed out to Stone Mountain. Once of the benefits of going after 3 was the price was drastically reduced. However, there was a pumpkin festival and Highland Games happening so it was pretty busy.

I have been reading the Outlander Series by Diana Galbaldan so it was fun to see all of the men in their kilts. It made me want to dig back into my book and visit Scotland!

We managed to find a decent parking place right by some restrooms. That was perfect since everyone needed the facilities at that moment. We took the blankets, camping chairs, the rolling cooler and  jackets and staked out a spot on the lawn for the laser show. We were a bit worried that people would mess with our stuff while we were gone but it was all for naught. No one messed with our stuff and we could see it from the SkyRide tram.
 The first thing we did was head over to the station to get to the top of the mountain. It was so fun to be up there and reminded me of being on top of Half Dome...only a lot easier to get to. You could see Atlanta and Midtown from up there. We thought we would look for a letterbox up there but I think it would have been easier to find had we hiked up. We did not find it but I did get some fun pictures. There were tons of people up there and it was really really windy. Little Man was a little worried at first because he thought he might blow away.
 We stayed on top of the mountain until just after 6. By the time we made it through the line and back down the mountain it was about 6:40. All of the attractions were set to close at 7pm. Now, in hindsight we probably should have done one of the kid events first but we really wanted to get to the top of the mountain before dark. When we got to the SkyHike at 6:45 they had already closed it. That was very disappointing for both Munchkin and The Basketball Star. However, they had a rock climbing wall and Munchkin made it higher than she ever has! That was so exciting to see because she has always been nervous about any kind of heights.
 This picture above was one of my favorites from the day. :)
This make me think of the TV show Roswell. :)

 The last activity the kids got to do was the zip line. It was technically closed but the guy running it was really nice and let the kids do it. Little Man had tried some of the low course but some of the motor skill issues still make him a little afraid. So, when he wanted to to the zip line I was willing to do anything to get him on it. Both Munchkin and Little Man had a blast flying down to the end and halfway back.
Once everything was closed it was time to head back to our chairs and wait for the laser show to start. I was so glad we had a cooler filled with drinks and bags of snacks. The kids acted like they had never eaten and pretty much ate all of the snacks. I introduced Ang to Caramel Bugles and we discovered the joy of Chocolate Chip Kettle Corn.

Angela warned me that the laser show was a really southern laser show. It was really fun! The kids loved the music and all of the different parts of the show. Munchkins favorite parts were the Devil Goes Down to Georgia music and show and the  3D mushrooms and flowers. Little Man liked all of the lasers and loved the fireworks as well.

It turned out that our parking spot was even better than we thought. We managed to get back to the car and get out to the interstate with hardly any traffic! The kids were exhausted and so were the grown ups. I pretty much slept like a log that day!

On Sunday Angela and I went and tried to find another letterbox and once again had no luck! I was bummed because she didn't get to have the joy of finding a box and I was also bummed because I still didn't have a box from Georgia!

The Basketball Star had another birthday party to go to that day so we headed for home just before she headed out to the party. Poor Munchkin was very sad to be leaving The Basketball Star and I was just as sad. We miss this sweet friends very much all the time.
I didn't need quite as much caffeine that day for some reason and our trip home was quite easy. I did see on atlasquest.com that there was a new plant in Georgia and that it was right on our way home so we did stop once and actually found a box.

As we were trying to find the letterbox in Georgia we kept smelling a horrible smell and we were being attacked by bugs. I figured they were some kind of stink bug and it turns out I was right! When we got home I researched the little buggers and found out they were Kudzu Stink Bugs. I can only hope we didn't bring any home with us!

We had a fantastic weekend with our sweet friends and can only hope we will see them again very soon!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Little Baker

 It is fall break around these parts and you know what that means.... dun dun dun.....finding stuff for my kiddos to do. Unfortunately I had papers to grade (fortunately that I have a job) so I could not spend every second keeping my kiddos engaged. Little Man played outside for awhile and played with his action figures. Munchkin (my 9 year old) came to me and said "I want to bake something". So, I told her to find a cookbook and pick a recipe and she could bake it. She was kind of surprised by that but then got really excited. The first recipe she chose had ingredients that we don't have on hand at the moment. The second recipe called for Sweetened Condensed Milk. After a quick search of the cabinets we found a can...and it doesn't even expire until December!

