Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Ideas & Recipe for Bread

I was blessed recently with an abundance of bread. Unfortunately, we have a small freezer and I did not want to let this food to go to waste (especially since it was some yummy whole wheat organic and Italian loaves.)

But, there does not seem to be a ton of unique things to do with extra bread. I did use 1 whole loaf to make french toast, which I cut into sticks. These will be gobbled up by the girls at breakfast and snack time over the next 2 days, I'm sure.

I still had at least three loaves- so I thought I would invent a snack for the girls, a sweet snack. I have pretty much boycotted any cookies or baked treats since they just attack them like ravenous animals who have not eaten in days. I wanted something slightly sweet, but not terribly fat and sugar laden. And the winner is...

Cinnamon Sugar Croutons

Sounds odd and possibly not enticing for 3 hungry girls, but I have made 3 batches and they ate all 3 immediately when they came out of the oven. We also took some on a trip to the beach where a friends children loved them and asked their mom to "buy some".

Here you go... enjoy: (Pardon photos, they were taken by my 9 year old assistant.)

2 tablespoons softened butter
4 slices white bread
2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
(Honestly, these amounts are really suit to your own needs/taste. You can use less butter to save fat and more or less cinnamon sugar depending on your sweet tooth.)

Butter your bread on both sides.

Cut the bread into bite sized cubes. I stacked mine to make cutting easier, but the little pieces are hard to separate after they are smooshed together with butter, so be careful. I cut mine into about 3/4" squares but, again, you can alter that to your own taste.

Put the pieces in a bag or bowl and then pout the cinnamon sugar in, coating them well. (See how I am furiously shaking the cinnamon sugar on from my itty bitty shaker? Way easier to just take the cover off and pour it right into the bowl or bag... lesson learned.

Mmmm... look at all that cinnamon sugary yumminess...

Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet (I actually made my first batch on the grill in tin foil. Great idea for a summer snack that won't overheat the kitchen from a hot oven.) If you do use the oven, bake at 375ยบ for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping them over 1 or 2 times so that they cook evenly.

And here you go...

I'd say 2 pieces of bread is one snack serving per child. They were a hit with the 1 year old, 4 year old and 9 year old. Colby thought they needed more sugar but the girls were satisfied, so I will leave the recipe as is.
And, they are not just a great snack. While nosing around, I found out that, again I did not create this recipe! (Dan internet, I am never gonna have an original idea.) People make these and add them to cream of pumpkin or butternut squash soup... or to fruit salads. How delicious does that sound???

Happy Anniversary... 8 Years and Counting

Sometimes the shortest distance between two points is a winding path walked arm in arm. ~Robert Brault

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Keep your compliments to yourself.

A little tip for for any husbands, fiances, significant others or men trying to get into the pants of a mother... corresponding how a woman looks in any way to the fact that she has birthed a child is not recommended.

Example: "You look good for having 3 children." (Unless you are Heidi Klum, above, after she had her third child.")

"Don't worry, I don't expect you to look like you did before you had kids."

"Oh, I don't expect you to look like her, she's never had babies."

All most likely perfectly plausible compliments in a guys head... all absolutely devastating to a female psyche.

Consider this a public service announcement for this lovely Saturday.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Design on a Dime, Project 11: Shabby Chic Garden

It took a few weeks, but I turned this

into this: In the first photo- I built my raised garden over my original garden area (which never successfully grew.) As you can see the raised garden has done very well so I decided to build a second before it became too late in the season. And with two, it left an open area between them which was weedy and exposing the underbrush behind.

Shabby chic gardening to the rescue (heavy on the shabby.) We inherited a variety of wood and junk in the shed when we purchased this house. We also have plenty of our own wood from old projects- so all I had to do was gather some supplies and build myself a cute sitting area.

The 2 raised beds were built from old landscaping timbers. The back of the garden is bordered by a huge beam you cannot see (I think t was 12'x6"x8") I found that on the side of my shed, a little deteriorated, but good enough to hold the mulch in. The potting table was built from an old trellis, some 2"x4"s, a 4"x4" and some decking left over from Colby's horseshoe pit project. I built a very simple table with it, whitewashed it with a little white paint mixed 1 part to 4 parts water... and voila: simple potting table.

The table in the middle is the base of an old fire pit bowl with some old 1"x4"s secured as a table. I added some new stain to protect it from the weather and now a place to set my coffee when I sit in the garden.

