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May 9, 2012 / staceyj

Chocolate Chip Blonde Brownies

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I am featuring some of my mom’s delicious (and my most favorite!) recipes.  Recipes that I grew up on and now take great pride in sharing with my family.  Yesterday was all about the lasagna.  Today we take a walk onto the sweeter side.

If you were to ask anyone I grew up with how many people were in my family they’d all give the same answer.  Four.  And technically they would be right.  Well world, I am coming clean.  It is high time I finally introduced you to the fifth and sweetest member of our family…chocolate chip blonde brownies!  This ‘unofficial’ family member is invited to all our gatherings.  Birthday celebrations?  Of course.  Tailgates?  Yup.  Visits home?  Yes, yes, yes.  Thanksgiving?  Kinda weird, but true.  After all, she’s family.

And now you know.  Welcome her into your family too.  You’ll be so glad you did.

Ingredients
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/3  cup shortening
1/3 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoon vanilla
12 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or spray a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Then get about the business of sifting that flour.

Combine the sifted flour with baking powder,

baking soda,

and salt.  Beaut.one: “Mom.  Are all the ingredients in this recipe white?”  Me: “No.  But this reminds me of a time when I had to walk 5 miles to school in a blizzard.”  Beaut.one: “What?”

Sift them all together and set aside.

In a medium saucepan add the butter and the shortening.  If you happen to be a cardiologist, shield your eyes!

Melt over medium heat.  Seriously, Mr. Cardiologist, don’t even peek through those fingers.  Just don’t.

Lightly beat the eggs.

Once the shortening and butter mixture has cooled, add the brown sugar.

And mix well.

Next, add the beaten eggs…

…and the vanilla.  Combine.

Add the four mixture, small amounts at a time.

And mix.  This recipe calls for mixing the ingredients by employing a very sophisticated kitchen appliance…your wrist.  Shocking, I know!

Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  You’ll notice I just do all my mixing and combining in the same saucepan.  Fewer dishes = awesomeness!

Pour the brownie batter into your greased pan.

And smooth.  And pat.  And smooth.  And pat.

You want the dough spread out as evenly as possible in the pan.  Just so it bakes evenly.  Baked goods are finicky that way.

Sprinkle a 12 oz package of semi-sweet chocolate chips over the top of the mixture.  Taste one or two chocolate chips just to be sure their safe.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Take a brief moment here to request a wrist rub.  Then periodically smell the air and say to family member #5, “You must plan to visit more often.  Better yet.  Let’s get you set up in the guest room.”

Once the brownies are baked, remove from oven and let them cool in the pan.  Then cut into squares and marvel at your supreme preschool-level shape knowledge.

Finally, invite your brownie’s best friend, Milk, over for a play date.

And enjoy!  Stacey

May 7, 2012 / staceyj

Mama’s Lasagna

Meet my mom.  This picture was taken over 30 years ago before I was even a twinkle in her eye.  She’s the young lady in the middle surrounded by my dad (I think those glasses are actually back in style), my uncle and my grandma.  Isn’t she just lovely?  My mom has spent her entire adult life teaching.  Whether she was teaching in a classroom, in our home, in a room full of ladies hoping to change their lives, or on a stage she was making an impact, making the world a better place.  And most certainly making my world a better place.  You are amazing and interesting and loving and challenging and passionate and funny and beautiful.  I love you Mom.

In honor of all the wonderful moms in my life, I decided to spend this week featuring a few of my own mom’s recipes.  My very favorites.  The recipes that I’m always requesting, replicating and rejoicing over!  First up?  (My) Mama’s Lasagna.  Bad haircut followed by an even worse perm?  Lasagna.  My friends are coming over for a sleepover?  Lasagna!  Exhausted college student needing laundry, a nap and a homemade meal?  Lasagna!!  Even more exhausted mom just wanting someone else to cook something delicious?  Lasagna please.

Ingredient List
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
9 or 10 lasagna noodles
1 can tomato sauce (15 0z.)
1 can tomato paste (12 oz.)
12 oz. cottage cheese
1 egg
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
8 0z. mozzarella cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 9 x 13 pan with non-stick spray.

In a medium sauce pan, combine ground beef, Italian seasoning,

ground pepper,

garlic powder,

and salt.  Cook thoroughly.

