Friday, June 29, 2012

7 Quick Takes Meat Friday: Sts. Peter and Paul


--- 1 ---
The total lack of geography knowledge is not mine alone.  The Chef had to google Harper's Ferry today.  Peter is away on a cross-country Civil War trip and the email update today mentioned that he is in Harper's Ferry.


I saw the movie Gods and Generals, but I didn't remember where Harper's Ferry was located.  The Chef guessed it was South Carolina, but the town is actually in West Virginia.  Harper's Ferry is also a National Park that includes some Virginia and Maryland parts too.  I don't think I've ever been to a National Park.  I'll just have to watch Ken Burn's mini-series to see what I'm missing.

--- 2 ---



Peter will also get the opportunity to attend the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the 4th of July, followed by viewing fireworks that night in our nation's capitol.

Unlike my experience with National Parks, I've been to loads of basilicas, including that one and many in Europe.  My personal fave is the one in St. Louis with the largest collection of mosaics outside Byzantium.  It's where I graduated from high school, and it's commonly called the New Cathedral.  You must check it out.

And then go find that place in the Lou that serves beignets and tell me if they're anything like the real thing.  I've got to know.

--- 3 ---

After living in this frozen wasteland, I stopped complaining about the heat years ago.  As I've said before, it takes several days of high temps to thaw out my inner core each year.  But for those of you who aren't loving the three digit highs...and for myself who is partially deaf with the noise of cooling devices indoors...I lifted this pic from a friend's Facebook page.  Something to think about.


--- 4 ---

What To Serve for Dinner on Very Hot Days

If you're not going to make the no-cook Asian Chicken Salad I posted here, then take a little jaunt to Costco or the supermarket with the best deli selection. 

Then, purchase large quantities of their chicken salad, tortellini salad, quinoa salad, shrimp salad or whatever floats your boat.  I shopped hungry yesterday, so we had all of the above.  

Next, grab a pack of flour tortillas for your meaty salads, or a tub of mixed greens as a backdrop for any of the above.

Another option is to pick up one (or in my case, two or more) rotisserie chicken(s), the tub of greens, and a nice baguette.  This option must be served with a crisp white, such as one of my constant companions for the last several years,  the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, also available at Costco or the Sauvignon Republic from Trader Joe's.  The Chef requests that I note that we have been drinking Kim Crawford since way before it was popular.  We are the trend-setters.

Speaking of setting trends, we predict the rapid rise in popularity of Mulderbosch Cabernet Rose.  It's pink, it's dry, it's from South Africa, it's available at Costco.  You'll love it.  It will increase your cool factor, both physically and socially. 

--- 5 ---

We've been serving copious amounts of Mulderbosch, or as I like to call it, Balderdash, at some backyard dinner soirees.  I even remembered to take pictures and uploaded them for your viewing pleasure.


Nothing in this photo is home-grown. 

Here, you can see our guests brought pesto pasta.  With the help of my first god-daughter, I threw together a caprese salad.  I made a version of the cucumber salad in this issue of Cook's Country, the version with bacon of course.  And the Chef grilled some split chicken breast and thighs.  I loved that platter that the chicken is on.  It broke in half the next day. 


Edmund and I made PW's Tres Leches cake for dessert.  Susan made it a few months ago and it is outrageously delicious.  I bought this tray especially for Tres Leches cake.  It's melamine, so it's still around.


This is what dining al fresco looked like in May.  These peonies are home grown, but they came with the house.  Thirteen years later, they are still alive.

And for everyone who wants to know how our yard fares after a winter under the ice rink, there you go.

  --- 6 ---

Ehh.  Brave.  Not impressed.  Could have used at least one really great male character.  And perhaps a really triumphant ending of some sort.  I'm disappointed in you, Pixar.  I will have to go see Finding Nemo 3D to remind myself how awesome you have been.


--- 7 ---

Hosted three soon-to-be-sophomore girls for a sleepover last night.  The older they get, the louder they squeal.  These extra-noisy window unit air conditioners are good for something after all.

I picked up some movies for them at the library:  To Catch a Thief, Pirates of the Caribbean the first, and Marley and Me, which I didn't let her watch until now.  They wanted Sweet Home Alabama from Netflix streaming, but it's no longer available.  

After so many good recommendations last week, I would love to know what good movies for teens do you recommend on Netflix? 

  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What We're Reading Wednesday, on Thursday



Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood takes place in Mississippi, during the summer of 1964.  Glory is not going to be able to have her birthday party at the community pool this year, because the town council has decided to shut it down rather than desegregate.  Her new friend, Laura, and her mother have just moved to town from Ohio, so that her mother can work at the free clinic, or as some townspeople put it, to cause trouble.  It's a long, hot summer without the pool, but Glory learns a lot about freedom and friendship, especially when her housekeeper, Emma, helps her write a letter to the editor of the local paper. 

Author, Augusta Scattergood, also has a blog.  She has recently featured her recipe for lemon cookies, that Emma makes in the novel.  Anyone want to host a mother/daughter book club and invite me and my girls?  I'll make the cookies.


The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron Hawkins is about the year Jackson Jones, age 14, makes a deal with his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Nelson.  If he takes over the care and maintenance of her apple orchard with 300 apple trees for one year, and sells enough apples to give eight thousand dollars to Mrs. Nelson, the apple orchard is his.  Using his siblings and cousins for labor, his Sunday School teacher as a mentor, and the dairy farm down the road for fertilizer, Jackson has his work cut out for him.

Interestingly, this novel is set in New Mexico.  Apparently, it gets cold there, even below freezing.  Who knew?  I thought New Mexico was like Old Mexico, but a state.  dur.

Another interesting fact, this novel is set in the 80s, which after last Friday's quick takes nos. 6 and 7, you know the 80s are dear to my heart.  The kids hook up a boombox in the orchard so they can listen to Beat It and Billie Jean is not my lover...while working in the trees.  We used to sing that on the playground, back in the day.  I remember practicing my moon walk in my moon boots.  I was super cool.



Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari is a WWII book.  Bird's dad is off flying planes for the military.  Tomboy, plane-loving Bird makes friends with the other outcast in her class, Kenji, the only Japanese boy in their tiny town in Rhode Island.  After seeing a German sub in the bay and discovering a dead body, Bird is threatened by a mysterious man in black.  If she doesn't keep her mouth shut, he will hurt her family.  When Kenji's uncle is convicted of the murder, will Bird have the courage to speak up? 

I really liked this book, except for one thing.  Bird's sixteen-year-old sister is a little boy crazy, no big deal.  But Bird waves her sister's bra out the window to get a serviceman's attention.  She bribes the serviceman with a date with her sister in exchange for a ride in his plane.  I don't know that many eleven-year-old girls would wave bras at men out of windows, especially in 1941. 

Also, I 'm not convinced that upon meeting the serviceman, the sister would try to cover up the curlers in her hair with her shirt, thus flashing her bra.  I don't know that Mr. Ferrari understands the sisterly bond, and the code of modesty, especially between sisters.  I do appreciate that he set out to write an adventure story with a female protagonist, and I think he did a good job.  I would have edited out the bra scenes.  Did they even wear bras in the Forties?  Weren't they still wearing corsets or girdles?  I'm still letting my kids read it, it just bugs me.


Pretties by Scott Westerfeld is not as good as Uglies.  Tally is finally pretty and living in New Pretty Town, when she starts a relationship with fellow pretty, Zane.  Keep in mind, she is only sixteen.  Though warned about sex, and getting involved too soon, Tally is soon living in Zane's quarters.  No, nothing is described, but I'm no fool, and my kids aren't either.  In that futuristic society, they have to sleep together for warmth?  I don't think so.  I don't know if I'll read the rest of the series.  I've already told my teens that they can't read this one.  Bummer.  It was such a good dystopian, sci-fi novel, without the implied sex. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday


--- 1 ---


I know a minor celebrity!  Chef Patrick Cassata is a contestant on this season of Hell's Kitchen, and he's my BFF.  Well, when he was executive chef at a local restaurant, he would give us free drinks.  Plus, one of his gorgeous daughters is in Edmund's class.  And they always sit behind us at 11am Mass on Sundays.  Yep.  BFFs.

Anyway, I'm not caught up on the show, so if he got kicked off already don't tell me.  He's a great guy, and a fabulous chef.  Plus, he had TWO premiere viewing events that benefited the Mission at Our Lady of the Angels.  