My sweet daughter did everything from turning on the oven to mixing the butter and sugar with a hand mixer, to patting everything into the pan. I did go observe as she put the pan in oven since it was her first time doing that and I took it out of the oven but otherwise I didn't do much. She melted the chocolate chips and condensed milk over low heat, added the almond extract and started to pour it over the shortbread base. She needed a tiny bit of help getting all of the chocolate out of the pan but really not much.

This was the result:
Almond Fudge Topped Shortbread. I think this was an excellent first attempt at baking for her. She did a fantastic job and may even enter these in a baking contest next month! :)

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Sweet Moments

Just a couple of sweet moments from my kids this week.

Munchkin "Mommy, you have magic kisses, when you kiss one of the spots where we have hurt ourselves, it doesn't hurt quite as much anymore."

Little Man is making progress in speech. His pronunciation of his sisters name has gone from 2 syllables to 3.

This afternoon the kids made signs and set up on the front porch for the "Crazy Kids Concert". Little Man played drums and Munchkin sat in the chair and sang into the mic from the Star Station. They made up songs and performed for us. I think they are going to perform again tomorrow after passing out brochures about the show. I love that they worked on the band together, wrote songs together, and played so well together!

I am helping out at my kiddos school making banners for their big fitness day so I was in Little Man's class on Friday. I was so happy to see him raise his hand and tell the teacher something they could find out with the graph they were working with. I was glad to see that math seems to be working for him.

I love these moments and want to hold onto them!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Disney Day 5: Epcot

Day 5 of our family vacation took us to Epcot. We told the kids that we would get them ears there so one of our first stops was at Mouse Gear. Little did we know, we would be back in that store at the end of the night. I picked up a Disney cookbook at that store as well and had it shipped back to the hotel.

Disney Tip: You can ship any of your purchases back to a resort hotel free of charge.

While I took Munchkin over to the Test Track, Bobby took Little Man to get fast passes for Soarin. Bobby and I had ridden Soarin after it opened in California so we were excited to ride it again at Epcot. While waiting for Bobby and Little Man, Munchkin and I found a good spot to wait with a giant fan blowing on us. After running through the park it was nice to stand in the breeze and hope the large amounts of perspiration would evaporate.

The kids loved the test track, especially that part where we accelerated to 60 miles an hour. We made our way back to Soarin in "The Land". While in line for Soarin (even with a fast pass we had to wait just a little bit) we had a conversation with the family behind us about hidden mickey's.

Disney Tip: Get to book about finding hidden mickeys and try to find them in each ride. We found a few that we knew about but it would have been good to have a hint book.
 While we were at lunch I realized I had made reservation for the following night at Magic Kingdom but we were planning on being at Hollywood Studios all day. So, while Bobby took the kids to meet Alice in Wonderland and to play Mickey hopscotch I called the reservation desk and was able to change our dinner at the Crystal Palace to lunch at Five and Diner. The reservation person was fantastic to work with and very helpful.
 We really wanted to have Fish and Chips in England so at lunch time that is where we headed. When we got up to the patio area there were no tables available. However, there was a very sweet family from Wales that invited us to sit with them. I remember my mom talking about how when we lived in Scotland people would just sit down with you in a restaurant. Even if you were in a booth they could come scoot in with you. Anyway, this family invited us to sit with them and their sweet kiddos. They thought it was funny that they were eating in England and having fish and chips. It was a little like us going to Scotland and going to McDonald's. We were so thankful to have a place to sit and have a fun family to talk to. The fish and chips were delicious!
 After lunch we decided to visit each of the countries in Epcot. We started in Canada where we visited the KidCot spot. The kids got to decorate Duffy the bear there. In each country we found the Kidcot spot and they got got a stamp. In several of the countries the stamper also wrote the kids names in the language of the country. I think they each had their names written in Arabic, Japanese and Chinese. They each also got the stamp for the year they were born. Bobby and I are both year of the Tiger. One of the funniest parts of the kids getting the stamps was that for each stamp on the handle their bear got a new power. One of them included poop power. I don't know...I'm just the mom. :)
 Another fun kids activity was a KimPossible mission. The kids got a cell phone that gave instructions on where to go next. Their mission was in France. It was really a neat experience. They had to stand in certain spot and got their photo taken by a camera on the top of the Eiffel Tower. The only issue with this was the cell phone was really loud. There was one spot that was really quiet and they got a few "looks" when they listened to the message.