Sniff the air occasionally and declare “Italy has arrived!”  OK.  So that may be  a ’tish presumptive but that doesn’t mean you have to stop sniffing.

Meanwhile, cook the lasagna noodles according to package instructions.  This recipe calls for 9 noodles: 3 layers with 3 noodles each.  I usually cook at least one extra noodle just in case breakage happens.

Add the tomato sauce…

…and the tomato paste to the beef mixture.  Allow it to simmer for five minutes so the mixture can thicken.

Drain the noodles and watch the steam envelop the tiny, plastic dinosaur that lives on your kitchen sink.

I like to add a little oil to my noodles so they don’t get all frisky and stick together.  I don’t know about you but I prefer my noodles to be young and single and interesting.

Combine the cottage cheese and the Parmesan.  According to my mom, this is what makes this lasagna so special; where the magic happens.  She’s a very wise woman.  Submit to the cottage cheese knowledge.

Add the egg.

Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.  Pure. dairy. magic.

Make your lasagna assembly line: noodles, beef/tomato mixture, cottage cheese magic, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.  Take a brief moment to admire your ability to organize and make a mental note to apply these same skills to your chaotic pantry.

Let the layering begin my friends.  First up: the noodles.

Second?  The tomato and beef mixture.

Third?  The cottage cheese awesomeness.

Next, cheddar cheese.

And last?  Add the mozzarella.  The cheese family cannot complain about under-representation in this dish.

Repeat two more times.

Seriously, this dish looks good enough to eat and it isn’t even cooked yet!  Trust me.  You are going to want to wait.  Ingesting raw egg probably isn’t the best idea you’ve had today.

Cook for 40 to 45 minutes.  Pull out of the oven and then behold this masterpiece.  One bite and you’ll forget all about that bad perm.  I promise.

Then head out to shop for all the mothers in your life and garlic bread.  You are going to need garlic bread.

Abundant blessings, Stacey

May 4, 2012 / staceyj

Tulip Time

I am smitten.  My dear friend, C, her niece, B, her son, J, my son and me all headed to Pella to partake in their annual Tulip Time festivities.  I have been to Tulip Time once before when I was in the third grade.  I remember loving it then as a nine year old kid and I loved it even more over two decades later.  Pella is a charming, friendly and beautiful place.  Plus, it is home to at least two bakeries that make homemade creme horns.  I’m just saying.  This trip was all about Tulip Time but I would be perfectly happy heading back soon to explore the local shops and restaurants.

Unseasonably warm spring = tulips blooming before Tulip Time.  But that didn’t dampen our spirits or the beauty of the celebration.  We did happen to spot these pink beauties soldiering on.

Beaut.one was excited to spy tulips and he immediately made his way over to sniff them.

We headed to the Dutch Craft Market to get our shopping on.  It was a very strategic move.  We told the boys if they could make it through the shopping portion of our adventure without incident a playground wonderland would be waiting for them at the end!  It worked…occasionally.

The boys loved these sand animals…snakes, dragons, frogs, dinosaurs, oh my!

And the ladies loved these adorable retro aprons by Hip Chix Creations.  Aren’t they just charming?  I love the flower embellishment.  Love.  I am pretty sure my meals would just taste better if I had one of these.

Literally four tents in and the dudes are needing a little R&R.

I scored these three magnets (3 for $5!) from Pine Creek Hand Painted Originals.  I have been collecting magnets for years and couldn’t wait to add these beauties to my collection.  My friend, C, bought an antique window that had been converted into a chalkboard.  It was awesome and my brain still hurts from racking it as I attempted to unsuccessfully come up with a place it would have worked in our home so I could justify its purchase.  Ouch.

And for Tulip Time, Kyle Korver’s Seer Outfitters had a temporary store front.  Kyle, a Pella native and guard for the Chicago Bulls, created the Kyle Korver Foundation to help underprivileged children and those in need.  All profits from this clothing line fund the foundation.

Shopping with a greater purpose?  Count me in!  And then I saw the shirts and what they represented and I was inspired.  So inspired I bought three.

The theme of this one?  Honor.  “You don’t always take the easy road.  Sometimes, doing what is right means being willing to stand alone.”

And this one?  Strength.  “Fierce confidence in who you are.  Have the tenacity to face any moral and social pressure with unwavering conviction.”