He did warn us via email that M14 TV is "not for the kiddies."  This show is nothing like Top Chef.  Lots of bleepity bleep bleep bleep.  Tons of drama between the contestants.  Not much about the food.  That's why I like it.  I can't watch Top Chef without eating an extra meal, and The Chef can't watch it without making me one.  Hell's Kitchen doesn't leave me feeling like a moron cause I've never tasted those white truffles or sous-vied something.
--- 2 ---

Grace at Camp Patton made a whole quick take about me!  She's wickedly funny all the time.  I'm dying to meet her kids:  Blob and Hot Mess.  Plus, she made something that has both the terms "Gooey Butter" and "Cookies" in the title.  Brilliant!  We're pretty much BFFs.   

Too much, Grace?  Am I coming on too strong here?  Like a cyber stalker?  backing away slowly...

--- 3 ---


Another Idiot Proof Recipe.  And it's meatless.

Once upon a time, as I was killing time in my happy place...no, not the fancy jewelry store that does free ring cleanings and has bowls of Lindt truffles on the counter.  No, the jewelry store didn't relocate because of me.  The other happy place.  The one place in Chicago that has palm trees all year round.  Trader Joe's.

Anyway, I was at Trader Joe's, and they had an endcap display.  I know it's called an endcap because the Chef did some time at the Jewel as an employee in high school and college.  He always knows where to find stuff in grocery stores.

The endcap display had Lemon-Pepper Pappardelle, canned tuna in olive oil, jars of capers (which have been called pickle berries around here, and we all adore them!), and little neon squares of paper with this recipe on it.

Lemon-Pepper Pappardelle with Tuna and Capers (great title.)

one 8 oz. package of lemon pepper pappardelle, cooked according to package directions
two 7 oz. can of tuna in olive oil, undrained 
lots of capers

Mix all ingredients.
The end.

All you have to do is boil pasta.  Open one can (The olive oil gets dumped in too.) and one jar and your done!

I have made this in hotel rooms while on vacation.  It only serves 4 or 3 of my pasta-loving people, so I have to triple it.  You can only get lemon-pepper pappardelle at Trader Joe's, as far as I know.  The Chef has made it with regular pappardelle, a drained can of diced tomatoes, capers, olive oil and garlic and no tuna, because he's my pickiest eater.  He likes to complicate things.  I suppose you could complicate things too and add some fresh lemon juice and fresh Italian parsley.  But then, you'd have a bigger mess, too. 

--- 4 ---


We might be the worst dog owners in the world.  

Okay, probably not the worst, because I buy Mickey really good grain-free dog food.  We feed him, water him, and sometimes we walk him, and even wash him.

Remember yesterday, how I was whining about the loud drone of box fans and window unit air conditioners?  Well, besides having to make my own iced tea, there are even MORE bad effects.  We just have to get central air conditioning now.

Last night, at approximately 6:45pm, I was pulling out of the driveway to take Susan to get her physical for camp.  Yes, I know the forms were due on the 15th.  I saw Mickey in the back yard, and I thought, "I should call Lucy and Edmund and tell them to let the dog in.  I bet they can't hear him bark when he wants to come in."

But then I got distracted by Susan trying to fill out scads of paper work, hot out of my printer, and my sister from Houston calling to chat, all this while I was driving. 

Fast forward about four hours.  The Chef returns from a work event.  The kids and I finish watching Independence Day, which Lucy said was scarier than Signs.  rolls eyes.

The self-professed dog disliker, The Chef, of all people noticed that we had no dog, 

And the gate was open,

AND he had seen.....a skunk.

Long story short, Mickey had an adventure and spent the night three towns away at the county animal control facility which does not return animals until normal office hours.  And we stayed up til 1am worrying about him and then I got up and drove Edmund to swim team this morning.  ouch.

Longer story, this just in.  After driving to the county animal control facility,
it turns out our dog ISN'T THERE!

He's uninjured but at the county animal hospital.  doh.  
--- 5 ---

I AM SO EXCITED TO SEE BRAVE THIS WEEKEND!
Huzzah for Pixar!

Everytime, I go to the movies, I feel just like Annie, Daddy Warbucks, and Grace Farrell dancing through the streets of Manhattan singing, "Let's go to the movies..."  

Ridiculous, I know.  Keep reading.  It gets worse.

--- 6 ---



During my most recent trip to STL, my own Brave sister, Mary, did something for my girls that I should have done a long time ago.  She showed them the fabulous 80s cartoon, Jem on Netflix.

After Mary was done catching them up to speed on the over-arching plot, you know, how heiress Jerrica Benton has these special earrings that allow her to transform into Jem, the rock star, The Chef asked me, "Is that why you always introduced yourself as Jerrica at parties in college?"

Can I help it if I've always wanted to be truly, truly, truly outrageous?
   
--- 7 ---

So, if you have Netflix and you have kids, or share their taste in programs, some other hits to add to the queue are 
 


What have you found on Netflix worth watching?  And I'm not just asking about anime either.  

Speaking of anime, whatever happened to Belle and Sebastian anyway?  Did Sebastian ever find his mom?
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two Recipes for Grace

Okay, Grace, this post's for you.

Last week, I made another PW recipe.  Another PW recipe that calls for a soft drink as an ingredient.  This time, instead of apple dumplings with Mt. Dew, or Diet Mt. Dew, as the case may be, I made her Spicy Pulled Pork with Dr. Pepper.

Easy, peasy.  Quarter 2 onions, throw them in a big oven safe pot.  If you're PW, you're using a Le Creuset dutch oven, if you're me, you're using a stock pot.  Then shove one boneless pork shoulder roast, or butt roast, tee-hee, in the pot.  Then dump in one 11 oz can of chipotles with the adobo and 2 cans or 4 cups of Dr. Pepper.

PW wants you to put in the oven for 6 hrs at 350, but I cooked mine on the stove top for 6 hrs.  Same difference.  You could probably use a slow cooker with the same result.  I just wrote out this whole recipe from memory.  The only other recipe I have memorized is Nestle toll house cookies.

The Chef was worried that a whole can of chipotles would make the dish inedible, but either Dr. Pepper is the antidote for chipotles, or they get a whole lot milder in the pot.

I used a fat separator to get rid of the grease.  I made Peter stand over the still hot stove and shred the whole thing.  It was awesome.  I put it on nice buns.  The Chef put it in taco shells.  My kids ate it plain.

It makes a heck of a lot, Grace.  So, you should probably freeze half or more of one batch.

The other Idiot Proof meal I made this week involved zero turning on of stoves or ovens.  Because we don't have central air.  Yet.  But I'm working on it.  I can't handle the dull roar of window units and box fans.  Plus, no one can hear me when I give them jobs to do.  Laundry doesn't get run, dishwasher doesn't get unloaded.  No one makes me iced tea, and I have to get it myself.   Miserable.  And sticky.

Asian Chicken Salad

You can buy boneless, skinless, chicken breasts and poach them or grill them.  Or you can buy these packs of grilled chicken breast strips from Costco and chop them up.  Brilliant!

Dressing ingredients:
1/3 c. rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 T. soy sauce
3 T. hoisin sauce
1 T. ginger root, minced
1 T. sesame oil, which we skip because of allergies
3 T. vegetable oil
1 large garlic clove, minced

Whisk all of the above together in a small bowl or a large pyrex measuring cup.

Salad:
2.5 pounds of cooked and shredded chicken breast, give or take.  Costco sells double packs 2 lbs. each, so I doubled the recipe, used 4 lbs. of chicken fed my 7 and had left overs.
2 medium celery ribs, diced fine
2 medium scallions, which I have to explain over and over again to my kids, that scallions are green onions.
2 T. minced fresh cilantro

Mix all of the above in a large bowl.  Add dressing.  Toss to coat. Serve or refrigerate and serve later.

I've served this over a bed of lettuce or in a flour tortilla.  I usually add sliced cucumbers.  Also, I add waaaay more ginger and cilantro than called for because I can never get rid of ginger and cilantro before it's rotten, and because more ginger and more cilantro makes it more delicious.

By the way, Gooey Butter Cake makes the world a better place.  I must try the cookies as soon as I get central air, or in September.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's What We're Reading Wednesday


The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart is the fifth book in The Mysterious Benedict Society series.  The books are very long, and written with very advanced vocabulary, and contain some truly clever puzzles to solve.

This fifth installment starts out quite sad.  The biography of Nicholas Benedict's early years reads like a Dickens novel.  He is locked in his room at night, due to his sleeping problems, he has few if any friends, and immediately incurs the wrath of the resident bullies of his newest orphanage.  But hang in there.  His Extraordinary Education is less about book larnin' and more about learning to put others first. 