While in France, we saw this street performer. I cannot tell you how impressed my kiddos were with this man balancing way up on top of the chairs! Munchkin made sure she was up close so if they needed volunteers she could offer her services. :)
We just happened to see a line start forming in Morocco and discovered it was for Aladdin and Jasmine. Since Jasmine was not one of the princesses we met at The Royal Table we decided to stand in line and wait. It was not a terribly long wait but during that time I discovered what Bobby really thought of Epcot...He called it Shopcot. :) I have to admit, even though it was fun to go to the different countries it really was mostly shopping back in that area.
One of our favorite countries was Norway. Bobby is half Swedish but the Norwegian people painted on the walls in the line for the Viking ship ride could have been directly related to him. The ride was not super exciting but the kids really liked it..even if they were a little scared of the trolls. Even scared though, Munchkin slaughtered this friendly looking guy...
Once we finally got through all of the countries we headed back to Spaceship earth and took the ride. I am fairly certain I may have slept for a little bit on that ride. I remember going on it when I was very little but it is a very faded memory. There were all kinds of games and fun things to do when you got off the rides. One of the kids favorites was Power City. They got to play virtual hockey and save the cities.
Finally, it was time for dinner. We had a reservation at The Garden Grill in "The Land". We got to meet Chip and Dale, Harvest Mickey and Harvest Goofy. There are several fun aspects to this restaurant. 1) It revolves, by the time you are done eating you have made it almost all the way around the circle. 2) It is a buffet but you don't have to get up to go get your food. The servers bring you more of anything you want. 3) You get to meet more characters...once again though we had already met Mickey and Goofy at least twice. 4) The food is delicious! The menu is set and and it is served family style. The kids ate off the grownup platters and we ate off the kid platters. We were so stuffed by the time we were done I wasn't sure we could walk to the fireworks!

While Bobby was watching fireworks with Munchkin, I was back at MouseGear picking up an extra clothing item that we needed. Let's just say there was an extra run to the restroom after Little Man left Duffy the bear in the stall after having a clothing change. We managed to get back to the bus and get on it fairly quickly. When we got back to the hotel Bobby took one of the kids swimming while I tried to log on to the computer to get some work done. The connection was not working so I gave up and figured I could do what I needed to when we got home. We all collapsed that night happy that it had been such a fun day! :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

{TWD} Classic Brownies and Retroactive Recipes

 Here it is Tuesday and miracle of miracles I am actually posting! I have been baking but if you have been keeping up with my Disney posts I am obviously a slacker of a blogger. A big thank you to Anne of Anne Strawberry for choosing Classic Brownies, Gaye from Laws of the Kitchen for choosing Tropical Crumble,  Margie from Tea and Scones for choosing Golden Brioche Loaves, and Jessica of My Baking Heart for choosing Chocolate Spice Quickies.
First of all the brownies. You just have to love Dorie's recipes. These were very straight forward. They took one bowl and I was able to adapt them to my own taste. I do not like nuts in brownies. I think they are an abomination! So there. I was also out of vanilla. My sweet husband and kiddos baked me a cake and I knew I was low on vanilla but forgot until I was already melting the chocolate for the brownies. A quick search for a vanilla substitute led me to add some almond extract. It was a very different taste but it was really good. I know it looks like there are nuts in these but looks are deceiving.... those are peanut butter chips. My kids ate four while they were still warm and I sent some with my husband this morning. He said he really liked the almond flavor in them. So yay! Win! I will definitely make these again and will probably double the recipe the next time. 