And I snagged this one for Beaut.one.  I know it will be a little big for her now but I thought it would make a great nightgown or could be fashioned into a shirt-dress with a pair of leggings.  I couldn’t resist.

Faith. Hope. Love. “Expectations and selflessness in harmony.  Reach for the stars, but not at the expense of others.  Real success is found in service.”

Well-made clothing, with an edifying message, that helps others.  Yes and amen.

With the shopping portion of our trip complete, we headed to the West Market Park to let the boys run freeeeeeeeeeeee!

This playground is a little one’s dream, which makes total sense since it was designed by Pella’s children.  Those kids know how to play.

The boys enjoyed the playground so much that we could barely get them to stop for a quick photo.  It was either that or they didn’t stop moving for fear we would take them shopping again.

And now for the grub!  We grabbed a quick lunch and then headed out for dessert, the most important part of any adventure really.

C had gone to college here and swore that poffertjes were delicious, pancake-y goodness and that I wouldn’t be the same after I tried them.

She was so right.  They resemble pancakes but are light and spongy and just.plain.divine.

As evidenced by this photograph and my hips.

We then made our way to Jaarsma Bakery and loaded up on the sweet stuff.  I brought home two of everything so I could have one and my family could try the other.  At least that was my original plan but sweets make people crazy.  I am happy to report that I did get a taste of everything and it was all light and utterly delicious.  Creme horns,

Dutch letters,

and cherry turnovers.  Beaut.two and I also bought some doughnut holes that may or may not have made it home.

Our posse stopped to watch some authentic Dutch dancing

and singing.

After witnessing folks in traditional Dutch costume we decided to give wooden shoes a whirl ourselves.  It was much too hot for the rest.

B and J.

And as you all know, Superman is a very important part of any Dutch festivity.

And here I am getting my wooden shoe groove on.  Seriously, why am I standing like that?  I look like I’m expecting.  I’m not.  And I hadn’t even eaten those heavenly cherry turnovers yet.  Sheesh!

The Vermeer Windmill.

I absolutely loved the Dutch architecture.  The following sentence actually came from my mouth while touring around Pella.  “That is the cutest Dollar General store I have ever seen in my life.”

This police station is so beautiful it almost made me want to get arrested.  Almost.

More beautiful architecture.

By this point in the day we were sweaty messes and the waterways through downtown proved entirely too tempting!

Whether Tulip Time (which continues through Saturday, May 5th) or not, make plans to visit Pella soon.  Maybe I will see you there!  I’ll be somewhere near the bakery.

Stacey

May 2, 2012 / staceyj

(boxwood) beauty in the midst

Whirlwind.  That’s what life has resembled at our home for months.  And it shows.  From the outside to the inside, things are not in order.  And I am an order-loving gal.  The culprit?  My co-laborer, my #1 mess-wrangling partner, my hubby husband has been traveling…a lot… and that leaves me flying solo with my beauties in tow.  And that staff I don’t pay and like to pretend I have doesn’t show up just because Beau is on the road.  No cook, no gardener, no cleaning team, no nothing!  Where are they anyway?  I could really use a hand right about now.

You may be thinking…how bad can it really be?  Let’s just say that my dear neighbor drove over last week, rang the doorbell and gently asked, “Is everything alright?”  My response?  “Yes, of course, everything’s alright.”  Then as my legs began to itch from our grass I realized that our normally manicured lawn was nearly to my knees and, in that moment, I knew our whirlwind had officially spilled outside and become public knowledge.  “Oh.  The yard?  Sorry about that.  Beau has been traveling so much and hasn’t had any time to tend to it.”  My neighbor: “Don’t mind the yard.  I was just worried that something was really wrong, that someone was ill or injured.  I am just glad to know everyone is OK.”

Yup.  So much of a whirlwind that we have good people worried.  Worried.  So what’s a family to do?  Beau took a vacation day and spent it getting reacquainted with our yard.  And I decided to tend to a little landscaping.

Enter my small, yet slightly helpful, contribution to whipping our outdoor space into shape.

Operation: Trim those boxwood shrubs!  Seriously, look at these.  This photo doesn’t do this hot mess justice.  We had a mild winter so the shrubs didn’t take a beating like they can when winters are tough.  In fact, they just picked up where they left off in the fall…growing, growing, growing!