I picked up Once On This Island by Gloria Whelan because it had a Caudill sticker on the spine.  Once on This Island is the story of half French/half Irish resident of Mackinac Island, Mary O'Shea and her life during the British occupation during the War of 1812.  Her father is exiled from the island because he refuses to take an oath of loyalty to the British.   Her brother longs to join her father and the American troops in Detroit, her sister longs to go to the dances at the Fort, even if the only dance partners are the enemy.

Before I read this book, I knew Mackinac Island has a Grand Hotel, no mosquitoes and a reputation for fabulous fudge.  I'm working on the Chef to extend our Michigan summer vacation plans to include a trip to historic Fort Michilimackinac. I'm also working on a Mac Woods Dune Ride and some outlet mall stops, but I might be aiming too high.

After reading Once On This Island, and realizing that Gloria Whelan also wrote Listening for Lions, which I loved, I tried another book by Whelan, Parade of Shadows.  Dull.  Whiny protagonist who is torn between her father and her would-be boyfriend and their conflicting political beliefs on a trip though the pre-WWI Middle East.  Couldn't finish it.  But Listening for Lions, that was anything but dull.  You can read a summary of it here.


Reading Once On This Island reminded me of Jonica's Island by Gladys Malvern.  I own a rare copy, I can't loan it to you, because to replace it would cost at least $149.50 according to Amazon.  It's a riveting tale of a girl in New Amsterdam who goes from being indentured servant, to exiled thief, to heroine and nurse, after an Indian uprising and a smallpox epidemic.

I love every book by Gladys Malvern that I have read.  I even liked her on Facebook, which let me know that many of her novels have been re-printed, but not Jonica's Island, at least not yet.  I just ordered some that I haven't read, as well as a copy of Behold Your Queen!:  A Story of Esther, which the local public library got rid of. Great historical fiction for girls.


The Boy on Cinnamon Street by Phoebe Stone is making the rounds of the female readers in my house.  Similar to Love, Aubrey, Louise lives with her grandparents and the reader is not quite sure what happened to her parents or why she quit the championship gymnastics team, and switched schools.  And I'm not telling.

Okay, I'm telling.  Spoiler alert. 

Louise's mom took her own life after severe depression when her dad left them.  Louise found her.  Her mom died from overdosing on meds, nothing graphic.  Louise suffers mental trauma and memory loss from this event and struggles to have any memories of her mother.  But with the help of a mysterious secret admirer, two best friends, and two loving grandparents, she gets better.  The recovered memory of this event is a small but tragic part of Louise's story.  Maybe not as heart-wrenching as Love, Aubrey, but just as beautiful.  



Monday, June 11, 2012

Regret and Shame

As I mentioned yesterday, on Friday, I was at the Rally for Religious Freedom.

While I was there, watching Baby J toddle in the landscaping, I saw someone I know.

In my head, I was puzzling out, "Do I know her?  Could it be her?  That lady who works at that place that I go to all the time?  That woman who knows all my kids by name?"

I've never seen her in sunglasses and shorts before.

I've never seen her wearing that t-shirt...that says, "I Regret My Abortion."

Oh.  My.  God.

And it all clicked.  I did know this woman.  I have known her for years.  But I did not KNOW...about her abortion.

That year on the front of her shirt, it must be the year it happened, and that name on the back, must be the name she has given to her little lost baby.

And in those few seconds, I'm afraid that my face betrayed confusion, and puzzlement, and maybe....I'm ashamed to say it...horror.

She saw me, and she walked away.

I don't know anyone who has had an abortion.  Or rather, I didn't know that I know someone who has had an abortion.

When they read those petitions at Mass, "For the men and women who struggle with the effects of abortion..." those men and women were faceless to me.

But now, those men and women make me feel ashamed.  Ashamed that I had not acknowledged their pain and guilt and suffering and torment, a torment so great that you would give public witness to your sin in order to prevent someone else from making the same choice.  Ashamed, that I could ever think that the people I know...that we are not the kind of people who would have done that

I am such an ass.

One thing I am very talented at is sinning, as evidenced above.  I have had a lifetime of practice, and while my sins are many and great, the thought of putting the names and dates of my sins on a t-shirt and wearing it in public, makes me break into a cold sweat.

I'm ashamed that I saw this woman I know, doing this brave, brave thing, and I did not react with a hug, and a "I'm so glad you are here."  Or at the very least, a hello and a "It sure is a scorcher today."

This woman, her strength of character, her act of humility, her witness to abortion and the regret she feels many, many years later, I wish I had recognized those things, when I recognized her. 

Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner.



Saturday, June 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday


--- 1 ---


My Quick Takes are a day late because Baby J, Lucy and I went downtown with The Chef's mom to represent at the Rally for Religious Freedom.  

Baby J and I found some dappled shade under some young trees.  She was toddling around, carrying a green onion she found in the dirt (I don't know where it came from, but it made her extremely happy.), when I heard someone say, "Don't you just love it when they first start walking?"

I looked up and saw a young couple.  They were both sporting tattoos, he had those stretched earlobes and a mohawk so long that it was in a ponytail.  They were carrying their homemade pro-life signs and smiling.

We were conversed for a minute or two.


Then she told Baby J, "Give your mom a hug, because she chose to have you."

You just never know by looking at someone how similar your hearts might be.

--- 2 ---

Wednesday, at 5:30pm, was our scheduled family photo shoot for the parish 100 anniversary book.  The Chef had strict instructions to be home by 5.  I had already dragged Baby J through many stores searching for the recommended "long sleeves for adults"  shirts, score for the Chef, zero for moi.  I found and ironed shirts for the boys, the cutest hand-me-down bubble for the babe, and had coordinated summery shades for everyone.  I even put my hair up in hot rollers, when someone puked.

Frantic, I made some calls, went online to re-schedule, but alas!  No dates that worked for us.  I made an executive decision.  

We could not abort this mission.  

Leaving no man behind, except the Chef, who of course is cursed by the traffic gods, we went in.  

After the Chef shaved and changed in the parish center bathroom, we were good to go.  And wouldn't you know, the puker was the only one who looked good in any of the pictures?  

Seriously, the guy cropped off the tops of some of my kids heads, but my big white knees show.  Plus, he had me face the light but turn toward the camera, so I look like one of the flat fish with both eyes on one side of their faces.

kind of like this, but with a jacket on because of the need for long sleeves

--- 3 ---

Featured recipe of the week:  PW's Apple Dumplings.

They're loaded with healthy all-natural ingredients like crescent roll dough and mountain dew and a pound of butter.  No, really.  We doubled the recipe, and it called for FOUR sticks of butter, but Lucy spaced out and only used three, thankfully.  The dumplings were still swimming in it.   She was really spaced out, because she accidentally used the diet mountain dew that I keep on hand for my one friend with food issues.  Not health issues, just general weirdosity.  You know who you are, and I know your mom is reading this and she know too.

Even with diet mountain dew, incredible.  And don't worry about them being too healthy, because a batch serves 8 and only uses two apples.  You do the math.

I can't upload a photo of them, because we ate them all.  I will upload this photo of the cookbook though.


I have a love/hate relationship with PW.  I mean she's so dang happy, and everything is all sunsets, and wild mustangs, and cowboys.  I get kind of disgusted.

And her food.  Butter, butter, and more butter.  I'm all for butter.  But canned beef consomme?  Wth?  And beef bouillon cubes?   I mean I feel pretty uncomfortable about crescent roll dough, not to mention mountain dew.  She's no health guru, that's for sure.  For me, PW is like funnel cake.  You know it's bad for you, but sometimes, you just go for it.

--- 4 ---


Last night was the first night of our parish's novena to the Sacred Heart.  The bishop said Mass and did the litany, the novena prayers, and incense.  Loads of incense.  I love incense.

Also, the choir was beefed up with some beautiful soloists and trumpets.  They're playing all of their greatest hits this week, like our pastor's favorite, "O God Beyond All Praising." and my number one, "The King of Love My Shepherd Is."
 
Perverse and foolish, I have strayed,
And yet in Love, He sought me.
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home rejoicing, brought me.

--- 5 ---

Edmund said yesterday, "Peter is being a jerk."

And weary of having to referee this testy sibling relationship, I busted out my UD philosophy skillz and explained, "Peter is ontologically Jerky.  It is his essence.  He cannot be what he is not.  Jerkiness is his is-ness.  He is being what he is."

It totally worked.  Edmund walked away with a glazed look in his eyes.
 
--- 6 ---

After four days of a stomach bug, I discovered that you can skip the whole BRAT diet thing.  What really cures is the banana pudding milkshake from Chick-fil-A.  It helps to have one milkshake a day for a few days, to be certain that the healing properties take effect.

