Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Grilled cheese, mmmmm

Is there anything better than a really good grilled cheese sandwich with a Claussen's pickle on the side? I normally just grill up a grilled cheese sandwich using sharp cheddar, but here are a some tasty twists to try for your next grilled cheese sandwich...

Sprinkle just a bit of Italian seasoning on each piece of buttered bread before you grill it.

Try smoked gouda instead of cheddar or American. Your life will never be the same.

Good-bye twenties

Thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday last week via text, email, phone, and facebook. It was a great day. I started the morning with a 35 minute run, which may not seem very impressive. But I have been working up to this since May and am so excited that I have managed to stick with it all summer. And it's all thanks to Gwen for the jogging stroller, Boo for dragging me out of bed every morning, and Indiana for having the most beautiful, mild summer.

Boo was extra good the day of my birthday. We had a fun playgroup in the morning (thanks Elizabeth!), I talked to all of my siblings throughout the day, and got to spend some extra time reading. And then J came home from work...with a babysitter and reservations to a new Italian place. We had a fabulous dinner, and the perfect chocolate torte for dessert. Afterwards J even took me shopping for a new handbag, which is truly no fun for him, so thanks hon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

After the fair...

We had a great evening after we got home from the fair. Some good friends came over to celebrate Boo's birthday...the cake was dispensed with, but we had some awesome homemade ice cream - strawberry and dark-dark chocolate.
Boo had a great time ripping open wrapping paper, and gasped with excitement every single time. My mom made her a beautiful ladybug quilt, and Boo just loves it. Mom also gave her this great fishing puzzle. If you have a two year old, you ought to look for this Melissa and Doug puzzle. The puzzle pieces come with a metal spot on top and a fishing pole so you can 'fish' the pieces out. Boo played with this almost exclusively for two days.
Then there were the stuffed animals. She got a soft stuffed elephant that she sleeps with every night now. Then Boo's friend took her to Build-A-Bear where she built a darling panda that has rarely left her side. That girl is so funny about her stuffed animals. She has this stuffed puppy that our good friends (hi Jenny & Bryan & Lily) gave her that has been her constant companion. One day I wrapped up her baby doll in a blanket, kissed it, rocked it, then gave it to Boo to try. She looked at the baby for a minute, then her eyes lit up as she dumped the baby onto the floor, and tenderly wrapped up her puppy, kissed it and rocked it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Olympic Marathon

Is it weird to anyone else that NBC has covered the ENTIRE Olympic marathon (men's and women's) in primetime?? Seriously, that has got to be the most challenging event to announce.

I watched the end of the women's marathon last Saturday, and I thought all of the women looked emaciated and positively unhealthy. I can't imagine how punishing that would be to run a marathon in that time.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I'm still not completely sure why, but names have now been changed to protect the innocent.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

THE FAIR - Part the second

Once we finished Little Hands on the Farm, we had lunch and headed to the other end of the fairgrounds. I took Cannon and Boo on the carousel while the older girls rode the Ferris Wheel.
Yeah, they were pretty tired.

Next we found the cow barn, and Boo and Cannon went nuts. They hollered "cow, cow, cow" and pointed the entire time we were there. The cows were just sitting on piles of hay, not in stalls or behind bars or anything. The kids loved it.

We saw an enormous draft horse up close and personal as we walked through the alley to the draft horse barn. The horse's back was taller than me. The owner led him over to the kids in the stroller and they looked up up up in amazement. The horse bent down and snuffled Boo's head, ooo, she didn't really care for that. Bad breath. The horses were just gorgeous, I could have looked at the horses all day.

We saw the pigs and the sheep before we decided to head home. Olivia noted that this sheep was wearing his pajamas.
I've never skipped her nap before, and Boo really kept it together pretty well. Except for our trek out of the fairgrounds, when the stroller was soundly rejected and I had to carry her (the next morning I could barely move my arm). She fell asleep as we walked out, and that's when we had our only casualty of the day. She dropped her beanie baby dog somewhere along the way. :( It was such a cute little dog, I was a little sad. Fortunately she hasn't missed it too much, I have been able to distract her with her other animals.

Join us next time for ice cream and presents...

Friday, August 15, 2008

THE FAIR - Part the first

I have been putting off blogging about Boo 's birthday because we had such a great time and took so many pictures. So I'll do it in parts so I get it done.

We started the day with a trip to the fair with some friends. I found that seven kids age five and under have NO desire to stand together for a group picture, so here's the best I got. All the kids are IN the picture, even if no one is actually looking at me. Who wants to look at me when you can look at calves?

We started off on the tractors...maybe kids weren't supposed to climb on them, but there was no sign forbidding it and we couldn't resist.