So I got about the business of giving these babies a little haircut.  Boxwood shrubs are just lovely.  I love their color, their ability to be sculptured and their enduring class.  I love them so much that I’ve planted them, potted them and bought faux versions of them.  Once I even potted dwarf boxwoods into urns and had them flank my fireplace.  I know they aren’t normally found indoors.  But my love for them was blind and I decided to give it a whirl anyway.  That was until the unpleasant odor they emanate opened my eyes right up and they promptly found a lovely new home outdoors.

I took a few of the trimmings and placed them in a vase.  And crossed my fingers that boxwood in a much smaller quantity wouldn’t overwhelm my nasal sensibilities.

And I am happy to report that it worked!  Stink-free beauty.

Boxwood, Beaut.one, and a monogrammed candle pot.

I wish my ‘haircuts’ would have such home decor enhancing results.

Yes.  Those are rabbits.  More rabbits.  Shocking, right?  (To read more about my apparent rabbit decor obsession click here.)

A jar of old antique keys and my book club’s latest reading series keep the boxwood (and the bunnies) company.

I decided this little chalkboard would join the fun.  I bought two of these square chalkboards for our family’s photo shoot last summer.  They came framed in unpainted wood.  For the photo shoot I painted them blue.  Now one has a fresh coat of white.  We use these all the time to leave messages for one another and send birthday or celebratory greetings via text photo messages.  They are so fun!

(Boxwood) beauty in the midst.  Sometimes it really is just the little things.  Here’s to finding beauty in the whirlwinds of your life.

Stacey

April 27, 2012 / staceyj

Our Tire Swing

An iconic image of lazy summer afternoons, a simpler time and the carefree days of youth…the tire swing.  A few months ago I was watching a little TV and saw a commercial about tractors, of all things, that had a tire swing in the way, way, way background.  It is a mighty miracle I caught this image because for one thing I don’t do commercials and for another, it was really tiny.  But saw it I did and I was inspired.  I have always wanted a tire swing and when we moved out to the ‘country’ a few years ago I just knew our property wouldn’t be complete without one.  And who knew a tractor commercial would be the thing that finally got this dream of mine in motion?

God Bless Beau!  After seeing the commercial and my over-the-top excitement about tire swings that followed, he surprised me a few weeks later with an old, dirty tire.  Nothing says love like recycled rubber.  He had stopped by a local tire shop and was so proud to come home with a tire that he thought would make the perfect swing.  And the good news just kept coming.  Because they have to pay to get rid of old tires they were happy to have us take one off their hands for free.  Free!

After giving the tire a good scrub and letting it dry, we decided to paint it for a couple of reasons.  Reason #1: We read that the residue from the tire and the rubbery smell is hard to get rid of, especially from your children’s clothes.  Black streaks on their wardrobe didn’t seem awesome.  Reason #2:  It is just so much prettier.

Then before you begin painting be certain to scream like this, “AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” when you realize a snake (that oddly happens to have a red streak on it that matches your spray paint color) has come to see what all this tire swing fuss is about.

Beau to the rescue!  My only question.  Where was he yesterday when a tiny frog was hopping across my dining room?  See above for my reaction when I came across the frog.  Hint.  It starts with an “AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

My brave bevy finding the snake a new home in the nearby field.

And we’re back…Spray the tire in thin, even strokes and never stop waving that spraying arm.

Let it dry completely and then flip and repeat.  Make sure your inadvertently give Target free advertising.

Once all the painting and drying and painting and drying is complete…

…we opted to top our tire with a layer of clear sealer gloss.

Shiny loveliness.

We picked a nice and thick cotton white rope to hang our tire.  We bought a few feet extra just in case our measuring wasn’t perfect (we are not accomplished tire swing installers) and opted to leave it because we found it made for a nice steering wheel of sorts.

Beaut.two: “Mom!  Mom!  You can’t see me can you?”
Mom: “No.  But I can hear you.  You’re yelling.”
Beaut.two: “But you can’t see me.  Cause I’m hiding that’s why.”
Mom: “Still yelling honey.  You’re still yelling.”

We cut a piece of rubber hose and threaded the part of our rope that makes contact with the tree through it.  This should help protect our glorious walnut tree.