If you don't care for bananas, vanilla long johns are another good option.

 --- 7 ---
Speaking of Chick-fil-A,


 

 The credit for introducing me to the comedic genius of Tim Hawkins goes to MJDMom and The Colonel.  




For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It's What We're Reading Wednesday


Edmund is powering through Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner.  Recently diagnosed with a learning disability in reading, Edmund needs books that can boost his confidence, yet not insult his very high intelligence.  Ability and intelligence are two separate things, which we always knew but we were comforted to be told again.  In library terms, these are called "hi-lo" books, high interest, lower reading level.

Stone Fox is a beautiful re-telling of the Wyoming folktale about an orphaned boy, who in an attempt to save his grandfather's farm, enters a dogsled race against the famous and undefeated Stone Fox.


Stone Fox brings to mind one of our family favorites, The Bravest Dog Ever, The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford.  Sled dogs, races, life or death situations, both books are classics.  Plus, who doesn't enjoy a story set in the snow read in the summertime?


My sister and I often would read Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter during the hottest weeks of the year.  We would nibble saltines, or make "dough balls,"  which were tiny torn-off pieces of my mom's  whole wheat bread rolled into tiny balls (Gross.  Remember my toast story?).  It's the closest we could get to grinding wheat in coffee grinder for food.


Balto, the movie is also a family favorite around here.  Peter says it's still one of his favorite movies.  He also commented that the bad guy(/dog?) looks way cooler than Balto.  Peter has always had a tendency toward evil.  Darth Vader was his favorite Star Wars guy at age three.


The Caudill nominee I read this week is The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman.   Elizabeth Rew gets hired to work as a page at the New York Circulating Material Repository.  The Repository is similar to a library, but patrons borrow objects instead of books, such as Lincoln's hat, or Marie Antoinette's wig.  

In addition to items of historical significance, there are magical items, notably the items from the Grimm Collection: Hermes' flying sandals, a flying carpet, twelve pairs of worn-out dancing slippers, and other items from myth and legend.

Adventures abound, as Elizabeth befriends the other pages, and tries to uncover who has been stealing magical items from the Grimm Collection.  

There is a fair bit of romance as well.  Elizabeth and a co-worker ask a magic painting where a missing friend is and are shown said friend's make-out session with the star of the basketball team.  Elizabeth gets some kissing action herself, but it's minor and not integral to her character or the story.


The book I really enjoyed this week is The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen.  Four orphans are taken/purchased by a nobleman, who hopes to train them to occupy the throne in the guise of Prince Jaron, rumored to have been killed by pirates four years ago.  The orphans who are not chosen to play the part of a lifetime (literally) will likely be killed, as they are threats to the success of the plot.

I think girls as well as boys are going to love this one, and it's surprise ending.  Lucy did.  Oooh, and I just saw on Goodreads (you can friend me there as Housewifespice) that The False Prince is Part One of The Ascendance Trilogy and I heart trilogies.


The False Prince reminds me a little of the plot of Don Bluth's Anastasia and a lot of one of my mom's favorite movies, the Disney classic starring Jodie Foster, David Niven, and Helen Hayes:  Candleshoe.  I happen to own a copy on VHS, and yes, I still own a VHS player.  It is available on dvd for as little as $8 according to Google.  That's much cheaper than a Redbox rental for most of us.  Or if you can find a copy on the interweb, on Netflix or even have the patience to do an inter-library loan, I highly recommend it.  And so does my mom.

Friday, June 1, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday...somewhere between Pentecost and Ascension


--- 1 ---

I don't know who this guy is, but he has a very cool hobby.

A few months ago, Edmund's cub scout pack took a trip to the Elmhurst Model Railroad Club.  I didn't go.  I dropped him off and the Chef picked him up, and when they got back, neither one of them could stop talking about how cool this tiny place is.  Edmund gave me a flyer with the very limited hours open to the public and I vowed that the next rainy Sunday, we would go back.

A few weeks ago, on a rainy Sunday, I kidnapped my father-in-law, bribed Lucy with the promise of ice cream and with Edmund leading our tour, I got to go back. 

There are yards and yards of scale model train tracks, with little trains chugging around bends and through tunnels.  Edmund and his Papa were enthralled by the trains themselves, exact replicas of the locomotives that stop traffic all over this city.  Some of which even have dirt and graffiti tagging, painstakingly applied with chalks and decals by their loving owners.  

Lucy was delighted with the scenery.  Specifically, she loved the drive-in movie theater that was playing a real movie!  Some black and white film was playing, featuring giant bugs fighting the military.  In fact, she and a friend spent most of the time there watching the movie on the miniature (but to scale mind you!) five inch movie screen.

One of the club members gave me a scavenger hunt sheet. So, I was obsessively searching all of the layouts for things like a skunk, garden gnomes, and the ice cream truck, which plays music when you push the button!  No, those scavenger hunt sheets are not just for the kids.  That stuff is hard to locate.  Hmmph, honestly.

Not to be confused with toy model trains, scale model trains are built on specific ratios corresponding to actual things.  The pigeons on the building were teeny tiny!  So cute!  Also, there was a scale model of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald there.  That was one big boat.

If you're in the Western Burbs some Friday night or Sunday afternoon, this little gem of museum is not to be missed.
 
--- 2 ---


Waaay back in the 90s, we got a copy of Grilling for Dummies from my father-in-law, who worked for the Dummies company.  It was another step on our journey to fine cooking and foodie-dom.

Within the pages of this book lies a recipe so unforgettable, I and other members of the clan are still making it a decade later.

You can find the recipe here for the tried and true Lemon-Cilantro Chicken with Garlic-Ginger Mayonnaise.  You can use any chicken pieces with this, bone-in, skin-on, boneless, skinless.  Whatever you've got lying around will be just fine.  Trust me.

And the mayo...swoon.

I made it this week for the first time in a long time.  The Chef professed his undying love for me on the phone when I told him what was for dinner.  Every one of my kids loves it.  Your family will love it.  Make the mayo ahead of time.  Because it's worth it.

I served it with a salad and sourdough bread (cause that's what I had lying around).  We put the mayo on the chicken, on the salad as dressing, and on the bread as a delicious garlic-ginger mayo topping.  It tastes like summer.

I tried not to breathe in anyone's face today.


--- 3 ---


While waiting for Burn Notice, White Collar, and Downton Abbey to return, and after saying good-bye to Mary Shephard of In Plain Sight, the Chef and I thought we'd check out the oft-hyped Mad Men.

I mean I've seen the book lists and the fashion lines that have become popular because of the show, and some of my friends love it.  But I don't.

I just can't enjoy spending 40 minutes or so of watching completely horrible people do horrible, or at the very least, inexplicable things to each other and themselves.

Yes, it's a cool period piece showing post-war Manhattan in all its mid-century modern glory.  But I loathe every single character.

I had all the same sentiments when I quit Grey's Anatomy years ago.

Am I missing something?

Yes.  I still don't have any mindless, but somewhat redeeming tv to watch while I eat my nightly bowl of Lucky Charms.

I have to eat Lucky Charms at night, because I don't allow my kids to eat it.

So who can sell me on Dr. Who?  I'm up for anything.

--- 4 ---

My baby boy got his license TO DRIVE on Wednesday, which he celebrated by driving the FIFTEEN PASSENGER VAN to McDonald's.  The Drive-Thru.  

Not only that, but Wednesday also marked the beginning of his career as a little league umpire.  He called strikes and balls, and declared a kid out at third. And all of the coaches and parents listened to him, like he was a grown-up or something.

I'm so freaking proud.
--- 5 --

Ahh, another school year in the books. Does anyone else feel self-congratulatory over pretty basic things, like getting your kids to school enough days for them to be considered as having attended a full year?   

I felt this at Baby J's first birthday too.  She survived a whole year!  I didn't drop her (that much), didn't roll over on her in my sleep, remembered to feed her, nursed her through a few illnesses, dressed her appropriately for the weather, didn't forget her any of the places we went, always remembered to get her out of the car, bathed her without incident.  She survived!  Not only that, she thrived and grew and can now say lots of words, including "doggy."  

Speaking of doggy, she made our doggy, her b***h.  That poor dog.  He suffers greatly at the hands of our girl/puppy.  I think he loves her.


 
--- 6 ---

You know that Carrie Underwood song, Jesus Take the Wheel?

Well, you might like the Tim Hawkins song, Cletus Take the Reel.

You're Welcome.



