Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Virtual Night Stand

I've got a Borders gift card burning a hole in my pocket. I have a hard time using it because I have so many books in my night stand wanting to be read. I guess it doesn't hurt to buy a few more and add them to the pile. Currently, on my night stand...

Franny and Zooey
by J.D. Salinger

A friend of mine gave this to me on my birthday. He loves it and I know the book means a lot to him. I started to read it and had to put it down because I had to keep up with my books for the class that I took this fall. Now that I have sworn off all reading that is 'assigned' to me, I hope to get back to this book.

The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver

At my holiday party, a friend saw this on my bookshelf and was excited to talk to me about one of her favorite books. I hope she wasn't too disappointed, but I hadn't read a word of it. It sits on my shelf, lent to me by a friend who bought her copy in Ireland. She loves it too and when I finish it, I have two friends will want to chat about the book.

A People's History of the United States
by Howard Zinn

This is a reread for me. I read this book about 12 years ago and I was browsing my shelves a few weeks ago and pulled it out. Something about this time in our own American lives that made me think it was time to revisit some of the hard truths and stories that lie in our past. If you haven't read this book, you should.

These books should keep me busy for at least two months...(I'm kind of a slow reader)...but that doesn't stop me from wanting to browse the bookshelves at Borders and add these books to the pile...

The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope
by Jonathan Alter

It could be that I like Jonathan Alter and think he is wicked smart when I watch him discuss politics on MSNBC. It could be that my grandfather couldn't talk about FDR without crying just a little. It could also be that Barack Obama was reading this book and I want to be a little like Barack Obama. Who knows, but I am going to buy this book tonight.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames
by David Sedaris

I bought Holidays on Ice for a friend for Christmas because I love to reread it each holiday season. It never fails to make me laugh, but it reminded me that I had not purchased David Sedaris's new book. It has been out for many months and I was very excited when it came out, but again, bogged down with 'assigned' reading.

So, these books should keep me busy for awhile. However, there is always the chance that I will be distracted and add some other books to this list.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Midwest Christmas: By the Numbers

7 - Days spent in the midwest to celebrate Christmas with our family.

163 - My highest wii bowling score this holiday season.

27 - Number of first and second cousins seen over my week in the midwest.

3 - Number of days that my shoulder ached after rolling cookies.

-22 - Degrees. Yes, that's right. That is negative 22 degrees. The temperature on my first morning in North Dakota.

5 - The number of years taken off of my life after the taxi cab ride home from the airport tonight. Scary. Fast. Worth it. Way better than parking at the airport.

8 - The number of Obama holiday cookies made. I come from an Obama-lovin' family and they just seemed right sitting on the holiday cookie tray.

6 - The number of days left until I return to kindergarten. It's going very fast.

2 - The number of people at our New Year's Eve party. Just the two of us. Just the way we like it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Recap

The last two weeks have been busy with a capital B. Like all other teachers, the last two weeks of school before winter break are filled with special days at school and events planned with staff.

Last weekend, we hosted our first holiday party with people from my work. Tim and I spent the week before the party cleaning and cooking. I tried a lot of new recipes and some tried and true. Of course, I baked a number of holiday cookies too. Although I invited mostly people from work, I invited my cousin and his wife and my friends from Brooklyn too. It was great that they made the trip. I was a little worried that my house would not be able to hold everyone, but I was pleased with how everything went.

I put the drinks in the three-season porch and that helped with the flow of people. I served soda, waters, beer, and wine. We have a lot of drinks left over. Oh, well, we will just have to have another gathering.

We have a holiday party tonight too! All of the sudden, we have a social life. More than anything that I am looking forward to this season is traveling home to North Dakota to see my family. I am ready for the traditions of the past, the comfort that only your family can bring, and sharing the fun of Christmas with my parents, my brother and his wife, and my extended family in the frozen tundra of home.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Midwestern Recipe: Easy Turtle Pretzels

Holiday baking season is here again! I will be posting each of the recipes that I try for the first time and the tried and true recipes from my family. Today, I baked two cookies recipes and two candy recipes.

First, I made Easy Turtle Pretzels. It was so easy and they are good. I think they would make a great homemade gift for someone if they were put in a cute jar or bag.

Preheat your oven to 300.

Unwrap 50 individual rolo candies (a 12 ounce bag).

Spread out about 50 tiny twists rold gold pretzels on parchment paper lines cookie sheet. I can only fit 25 on my pan.

Place a rolo on each pretzel. I put them on upside down. It doesn't matter.

Put tray in oven for 4-6 minutes (enough to get the rolo soft and squishable).

Take tray out of oven and smoosh pecan halves on top of each rolo, pressing down to fill in the holes of the pretzel.

Let cool. Can refrigerate to cool. Sit out a little bit before eating, cause the caramel inside the rolo will get tough from being in the fridge.


I know there are people who do not enjoy the holidays for lots of different reasons, but I love them. I cannot imagine a season without baking, music, and family. I love the idea of preparing for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Things I Am Thinking About on Thursday Morning

I think it is interesting (weird) that the number one purchase on the folk section of itunes is "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman. That song came out in 1988. Twenty years ago.

Why did I spend 20 minutes (I wish I was exaggerating) in the Dunkin' Donuts drive thru last night? It was one of those drive thru lines that once you are in it, you cannot get out unless you move through the line. Well, I think only one man was working in the shop and he was the new guy because it took five minutes for him to make coffee for people. Their coffee is not the 'fancy' coffee that takes steamed milk and espresso. The easy stuff, yet it took twenty minutes. Normally, I wouldn't care, but I was late for class after that. See...I hate to even complain about this because that guy has a frustrating job as it is and here I am complaining.