Beau channeled his inner Boy Scout and tied a knot that would hold all of our riders…small and not-so-small alike.  He opted for a hangman’s noose knot.  It sounds so dangerous and I think I actually asked if it was legal.  I am a shameless rule follower.  But Beau informed me that yes it is legal (Whew!) and he chose it because as weight and pressure is applied the knot tightens on itself.  And that’s a good thing.

Confidant in his work, the hubs put all of his manliness on the line and swung on the newly installed rope to test the strength of his knot.

And just for good measure, Beaut.one took the rope for a spin too.  Clearly, we are very concerned about safety around this joint.

Once we stopped playing with just the hanging rope we got back to the business of the tire part of the tire swing.  It is very important that you drill a few holes in the bottom of the tire to allow rain water to drain out.  You don’t want stagnant water and mosquitoes finding a new home in your swing.  Don’t wait to do this until the end like we did.  I would recommend drilling the holes before you paint.  Ah, you live and you learn.

And then hang that baby.  And then stand back and stare at your craftsmanship, your painting skills and your somewhat ominous, yet definitely effective, knotting awesomeness.

And then watch those you love laugh and giggle while they ride!

And then see glimpses of yourself as a child in your sweet beauty and cry a few happy tears.  Too much?  I should have probably quit at laughter and giggling above.

Swing your troubles away!

Here’s to a dream-filled, child-like and lovely weekend, Stacey

April 25, 2012 / staceyj

Sweet Tangerine

A few weeks ago Beaut.two and I were making our weekly stroll through the grocery store.  We always start our shopping trip in the produce section.  It is pretty.  It is plentiful.  We are predictable.  Plus, our produce section offers free samples…even during a regular ol’ Monday!  Each week a sweet lady greets us with oranges, apples, tomatoes, star fruit, pears, jicama, you name it.  And every week we ‘oh! and ah!’ our way through the tasting.  Well, at least I do.  My son just looks at me like “Really Mom?  It was just a grape.  A grape.”  But this day a few weeks ago was very different.  Beaut.two made his way to the sample lady while I was deeply involved in choosing the perfect bunch of asparagus.  Beaut.two quickly headed back to the sample lady for round two while I was seeking the prettiest red pepper.  And as I picked up and examined each package of raspberries?  You guessed it.  Beaut.two was darting back for even more.  It was at this moment that I decided to intervene before he single-handily cleaned out the sample supply.  I mean those dimples can be hard to deny.

First I apologized.  And then I asked the darling sample lady what was making my son come back for more and more and more.  She smiled and proudly announced, “Why, it’s the tangerines.  Do you want to try one?”  I looked at my son, sweet tangerine juice running down his chin, and decided to see for myself what all the fuss was about.  And then I proceeded to “oh! and ah!” and bought 2 bags of them.

Ojai Pixie Tangerines are just about the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted in my life.  They are grown in southern California’s Ojai Valley and are a springtime citrus treat.

Ojai pixies typically ripen in March and April so they are at their peak right now.

And in-season produce usually means on sale produce.  And I’ve never been one to pass up a good deal.

$0.99 a pound!  That’s like less than a dollar.

They are little so go ahead and eat more than one.  Eat more than two.  Eat as many as you want.  Who’s counting anyway?

My entire family loves these little numbers and they have quickly become our favorite snack.  Well, that and hummus.  But hummus really has nothing to do with tangerines at all.  Except that they are both nutritious and delicious and I can’t stop writing about them.  Tangerines, hummus, tangerines, hummus.

Tangerines are easy to peel,

seedless,

and oh-so-juicy.  Try one or sixteen today.

Then add it to the things you love about spring: warmer days, the wonder of flowers and trees in bloom, March Madness, tangerines.

Speaking of tangerine…check out this tangerine-clad hipster.  We all have him to thank for this treasure of a discovery!

Stacey

April 24, 2012 / staceyj

Pappardelle with Leeks, Sugar Snap Peas and Lemon

Spring.  Spring chicken, I am not.  Spring Breaker?  Nope, nada, not anymore.  Spring equinox.  Say what?  Spring pasta connoisseur?  Yes and amen!

I stumbled upon this recipe while reading my April issue of Martha Stewart Living.  And by stumbled upon I really mean ‘while I was reading every article, every caption, every source, every.single.glorious.word.’  Not that it matters how I happened upon it, mind you.  It just matters that I made it.  And it was light.  And it was springy.  And it was delicious.  And don’t let the fancy title freak you out.  It was simple too.