The tropical crumble was a delicious recipe. What isn't with that much butter in it? I was planning on trying to pawn this off on the teachers so I lined a muffin tin. stuffed from phyllo dough in the liners and spooned the mango/lime mixture into each one. I topped them with the crumble and popped them in the oven. 


I knew my husband would not have anything to do with a tropical crumble. First of all it has mango and second you cook the fruit. So, I gave them to my kids and their friends that came home from school with them. My daughter kind of liked this, the other little girl really liked it. My son was not a fan and the other little boy seemed to be scared of it. When their mom got to my house I gave a tropical crumble cupcake thing to her. She loved it and said it was so gourmet! She caters so I thought that was fun to hear from her!

 This tropical crumble doesn't look that great but it was really tasty. 

 I actually made these Golden Brioche Loaves the same day as the crumble. I was hoping my hubs would eat them up but he has started a health challenge at work so he didn't eat as much of them as I thought he would. We all really liked these loaves a lot. I am glad I looked ahead because they took a long time to make. They were worth it though.

 Last but definitely not least were the Chocolate Spice Quickies. Outside of the resting time in the fridge they were certainly quick. I made a double batch as I planned on taking them to my students. My sweet son said the dough looked like poo. I did not share that with my students. :) One student said these tasty little cookies tasted like Christmas and I have to agree. One suggestion was to serve them with raspberry jam. I didn't but it did make a fun picture. :)
 I am really hoping to get back in the swing of things. If you haven't already you should check out Dorie's Baking From My Home to Yours. It is a fantastic cookbook with delicious recipes!

I'm Thir-ee seven! I'm Thir-ee Seven! I'm No' Old!

So, I did turn thirty seven a week or so ago but my name is not Dennis and I am a woman. :) Those of you that get all that can be my friend.

Thirty seven...I guess that is on the downhill slide to 40. My mom likes to call and tease me about it but then she is 22 years older than me... She asks me sometimes how old I feel because she still feels much younger in her head than she is in the mirror. I do feel younger than thirty seven.

You'd think by now I would have some things figured out..like what I want to be when I grow up, how to get in shape, how to get my kids to mind all the time and how to keep my house clean. But I don't. I would like to have a bakery or be a photographer but I struggle with the time away from my family. I would love to get in shape but I would like to have a bakery. ;) And I just try to pray and ask advice from others that have gone before me in the trenches of motherhood. As far as keeping my house clean...well if I invite people over that motivates me to at lease keep the downstairs in some semblance of order.

As a 37 year old woman I am apparently not supposed to wear cartoon characters like Tinkerbell on my chest or behind. I am supposed to have a perfect house, clean and perfectly behaved children, the laundry done, a career and dinner on the table. I think my musical tastes are supposed to be more refined and after that I have no idea what is really expected of a 37 year old woman.

I have a Tinkerbell shirt and a Micky Mouse shirt, my house is far from perfect, my kids are bathed on a regular basis and while not perfectly behaved are sweet and loving and the good far outweighs the bad. The laundry often has to be rerun because I forget about it (a dash of white vinegar helps the mildew smell go away), I am teaching (which I love) and sometimes have dinner ready. Since our dining room table is usually covered in mail, projects, and other various flotsam we often eat in the living room. I like the cheeseball pop music on the radio. It makes me think of going dancing in my college years.

Anyway. Here I am, 37. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a baker, an aspiring photographer, an organizer, a girl still afraid of what others will think of her, a Christian who know it doesn't matter what others think, and someone with seriously conflicting emotions. :)

Here is to 37!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Disney Day 4 : Not Disney, Universal

 Day 4 of our fabuloso vacation started on a bit of a sleepy note. This child is very much like her daddy, and is not really a morning person. We were able to finally drag everyone out of bed though for a quick breakfast at the All Star Music Resort food court. It was fine but not someplace we wanted to eat every meal.