Gas is now $1.89 here in my neighborhood. That is nice. I don't fret when I pull up to the station when I see a number under two dollars. However, I worry about the rest of the economy. Groceries seemed a lot more expensive when I went for our weekly trip. Maybe it is the after holiday increase so they can make money back on all of the sales prior to Thanksgiving. I think I notice the price changes more because I buy so many of the same foods from week to week.

I have decided to not take a grad class next semester. I did not enjoy my class this fall and felt that I got very little out of it. I am starting to think that grad school is for your twenties or at least, my twenties. Now, I just want to work and go home. I want to spend my free time doing what I enjoy. I want to read the books that I want to read. I have one more class left.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Long List of Have Nots

Like my friend Carmyn, I like a good list. She found this list and highlighted the ones that were true for her. I will do the same. What I found out about myself is that I haven't done a lot. I haven't been to a lot of places. Oh, well.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty...or as far as they let you go.
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Christmas Post #1

I am one of those people who start the holiday season a little early. The tree is up. The Christmas dishes are being used. The gifts are almost all purchased. I think it is because I am highly nostalgic and enjoy all sorts of yearly rituals, but Christmas never bores me even though I do the same things year after year.

Holiday Movies
Every rule has an exception. My rule is that I do not rewatch movies...except holiday movies. I love them. Last night, I watched Love Actually and I can say with certainty that I love that scene with Hugh Grant dancing to "Jump" just as much as I did the first time. I love that movie along with most other holiday movies. It is a genre that can be terrible. But it can also be great. Elf. A Christmas Story. Charlie Brown. It's a Wonderful Life. I even like mediocre holiday movies like Christmas with the Kranks. However, I draw the line at Tim Allen Christmas movies.

Holiday Cups and Dishes
My mother-in-law gave us two cups and saucers a few years ago. They have little snowmen on them. We only use them at Christmas time, but I love them. It seems that warm and toasty drinks just taste better in these cups. I think it might have to do with the fact that we are usually cozied up with blankets and each other, but I still look forward to pulling them out each year. The same rule applies to a set of dishes I received many years ago from my friend Sara. It's weird. We usually use those dishes first even though our everyday dishes are available. I think it is Christmas spirit.

Christmas Music
This year, I am enjoying the new Rosie Thomas Christmas album. Itunes has some amazing music that is holiday, but not cheesy. Is that possible, you ask? I think so, but it is all a matter of taste because I witnessed a lady crooning along to Neil Diamond at the Target listening stand the other day and we might just have different views on what is cheesy Christmas music.

Today, I am off to finish my Christmas shopping!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wash This

How do I say this delicately?

I hate my washer. It is about as old as I am and it could be the very most un-fun thing to purchase as a grown up. Here is an item that you use to do work that is so not fun and then, it has the audacity to not work properly.

I won't bore you with the details of my domestic woes. I can see it now. Tim and I will travel to one of the boring stores that I try to avoid like Best Buy or Sears. We will spend hours looking at washers when neither of really care which washer we should buy. After years and years of using apartment complex washers, we are not picky. It just needs to wash, spin, rinse. I don't even know if it needs to do it in that order. All I know is that this purchase is going to have to happen soon.

See...we are doing our part to get this economy going.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sleepy Girl

What is wrong with me? I am a reasonable 32 year old woman who has stayed up too late for about a week now. I am the kind of girl who always goes to bed by 11PM and have since I was 16 years old. Even in college, I was the girl who would get grumpy when the other college girls were having some shenanigans in the hallway in the middle of the night when I wanted to be sound asleep.

I had to stay up and watch history last night when Obama gave his acceptance speech. I am thrilled for our country. That late night was totally worth it.

Even tonight, I am watching the post-mortems on the campaigns when I should really be in bed. Okay. Here is the plan. I will go to bed in 20 minutes. I will go to bed at 10PM tomorrow night and Friday. Then, I will sleep in on Saturday! By then, I should be all caught up on the goods.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Vote Barack Obama for Change in our Country

Tonight, I am asking the big questions.

1. How many minutes/hours/days will it take for "Joe the Plumber" to realize that he has been a stooge for the McCain campaign?
2. Will I be able to go to work on Wednesday if Barack Obama doesn't win the election?
3. Why do I avoid conversations with people that I know support John McCain/Sarah Palin? I know that I won't change their mind. More than anything, I am scared that I will judge them. I am just being honest.
4. Should I vote before work or after?
5. What have I been putting off until after the election?
6. Who can I still convince to vote for Barack Obama? Who is the undecided voter? Do I need to e-canvas you? Do I need to call you? I'll do it if there is a chance that you will vote for Barack Obama.
7. Does anyone else remember what the election was like before there was a Sarah Palin? I don't. It's like she was always here.
8. Will I be sad when I don't see Chuck Todd as much after the election?
9. What should I serve for my election party?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Yes We Carve!

Is it just me or does everyone else feel crazy busy? It is true that most of the busy is self-made and I could cut back on what I put on my agenda. I could also prioritize better. For example, I don't have to watch three hours of political news shows a night. This would probably help ease my election anxiety. I hoping that on Tuesday, my candidate with win.

Speaking of candidate...I carved an OBAMA pumpkin and it was posted on YESWECARVE.COM.

I am hosting an election party. It is more of a gathering than a party since it is Tim, TC, and Laura. I have been thinking about the menu for some time. I wanted to make some OBAMA themed dishes, but I am coming up blank. I know he has a chili recipe out there. I thought about CHANGE Chicken. I thought about French Dip sandwiches, but calling them American Dips. That is corny but still delicious. I have an apple cobbler recipe that Michelle Obama makes that I could try. We'll see. We might just order pizza and keep the focus on the numbers. No matter what, vote on Tuesday (even if it is for the other candidate).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Weekend Update

I have been neglecting the blog. If you know me, you know that I do not like to be busy. I like to have plenty of time on my hands. I do not like having every moment scheduled. Sadly, for the next week and a half, every moment will be scheduled. So, let me take this moment to get you up to date on my doings for the past week.