The 2 trellis' in the back have been hanging around for a few years- finally put to a good use.

The decorations are mostly acquired from Goodwill: 2 birdhouses at 99¢ each, 3 rustic stars at 99¢ each, the 'Welcome to my Garden' rustic sign was 99¢, the mug on the table was 99¢... and when I saw it at Goodwill:
I knew it was meant to be as I was planning on doing this bird feeder project and then I saw the exact mug at Goodwill! What are the chances??? (No, I have not completed that project yet... but it's on the list.)

I took some Bell jars from my pantry and made some little candle holders: My parents found a spool of rusty wire in their barn that they gave to me and now I can make rustic projects like this one. I wrapped it around the Bell jar, attaching it to the trellis, put some sand and a candle in it. I also kept the tops on the jar to keep water out when I am not using them.

I painted a coffee ca from the recycle bin and filled it with sand to keep my gardening tools in. (This has to be put in the shed when it rains, to keep tools from rusting.) I also used the same paint for an old wood box to stick under the potting table to store some of my extra pots in.

Money spent:
2 bags mulch: approx. $7 (I also had 2 remaining from last year.)
14 stepping stones: $70
2 clearance chairs from Target: $36
2 rolls of edging to run around the garden: $34

Total spent:$147

Not too bad considering I love it and love to sit there with my coffee (Ok, or cold beer) and relax. It is one less area where I have to see all the under brush and viney mess that surrounds our property- and it is yielding some great vegetable plants so far.

What do you think, any suggestions?

To recap:
See Project 1, Project 2 and Project 3, Project 4, Projects 5, 6 and 7, Project 8, Project 9, Project 10

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Random Roundup for a Sunny Tuesday

Check out Tougas Farm in Massachusetts... my girls loved it and we got some of the sweetest strawberries ever!

My favorite salad to use my 8 pounds of fresh picked strawberries.

Ten sustainable, environmentally friendly products... some even produced in New England.

I seriously want this shower curtain... but would it scare the hell out of my kids???

Did you ever wonder if it was worth your time and effort to keep up that veggie garden?

With a graphic design background, I am a font snob, and surely nobody will find this hilarious but me.

See this adorable bird feeder? Can I tell you that when I saw that exact tea cup at Goodwill, I knew it was fate and that I was meant to make it for my garden. (Photos when I complete it).

Ok, off the the water park... man do I love summer!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The grass is always greener...

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you will remember back in April when I had the pleasure of having these guys at my house:

We were finally the last people on the block to pave our driveway. And if you have never lived with a gravel driveway- you have no idea how excited we were to get pavement. Unfortunaelty, that is not an instantanious makeover... there are many large vehicles invading your lawn which is still very soft from spring rains, there are areas which were previously used as parking which now need to be converted to lawn, areas that were garden that will no longer be, areas that now need to be garden... etc...
We also decided to have them put in a proper walkway to our front door. Imagine that. A walkway so that people might actually go to our front door and not the side door. If you are not from New England, you may not be familiar with the habit of Northerners using side and back door while completely ignoring the front entrance... but it drives me nuts. Sorry... tangent there.

And so we had our nice, smooth, clean new driveway.

And then the past 6 weeks of smoothing the ruts, laying top soil, spreading seed, putting down top cover, watering, watering more, watering some more... and this is the end result:

I am very excited to have these results. We have a ton of huge trees on out property and it is typiclly hard to grow grass in all that shade, but we tried a new grass seed and I love it! It's Scotts EZ Seed and it sprouted within 3 or 4 days... awesome. (No, this is not a paid ad, I wish it were since the freakin' seed is $50 a bag!!!) But really, isn't this gorgeous grass:

Phew... one project down for the summer and about 8,000 more to go. Just wait until you see my new shabby chic garden and potting table I am working on.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Zucchini Sweet Potato Quick Bread

I got a great deal on zucchini yesterday (2 pounds for a dollar!) but then I realized that we had no gas for the grill and that is typically how I love to cook them. Damn. I also had some sweet potatoes getting on in age since I had no gas to grill my favorite sandwich. Google, here I come... and the results I came back with were perfect: a zucchini/sweet potato quick bread from Joy the Baker.

I made a few mini loaves and a few mini muffins because those are easier to feed little mouths. And boy were they a hit! All 3 girls loved them (as did I).