One last surprise I managed to keep (Bobby is a fortress, but it is hard for me to keep stuff from the kids) was that we were going to Universal Islands of Adventure and Harry Potter World. Once our Mickey shaped waffles were consumed we were able to head out to our car.  Universal is only about 14 miles from Disney so it was no problem to jump in the car and head up there. We did have to make a brief stop at Walgreens for Bandaids though as we were really suffering from the blisters on our feet.

I took a quick video of the kids on the way and revealed that we were headed to Harry Potter World. Little Man could care less about Harry Potter but was thrilled to find out he was going to get to see Spiderman!
 I knew ahead of time that parking was going to cost $15 (at Disney we could park for free at the parks but we used the buses so this was the only time we moved our car all week). As we got in line for parking though Bobby spied a sign for preferred parking. It was $5 more but it was supposedly closer and all on the same level. We decided that since out feet were already feeling like they were going to fall off less walking was a good idea. Now, we intended to head straight for Harry Potter World but Little Man saw the Dr. Seuss tram and really wanted to ride it. The line wasn't too bad so we acquiesced. The kids wanted to ride together in the front row so we sat behind them and enjoyed watching them enjoy the ride. It was pretty slow so no one freaked out. We got to meet The Grinch in Seuss Island, rode the carousel (which we discovered each of our Seussical animals did different things besides going up and down), and walked through the Seuss maze.

Then, we finally made it to Harry Potter World.....with everyone else in Florida.... You might remember that Harry Potter 7 was just released.
 Munchkin has read the first 3 Harry Potter books and has seen the first 4 movies. She was Hermione for Halloween last year and was absolutely excited to go to Hogsmeade. I don't know how I managed to get a photo of my kids by the train without anyone else because it was packed!
 After seeing the train our first stop was to ride The Forbidden Journey. You are not to take anything on the ride which was kind of a bummer. I wish I had had my camera with me because the line wound through the castle. You got to go through Dumbledores office, through an area where the paintings were talking and moving, and saw Harry, Ron and Hermione in a classroom where it "snowed". To encourage people not to take anything they provided lockers for free while you were on the ride. The time was a bit daunting (120 minute wait) but it ended up being about an hour. They hid the line well but had big sprayers and fans to keep people cool. When we finally got to the ride Little Man was out of sorts. They made him get measured and then seated us and then made us get up and move to another car...Little Man and transition, especially in a dark area was not really happening. He was already upset when the ride started and he was not happy at the end. Munchkin insisted that she did not want to go on any roller coasters that went upside down but this was went pretty close. I did have to close my eyes in some sections (motion sickness) but thought the ride was fun. It was pretty scary for little kids though. I would go on it again and Munchkin was thrilled with the ride. If we had time she would have gone again for sure!
 Our next ride was Flight of the Hippogriff. It was a small wooden roller coaster that Little Man loved and terrified Munchkin. She screamed her head off the entire time! Hogsmeade was like a scene from the movies. The stores, the forced perspective, the snow. If there were fewer people we would have spent much more time there. We could not leave Harry Potter world without getting Butterbeer. I made Bobby stand in line for a few minutes while I checked out Honeydukes. We purchased 1 frozen butterbeer for the four of us to share. When it is almost the same amount for a drink as it is to park you only get 1. However, 1 was plenty for us and it hit the spot. And, Munchkin got to keep the cup as a souvenir.
 After Harry Potter World we needed a break from walking around so our next event was Matt Hoffman's Aggro Circus. When we walked in my sweet hubby asked if there were certain places we needed to sit. Because he was just being polite the guy took us over to sit in the reserved seating area. Which means we were front and center for all of the action. It was a really entertaining show and the kids were completely impressed (heck, I was impressed) with all of the stunts. Once all of the death defying events were over the same worker came over and asked if we would like to meet a couple of the guys. Both the guys that came out (the BMX stunt guy and the skateboarder) were very nice to the kids and gave them autographs and stickers.
 Munchkin had Harry Potter World, Little Man was elated that our next stop was the Spiderman ride. We waited about 30 minutes to get on the 3D ride. We tried to get a smashed penny in line but the machine stole our money. If we ever needed Spiderman fighting for justice it was right then! ;) This was another ride where I needed to close my eyes for a few minutes but it was really fun. Both kids thought it was AWESOME!!!! As luck would have it Spiderman was signing autographs right across the street when we got off the ride. My picture of the kids with Spidey may not be awesome but the one taken by the park was terrible. The kids eyes were closed and they were making weird faces.
 We had been walking and exploring the park for hours and we were starting to think about lunch. Bobby mentioned the Mithros restaurant. There was a sign on it that said it was the number one theme park restaurant so we thought we would try it. However, before we could get to it we saw another restaurant that advertised fajitas, wood fired pizza and buffalo wings. All food items we like so we stopped at Confisco instead of Mithros. It. was. so. good! The prices were reasonable, think Chili's, and the best part was free refills! I probably downed 5 diet cokes and I know I was not even close to keeping up with Bobby and his cokes! Just think Florida, in August, in 100 degree heat and 95% humidity. Then you get to a restaurant with free refills on sodas...AHHHHHHHH!
 Feeling refreshed we made our way to a stunt show called The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad. It was pretty entertaining. Next up though was the Jurassic Park area. At this point it has started to rain so we spent some time hanging with the dinos. There was a great exploring area for the kids to play in. Not only did they get to take care of dinosaur eggs they got to combine their dna with that of a dino. A puff of air stood in for a needle to take a skin sample and they put their face on the screen (I was wishing for antibacterial gel at this moment in time) so they could see what a dino mixed with them would look like.
 Munchkin managed to get soaked by the Jurassic ride without even riding it. Little Man didn't want to ride and it shut down during the rain storm anyway. We may have gone on it but we were getting kind of tired. As soon as it opened up we went on Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges. Once again we were completely soaked. We tried to dry off a little bit on the Me Ship, The Olive but it was futile. I had an extra plastic bag from Disney so I put my backpack inside and pulled the straps through the plastic bag handles. This enabled me to wear the back pack without getting it soaked. You can say it...ingenious! :)