I traveled to New York City this weekend to see my friend Amy. For the first time, I took the Bolt Bus. I am huge fan of the Bolt Bus. It picks up at a great location in Philly and it drops you right in the middle of New York City. It was clean and quiet and under two hours for the trip. When I take the transit system in Philly and New Jersey, it takes over three hours. The price is right too. It cost $23 for a round trip.

After walking through Central Park where we enjoyed the fall leaves, we stopped at the Museum of the City of New York. The exhibit was Campaigning for President: New York and the American Election.

The pins, paraphernalia, and propaganda from every Presidential election displayed at the exhibit. I was surprised and interested in the propaganda and to see that some things never change. When FDR was running with Harry Truman, the opposition tried to link Truman with the KKK. Shocking, right. Well, as I thought more about it, the same kind of loose, unproven connection is happening with the present election.

I always look forward to eating when I travel to New York. I wasn't disappointed. I had brunch twice with a yummy omelet with gruyere cheese and ham and a Sunday morning brunch with pumpkin pancakes. I loved them. I am now searching out a tasty recipe for pumpkin pancakes at home. If I find one, I will post it for all to enjoy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

World Series Bound...and Rocky

There are just some truisms when you live in Philly.

One, you like sports. A lot. The sports teams are very important and people have crafted a love/hate relationship with the Eagles, Flyers, and Phillies. And in time, it all pays off. Last night, the Philadelphia Phillies sealed the deal for the National League Pennant. They are going to the World Series!

I was even let out of class early for the game.

Usually, I don't care. But I was reminded of the second truth of Philadelphia during the celebration in the streets last night.

I was sleeping soundly when I was awaken by the BLARING of my neighbor's car stereo as he played the theme from Rocky. Philadelphians love Rocky. My neighbor was overjoyed and screaming, "Finally! Phillies are goin' to the World Series!" It is one of my favorite Philly moments so far.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Apple Pickin'

Tim and I made our first trip to the apple orchard this weekend. Along with our friends, Laura and TC, we picked a box of Stayman Winesap apples. After picking apples, we enjoyed the orchard's market where they had local goods like maple syrup and baked goods.

Of course, I will be making these apples into sweet treats. I am checking out some recipes and would like to try a few new ones.

The leaves are just starting to change here. I'd like to spend as much time outside on the weekends before winter sets in and we aren't able to enjoy the fall any longer.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Midwestern Recipe: Urban Myth Chocolate Chip Cookies

I received an email a few years back telling a story about how a woman paid $250 for a recipe from Neiman Marcus when she thought she really paid $2.50. It is not a true story, but the recipe is still very good. I think it is the ground oats that make this cookie so good. I like it more than the recipe on the back of Nestle Chocolate Chips.

This recipe makes a lot. I always cut it in half. Also, I do not add the grated chocolate bar. They are great without it.

2 cups butter
24 oz. chocolate chips
4 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
1 8 oz. Hershey! Bar (grated)
5 cups blended oatmeal
4 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice)

Measure oatmeal, and blend in a blender to a fine powder. Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, mix together with flour, oatmeal,
salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey Bar, and nuts.

Spoon and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

Makes 112 cookies.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Midwestern Girl Roadtrip

I had a New Jersey/Pennsylvania day trip weekend. The leaves are just starting to change and in a few weeks, they will be something very beautiful. The photo is from the bridge that covers the Delaware River and connects New Hope, Pennsylvania to Lambertville, New Jersey.

A few months ago, I wrote my endorsement for the memoir Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. As a continuation of my admiration for this book, I checked out Elizabeth Gilbert's store in Frenchtown, New Jersey this weekend. The name of the store is called Two Buttons.

Two Buttons sells a variety or worldly treasures from her travels. It is stored in a warehouse and has everything from garden Buddhas to silk scarves to sandstone sculptures. Everything they had was beautiful and exotic.

From historic Frenchtown, New Jersey, we traveled on to New Hope, Pennsylvania. New Hope offered art galleries, jewelry stores, and more. It was the perfect place to get a few Christmas presents. We enjoyed an early dinner at Marsha Brown's Creole Restaurant. Marsha Brown's is located on the main street of New Hope and is in an old church. The food was amazing. I had lobster and crab bisque and tourenados (beef medallions with mashed potatoes). A few lemon and lime martinis were enjoyed too! After a cafe au lait from a little back alley coffee shop, we hit the road through the beautiful roads of New Jersey where the leaves are just starting to change.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Midwestern Endorsement: Rachel Maddow

I am a big Rachel Maddow fan. I have a feeling like I might have showered her with praise on the Midwestern Position before this post, but I must do it again.

Being a Rachel Maddow is quite a commitment. She has a show every night on MSNBC where she asks the tough questions, illustrates the nonsense in politics, and holds politicians to a high standard.

It shouldn't surprise you that Rachel is a left-leaning pundit, but I appreciate that she holds all accountable on her show. She is respectful to all politicians, right and left. She has this great segment called "It's Pat" where she discusses a topic with Pat Buchanan who is undoubtedly on the opposite end of the political spectrum than she is. Rachel is wicked smart and has the chops that bring us back every night to her show.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pie Lessons 101

After a summer of pie making, I entered my friend Laura's kitchen to help her make her first pie. Laura chose a very challenging and highly rated pie recipe, Grandma Opal's Apple Pie from allrecipes.com.

Laura is a natural pie maker. She used her new pie making materials to make a pretty lattice crust top along with the leave cut outs that made this fall pie even more pleasing to the eye.

