Saturday, January 31, 2009

January Snow

We've had very little snow this winter season, but this week we got 12 1/2 inches in one shot.
The day before the big snow, we got just an inch and Boo loved shuffling around in the snow, making tracks, and eating snow. She especially liked the snow off her boots.
But 12 1/2 inches isn't quite her cup of tea yet. A little too much to be able to walk. So I stomped out a little place and she stood in one spot and threw some snow around and licked it off her mittens. At 15 degrees we didn't stay out too long, but it was fun to play outside for a change.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Resistant bacteria and advanced directives

The clinic that I work for was recently sold to a hospital network. For the most part I think it will be a good change, once we get used to all the changes in procedure and paperwork (March?? April??). We all had to go to a two day training this week, geared towards new employees of this network. Now I have had a lot of different jobs, and attended a lot of new hire orientations. This one was the biggest snore of them all. At one point we were being instructed on how to access the website, with a majority of the instruction being how to open up Internet Explorer. But I did get a free lunch.

Fortunately today was better...and shorter. Although the discussions on resistant bacteria and hand-washing were NOT good for my paranoia and OCD. We did have a good discussion on advanced directives. If you do not have documents indicating your preference for resuscitation, artificial hydration/nutrition, and power of attorney, should you become unable to make these decisions for yourself, it is absolutely worthwhile to take the time to fill out the necessary forms. Laws regarding these forms vary between states, so talk to your doctor or attorney. Put the forms in a safe place, give copies to close family members, make sure they know what you want. It's not a pleasant thing to contemplate, but will save your family a lot of suffering and indecision. Check with your parents to see if they have completed these forms and where the documents are kept.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Colbert clip of the week

Enjoy this clip from the Colbert Report about PETA's latest scheme.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My own cheerleader

"YAY! Mommy did it!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nestle's Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I went to a cooking activity last week and my friend said that she baked her cookies on a PIZZA STONE. And her cookies were the best texture ever, so I wanted to give it a try.

So Boo and I made chocolate chocolate chip cookies this evening and they turned out GREAT, if I do say so myself. I preheated the stone with the oven. And since my pizza stone is pretty seasoned, I put the cookies on parchment paper, then slid them onto the stone to bake (totally not my idea, it's all Ellen). I imagine it would work with any type of cookies - give it a try. BTW, the recipe works great halved. Here's the recipe:

2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
2/3 c cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c softened butter
3/4 c sugar
2/3 c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 c chocolate chips

Mix flour, cocoa, soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla in another bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop by well-rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheet or stone. Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes until centers are set. Let stand for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes

My friend Diane told me about this book this week, and I was completely skeptical. But she was glowing in her praise, so I did some internet research and found this excellent video tutorial (by the authors) and the Master Recipe (which I was hoping to link, but now can't find). I also spent a lot of time on their website and reading various food blogs critiquing the book.

Since it didn't take a lot of ingredients and wasn't super labor intensive, I gave the Master Recipe a try this weekend. Here's how it went...

Mix together 1 1/2 TB yeast, 1 1/2 TB salt, 3 cups lukewarm water, 6 1/2 cups flour. (This is the full recipe, but I halved everything and used 1/3 part wheat flour.) The dough really did come together in 5 minutes, even with Boo helping me. Boo and I like to taste the dough, and I was upset by how salty it was (Boo, on the other hand, didn't care - she would eat salt plain). This would not be first time I had oversalted something. But I popped it in the fridge anyway and didn't worry about it again until evening when I sliced off a chunk of dough and set it to rise. I tasted the dough again and it wasn't nearly so salty.

After about 1 hour and 40 minutes of rising, on my well-floured cutting board (you should use a pizza peel and cornmeal if you have them) it was time to slash and bake. I preheated the pizza stone for 20 minutes (middle rack) before sliding the round loaf in (450 degrees). I also added a cup of water to a metal pan on the rack beneath the stone. I overcooked it a tiny bit, but it tasted decent. J tried some this afternoon and said it was EXACTLY like the bread he used to eat everyday in Portugal.

Today I cooked the second half of the dough. This part is, I think, the beauty of this kind of bread. I came home from church, pulled out the rest of the dough, set it to rise while I made some soup, and then popped it in the oven an hour and a half later. Although it takes time for it to rise and bake, my actual hands on time was probably less than 2 minutes. Supposedly the dough will last in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. So you make the dough one day (in five minutes) and then over the next two weeks, just cut off a chunk of dough when you need a new loaf. The longer it sits, the more of a sourdough taste you get. Food blogs say the prime taste is at about 3 days. FYI, all the clever things about this recipe (cooking it on a stone, water on the lower rack, etc.) came from the tutorial.

I got a prettier loaf the second time around. And the extra time in the fridge really did make a difference - it tasted GREAT. The bottom and top crusts were perfect.

Looks just like a Panera Bread loaf. :)

I got on the waiting list at the library, but it looks like it will be a few months before my turn. We happened to be at Barnes and Noble last night, so I browsed the book for a few minutes. And it looks fantastic. The whole wheat bread looks just as easy, and not too different, so I will give that a try this week. The pastry section had me drooling (ganache filled something or other, OH MY), and a ton of other recipes for pizza crust, soft pretzels, challah, and the list goes on.

Thank you!

Thank you everyone for your comments on your experience with Bosch, Kitchenaid and bread in general. I'll be experimenting over the next few months and will let you know how it all goes.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Safely Gathered In

Yesterday Shara linked me to this great website. It looks like a great website for preparedness, but I'm in love with it for its Recipe section. They have recipes for whole wheat bread, pita, and crackers that I'm excited to try out. The bread and pita look time consuming, but use basic and healthy ingredients. And really, do I want to leave the house when the temperature is -2? Much rather stay in and turn on my oven.