Here is the recipe and a few of my own tips on quick breads:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup apple sauce
3 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup grated zucchini
1 1/2 cup peeled and grated sweet potato
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or you may use nuts or dried fruit here)

2 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp of cinnamon or nutmeg or a mixture of both to line pan with.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan or muffin tins or 3 mini loaf pans. As you grease and flour the pan, I add my sugar cinnamon mixture here and sprinkle it around the pan. This adds an added zip to the edges of the bread. Mix the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate, large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, apple sauce, sour cream, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix in the zucchini and sweet potato. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes for larger loaf. Approximately 1/2 hour for mini loaves, approx. 15 minutes for mini muffins.

A few quick bread tips from Michele:

I add sour cream to all of my quick bread recipes, it makes my breads super moist even after freezing and thawing after a few weeks. It has not failed me yet.

The sugar/cinnamon lining for the pan is a great idea for all bread too. You can switch up the spices depending on the bread (say pumpkin pie spice for pumpkin bread) and it is just that subtle extra yum.

Quick breads freeze very well. It is a great snack to make ahead and freeze in quantities so that you have a snack on hand for hungry kids or unexpected guests.

Book mark this recipe because, if you are anything like me, you are going to have a ton of zucchini from your garden in the next couple of months. Let me know if you make it and if you love it like I did.

Oh, I wanted a photo of someone eating the bread to prove how yummy it was... not one of our best photo ops though...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What does your fridge say about you?

I recently posted a photo of my fridge to demonstrate how pathetically boring it is. I am jealous of people who are able to showcase family and friends photo, artwork, newspaper clippings, etc. The fridge is one of those things, akin to the medicine cabinet, book shelves, bedside table drawers (wait, is that just me) that are fun to look at to get a sense of a person/family's personality. And my wonderful friend, Isolde, picked up on this and was kind enough to post a photo of her fridge door that I have not yet had the opportunity to see since she moved thousands of miles away: (and I must reveal to you that she has at least one photo on there that I have been looking at in her family for the past 20 years!)

It was great to get to see this snapshot of her life that i normally would miss out on. And so I ask you, can I see your fridge? Do you dare share a post with your families keepsake collage revealed. Please do and leave a link in the comments here. Or, if you'd rather, email me the pic and any explanation you might have so I can share a little taste of refrigerator doors from around the U.S. Pretty please, because you love me... right???

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another Safety Warning for All Parents!!!

We all know how hard parenting is, but when you factor in all of the safety issues you have to be cognisant of, it is just compounded exponentially! If you have been a reader of my blog for awhile, you know one of my hot-buttons of safety is the button battery- having a very close call with my middle daughter swallowing one. If you have not read that frightening post, please do so now- it only takes 3 minutes, but it very well might save a life. The issue was called to my attention again recently when a friend forwarded me the New York Times story that brought the issue to the forefront again. The scary new fact that the NYT article scared me with? The deadliest batteries are the ones that have a model number starting with 2... the one Annika swallowed was 2032. I will never forget that number as long as I live and now it will haunt me even more.

Another safety issue was called my attention recently: the new larger capacity washer and dryers. I do not have one, but if you do, please heed this warning I received in an email from a friend:

"We were all playing outside on a beautiful day. W. (who will be 4 this August) decided to paint his body bright green- yes he was naked! Shortly after the kids went inside to take a bath and get cleaned up. After W. was dried off I told him to go and get his PJ's on. I started to make dinner and then planned on going outside to clean up our daily activities. Well I am glad that I decided to make dinner first. While standing in the kitchen I heard a faint cry and yelling for mom. I started to look around and realized that W. had climbed into the dryer and the door closed locking him in. We just recently bought a new Whirlpool washer and dryer which are "standard" for families that do a lot of wash. They are supposed to be more energy efficient. But they are also a lot larger and more inviting for youngsters. They have bright lights on the inside when the door is open but don't realize that the heavy door is magnetic and closes automatically. He was sitting in there Indian style looking for a pair of pajamas on the top of a load of laundry and could not figure out how to open the door. Something for you to pass on to mothers that have just recently upgraded to a larger washer and dryer."

I did find this lock for the front loading washer and dryers but, again, I do not own one, so I am not sure how well these work. It may very well be worth the $11 investment though.

Please pass these warning s on to friends or family who are parents... you never know when a little knowledge can save a life.

Monday, June 7, 2010

No Cheesy Family Photos for Us!