The special thing about this pie is that you do not toss the apples in cinnamon and sugar like I have done in the past. Instead, you make a yummy caramel sauce and pour it over the lattice top. The sauce drips down into the apples and is cooked into the crust to make it sweet and crunchy. Tim and I went back over to TC and Laura's place in the evening to enjoy a piece of pie with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Midwestern Endorsement: Collapsible Market Tote

Thanks to Laura, I have a new obsession. For my birthday, she gave me my first collapsible market tote. Mine is red perfect for storing just about anything. It is easy to find them online, but they are more expensive than I would like. However, if you have TJ Maxx where you are, you can find them for $10! I see these as the perfect gift. You can store items in your car, bring them to the store, or carry your food when you are invited to a potluck. So, if I know you, chances are, you are going to be receiving one of these at one point this year!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Day

People always ask, "How was your day?" I have decided to tell you every detail of my day.

I wake up at 6AM. I pack my lunch and head out about 7AM. I drive in the right hand lane at about five miles over the speed limit, but that still doesn't seem to be fast enough for Philadelphia drivers. They like to pass me with disgust.

I pull into the Dunkin' Donuts drive through. It is a cut throat drive through. I have had many drivers/drinkers think that the rules of the road do not apply to the drive through, but let me assure you. They do. It's funny what people try to do with their bumper.

After I get my medium hazelnut coffee with cream and sugar, I turn my ipod onto shuffle. Why do I wait until I get my coffee? Because it just seems right. I am just not sure that I could hear the music until I can taste the hazelnut.

I take a road that is mildly deserted in the wee hours of the morning. It's pretty and curvy.

I arrive at my little kindergarten center located on a beautiful college campus. I spend the hour and thirty minutes before the children arrive preparing plans, activities, and lessons for five and six year olds. During the next seven hours, I comfort the boo-boos. I sing the songs. I teach the lessons. I manage the young. I read the books. I build the blocks. I play the tag. I encourage. I admonish, if needed.

After all of the children are on the buses home, I head out to the local drug store. I can't believe how much stuff costs. I needed some odds and ends and those odds and ends add up.

I head home to discover three new netflix movie envelopes, one birthday card, two catalogues, and one bank statement in my mailbox. I call my friend. We chat. I write one email. I watch Hardball with Chris Matthews. And now, I am writing this blog post.

And now you know all about my typical day.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Philly Goodness

I know that I often come to the Midwestern Position to lament rude behaviors that I encounter in my life in Philly, but tonight, that all changes. Tonight, I toast you, little old librarian at the Ardmore Public Library! I toast your sweet nature who wanted to find all of my books for me on my list even when I told her that I could do it. I toast you and your pretty impressive computer skills that found my books at other libraries. Little, Old Librarian, thanks for your extra effort and enthusiasm at your job.

More of the Same

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Cindy McCain is Filthy Rich

I know that I have been writing a lot about my two cents about the election, but I simply cannot help myself tonight.

I like Laura Bush. I just do. I think she is a classy lady and I think she speaks with grace and empathy. I do not have anything against Cindy McCain, but I do have one issue with her.

On Monday night, Cindy McCain and Laura Bush spoke to the Republican National Convention and the American people to ask for donations for victims of Hurricane Gustav. Little did we know, Cindy was wearing an estimated $300,000 worth of clothing and jewelry.

Yes, you read that right. $300,000.

I can't swallow that she is asking people to donate in the middle of a near recession as she stands in an outfit that costs more than my house. I would happily donate to many causes, but Cindy standing there in her Oscar de la Renta and her three-carat diamond earrings does not convince me to give. I do not have my giving or not giving wrapped up in this Cindy McCain outfit, but I think it is something to consider when we have John McCain telling us that he can relate to our problems.

Yes, you could argue that it isn't John McCain's money, but trust me. John McCain is not eating Chef Boyardee at his seven kitchen tables.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Back to School

This might be news to a few people, but I have decided to go back to school. It isn't for anything glamorous or life changing. I am going to get my Reading Specialist certificate so that I can one day be a reading teacher. This won't be for several years, but I know that I like to have lots of different doors open to me. In my professional life, I have taught three different grades. I have taught the same group of children for two years in a row. I have taught in public schools and a private school.

I received my class syllabus by email tonight and realized that I will be spending every waking minute reading young adult and children's books this semester. I am not exaggerating when I say that I will be reading at least 20 young adult novels. Twenty books is not a big deal, but I was also the student who got through junior high without ever EVER reading an assigned book. I know that sounds crazy, but I was just really good at absorbing information from class discussions. It wasn't that I was not reading during those years. I just wanted to read what I wanted to read.

So, now, I am going to be reading a lot of young adult literature again. I decided that since this is grad school again, I cannot resort to my 14 year old behavior of 'fakin' it till I make it' in class. I read my first book Star Girl by Jerry Spinelli. I picked it up at 9 PM and finished it in two hours. If you know me, I like any junior high love story especially if there is a quirky girl and a smitten boy in it.

I am going to try to take advantage of the required reading and use it as a time machine back to my own junior high and high school days.

Friday, August 29, 2008

History Being Made on Both Fronts

John McCain chose Sarah Palin, the year and a half Governor of Alaska, as his vice-presidential running mate. Lots of political pundits are trying to interpret the purpose and strategy behind John McCain's choice.

Well, most of the pundits are stating the obvious. He is trying to win the women who may be disgruntled with Hillary Rodham Clinton's loss. As a woman, I feel the need to comment on his choice. I am going to be all over the place, but that is how my brain is reacting to this choice.

I am thrilled that another woman is at the front of a major political party. I look forward to even more women making the scene in our political parties. That being said...McCain is either completely delusional or 100% out of touch...I am going with out of touch on this issue and so many more. He can't possibly believe that simply choosing a female running mate will bring women to vote for him.

If that is his motivation, it is insulting to women. Women care about issues more than just gender. I don't care if she is a mom, a wife, a worker, a woman. She stands on the opposite end of every issue that I care about.

She is enthusiastic. I like that. However, I fear that pundits and media will be hard on Joe Biden because he will smoke her on every issue and they will play the gender card.

Along with this, I think it is irresponsible to choose ANYONE who has had a year and a half in executive government to be second in line of a 72 year old President who has battled cancer four times.

Lastly, I don't want to see any pundits, politicians, and journalists going easy on this hockey mom who looks like she could be your next door neighbor, your right-wing-gun-lovin'-hatin' on gays and choice neighbor. We all know that no one should be given a pass because she is a novice in the game. No one has taken it easy on Hillary Clinton. The pundits are saying that if Palin simply gets through her debate with Joe Biden, she will win.

THAT IS NOT RIGHT. She should have to stand, defend, and explain with depth and passion to win a debate. Just because she is inexperienced in comparison to Biden, doesn't mean she should get a pass. As a woman, I want all women treated as equals and that includes in politics.

Peach Time

Berry season is nearing a finish and peach season is here! There was no better way to spend an afternoon than peach picking with my good friend Amy who was visiting from Brooklyn. Not only did we get to pick our own locally grown peaches, but a hayride took us to our peach trees. Thank goodness, we had an old curmudgeon hayride driver too.

Now, I gave some peaches to Amy to take back to Brooklyn, but I am still left with a lot of peaches. We made a peach cobbler last night for dessert and a golden peach pie this afternoon. I am open to more peach ideas.

Amy indulged my new interest in food photography and took a few photos of the peach cobbler process.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Can't Get Enough

I am on Day Three of my complete addiction to the Democratic National Convention.

And I am so emotional. The little videos about Teddy Kennedy, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton has brought more than one tear to my eye.

Today, when Barack Obama was the first African-American nominated by the Democratic party, I was close to overwhelmed along with those delegates who were so besides themselves.

Last night, Hillary was amazing. She is amazing. It didn't surprise me when she reminded all of us why we are fighting the good fight to bring change to the White House and to our country. I am looking so forward to the message that Bill Clinton will bring tonight. And...I hope Biden will bring the heat to Bush, Cheney, and McCain.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Legos Are Still Fun

We spend a lot of Saturdays working on the yard or some other project around the house. However, today, we went to the American Swedish Museum to check out The Art of the Brick created by Nathan Sawaya. Each piece is created with Lego.

Here, Tim is looking at a piece that is made completely of Lego including the brown frame and white canvas. It isn't the first time that we've seen Lego made into amazing creations, but this is the first time that we've seen it displayed as an art instillation.

Joe Biden is a Great Choice!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Midwestern Recipe: Blueberry Pie

I really wanted to take an appealing picture of the yummy blueberry pie that I baked this afternoon, but it was a bit juicy and I lost all control over the pie. I will still share the photo and the recipe.

I called Tim to tell him to NOT EAT THE PIE until I returned from an appointment that I had this evening because I wanted to take a picture. The minute that I entered the house, Tim said, "Take a picture of the pie." He didn't even say hello, but I forgive him because the man loves pies.

I bought this enormous box of blueberries at Trader Joe's today and they needed to baked into a pie. I have a few leftover for blueberry pancakes on Saturday. Chilled blueberry soup will also be made on Saturday in honor of our visit to the American Swedish Museum here in Philadelphia. Did you know that Philly had the earliest Swedish immigrants and that chilled blueberry soup is a popular summer treat that's equally welcome as an appetizer or dessert in Sweden? We are going to the museum to check out a Lego exhibit, but we'll take in the other permanent exhibits too.

Okay, the pie. I use the Better Homes and Garden's red plaid cookbook for this recipe. It is the cookbook that everyone should have because it has every basic recipe in it. I like any cookbook that keeps it simple. I have seen it in the bargain bin at Borders. Pick it up if you don't have it already.

2/3 to 3/4
cup sugar
tablespoons all-purpose flour
cups blueberries
tablespoons lemon juice
Sugar (optional)

In a large mixing bowl combine the 2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons flour. Stir in berries and lemon peel. Gently toss berries until coated. Transfer berry mixture to the pastry-lined pie plate. Cover with rolled-pie crust and flute the edges.

If desired, brush pastry top with a little milk and sprinkle with additional sugar.

To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pie with foil. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes more or until top is golden. Cool on wire rack.

I Couldn't Have Said It Better, Jack

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, it isn't a secret where I stand politically. The earliest election that I cared about was 1984 when I was eight years old and rooting for Walter Mondale. It isn't normal for an eight year old to care about primaries and polls. However, I come from a long line of farmers, blue collar workers, veterans who would spend any family get together discussing past, present, and future political leaders and the issues that mattered to us.

I feel passionately about many issues, yet Jack Cafferty at CNN wrote a commentary that said it best. Because this is my blog and I can share whatever I want to share, I am choosing to share this article. And remember, it is a commentary.

"NEW YORK (CNN) -- Russia invades Georgia and President Bush goes on vacation. Our president has spent one-third of his entire two terms in office either at Camp David, Maryland, or at Crawford, Texas, on vacation.

His time away from the Oval Office included the month leading up to 9/11, when there were signs Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America, and the time Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city of New Orleans.

Sen. John McCain takes weekends off and limits his campaign events to one a day. He made an exception for the religious forum on Saturday at Saddleback Church in Southern California.

I think he made a big mistake. When he was invited last spring to attend a discussion of the role of faith in his life with Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, McCain didn't bother to show up. Now I know why.

It occurs to me that John McCain is as intellectually shallow as our current president. When asked what his Christian faith means to him, his answer was a one-liner. "It means I'm saved and forgiven." Great scholars have wrestled with the meaning of faith for centuries. McCain then retold a story we've all heard a hundred times about a guard in Vietnam drawing a cross in the sand.