--- 7 ---


We are looking at unseasonably low temps this weekend.  You know what that means? 
It means that come Monday, Hoarders will no longer want to film an episode in my basement.  
Cheers!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, June 29, 2012

7 Quick Takes Meat Friday: Sts. Peter and Paul


--- 1 ---
The total lack of geography knowledge is not mine alone.  The Chef had to google Harper's Ferry today.  Peter is away on a cross-country Civil War trip and the email update today mentioned that he is in Harper's Ferry.


I saw the movie Gods and Generals, but I didn't remember where Harper's Ferry was located.  The Chef guessed it was South Carolina, but the town is actually in West Virginia.  Harper's Ferry is also a National Park that includes some Virginia and Maryland parts too.  I don't think I've ever been to a National Park.  I'll just have to watch Ken Burn's mini-series to see what I'm missing.

--- 2 ---



Peter will also get the opportunity to attend the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the 4th of July, followed by viewing fireworks that night in our nation's capitol.

Unlike my experience with National Parks, I've been to loads of basilicas, including that one and many in Europe.  My personal fave is the one in St. Louis with the largest collection of mosaics outside Byzantium.  It's where I graduated from high school, and it's commonly called the New Cathedral.  You must check it out.

And then go find that place in the Lou that serves beignets and tell me if they're anything like the real thing.  I've got to know.

--- 3 ---

After living in this frozen wasteland, I stopped complaining about the heat years ago.  As I've said before, it takes several days of high temps to thaw out my inner core each year.  But for those of you who aren't loving the three digit highs...and for myself who is partially deaf with the noise of cooling devices indoors...I lifted this pic from a friend's Facebook page.  Something to think about.


--- 4 ---

What To Serve for Dinner on Very Hot Days

If you're not going to make the no-cook Asian Chicken Salad I posted here, then take a little jaunt to Costco or the supermarket with the best deli selection. 

Then, purchase large quantities of their chicken salad, tortellini salad, quinoa salad, shrimp salad or whatever floats your boat.  I shopped hungry yesterday, so we had all of the above.  

Next, grab a pack of flour tortillas for your meaty salads, or a tub of mixed greens as a backdrop for any of the above.

Another option is to pick up one (or in my case, two or more) rotisserie chicken(s), the tub of greens, and a nice baguette.  This option must be served with a crisp white, such as one of my constant companions for the last several years,  the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, also available at Costco or the Sauvignon Republic from Trader Joe's.  The Chef requests that I note that we have been drinking Kim Crawford since way before it was popular.  We are the trend-setters.

Speaking of setting trends, we predict the rapid rise in popularity of Mulderbosch Cabernet Rose.  It's pink, it's dry, it's from South Africa, it's available at Costco.  You'll love it.  It will increase your cool factor, both physically and socially. 

--- 5 ---

We've been serving copious amounts of Mulderbosch, or as I like to call it, Balderdash, at some backyard dinner soirees.  I even remembered to take pictures and uploaded them for your viewing pleasure.


Nothing in this photo is home-grown. 

Here, you can see our guests brought pesto pasta.  With the help of my first god-daughter, I threw together a caprese salad.  I made a version of the cucumber salad in this issue of Cook's Country, the version with bacon of course.  And the Chef grilled some split chicken breast and thighs.  I loved that platter that the chicken is on.  It broke in half the next day. 


Edmund and I made PW's Tres Leches cake for dessert.  Susan made it a few months ago and it is outrageously delicious.  I bought this tray especially for Tres Leches cake.  It's melamine, so it's still around.


This is what dining al fresco looked like in May.  These peonies are home grown, but they came with the house.  Thirteen years later, they are still alive.

And for everyone who wants to know how our yard fares after a winter under the ice rink, there you go.

  --- 6 ---

Ehh.  Brave.  Not impressed.  Could have used at least one really great male character.  And perhaps a really triumphant ending of some sort.  I'm disappointed in you, Pixar.  I will have to go see Finding Nemo 3D to remind myself how awesome you have been.


--- 7 ---

Hosted three soon-to-be-sophomore girls for a sleepover last night.  The older they get, the louder they squeal.  These extra-noisy window unit air conditioners are good for something after all.

I picked up some movies for them at the library:  To Catch a Thief, Pirates of the Caribbean the first, and Marley and Me, which I didn't let her watch until now.  They wanted Sweet Home Alabama from Netflix streaming, but it's no longer available.  

After so many good recommendations last week, I would love to know what good movies for teens do you recommend on Netflix? 

  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What We're Reading Wednesday, on Thursday



Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood takes place in Mississippi, during the summer of 1964.  Glory is not going to be able to have her birthday party at the community pool this year, because the town council has decided to shut it down rather than desegregate.  Her new friend, Laura, and her mother have just moved to town from Ohio, so that her mother can work at the free clinic, or as some townspeople put it, to cause trouble.  It's a long, hot summer without the pool, but Glory learns a lot about freedom and friendship, especially when her housekeeper, Emma, helps her write a letter to the editor of the local paper. 

Author, Augusta Scattergood, also has a blog.  She has recently featured her recipe for lemon cookies, that Emma makes in the novel.  Anyone want to host a mother/daughter book club and invite me and my girls?  I'll make the cookies.


The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron Hawkins is about the year Jackson Jones, age 14, makes a deal with his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Nelson.  If he takes over the care and maintenance of her apple orchard with 300 apple trees for one year, and sells enough apples to give eight thousand dollars to Mrs. Nelson, the apple orchard is his.  Using his siblings and cousins for labor, his Sunday School teacher as a mentor, and the dairy farm down the road for fertilizer, Jackson has his work cut out for him.

Interestingly, this novel is set in New Mexico.  Apparently, it gets cold there, even below freezing.  Who knew?  I thought New Mexico was like Old Mexico, but a state.  dur.

Another interesting fact, this novel is set in the 80s, which after last Friday's quick takes nos. 6 and 7, you know the 80s are dear to my heart.  The kids hook up a boombox in the orchard so they can listen to Beat It and Billie Jean is not my lover...while working in the trees.  We used to sing that on the playground, back in the day.  I remember practicing my moon walk in my moon boots.  I was super cool.



Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari is a WWII book.  Bird's dad is off flying planes for the military.  Tomboy, plane-loving Bird makes friends with the other outcast in her class, Kenji, the only Japanese boy in their tiny town in Rhode Island.  After seeing a German sub in the bay and discovering a dead body, Bird is threatened by a mysterious man in black.  If she doesn't keep her mouth shut, he will hurt her family.  When Kenji's uncle is convicted of the murder, will Bird have the courage to speak up? 

I really liked this book, except for one thing.  Bird's sixteen-year-old sister is a little boy crazy, no big deal.  But Bird waves her sister's bra out the window to get a serviceman's attention.  She bribes the serviceman with a date with her sister in exchange for a ride in his plane.  I don't know that many eleven-year-old girls would wave bras at men out of windows, especially in 1941. 

Also, I 'm not convinced that upon meeting the serviceman, the sister would try to cover up the curlers in her hair with her shirt, thus flashing her bra.  I don't know that Mr. Ferrari understands the sisterly bond, and the code of modesty, especially between sisters.  I do appreciate that he set out to write an adventure story with a female protagonist, and I think he did a good job.  I would have edited out the bra scenes.  Did they even wear bras in the Forties?  Weren't they still wearing corsets or girdles?  I'm still letting my kids read it, it just bugs me.


Pretties by Scott Westerfeld is not as good as Uglies.  Tally is finally pretty and living in New Pretty Town, when she starts a relationship with fellow pretty, Zane.  Keep in mind, she is only sixteen.  Though warned about sex, and getting involved too soon, Tally is soon living in Zane's quarters.  No, nothing is described, but I'm no fool, and my kids aren't either.  In that futuristic society, they have to sleep together for warmth?  I don't think so.  I don't know if I'll read the rest of the series.  I've already told my teens that they can't read this one.  Bummer.  It was such a good dystopian, sci-fi novel, without the implied sex. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday


--- 1 ---


I know a minor celebrity!  Chef Patrick Cassata is a contestant on this season of Hell's Kitchen, and he's my BFF.  Well, when he was executive chef at a local restaurant, he would give us free drinks.  Plus, one of his gorgeous daughters is in Edmund's class.  And they always sit behind us at 11am Mass on Sundays.  Yep.  BFFs.

Anyway, I'm not caught up on the show, so if he got kicked off already don't tell me.  He's a great guy, and a fabulous chef.  Plus, he had TWO premiere viewing events that benefited the Mission at Our Lady of the Angels.  