Apparently my kids didn't think they were soaked enough so they convinced Bobby to take them on Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls. I waited on the bridge so I could get a picture of them. It was possible...they got even more soaked than they were before.
 Little Man really wanted to get a smashed Spiderman penny so we made out way back to the city. He is actually showing his penny in this next picture. Around this area was also Dr. Doom's Fearfall. Bobby really wanted to ride so I stayed with the kids while he went. He got back to us and convinced Munchkin to go with him a second time. They got to the point where she was strapped in and then freaked. They had to get her off the ride. She was a little bummed that she didn't do it but was also a little relieved.
Our last ride for the night was The Cat in the Hat and we took another quick run through the Seuss maze. We stopped in City Walk at Cinnabon and then headed back to our hotel. Dinner was late that night in the food court at the hotel. I had to do some work that week but was not able to get access to anything. While I tried to do that Bobby took Little Man swimming while Munchkin and I hung out in the room. Once they got back we all passed out in anticipation of Day 5 of our vacation.

Universal Tip #1 You can purchase a fast pass for almost the price of your ticket. If you are willing to pay you get to walk on to any ride at the front of the line. It was too much for us but it looked like it would have been worth it.

Universal Tip #2 This is also a Disney tip. This was the night I got the advice to wrap my feet in duct tape. If I had any I would have. My feet hurt!

Universal tip #3 Find a restaurant to sit down in for a meal in the heat of the day. It is quite refreshing.

I am really glad that we did the 4 day park hopper with Disney and took the time to go to Universal as well. I am also glad we did NOT do a park hopper for Universal and only did the one park ticket. It would have been too much for one day. All in all a great day at Universal!! :)

Next Up: Day 6, Epcot.