Asked about his greatest moral failure, he cited his first marriage, which ended in divorce. While saying it was his greatest moral failing, he offered nothing in the way of explanation. Why not?

Throughout the evening, McCain chose to recite portions of his stump speech as answers to the questions he was being asked. Why? He has lived 71 years. Surely he has some thoughts on what it all means that go beyond canned answers culled from the same speech he delivers every day.

He was asked "if evil exists." His response was to repeat for the umpteenth time that Osama bin Laden is a bad man and he will pursue him to "the gates of hell." That was it.

He was asked to define rich. After trying to dodge the question -- his wife is worth a reported $100 million -- he finally said he thought an income of $5 million was rich.

One after another, McCain's answers were shallow, simplistic, and trite. He showed the same intellectual curiosity that George Bush has -- virtually none.

Where are John McCain's writings exploring the vexing moral issues of our time? Where are his position papers setting forth his careful consideration of foreign policy, the welfare state, education, America's moral responsibility in the world, etc., etc., etc.?

John McCain graduated 894th in a class of 899 at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. His father and grandfather were four star admirals in the Navy. Some have suggested that might have played a role in McCain being admitted. His academic record was awful. And it shows over and over again whenever McCain is called upon to think on his feet.

He no longer allows reporters unfettered access to him aboard the "Straight Talk Express" for a reason. He simply makes too many mistakes. Unless he's reciting talking points or reading from notes or a TelePrompTer, John McCain is lost. He can drop bon mots at a bowling alley or diner -- short glib responses that get a chuckle, but beyond that McCain gets in over his head very quickly.

I am sick and tired of the president of the United States embarrassing me. The world we live in is too complex to entrust it to someone else whose idea of intellectual curiosity and grasp of foreign policy issues is to tell us he can look into Vladimir Putin's eyes and see into his soul.

George Bush's record as a student, military man, businessman and leader of the free world is one of constant failure. And the part that troubles me most is he seems content with himself.

He will leave office with the country $10 trillion in debt, fighting two wars, our international reputation in shambles, our government cloaked in secrecy and suspicion that his entire presidency has been a litany of broken laws and promises, our citizens' faith in our own country ripped to shreds. Yet Bush goes bumbling along, grinning and spewing moronic one-liners, as though nobody understands what a colossal failure he has been.

I fear to the depth of my being that John McCain is just like him."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Furniture Frenzy

The one word that I would use to describe today's trip to IKEA would be FRANTIC. I was calmly walking through the neatly fabricated rooms in the monster store, IKEA, when I noticed the frenzy in the eyes of other shoppers.

Either they left their brains in the car or they were entranced by the easy-to-assemble furniture, but most people were flitting around without any concern for other shoppers. I should have known better for going on a Saturday on a weekend when many college students were moving to the area.

It is difficult to describe the frantic behaviors. All I know is that I was left wanting the peace and quiet that my car offered after this experience. Next time, I will go on a Wednesday morning.

Back in the Swing of Things

It has taken some getting used to our normal lives back in Philly. We both jumped into our work routines because school looms on the horizon for us. I probably write this every year, but I just love the first weeks of school.

Don't get me wrong. I like my job all year long, but the buzz and flutter of the weeks before the children come are filled with preparation and organization. Creating a warm and welcoming environment where we can all be together for 180 days. I have my rituals each year. I may not always do them in the same order, but they must be done.

Organize the cubby room.
This year, it was a mess. So, with the help of some to-go boxes from a friend who enjoys Chinese take out and some labels, it is a cubby room that even the most finicky person could tolerate. Because that is the kindergartners' space, it gets trashed pretty regularly, but I am hoping that a little preparation before their arrival will help.

Trip to the Teacher Store
I like to buy the same things each year. New library pockets for a cute check in poster. New stickers for rewards. Mr. Sketch-it smelly markers for poster making. However, this year, I could not resist some jumbo foam dice. Part of being a kindergarten teacher is keeping things novel and new. The dice will help with that.
Bulletin Boards
I do not do elaborate bulletin boards because I like to use them for the children's work. I do replace the faded paper with new paper. Now, they are empty waiting for five year old creations.

I am rereading The First Six Weeks of School, but I have a few other books that I am interested in for the fall. I hope to get through one more before the big day.

I have a very long to-do list, but I have three weeks to do it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Midwestern Adventure - By the Numbers

The number of weeks we have been away from our home in Philadelphia to see friends and family in the midwest.

The number of states that we drove through during our trip to and from the midwest.
Our favorite new state is West Virginia. We had not driven through the central part of West Virginia until this summer. It was incredibly beautiful and recommend a drive through West Virginia to anyone.

The variety of brats that were being sold at the North Dakota meat shop where my mom buys her grillin' goods.

The number of toddlers and pre-schoolers that we enjoyed during our travels. Tim became known among the pre-school boys to be the guy who can build great Lego and fix Transformers.

I love that I pay $4.50 for a matinee in the midwest! I went to Mamma Mia with my mom and my sister-in-law in the midwest. When the girl behind the counter told me the title, I had to ask if she was sure!

The number of years that my parents have been married! We helped them celebrate their anniversary with a celebration with family and friends.

The number of Barack Obama pins that I purchased from this sweet elderly lady in Grand Forks who gives all of the money to the democratic headquarters in town. After I bought a pin, she showed me her garden.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Midwestern Tales

Have you been wondering where I have been? Tim and I have been enjoying our annual midwestern adventures. Our first stop was in Missouri where we spent time with our family and our sweet niece, Leah. Of course, no trip is complete to Missouri without taking in a St. Louis Cardinals game.

It was our first time to the new Busch Stadium. The Cards were playing the Brewers in one of the warmest games that I have ever been to. We avoided the beer and just had water. We lost, but it was still a great evening.

After Missouri, we took off for Iowa to see some of our friends from our three years in the state. Tim and I have enjoyed three-year old Caden. From Legos to Pirates, we have played a large variety of play themes. I am making stops at all of my favorite scrapbook stores since I haven't found any proper scrapbook stores in the east. Our next stop will be in Minneapolis where I will catch up with my high school and college friends.

Monday, July 21, 2008

On the Road Again

I am no longer in Philly. We have hit the wide open spaces that the United States Interstate system has to offer. Being educators, we have the perk of having our summers off. This allows us to travel for a month and see all of the friends and family along the way.

We took a new route through West Virginia and Kentucky. Although our lil' four cylinder Honda Accord may not agree, the hills of West Virginia are one of America's secret treasures. Beautiful. I kept pointing out the window to valleys and mountain tops and saying, "Look at that!" I am sure at some point, Tim didn't need my instruction to look. He was equally impressed with this untouched nature.

We have spent that last three days with Tim's brother, his wife, and our sweet little niece, Leah. She is 10 months old and keeps us entertained for hours. I am taking the opportunity to use my video capabilities on my camera. Tonight, we'll take in a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. It'll be hot, but I know Tim will love every minute of it. Go Cards!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I had no idea, but I guess I am a great bowler! Now, I realize that the wii controller is lighter and less cumbersome than an actual bowling ball, but I did have several strikes the other night at TC and Laura's place.

I can't say that I am a terrific driver in the land of wii. When I played Mario Kart, I drove off of cliffs and into the ocean. I can't forget that I also drove into the on-coming traffic. It didn't help that I was laughing hysterically at myself and my inability to stay on the road.

It's been a long time since we've hung out with a couple and felt so very comfortable, but that is how it is with TC and Laura. They are midwestern folk from Iowa and that is my favorite kind of folk. Good company, good food, and good gaming makes for a good night.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tastes Change, I Guess

Maybe I have already asked this...

Is it possible to love something that you once detested? This whole new way of thinking has taken me over. The other day, I grilled some portobella mushrooms with a balsamic and garlic sauce. I cook with mushrooms because I know other people like them even if I have never been a fan. Tim convinced me to try a piece because he thought they turned out very well. Sure enough, I liked it.

How could this be? I had spent 30 years thinking that I didn't like mushrooms. Maybe it was the canned version that I had a distaste for, but now, I like mushrooms.

Another example would be the band Journey. For years, I just couldn't stand listening to them. I think part of it was a childhood where the radio station played way too many monster ballads and hair bands. True, Journey is not a hair band but they definitely sang some fist pumping music. I just wanted to take a scissor to the whole bunch. However, now I am kind of smitten with Journey. It could be that I can sing to their songs in the privacy of my car and at my convenience rather than have them forced down my throat or it could be that my tastes are changing. The question is...are they changing for the better or worse.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Xponential Music Festival

Saturday was spent at the Xponential Music Festival in on the Camden Waterfront across the river from Philadelphia. It was hosted by my favorite radio station WXPN and had acts that are right up my folky alley.

Whenever I travel somewhere new, and this is especially true when I am traveling near downtown Philly, I have a detailed sheet of directions with even the smallest particular listed. These plans rarely steer me wrong.

I had packed a cooler with yummy fruits and snacks. Lots of beverages were cooled within the cooler to help us stay hydrated during this typical Philadelphia summer day...humid. So, we arrived without any problems, but as I pull into the parking lot and start to hand the parking attendant the money, I realize that I have forgotten the tickets to the concert! How could I have done that?

Basically, it was one of those moments when you are too planned and too organized so that you forget the most important thing that you need. So, we drove all of the way back to my house to get the tickets. It added another hour onto our drive and it annoyed me to know end.

Tickets in hand, we arrived back in Camden to enjoy an afternoon of music. The funny thing about music festivals is how many people break out their tie-dye just for these occasions. I don't think these people sport tie-dye on normal days, but there is something about jam bands and grassy knolls that call to pseudo-hippies.

I enjoyed Amos Lee and Teddy Thompson the most. The other bands included Railroad Earth and Nicole Atkins. There was more music today, but after a day in the sun, I realized that I am a one-day kind of music festival person.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Doing the Small Things

Summer is about half over for me. I feel like I have accomplished a lot, but why accomplish anything at all. Why do I have this sense to check things off of a list or spend time well. I guess that I am a doer.

I don't even know if doer is a word, but it describes me. For example, today, I will make some hummus. This hummus will be a great snack for the music festival that I am going to tomorrow. I will go to Target and get some of those low beach chairs too.

This is exactly why I am a doer. It makes things nice and organized to avoid chaos. It's not that I hate chaos. I just like to control what I can control. Oh. Now I am a doer and a controller. This is no surprise.

I never try to accomplish something that I won't enjoy. I try to spend my time well doing the things that bring joy to my life. Baking. Gardening. Music. Grocery Shopping. These are the simple pleasures in my life.

Sometimes, I will think about my late grandmother and think about the life that she led. She lived in the country and found joy in the simple things like birds, her family, her garden, and the nature that surrounded her. She also knew the importance of sitting down and just having long moments of peace. She found happiness in the simple pleasures in life.

Maybe being a doer is not such a bad thing. Maybe it is a good thing when you are doing the things you love. I tell Tim all of the time that we live a charmed life. We have these relaxing summers where we work about one third of the time. There is never a rush to our life. We get up and start the day in a leisurely fashion. We spend our days doing exactly what we want to be doing in the summer.