Ingredient List
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 stick unsalted butter
2 medium leeks (white and pale-green parts only), cut into thin half-moons and rinsed well
2 lemons
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
3/4 pound dried pappardelle or or other flat egg noodles (I went for the wildness of the ‘other’ and used a local brand of flat egg noodles.)
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
2 ounces Romano cheese, grated (3/4 cup)

Here are the ingredients ready to shine.  Don’t they just look ready to make something amazing?  All but that extra virgin olive oil (EVVO).  I’m not sure how that guy made it into the pic.  He is not on the ingredient invite list.  I double-checked.  I think he was trying to hide in the back behind the salt and pepper but no one told Mr. EVVO that he’s a titch too tall to hide effectively.  Just a titch.

Start by cutting your leeks into thin half-moons and trimming your sugar snap peas.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

While the boiling action is happening, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add leeks and a pinch of salt.

Cook until leeks begin to soften and are bright in color, about 4 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 5 more minutes.

Turn off heat.  Or if you’re an easily distracted woman with small children, an iPhone and a dreamy Beau forget.  And then quickly realize you forgot when your leeks look like they spent a year south of the equator.  Then tell yourself, “It’ll be okay??  It’ll be okay?  It’ll be okay.”  And then soldier on…

Finely grate zest of lemons directly into skillet, and season generously with pepper.

When water boils, add sugar snap peas to boiling water, and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes.

Transfer peas to a plate using a strainer.  On my kitchen wish list?  A strainer that looks a little something like this.

https://i0.wp.com/www.pingganmangkuk.com/webshaper/pcm/pictures/as/strainer0107-0114_l.jpg

Image source: http://www.pingganmangkuk.com/webshaper/store/viewProd.asp?pkProductItem=676

But for now my red slotted spoon did the trick!

Add pasta to boiling water, and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes (do not drain water!).

Have a near miss when you dump your amazing Kalona Amish flat egg noodles into the pot of boiling water and a recipe for sausage casserole (yes please!) mercilessly floats slowly toward it before you heroically snatch it from certain destruction.

Transfer pasta to skillet using the strainer (or your red slotted spoon).

Add sugar snap peas.

Gradually stir in 1 cup pasta water, about 1/2 cup at a time,

alternating with ricotta,

and half the Romano cheese.  Toss until pasta is coated and creamy.

Divide among 4 bowls and top with remaining grated cheese.  Relish in your spring time dinner awesomeness.  And then eat.  And then eat some more.  And then introduce dessert early so your little ones leave some left in their bowls.  That last little diddy is merely a suggestion.

Until next time, Stacey

April 20, 2012 / staceyj

Shoe Shopping

Yesterday I picked Beaut.one up after school and we had a few minutes to burn before heading to her weekly performance group practice.  After a quick errand was complete, we decided to take a few moments to just ‘browse’ the store next door, Marshalls.  Places like Marshalls, TJ Maxx and the like can be really hit or miss for me.  Today falls convincingly in the hit column.

We only had 15 minutes to browse so my sweet little inside voice said, “How much can you really find to buy in a mere fifteen minutes?”  Four pairs of shoes later I said back to my sweet and now sheepish inside voice, “Apparently a lot!”

To my credit, two pairs of the shoes were more necessity than splurge.  My lovely daughter needed a new pair of rain boots since her sweet Hello Kitty ones just stopped fitting last week.  And rain boots get a workout around here.  They are essential footwear for fishing and earthworm hunting, garden and burn pile monitoring.  Oh, and yes, they are also worn for puddle stomping after a good rain.

Aren’t these bright floral numbers from Western Chief just the cutest?  And we scored them for a mere $12.00.

Beaut.one was also in need of a new pair of summer flip flops.  A single pair.  But then we came across these blue and pink numbers and my daughter just couldn’t choose.  And…well…by this point we only had mere minutes left to shop and check out and then drive across town, so we just quit wasting precious time on deciding and instead bought them both.  It seemed quite brilliant at the time.

And for $5.99 a piece we figured it wasn’t worth the stress of choice.  Glitter and jewels all in one shoe?  A hit with any young lady for certain.  And the mom in me loved the thick padding and comfort of these since most flip flops aren’t exactly known for their superior foot support.