So I'm interested in trying to be a bread maker again, but here are my questions.

Does anyone know where to buy dough enhancer (other than online)?

I need to get a mixer. Do you have a mixer (Kitchenaid or Bosch), and how do you like it?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Looking Up

Once again we have celebrated the first of the year with illness. Last year Boo and I both came down with the worst colds ever on New Year's Day, and were out of commission for two weeks.

This year we got to the 3rd before Boo started with the croup.

J and I made it til the 10th before the stomach flu hit.

The worst stomach flu I've ever had. In my life.

But at least I didn't throw up on the computer.

And now things are starting to look up.

Here's to a new year where I finish projects that I start, get back to running, blog a lot, and have more fun with the Boo-Baby.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lady Chat

Boo is amusing us all with her new phrases. Here's my top 10 list of things she says:

10. "Wake up eyes! No close eyes more, Mommy."
9. "Where Grandpa go?" when Grandpa walks out of webcam range.
8. "Fun at school!"
7. She piles stuffed animals from Target into the cart, and Dad says she has to put them all back. "Otay. Just take one. Horsey".
6. "Ducky, where aaaaaaaaare youuuuuuuuuu?"
5. "Potty quick!" (the need is always urgent)
4. "What?" (this one makes me nuts, she says it 50 times a day, no doubt because I say it to her 50 times a day)
3. "Daddy's the Boss"
2. "Yay! Mommy did it!" when I finally got the Christmas tree down.
1. If I tell her 'no': "Maybe ask Daddy."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My Life and Good Times

I've welcomed in the new year with new energy and a new blog title. I've taken my title from one of my favorite books. If you've not read "My Life and Hard Times" by James Thurber, it's an enjoyable and very short read. My dad used to read this aloud to us, and I would laugh til I cried. You can read the first chapter of the book, The Night The Bed Fell, through Google Books. Or you can read my excerpt:

Aunt Gracie Shoaf also had a burglar phobia, but she met it with more fortitude. She was confident that burglars had been getting into her house every night for forty years. The fact that she never missed anything was to her no proof to the contrary. She always claimed that she scared them off before they could take anything, by throwing shoes down the hallway. When she went to bed she piled, where she could get at them handily, all the shoes there were about her house. Five minutes after she had turned off the light, she would sit up in bed and say "Hark!" Her husband, who had learned to ignore the whole situation as long ago as 1903, would either be sound asleep or pretend to be sound asleep. In either case he would not respond to her tugging and pulling, so that presently she would arise, tiptoe to the door, open it slightly and heave a shoe down the hall in one direction, and its mate down the hall in the other direction. Some nights she threw them all, some nights only a couple of pair.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dark Chocolate Cake & Frosting

I found a fabulous recipe for dark chocolate cake that I made for our New Year's party. I halved the recipe and it made one cake pan plus a little loaf pan (the original recipe made three cake pans, that seemed like a weird number to me...and too much cake).

I had a lot of drama deciding on the frosting, but after consulting with Sara and Andy, I went with this dark chocolate frosting, and it was perfect. It's not buttercream (blah), but it's not ganache (which I wanted, but didn't have the ingredients). And it was super easy.

I was really happy with the end result - moist cake, great frosting, and dark chocolate overload. But I realize that not everyone is the dark chocolate purist that I am, so next time I think I will add a little something to all that chocolate goodness. I would make a two layer cake and slather raspberry jam between the layers, and then add raspberries to the frosted cake.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

It's A New Year's Miracle

I got our New Year's pictures downloaded after all. The memory card reader worked this morning, and anyway J reminded me I can download pictures straight from the camera as well.

We had some friends over for a little New Year's dinner and chocolate cake (more on that later). The kids had fun playing together and the adults had fun talking and eating pizza.

Friday, January 2, 2009


This is how Chicago got started. A bunch of people in New York said, "Gee, I'm enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn't cold enough." - Richard Jeni

I enjoyed the time we spent living in Chicago, but I'm glad we don't live there anymore. Especially after watching the sports announcers freeze their tails off at the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field yesterday.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dad breaks Christmas gifts

***NOTE: We are having a streak of bad luck concerning all things electronic, so there will be no new Boo pictures until further notice due to a broken memory card reader.***

We took more of a Hanukkah approach to gift opening this year. There was a lot to open and we knew Boo's attention span wouldn't make it on Christmas morning.

We almost ruined the fun of opening gifts from the beginning. The Sunday before Christmas, Boo opened her first gift. It happened to be the traditional Hall family dark chocolate orange. Boo was pleased to have a nice orange ball to hold, and was horrified when J took it and SMACKED it on the table (which is what you are supposed to do to break it into slices). She sobbed that Daddy had broken her present, and refused to open anything else, or even take the orange back.

I thought she had gotten over her trauma by the next day when I found her sitting under the table, munching away at the chocolate orange. But when it came time to open another gift that night, she held it close to her and said (several times, to be sure the message was clear), "Daddy, no bang, no bang." Every few minutes she would remind him that he was not to slam her gifts on the table ever again.

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, Boo told me she wanted a bike for Christmas. Every time I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, the answer was the same, "Bike for Christmas." We debated between a trike and a little bike (with training wheels), and finally went with the little bike when we found a great deal on craigslist. She was all smiles when we wheeled it out, but wouldn't go near it. She finally decided it would be okay for her dog to ride it while J pushed it. Then she felt up to pushing the bike around with the dog on it. It took a couple of days before she was ready to get on, but has been in love with it ever since.

The collection of craft supplies I worked so hard to acquire was worth it. She is happiest when she is crouched over her table working on an art project.