He did warn us via email that M14 TV is "not for the kiddies."  This show is nothing like Top Chef.  Lots of bleepity bleep bleep bleep.  Tons of drama between the contestants.  Not much about the food.  That's why I like it.  I can't watch Top Chef without eating an extra meal, and The Chef can't watch it without making me one.  Hell's Kitchen doesn't leave me feeling like a moron cause I've never tasted those white truffles or sous-vied something.
--- 2 ---

Grace at Camp Patton made a whole quick take about me!  She's wickedly funny all the time.  I'm dying to meet her kids:  Blob and Hot Mess.  Plus, she made something that has both the terms "Gooey Butter" and "Cookies" in the title.  Brilliant!  We're pretty much BFFs.   

Too much, Grace?  Am I coming on too strong here?  Like a cyber stalker?  backing away slowly...

--- 3 ---


Another Idiot Proof Recipe.  And it's meatless.

Once upon a time, as I was killing time in my happy place...no, not the fancy jewelry store that does free ring cleanings and has bowls of Lindt truffles on the counter.  No, the jewelry store didn't relocate because of me.  The other happy place.  The one place in Chicago that has palm trees all year round.  Trader Joe's.

Anyway, I was at Trader Joe's, and they had an endcap display.  I know it's called an endcap because the Chef did some time at the Jewel as an employee in high school and college.  He always knows where to find stuff in grocery stores.

The endcap display had Lemon-Pepper Pappardelle, canned tuna in olive oil, jars of capers (which have been called pickle berries around here, and we all adore them!), and little neon squares of paper with this recipe on it.

Lemon-Pepper Pappardelle with Tuna and Capers (great title.)

one 8 oz. package of lemon pepper pappardelle, cooked according to package directions
two 7 oz. can of tuna in olive oil, undrained 
lots of capers

Mix all ingredients.
The end.

All you have to do is boil pasta.  Open one can (The olive oil gets dumped in too.) and one jar and your done!

I have made this in hotel rooms while on vacation.  It only serves 4 or 3 of my pasta-loving people, so I have to triple it.  You can only get lemon-pepper pappardelle at Trader Joe's, as far as I know.  The Chef has made it with regular pappardelle, a drained can of diced tomatoes, capers, olive oil and garlic and no tuna, because he's my pickiest eater.  He likes to complicate things.  I suppose you could complicate things too and add some fresh lemon juice and fresh Italian parsley.  But then, you'd have a bigger mess, too. 

--- 4 ---


We might be the worst dog owners in the world.  

Okay, probably not the worst, because I buy Mickey really good grain-free dog food.  We feed him, water him, and sometimes we walk him, and even wash him.

Remember yesterday, how I was whining about the loud drone of box fans and window unit air conditioners?  Well, besides having to make my own iced tea, there are even MORE bad effects.  We just have to get central air conditioning now.

Last night, at approximately 6:45pm, I was pulling out of the driveway to take Susan to get her physical for camp.  Yes, I know the forms were due on the 15th.  I saw Mickey in the back yard, and I thought, "I should call Lucy and Edmund and tell them to let the dog in.  I bet they can't hear him bark when he wants to come in."

But then I got distracted by Susan trying to fill out scads of paper work, hot out of my printer, and my sister from Houston calling to chat, all this while I was driving. 

Fast forward about four hours.  The Chef returns from a work event.  The kids and I finish watching Independence Day, which Lucy said was scarier than Signs.  rolls eyes.

The self-professed dog disliker, The Chef, of all people noticed that we had no dog, 

And the gate was open,

AND he had seen.....a skunk.

Long story short, Mickey had an adventure and spent the night three towns away at the county animal control facility which does not return animals until normal office hours.  And we stayed up til 1am worrying about him and then I got up and drove Edmund to swim team this morning.  ouch.

Longer story, this just in.  After driving to the county animal control facility,
it turns out our dog ISN'T THERE!

He's uninjured but at the county animal hospital.  doh.  
--- 5 ---

I AM SO EXCITED TO SEE BRAVE THIS WEEKEND!
Huzzah for Pixar!

Everytime, I go to the movies, I feel just like Annie, Daddy Warbucks, and Grace Farrell dancing through the streets of Manhattan singing, "Let's go to the movies..."  

Ridiculous, I know.  Keep reading.  It gets worse.

--- 6 ---



During my most recent trip to STL, my own Brave sister, Mary, did something for my girls that I should have done a long time ago.  She showed them the fabulous 80s cartoon, Jem on Netflix.

After Mary was done catching them up to speed on the over-arching plot, you know, how heiress Jerrica Benton has these special earrings that allow her to transform into Jem, the rock star, The Chef asked me, "Is that why you always introduced yourself as Jerrica at parties in college?"

Can I help it if I've always wanted to be truly, truly, truly outrageous?
   
--- 7 ---

So, if you have Netflix and you have kids, or share their taste in programs, some other hits to add to the queue are 
 


What have you found on Netflix worth watching?  And I'm not just asking about anime either.  

Speaking of anime, whatever happened to Belle and Sebastian anyway?  Did Sebastian ever find his mom?
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two Recipes for Grace

Okay, Grace, this post's for you.

Last week, I made another PW recipe.  Another PW recipe that calls for a soft drink as an ingredient.  This time, instead of apple dumplings with Mt. Dew, or Diet Mt. Dew, as the case may be, I made her Spicy Pulled Pork with Dr. Pepper.

Easy, peasy.  Quarter 2 onions, throw them in a big oven safe pot.  If you're PW, you're using a Le Creuset dutch oven, if you're me, you're using a stock pot.  Then shove one boneless pork shoulder roast, or butt roast, tee-hee, in the pot.  Then dump in one 11 oz can of chipotles with the adobo and 2 cans or 4 cups of Dr. Pepper.

PW wants you to put in the oven for 6 hrs at 350, but I cooked mine on the stove top for 6 hrs.  Same difference.  You could probably use a slow cooker with the same result.  I just wrote out this whole recipe from memory.  The only other recipe I have memorized is Nestle toll house cookies.

The Chef was worried that a whole can of chipotles would make the dish inedible, but either Dr. Pepper is the antidote for chipotles, or they get a whole lot milder in the pot.

I used a fat separator to get rid of the grease.  I made Peter stand over the still hot stove and shred the whole thing.  It was awesome.  I put it on nice buns.  The Chef put it in taco shells.  My kids ate it plain.

It makes a heck of a lot, Grace.  So, you should probably freeze half or more of one batch.

The other Idiot Proof meal I made this week involved zero turning on of stoves or ovens.  Because we don't have central air.  Yet.  But I'm working on it.  I can't handle the dull roar of window units and box fans.  Plus, no one can hear me when I give them jobs to do.  Laundry doesn't get run, dishwasher doesn't get unloaded.  No one makes me iced tea, and I have to get it myself.   Miserable.  And sticky.

Asian Chicken Salad

You can buy boneless, skinless, chicken breasts and poach them or grill them.  Or you can buy these packs of grilled chicken breast strips from Costco and chop them up.  Brilliant!

Dressing ingredients:
1/3 c. rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 T. soy sauce
3 T. hoisin sauce
1 T. ginger root, minced
1 T. sesame oil, which we skip because of allergies
3 T. vegetable oil
1 large garlic clove, minced

Whisk all of the above together in a small bowl or a large pyrex measuring cup.

Salad:
2.5 pounds of cooked and shredded chicken breast, give or take.  Costco sells double packs 2 lbs. each, so I doubled the recipe, used 4 lbs. of chicken fed my 7 and had left overs.
2 medium celery ribs, diced fine
2 medium scallions, which I have to explain over and over again to my kids, that scallions are green onions.
2 T. minced fresh cilantro

Mix all of the above in a large bowl.  Add dressing.  Toss to coat. Serve or refrigerate and serve later.

I've served this over a bed of lettuce or in a flour tortilla.  I usually add sliced cucumbers.  Also, I add waaaay more ginger and cilantro than called for because I can never get rid of ginger and cilantro before it's rotten, and because more ginger and more cilantro makes it more delicious.

By the way, Gooey Butter Cake makes the world a better place.  I must try the cookies as soon as I get central air, or in September.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's What We're Reading Wednesday


The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart is the fifth book in The Mysterious Benedict Society series.  The books are very long, and written with very advanced vocabulary, and contain some truly clever puzzles to solve.

This fifth installment starts out quite sad.  The biography of Nicholas Benedict's early years reads like a Dickens novel.  He is locked in his room at night, due to his sleeping problems, he has few if any friends, and immediately incurs the wrath of the resident bullies of his newest orphanage.  But hang in there.  His Extraordinary Education is less about book larnin' and more about learning to put others first. 


I picked up Once On This Island by Gloria Whelan because it had a Caudill sticker on the spine.  Once on This Island is the story of half French/half Irish resident of Mackinac Island, Mary O'Shea and her life during the British occupation during the War of 1812.  Her father is exiled from the island because he refuses to take an oath of loyalty to the British.   Her brother longs to join her father and the American troops in Detroit, her sister longs to go to the dances at the Fort, even if the only dance partners are the enemy.

Before I read this book, I knew Mackinac Island has a Grand Hotel, no mosquitoes and a reputation for fabulous fudge.  I'm working on the Chef to extend our Michigan summer vacation plans to include a trip to historic Fort Michilimackinac. I'm also working on a Mac Woods Dune Ride and some outlet mall stops, but I might be aiming too high.

After reading Once On This Island, and realizing that Gloria Whelan also wrote Listening for Lions, which I loved, I tried another book by Whelan, Parade of Shadows.  Dull.  Whiny protagonist who is torn between her father and her would-be boyfriend and their conflicting political beliefs on a trip though the pre-WWI Middle East.  Couldn't finish it.  But Listening for Lions, that was anything but dull.  You can read a summary of it here.


Reading Once On This Island reminded me of Jonica's Island by Gladys Malvern.  I own a rare copy, I can't loan it to you, because to replace it would cost at least $149.50 according to Amazon.  It's a riveting tale of a girl in New Amsterdam who goes from being indentured servant, to exiled thief, to heroine and nurse, after an Indian uprising and a smallpox epidemic.

I love every book by Gladys Malvern that I have read.  I even liked her on Facebook, which let me know that many of her novels have been re-printed, but not Jonica's Island, at least not yet.  I just ordered some that I haven't read, as well as a copy of Behold Your Queen!:  A Story of Esther, which the local public library got rid of. Great historical fiction for girls.


The Boy on Cinnamon Street by Phoebe Stone is making the rounds of the female readers in my house.  Similar to Love, Aubrey, Louise lives with her grandparents and the reader is not quite sure what happened to her parents or why she quit the championship gymnastics team, and switched schools.  And I'm not telling.

Okay, I'm telling.  Spoiler alert. 

Louise's mom took her own life after severe depression when her dad left them.  Louise found her.  Her mom died from overdosing on meds, nothing graphic.  Louise suffers mental trauma and memory loss from this event and struggles to have any memories of her mother.  But with the help of a mysterious secret admirer, two best friends, and two loving grandparents, she gets better.  The recovered memory of this event is a small but tragic part of Louise's story.  Maybe not as heart-wrenching as Love, Aubrey, but just as beautiful.  



Monday, June 11, 2012

Regret and Shame

As I mentioned yesterday, on Friday, I was at the Rally for Religious Freedom.

While I was there, watching Baby J toddle in the landscaping, I saw someone I know.

In my head, I was puzzling out, "Do I know her?  Could it be her?  That lady who works at that place that I go to all the time?  That woman who knows all my kids by name?"

I've never seen her in sunglasses and shorts before.

I've never seen her wearing that t-shirt...that says, "I Regret My Abortion."

Oh.  My.  God.

And it all clicked.  I did know this woman.  I have known her for years.  But I did not KNOW...about her abortion.

That year on the front of her shirt, it must be the year it happened, and that name on the back, must be the name she has given to her little lost baby.

And in those few seconds, I'm afraid that my face betrayed confusion, and puzzlement, and maybe....I'm ashamed to say it...horror.

She saw me, and she walked away.

I don't know anyone who has had an abortion.  Or rather, I didn't know that I know someone who has had an abortion.

When they read those petitions at Mass, "For the men and women who struggle with the effects of abortion..." those men and women were faceless to me.

But now, those men and women make me feel ashamed.  Ashamed that I had not acknowledged their pain and guilt and suffering and torment, a torment so great that you would give public witness to your sin in order to prevent someone else from making the same choice.  Ashamed, that I could ever think that the people I know...that we are not the kind of people who would have done that

I am such an ass.

One thing I am very talented at is sinning, as evidenced above.  I have had a lifetime of practice, and while my sins are many and great, the thought of putting the names and dates of my sins on a t-shirt and wearing it in public, makes me break into a cold sweat.

I'm ashamed that I saw this woman I know, doing this brave, brave thing, and I did not react with a hug, and a "I'm so glad you are here."  Or at the very least, a hello and a "It sure is a scorcher today."

This woman, her strength of character, her act of humility, her witness to abortion and the regret she feels many, many years later, I wish I had recognized those things, when I recognized her. 

Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner.



Saturday, June 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday


--- 1 ---


My Quick Takes are a day late because Baby J, Lucy and I went downtown with The Chef's mom to represent at the Rally for Religious Freedom.  

Baby J and I found some dappled shade under some young trees.  She was toddling around, carrying a green onion she found in the dirt (I don't know where it came from, but it made her extremely happy.), when I heard someone say, "Don't you just love it when they first start walking?"

I looked up and saw a young couple.  They were both sporting tattoos, he had those stretched earlobes and a mohawk so long that it was in a ponytail.  They were carrying their homemade pro-life signs and smiling.

We were conversed for a minute or two.


Then she told Baby J, "Give your mom a hug, because she chose to have you."

You just never know by looking at someone how similar your hearts might be.

--- 2 ---

Wednesday, at 5:30pm, was our scheduled family photo shoot for the parish 100 anniversary book.  The Chef had strict instructions to be home by 5.  I had already dragged Baby J through many stores searching for the recommended "long sleeves for adults"  shirts, score for the Chef, zero for moi.  I found and ironed shirts for the boys, the cutest hand-me-down bubble for the babe, and had coordinated summery shades for everyone.  I even put my hair up in hot rollers, when someone puked.

Frantic, I made some calls, went online to re-schedule, but alas!  No dates that worked for us.  I made an executive decision.  

We could not abort this mission.  

Leaving no man behind, except the Chef, who of course is cursed by the traffic gods, we went in.  

After the Chef shaved and changed in the parish center bathroom, we were good to go.  And wouldn't you know, the puker was the only one who looked good in any of the pictures?  

Seriously, the guy cropped off the tops of some of my kids heads, but my big white knees show.  Plus, he had me face the light but turn toward the camera, so I look like one of the flat fish with both eyes on one side of their faces.

kind of like this, but with a jacket on because of the need for long sleeves

--- 3 ---

Featured recipe of the week:  PW's Apple Dumplings.

They're loaded with healthy all-natural ingredients like crescent roll dough and mountain dew and a pound of butter.  No, really.  We doubled the recipe, and it called for FOUR sticks of butter, but Lucy spaced out and only used three, thankfully.  The dumplings were still swimming in it.   She was really spaced out, because she accidentally used the diet mountain dew that I keep on hand for my one friend with food issues.  Not health issues, just general weirdosity.  You know who you are, and I know your mom is reading this and she know too.

Even with diet mountain dew, incredible.  And don't worry about them being too healthy, because a batch serves 8 and only uses two apples.  You do the math.

I can't upload a photo of them, because we ate them all.  I will upload this photo of the cookbook though.


I have a love/hate relationship with PW.  I mean she's so dang happy, and everything is all sunsets, and wild mustangs, and cowboys.  I get kind of disgusted.

And her food.  Butter, butter, and more butter.  I'm all for butter.  But canned beef consomme?  Wth?  And beef bouillon cubes?   I mean I feel pretty uncomfortable about crescent roll dough, not to mention mountain dew.  She's no health guru, that's for sure.  For me, PW is like funnel cake.  You know it's bad for you, but sometimes, you just go for it.

--- 4 ---


Last night was the first night of our parish's novena to the Sacred Heart.  The bishop said Mass and did the litany, the novena prayers, and incense.  Loads of incense.  I love incense.

Also, the choir was beefed up with some beautiful soloists and trumpets.  They're playing all of their greatest hits this week, like our pastor's favorite, "O God Beyond All Praising." and my number one, "The King of Love My Shepherd Is."
 
Perverse and foolish, I have strayed,
And yet in Love, He sought me.
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home rejoicing, brought me.

--- 5 ---

Edmund said yesterday, "Peter is being a jerk."

And weary of having to referee this testy sibling relationship, I busted out my UD philosophy skillz and explained, "Peter is ontologically Jerky.  It is his essence.  He cannot be what he is not.  Jerkiness is his is-ness.  He is being what he is."

It totally worked.  Edmund walked away with a glazed look in his eyes.
 
--- 6 ---

After four days of a stomach bug, I discovered that you can skip the whole BRAT diet thing.  What really cures is the banana pudding milkshake from Chick-fil-A.  It helps to have one milkshake a day for a few days, to be certain that the healing properties take effect.