And last but definitely not least…new pair of shoes #4!

I am not quite sure where my recent obsession with green came from but I’m not going to fight it.  Especially when my eyes landed on these Ellen Tracy wedges.

And for $34.99 I just had to have them.

The gold buckle sold me.  Seriously.  It is fantastic.

And the shoe even has a great profile.  Please warm up now so I can wear these!

You may have been thinking to yourself…”Those shoes look small.  I was convinced that Beaut.one walked away with four new pairs of shoes.”  I can see why you would think that.  I have really small feet for any age really, but especially for a grown woman.  Size 6.  Both a blessing and a curse.

Blessings:
1).  I can almost always find the shoe I like in my size.
2). A shoe in a small size always looks great…that’s why they usually have the smallest size on display.
3). At shoe stores where you ask to try on shoes, I don’t even have to ask.  Size 6 is already out and on display so I can try them on, decide if I do or do not like them, all before most people even gain the attention of a salesperson.

Curses:
See numbers 1, 2 and 3 above!

Blessed shoe shopping.  A timeless joy that I now share with my daughter.

Beaut.one: “Mom.  That was really fun.  Let’s do that again.”
Me: “Absolutely sweetheart.  Next time let’s not be so rushed.  I’m sweating.”
Beaut.one: “Me too.”

Wishing you all a lovely weekend.  Stacey

April 18, 2012 / staceyj

Brownie Cookies

Brownie Cookies.  Brownie goodness baked in a cookie?  Umm…yes please!  This recipe had me at hello the title.  And it wasn’t just love at first bite.  Bite 13, 26 and 42 were also chewy, yummy and cookie-licious.

And at only 105 calories per cookie, you can eat more than one and not even have to skip lunch.

Ingredient List:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare for deliciousness.  Finely chop the chocolate.

I use a serrated knife.  It makes chopping faster, easier and more dangerous-sounding.

While admiring your knife-wielding skills be certain to fling bits of the dark loveliness on your cookbook pages.

To prevent yourself from diving head first into this pile and eating your way out repeat, “The chocolate is bittersweet.  The chocolate is bittersweet.”  But it smells so yummy.  “The chocolate is bittersweet.  The chocolate is bittersweet.”

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water.  You could also use a double broiler if you have one.  I do, but I thought I would show off some of my mad MacGyver skillz.

Stir until melted.

I used Ghirardelli chocolate and it was worth every extra penny.  Every single one.

Once melted, remove bowl from heat and let cool.

In a small bowl, combine flour,

baking powder,

and salt.  Note to self.  Make a manicure appointment immediately.  Who am I kidding?  I have a manicure like once a year.  Remove nail polish myself and pretend my living room is a nail shop.

Whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter,

granulated sugar,

and brown sugar.

Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy.

Add eggs…

…and vanilla and beat until combined.

With mixer on low speed, add chocolate

and flour mixture in alternating batches.

Enlist your young son to add the flour mixture and then turn the mixer on high and blow it everywhere.  Wait.  Don’t do that.

Mix just until combined after each batch.  Do not over mix.  The consistency will be more like brownie batter than stiffer cookie dough.  Oh yeah!

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, onto cookie sheet.  I use an ice cream scoop so my cookies will all be the same size and bake at the same time.  I love synchronized baking action.

I tried one batch on a Silpat-lined baking sheet.

And one batch on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  I wanted to see which I would prefer.

In this head-to-head battle, I think the Silpat edged out the parchment for ultimate baking glory.  The Silpat helped the cookies spread and thus bake evenly.  They were also so easy to remove.  Silpat mats are amazing.  They turn any pan into a non-stick surface just by showing up.

The parchment held its own.  Clean up was as easy as removing the cookies, picking up the paper, crumpling it and tossing it in the trash.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cookie comes out clean, 14 to 16 minutes.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days.  4 days?  No way they are lasting that long around this joint.

Enjoy.  Then try to hide the smell of newly baked cookies from other family members by opening kitchen windows.  And then realize that baked cookie air has seeped into all areas of the home and share a half of one cookie.  Just kidding.  You can share one.  And only one.

This recipe is supposed to yield 34 cookies.  My batch had 32.  I still think the recipe is accurate.  I easily ate 2 cookies worth of dough.  Easily.