Then we headed to Little Hands on the Farm, walking through Pioneer Village on our way. A friendly farmer type in overalls but no shirt was cooking crackles (pig skin and fat) in an enormous dutch oven over an open flame. I regret that we didn't get back to taste them when they were done.

Little Hands on the Farm was more fun than I had anticipated. The kids started off getting a bucket and apron, and oh how Boo loves her buckets and bags.

She scooped corn from the 'silo' to later feed to the pigs.

She collected eggs from the henhouse.

She planted a seed and picked a vegetable from the garden.
She picked an apple from the orchard.
She rode a tractor (and it was so hard to leave the tractor behind).
More of the tractor gang.

Rested from all the work to take a look at the tigers, because it's not every day the tigers visit the farm.

She 'sheared the sheep'.

And milked the cow. Hands down the favorite activity of all. She got a bit pushy at this station.

She took her goods to the market and got paid.

And spent her money right away at the general store on a granola bar.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The morning after

One look at the birthday carnage this morning and I decided we would spend the morning somewhere else.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

This is Jeremy asking all you independent judges to confirm my view of the following similarities (add 16 years to Boo). Leave a comment so together we can convince Andrea .

Not one for long

Tomorrow she's two!

Confessions of an Olympics addict

I don't really care what sport it is, I want to watch it (except maybe basketball...Olympic basketball is a joke). Obscure sport? Even better. Tell me all about the intricacies of rowing. Hooray for NBC, who is reportedly providing 3600 hours of Olympic coverage among its 8 stations. Couch, here I come. Actually, here I am. Here's what I think so far.

HOW did all those Chinese Tai Chi masters perform not only in unison, but creating those enormous intricate patterns for the opening ceremonies?

I could never play beach volleyball. I could never focus while standing in sand. And then I would lose it if I was all sweaty and had to dive for a save and got sand all over me.

Dara Torres has one heck of a bod.

Michael Phelps is a swimming machine.

Two women's gymnasts are from Indiana...go Bridget and Samantha.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gingersnap Ice Cream...and Cookies

J is generally the ice cream maker of the family, but I gave it a try this week and was very pleased with the end product. I'm already scheming my next batch of ice cream.

This is a recipe we initially tried in Bloomington a few years ago, and thanks to the enthusiastic approval of the Christensens, we put it on our list of successes. It's been awhile since we made it, but I think it will have to become a regular flavor.

We'll start with the gingersnap cookies.

2 1/4 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c butter, softened
1 c brown sugar
1 medium egg
1/3 c molasses

Mix dry ingredients, set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar, when creamy beat in egg and molasses. Stir in flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Cover and chill until firm, an hour or longer. Bake in 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes (8 1/2 minutes is perfect for my oven) until just dry on top by slightly soft in the middle.

Note: You can dip the tops in white sugar before baking, but if you're using them for ice cream,it's best if they're not dipped in sugar.

Another Note: These gingersnaps are more molasses-ey than ginger-ey, so depending on how you like your gingersnaps, adjust the molasses and ginger accordingly.

This is a great french vanilla base that I use for most of my ice creams, and just use add-ins according to what I'm making.

4 c half and half
3 capfuls of vanilla
8 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. In a medium bowl, beat together the yolks and half of the sugar. You can beat by hand using a whisk or using a hand mixer or egg beater. Beat until thoroughly smooth and creamy. (A couple of minutes by hand.)

2. Put 3 1/2 cups of half and half, the remaining half of the sugar, and the salt into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat the mixture until just before it starts to simmer (do not let it simmer). Remove mixture from heat and let stand 10 minutes.

3. While the mixture is standing, prepare an ice water bath in a bowl large enough to set another bowl easily inside of it. Set aside.

4. Whisk in 1 cup of the half and half mixture in a slow stream into the yolk mixture to temper it. Add another cup of the half and half mixture; continue to whisk. Transfer the egg yolk mixture back to the saucepan with the remaining half and half mixture. Add vanilla. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon and an instant-read thermometer registers 180°, 5 to 7 minutes. (You can run your finger in a line over the back of the coated spoon. If the mixture doesn't run, but stays in place on the spoon, it should be thick enough.) I usually start at medium-high heat, then lower the heat as I go as it gets thick fast at the end and I don't want it overcooked. Remove from heat and mix in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk to stop the mixture from overcooking.

5. Pour custard through a medium-mesh sieve into a stainless steel bowl set in the ice-water bath. Add 2 tsp (or less) of ground ginger. Let cool completely, stirring until completely chilled. OR, pop it in the fridge for an hour or two, or til the next day.

6. Freeze custard in an ice cream maker. When it has finished churning, drizzle in some molasses and crumble in 5-6 gingersnaps. If you don't mix it too much, you get a great marbled effect with the molasses. It needs to harden in the freezer for a bit after it comes out of the ice cream maker. Make sure you put it in an airtight container in the freezer. Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

Seriously good ice cream.