If you don't care for bananas, vanilla long johns are another good option.

 --- 7 ---
Speaking of Chick-fil-A,


 

 The credit for introducing me to the comedic genius of Tim Hawkins goes to MJDMom and The Colonel.  




For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It's What We're Reading Wednesday


Edmund is powering through Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner.  Recently diagnosed with a learning disability in reading, Edmund needs books that can boost his confidence, yet not insult his very high intelligence.  Ability and intelligence are two separate things, which we always knew but we were comforted to be told again.  In library terms, these are called "hi-lo" books, high interest, lower reading level.

Stone Fox is a beautiful re-telling of the Wyoming folktale about an orphaned boy, who in an attempt to save his grandfather's farm, enters a dogsled race against the famous and undefeated Stone Fox.


Stone Fox brings to mind one of our family favorites, The Bravest Dog Ever, The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford.  Sled dogs, races, life or death situations, both books are classics.  Plus, who doesn't enjoy a story set in the snow read in the summertime?


My sister and I often would read Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter during the hottest weeks of the year.  We would nibble saltines, or make "dough balls,"  which were tiny torn-off pieces of my mom's  whole wheat bread rolled into tiny balls (Gross.  Remember my toast story?).  It's the closest we could get to grinding wheat in coffee grinder for food.


Balto, the movie is also a family favorite around here.  Peter says it's still one of his favorite movies.  He also commented that the bad guy(/dog?) looks way cooler than Balto.  Peter has always had a tendency toward evil.  Darth Vader was his favorite Star Wars guy at age three.


The Caudill nominee I read this week is The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman.   Elizabeth Rew gets hired to work as a page at the New York Circulating Material Repository.  The Repository is similar to a library, but patrons borrow objects instead of books, such as Lincoln's hat, or Marie Antoinette's wig.  

In addition to items of historical significance, there are magical items, notably the items from the Grimm Collection: Hermes' flying sandals, a flying carpet, twelve pairs of worn-out dancing slippers, and other items from myth and legend.

Adventures abound, as Elizabeth befriends the other pages, and tries to uncover who has been stealing magical items from the Grimm Collection.  

There is a fair bit of romance as well.  Elizabeth and a co-worker ask a magic painting where a missing friend is and are shown said friend's make-out session with the star of the basketball team.  Elizabeth gets some kissing action herself, but it's minor and not integral to her character or the story.


The book I really enjoyed this week is The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen.  Four orphans are taken/purchased by a nobleman, who hopes to train them to occupy the throne in the guise of Prince Jaron, rumored to have been killed by pirates four years ago.  The orphans who are not chosen to play the part of a lifetime (literally) will likely be killed, as they are threats to the success of the plot.

I think girls as well as boys are going to love this one, and it's surprise ending.  Lucy did.  Oooh, and I just saw on Goodreads (you can friend me there as Housewifespice) that The False Prince is Part One of The Ascendance Trilogy and I heart trilogies.


The False Prince reminds me a little of the plot of Don Bluth's Anastasia and a lot of one of my mom's favorite movies, the Disney classic starring Jodie Foster, David Niven, and Helen Hayes:  Candleshoe.  I happen to own a copy on VHS, and yes, I still own a VHS player.  It is available on dvd for as little as $8 according to Google.  That's much cheaper than a Redbox rental for most of us.  Or if you can find a copy on the interweb, on Netflix or even have the patience to do an inter-library loan, I highly recommend it.  And so does my mom.

Friday, June 1, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday...somewhere between Pentecost and Ascension


--- 1 ---

I don't know who this guy is, but he has a very cool hobby.

A few months ago, Edmund's cub scout pack took a trip to the Elmhurst Model Railroad Club.  I didn't go.  I dropped him off and the Chef picked him up, and when they got back, neither one of them could stop talking about how cool this tiny place is.  Edmund gave me a flyer with the very limited hours open to the public and I vowed that the next rainy Sunday, we would go back.

A few weeks ago, on a rainy Sunday, I kidnapped my father-in-law, bribed Lucy with the promise of ice cream and with Edmund leading our tour, I got to go back. 

There are yards and yards of scale model train tracks, with little trains chugging around bends and through tunnels.  Edmund and his Papa were enthralled by the trains themselves, exact replicas of the locomotives that stop traffic all over this city.  Some of which even have dirt and graffiti tagging, painstakingly applied with chalks and decals by their loving owners.  

Lucy was delighted with the scenery.  Specifically, she loved the drive-in movie theater that was playing a real movie!  Some black and white film was playing, featuring giant bugs fighting the military.  In fact, she and a friend spent most of the time there watching the movie on the miniature (but to scale mind you!) five inch movie screen.

One of the club members gave me a scavenger hunt sheet. So, I was obsessively searching all of the layouts for things like a skunk, garden gnomes, and the ice cream truck, which plays music when you push the button!  No, those scavenger hunt sheets are not just for the kids.  That stuff is hard to locate.  Hmmph, honestly.

Not to be confused with toy model trains, scale model trains are built on specific ratios corresponding to actual things.  The pigeons on the building were teeny tiny!  So cute!  Also, there was a scale model of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald there.  That was one big boat.

If you're in the Western Burbs some Friday night or Sunday afternoon, this little gem of museum is not to be missed.
 
--- 2 ---


Waaay back in the 90s, we got a copy of Grilling for Dummies from my father-in-law, who worked for the Dummies company.  It was another step on our journey to fine cooking and foodie-dom.

Within the pages of this book lies a recipe so unforgettable, I and other members of the clan are still making it a decade later.

You can find the recipe here for the tried and true Lemon-Cilantro Chicken with Garlic-Ginger Mayonnaise.  You can use any chicken pieces with this, bone-in, skin-on, boneless, skinless.  Whatever you've got lying around will be just fine.  Trust me.

And the mayo...swoon.

I made it this week for the first time in a long time.  The Chef professed his undying love for me on the phone when I told him what was for dinner.  Every one of my kids loves it.  Your family will love it.  Make the mayo ahead of time.  Because it's worth it.

I served it with a salad and sourdough bread (cause that's what I had lying around).  We put the mayo on the chicken, on the salad as dressing, and on the bread as a delicious garlic-ginger mayo topping.  It tastes like summer.

I tried not to breathe in anyone's face today.


--- 3 ---


While waiting for Burn Notice, White Collar, and Downton Abbey to return, and after saying good-bye to Mary Shephard of In Plain Sight, the Chef and I thought we'd check out the oft-hyped Mad Men.

I mean I've seen the book lists and the fashion lines that have become popular because of the show, and some of my friends love it.  But I don't.

I just can't enjoy spending 40 minutes or so of watching completely horrible people do horrible, or at the very least, inexplicable things to each other and themselves.

Yes, it's a cool period piece showing post-war Manhattan in all its mid-century modern glory.  But I loathe every single character.

I had all the same sentiments when I quit Grey's Anatomy years ago.

Am I missing something?

Yes.  I still don't have any mindless, but somewhat redeeming tv to watch while I eat my nightly bowl of Lucky Charms.

I have to eat Lucky Charms at night, because I don't allow my kids to eat it.

So who can sell me on Dr. Who?  I'm up for anything.

--- 4 ---

My baby boy got his license TO DRIVE on Wednesday, which he celebrated by driving the FIFTEEN PASSENGER VAN to McDonald's.  The Drive-Thru.  

Not only that, but Wednesday also marked the beginning of his career as a little league umpire.  He called strikes and balls, and declared a kid out at third. And all of the coaches and parents listened to him, like he was a grown-up or something.

I'm so freaking proud.
--- 5 --

Ahh, another school year in the books. Does anyone else feel self-congratulatory over pretty basic things, like getting your kids to school enough days for them to be considered as having attended a full year?   

I felt this at Baby J's first birthday too.  She survived a whole year!  I didn't drop her (that much), didn't roll over on her in my sleep, remembered to feed her, nursed her through a few illnesses, dressed her appropriately for the weather, didn't forget her any of the places we went, always remembered to get her out of the car, bathed her without incident.  She survived!  Not only that, she thrived and grew and can now say lots of words, including "doggy."  

Speaking of doggy, she made our doggy, her b***h.  That poor dog.  He suffers greatly at the hands of our girl/puppy.  I think he loves her.


 
--- 6 ---

You know that Carrie Underwood song, Jesus Take the Wheel?

Well, you might like the Tim Hawkins song, Cletus Take the Reel.

You're Welcome.



--- 7 ---


We are looking at unseasonably low temps this weekend.  You know what that means? 
It means that come Monday, Hoarders will no longer want to film an episode in my basement.  
Cheers!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!