Find the original recipe here.  Bake these today and bask in brownie cookie glory!

April 17, 2012 / staceyj

Switcheroo!

I wanted to start my post today with an apology.  Last week got away from me and I didn’t get much written.  A brief overview of how life trumped my blog action last week:

1.) Beaut.one had three days off from school and I wanted to spend some extra time with my lovely.  We had a lunch and manicure date with friends, we snuggled, we laughed, we went to story time, we planned our future domination of the crafting world…you know, typical mother-daughter stuff.

 

2.) I had a major dental emergency.  I will spare you the gory details.  Let’s just say I was enjoying my morning bagel and a little something that shouldn’t ever fall out…EVER!…did.  So I spent the better portion of one whole day in a chair like this.

 

(Photo has been removed.)

3.) I was so excited to join the Downton Abbey train that I actually recorded all of Season 2’s episodes this winter and refused to watch them until I could get my hands on Season 1.  Well, Season 1 finally landed in my glorious lap and I couldn’t wait to see what all the fuss was about.  DA (as we now affectionately call it around here) viewing requires supreme concentration, at least by me.  No writing while the extreme drama of lords and ladies, servants and staff, marriage and meddling is happening.  Plus, I’m a bit rusty with my early 20th century vernacular so concentrate I must!

Click to watch a preview

(Photo courtesy of PBS.com)

4.) Laughter.  I spent a large portion of last week in stitches.  My son has taken to two behaviors of extreme hilarity lately.  First, he adds the word soaking in his sentences for dramatic effect.

+”I am soaking tired.”

+”I am soaking hungry.  I’m going to get a snack.”

+”I am so soaking mad right now.  Soaking!”

I think he heard me say ‘soaking wet’ once upon a time and he has taken creative license to use the word as an adjective at will.

Second, he comes downstairs at night every two to ten minutes just because anything is better than sleeping.  He entertains us with questions of all stripes, concerns ranging in severity from shadows to injury and to really keep it interesting, he dresses up in various costumes.  Described behavior also interrupts our Downton Abbey viewing and any hope of writing.

In the midst of this beautiful and unpredictable life, I found some time to do a little rearranging.  When shopping isn’t in the monetary or time budget, rearranging fits the bill.  I love taking what I already have and finding new fun ways to use it or put it on display.

Blank wall begging to not be.  “Please save me from my nakedness!”  Signed, Wall

Bookshelf that will find a new home in Beaut.two’s room.  And all the pretties inside will soon find new addresses.

Blank wall no more!

Blank corner no more!  This plant was moved from the front of our fireplace to this cozy corner spot.  I like it.  It likes it.

The counsel table, horse art, lamp, storage bench and all other manor of pretty were moved from this living room wall.  And replaced with an old church pew.

Can you believe we had this little number in our basement?

When we moved in the previous owners asked if we wanted it.  I shouted “Yes!” while double fist pumping.  And then I quickly brought my excitement to a more acceptable level, cleared my throat and said, “You know, if you were thinking it would be a pain to move, we could certainly just keep it here for you…forever.”

And then, too many days to count later, it finally makes its way out of our underground lair.

I wasn’t the only one excited about its emergence in our living space.

Now to fix up this beauty!  Let the creative juices flow forth.  Now would be great.

And on to more swicheroo-ing!  Our fireplace mantel before.  (Sorry, the lighting was terrible when I snapped this.)

Is anyone else noticing the abundance of rabbits in my living room?  I could insert a semi-inappropriate comment here about rabbits and multiplication but I won’t.

And I still won’t.  The mantel after.

I picked up the tree sculpture recently and I am loving it.  Anything nature inspired is a hit around here.

And remember those jade plants from our Easter table?

They have fallen victim to the ol’ switcheroo too.  One found a home perched high on a shelf.

Another found a home next to the kitchen sink.  Yes.  I see it too.  Another bunny.  I literally had no idea, until this very moment, I had this much bunny-type decor.  No idea.

And the third one is ‘all kinds a cozy’ on one of built-ins in the dining room.

What can you rearrange and fall in love with all over again?  What decor item do you buy over and over?  I used to think I just had a bird problem.  But now I see I have a bunny problem too.  And I have a sneaking suspicion I may also have a slight horse problem.

Have fun pulling the ol’ switcheroo!