Midwestern Recipe: Caramel-Pecan Rolls

See...these are the moments when I wish I had some neighbors that were lifelong friends who I could invite over for a fresh, ooey-gooey caramel roll that was made from scratch. They'd come over and we'd sit down with a cup of coffee and their kids would be all sticky from the ooey-gooey caramel. And I would encourage seconds when their moms really just want them to have one.

After the yeast disaster earlier in the week, I had grand success with this batch. See, I can't shy away from failure. I can't let it beat me even in my baking world.

So, the picture to the left shows just how ooey-gooey they turned out to be! I found this recipe on the Taste of Home website. The caramel sauce was just how I liked it.

2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (110° to 115°)
2 eggs
5 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup butter or margarine, cubed
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add the eggs, butter, sugar, salt and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, for sauce, melt butter in a large saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Sprinkle with pecans; set aside.

Punch the dough down. Turn onto a floured surface. Roll into a 17-in. x 15-in. rectangle. Spread butter to within 1/2 in. of edges. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over dough. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; inch seams to seal.

Cut into 15 slices. Place cut side down over caramel sauce. Cover; let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes; invert onto a serving platter.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Midwestern Recipe: Lemon Cake

The Midwestern Position is quickly becoming the place for recipes and that is just about it. I wish I had other adventures to share, but I seem to be spending lots of time baking and, of course, taking pictures of it.

Today's treat...Lemon Cake. This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe that I have wanted to try for some time. It is was really simple. The sugar syrup at the end of the baking process is very important so don't skip it. Also, don't feel the need to have 6 to 8 lemons on hand. I had three and was able to get the zest that I needed. I also used lemon juice from a bottle when I ran out of fresh lemon juice. No problem.

I think this is the perfect treat if you invited a friend over for coffee in the afternoon. Oh, how I wish I had a friend to invite over for a coffee, but that is for another post. For now, I will eat lemon cake by myself with coffee in the afternoon.

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fourth and More

Having the Fourth of July on a Friday is not very special since I have Fridays off during the summer. However, it is very special for Tim to take an entire weekday off to spend it together. For most holidays, we are traveling or hosting, so it was a nice change to have it be just the two of us.

Our plans were beautiful. We were going to go and spend the day at the Tyler Arboretum. Unfortunately, it started to rain as we drove to the arboretum. So, we quickly found the local movie house and saw the 10AM showing of Hancock. It is not as beautiful and nature-loving, but it was relaxing.

I am not sure if all of the stars were aligned or something was in the water, but we both got the organizing and cleaning urge after the movie. Tim worked in the basement while I worked in the rest of the house. It was perfect actually because we were not on any kind of time table or schedule. We took breaks when we wanted to and the house looks great. If were not for the rainy weather, we might have spent this energy outside, but the house is in order.

Oh, and I also tried to make some caramel rolls, but my dough did not rise. I am very unsuccessful with yeast. I think the water was too warm. It is new yeast. UGH. I will try again soon, but will need some baking successes in between so I do not get bakers low-self-esteem.

I realize as I reread this post, I seem like an old-fashioned girl. Cleaning. Baking. I like that. I am going to think more about that and maybe write more about the virtues of being an old-fashioned girl.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Midwestern Recipe: Homemade Nutter Butters

Okay, I think I might be going a little crazy with my new mixer. Usually, I shy away from cookies because they are so much work compared to a nice bar cookie, but the new mixer inspires me to do more. I found this recipe online and couldn't resist.

Don't worry though. I didn't eat all of the cookies. Just one. (It is really two cookies though because of the sandwich part!) I gave the rest away to our co-workers.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Skippy
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup coarsely chopped peanuts
2½ cups quick-cooking oats

For the filling:
¼ pound (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Skippy
1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1. For cookie dough: preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and peanut butter. Add sugars and beat at medium speed for 4 minutes, scraping down bowl twice.

2. At low speed, add eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until well mixed, frequently scraping down bowl. Add peanuts and oats, and mix well. Using an ice cream scoop 2 inches in diameter, place balls of dough on parchment-lined baking sheets at least three inches apart. Bake until cookies have spread and turned very light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool and firm up, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before filling.

3. For filling: using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar until very smooth.

4. To assemble cookies, spread a thin layer (about 1/8 inch) on underside of a cookie. Sandwich with another cookie. Repeat.

Yield: 24 large cookies.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Living Biblically

I have been reading this book, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs. Long book, short...this guy who lives in NYC decided to live his life according to all Biblical tenants and rules. It sounds sort of deep and overwhelming, but as a reader, it is fascinating how he follows obscure rules in this 20th century world
He is clever and witty so each page is filled with funny stories about his family or the religious intellectuals or scholars that he meets. I am always impressed with anyone who can do something out of the ordinary for a year. The only thing that I have done for a year is not eat McDonald's. I should do that for a lifetime.
Next on my nightstand is Julie and Julia:
My Year of Cooking Dangerously. It is the story of one woman's quest to complete all of the Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, in a period of 365 days. Again, the year is fascinating to me.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Midwestern Recipes: Lemon Zinger Crisps

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 small lemons
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar, plus additional for dusting
1 large egg, separated
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 sheets parchment paper

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Grate zest from 1 lemon directly over another mixing bowl. Squeeze 3 tablespoons lemon juice into a third bowl; set aside. Add butter to lemon zest and beat with an electric mixer on medium until combined. Add sugar a little at a time; beat 1 minute. Add yolk (cover egg white with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use) and half the flour mixture; beat on low until just combined. Add lemon juice, vanilla and remaining flour mixture. Beat until just combined. Form dough into a log about 8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter.

Cover tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 3 hours.

Heat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut dough into 40 thin rounds and place on baking sheets. Whisk egg white with 1/4 teaspoon water; brush on top of cookies. Dust each with a bit of sugar. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden. (If baking both sheets of cookies at the same time, alternate positions halfway through.) Let cool on baking sheet 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.