I have two purposes today,
a: gloat at how gorgeous my family is and
b: gloat at how fantastically lucky I am to have found the most perfect photographer ever.

I am an awful mother who has not had professional photos of our family done... well... ever. We have not even had pro photos done of our kids since Ariana was 9 months old. (9 years ago!) It is not that I would not love to have a beautiful photo of our family- it is that, being adept at taking photos myself, I am extremely picky about pictures. I mean, it pains me to even hand a wedding photo in our house as I just dislike them that much. I just can not bare the cheesy sit-in-a-square-box-and-snap-a-corny-picture-of-me-and-my-family-in-our-khakis-and-pressed-white-shirts photography. You know the kind... And then, like the heavens bestowed her upon us, I was introduced to Lisa by my wonderful friend, Kam. When I saw Kameron's beautiful family and pregnancy photos, I fell in love... Unfortunately, she had gone all the way to Canada to have them taken! Yup, I fell in love with a photographer located in Ottawa! Damn it! Just my luck.

Well, it was my luck when Kameron announced that Lisa from Salt and Light Studio was coming down to Rhode Island and had opening for some family sessions. I jumped at the opportunity. I knew by her gallery that she would provide the unique, personality-filled, out-of-the-box experience I wanted... and she did that... any beyond. When she sent me the preparation email and it said, "Everyone in white shirts and tan pants is so 1995..." I knew she was the photographer for us and she really got it.

But as we pulled up to the planned scenic location and Annika was as obstinate and cranky as a 4 year old could be, Colby and I thought, "This is going to get very interesting." Even more interesting? Her choice of locale. It was a man's house who had seemingly been collecting junk for the past 60 years. He had everything from a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer truck to tractors to a graveyard. And I could not have been more excited! She clearly put together what we wanted and what would create an artistic, rare photograph. And it worked: When there were complications with the first location, her and her assistant, Kam, were able to roll with the punches and find a secondary location, which was just as fun. She got some great shots of Colby and I, where I wanted to showcase our new tattoos:

She was able to capture the girls in a more playful mode in their dance clothes:

AND- as if it could get even better? You see the fun necklace I have on? And the girls' adorable hair accessories? Lisa designs those as well! She has an Etsy shop with the cutest hair accessories for little ladies. (Her shop is on vacation now to catch up on all of her photo editing, but you should favorite it so you can see it when she reopens!)

So, now that many New Englanders have seen he photos she took over Memorial Day, there might be a petition to get her to come back down here- so, if you want in, let me know, and if she does ever get back down this way, I will see if I can get you on the exclusive waiting lost. Or, if you are just lucky enough to be located in Eastern Canada, you should just look her up- you'll thank me for it.

More photos from Lisa's photo shoot road trip to Rhode Island here.
Kameron's gorgeous family here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mars and Venus in the Ghetto

Our family of 5 made the trek to Rhode Island over the weekend to have family photos taken. Neither Colby nor myself spend much time in Rhode Island, so when we were in Providence with some time to spare before the shoot, we really didn't know where to go. We decided to just drive around and explore for a few minutes and, much to our surprise, found a large sprawl of ghetto. Who knew there was ghetto in Rhode Island... or who knew there was so much of it... or maybe we were just driving in circles in one small neighborhood...who knows?

It was smack dab in the middle of this neighborhood that Ariana lied to me. That is the one offense that I can not deal with. I told her immediately to tell me the truth or we would pull over immediately and put her in time out.

This is when Colby jumped in, "Uhhh, we are in the middle of the ghetto, I am not pulling over here." Let me interject here that my husband is Captain I-will-not-give-consequences-and-if-I-do-I-will-not-follow-through-with-them.

"We have to follow through with consequences or she will never learn," I whispered. "Ariana, are you going to tell me the truth?"

No answer. I looked at Colby and he abruptly pulled the truck over. I jumped out of one door, Ariana another and she dutifully went to the front of the truck and sat on the curb. She served her time as I stood next to her and then we piled back into the truck.

As we pulled away, my loving husband whispered, "If you ever make me pull over in the 'hood again with a truck full of kids, I am saving the girls and leaving your cute little ass here between the curbside vacuum repair and the motley crew hanging on their stoop... those guys would have a field day with you."

Ok, maybe we can find a parenting compromise between my ghetto timeouts and his idea of executing her grounding for that particular lying offense while I was at work: