Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Celebration of My Wonderful Men - Part 1: My Husband

Last week, on February 21st, was the 30 year anniversary of meeting my husband and we have pretty much been together ever since. We did not have a chance to celebrate on that day, but I am fine with that because my husband was spending his evening making sure that the poorer families in our town would continue to have a place to live.

One of the council member had intended to improve the living conditions of the poorer renters in our town by drawing up a specific code for the condition of the housing in our town. On the surface, it seemed like a good thing. However, while her intent had been good, she had not really considered the reality of it. If the property owners were forced to do improvements, some of them would simply kick out the renters and sent them on their way. Other property owners would complete the improvements and raised the rent to offset the costs. This, too, would mean that families would be forced out of their homes. When questioned about how many families it would impact, she could not say. She had not done any actual research. (That kind of blows me away - how can you put forth a proposal for a law that you don't even know the scope of?) How many people would this impact? Five families, fifty? Turns out it would have possibly displaced 300. That is a significant number in a town our size (1 square mile.)Through a series of inquiries and communications with the city, as well as the council members, my husband was able to help them see the bigger picture. In the end the council woman withdrew her law from the table, tearfully. While it is unfortunate that she was upset, (it is embarrassing to see that you have been sloppy as a representative)it is a good thing that my husband did. He spent a lot of time and effort to make sure that the families who are happy in their homes can stay there. Now, I imagine that none of those folks even know that my husband went to bat for them, but I am so impressed. We are not impacted or personally benefit from this action. It was all about helping to reduce the stress families and people feel; it is about letting people stay where they are happy. Not many of us go out of our way to do such things. As I am sure you can see, I am a lucky girl to have married such a wonderful man.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Little Bit of Silliness & Links to Make Moms Think

Ellie and Kohlton rode bikes into Golden to go have a bit of frozen yogurt (cake batter flavor, I think) with a ton of toppings including sour gummy worms, sprinkles, and about five other things on top.

Looks like they had a fun time.

And here is more silliness. At the end of the Valentine's Day dance last weekend Kohlton orchestrated the creation of the AVS style Harlem Shake. It is a very silly, fun and popular thing to do right now. In fact, this short, 31 second song was put out as a joke and has now become one of the top downloaded songs in Itunes.

Harlem Shake - AVS Style

On an entirely different note, I wanted to pass along some great links to blog postings. I came across the links over at the Ali Edwards website and thought that you might enjoy them, too.

Kind Over Matter: "Letter to My Children's Stepmother"
Hands Free Mama: "From A Kid Who Isn't Known."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A New Adventure for Kohlton, A Thrill for Ellie and Two Recipes

This weekend Ellie took Kohlton for a mountain bike ride. Kohlton knows how to ride a bike, but this was a different experience for him. He was all smiles when he returned. They've gone on a ride every day since then. Yeah!

It is handy that Kohlton happens to be the same size at Ethan. Thanks to Ethan for loaning him stuff to give mountain biking a try.

Here's a nice, simple and quick dinner I made recently.

Warmly Spiced Pork Tenderloin with (served with Peas and Homemade Applesauce)

1 Pork Tenderloin, cut into bite size pieces (the tenderlion I used was intended for BBQ)
1 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1/2 tea Black Pepper, freshly ground
1/2 tea Cinnamon
1/4 tea Turmeric
1/4 tea ground Cumin
1/4 tea ground Coriander
1/4 tea ground Cardamom
Pinch Ground Cloves
Pinch Cayenne Pepper

2 TBL Olive Oil or Bacon Drippings
1 cup Homemade Applesauce

Mix all of the spices. In a large baggie toss in some of the diced pork. Sprinkle them with some of the spices and shake the bag. Repeat this until all of the diced pork is lightly spiced. Let this sit for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the oil/bacon drippings in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the pork until browned, about 3 minutes per side.Be sure to not crowd the pork or it will sweat instead of cook. Saute the meat in batches, if necessary. Lower the temperature to medium-low; cover and continue to cook until the pork chops reach an internal temperature of 145 F, another 3 to 5 minutes.

In another pot boil water for the peas. Cook the peas with a small bit of Rosemary. Drain when done and add a touch of butter. Serve with the spiced pork and applesauce.

Here are some cookies that Ellie made this weekend. They are soft, nice and not too sweet.

Soft Brown Sugar Cookies with Brown Butter Frosting
via: Susie QT Pies Cafe blog

2/3 c. butter, softened
1-1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sour cream

Blend together butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time; blend well. Add vanilla; beat until light. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with sour cream; mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto non-stick or lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove to a wire rack; cool. Frost with Browned Butter Frosting. Makes 2 dozen

Browned Butter Frosting

1/4 c. butter
1-1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 T. Milk

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it turns golden. Watch carefully as this will happen quickly. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar and enough milk to make a spreading consistency.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Valentine's Day Dance at AVS + a Fun Layered Jello Recipe

Friday night we had a fun time at the Valentine's Day Dance at AVS. Dances at AVS are such a contrast to the dances at the big high school that I work at. At AVS we can get silly. All of the dances are family affairs.

Here's this year's photo from the party. The kids are being silly. It is wonderful that Ethan, Ellie and Kohlton can have such fun together.

Christy is usually in this photo. I think she had already gone home by this time in the evening.

The kids hung up a ton of balloons and added even more to the floor.

One of the new kids was the DJ. Sometimes everyone sang to the song that was being played. Other times they all did the dance that went along with the song that was playing.

I love this photo of Kohlton.

Ellie said that it was her favorite dance so far. After the dance was over I took Ellie and Kohlton out for a milk shake and key lime pie at Village Inn. It was a big day and they were tired once the excitement of the dance was over. We left the tip for our server with the man at the cash register. He promised to pass it on. However, as we were leaving, Kohlton noticed that he put it in the register instead. That angered us as it was intended for our server. Kohlton wanted to make sure it was done right so he went back into the restaurant and made sure the server got the tip. The guy at the cash register was not very cooperative. I was proud of Kohlton for going out of his way to make sure the right thing took place. He is a good young man.

I made a fun jello dessert for the party. It was a hit. I usually make it in the colors of the rainbow (ROYGBIV), but wanted to stay with the party colors. Although I used many colors and flavors of jello, it was more monotone than I had expected.

Here's the recipe from another blog. (I am reposting it here since it is from 2007 and I worry that the link will go dead soon.)

Rainbow Jello Dessert
via: Tip Junkie via Rachel Perlow on the EGullet forums.

Plan on it taking about 3 hours to make, the day before you need it. It only takes a few minutes every 20 minutes or so, but you can't let a layer set for hours before adding the next one, or you risk the layers sliding apart after unmolding. Ideally, you want the finished mold to set up at least over night. However, I made it that morning and it was finished 5 hours before the party. It was still fine and unmolded perfectly.

People ask what it tastes like. It tastes like Jell-O. Since you are eating many flavors at once, it's hard to differentiate, so it doesn't matter which flavor of red you choose, except that Watermelon is too light in color and Black Cherry is too dark. The kids, along with some adults, like to eat it layer by layer. It is really kind of fun.

Begin with the color that you want to show at the top of your mold. Be thoughtful about what colors you will end with since the bundt pan flares towards the bottom you will need to make double batches of the last few colors. If you don't do that, the layers will be very thin. You don't have to use Jell-O brand gelatin. If you can't find all the colors you need in one brand, it doesn't really matter if you substitute a store brand . If you want to get fancy, you can use unflavored/unsweetened gelatin and make your own flavors with juice, but the colors will be hard to achieve without a lot of food coloring, so I just go with the boxed stuff.

The original recipe calls for 3 Tbs yogurt for each layer, I go with 2 Tbs, or really just a big soup spoonful, otherwise the creamy layers are too pale. I use the regular Cool Whip. The Extra Thick Cool Whip does not mix in as easily as the usual stuff.


8 x 3/4 c Boiling Water
7 pkg flavored Gelatin, 1 each of the 6 different colors of the rainbow, plus one extra, either red or purple* (I used 5 colors)
1-1/4 c Vanilla Yogurt (smooth and creamy works best), or sour cream, or cool whip (I used Cool Whip)
Whipped Topping or Cream for service (optional)

Line up your boxes of gelatin in rainbow order (remember ROY G BIV?), next to 5 large cups, and one quart sized bowl. Put each flavor of gelatin in its own bowl or cup, use the larger one for the double batch. Stir 1.1/4 cups boiling water into each flavor at least 2 minutes until completely dissolved (do one at a time, to make sure each is completely dissolved), use 2.5 cups for the double batch.

Lightly spray a 10 cup Bundt pan with cooking spray, wipe out excess with a paper towel. Beginning with your first color, pour 3/4 cup of the dissolved gelatin into the bundt pan. Refrigerate about 15-20 minutes or until set but not firm (gelatin should feel tacky and stick to finger when touched).

Meanwhile, stir 2 Tbsp. of the yogurt or Cool Whip into the 1/2 cup of dissolved gelatin remaining in the cup, use a small whisk or fork to get out all the lumps. Refrigerate this remaining gelatin about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened (consistency of unbeaten egg whites). Leave the rest of the flavors at room temperature, lightly covered with plastic wrap.

Spoon the creamy gelatin over the set, but still tacky gelatin in pan. Refrigerate about 10-15 minutes or until gelatin is set but not firm (gelatin should stick to finger when touched).

Repeat this with each remaining gelatin flavor. If the gelatin waiting to be used sets at room temperature, fill a bowl the cup will fit into with hot water and stir to loosen it up again. Refrigerate gelatin as directed to create a total of 12 alternating clear and creamy gelatin layers. See tips below.

Refrigerate overnight until firm. Unmold. Garnish servings with whipped cream (optional).


When making all the gelatin at once, instead of using bowls, the gelatin can be made in large, individual, plastic cups (facilitates cleanup). Mark each cup with its flavor and line the cups up in the order they are going into the mold. Put each color of gelatin in its own cup. This saves having to reboil water every 1/2 hour. Leave the gelatin waiting to be layered on the counter, at room temperature, lightly covered with plastic wrap.

Mold type and size: This is a versatile recipe, and special molds aren't needed, but a bundt cake pan makes a beautiful mold. To calculate the mold's volume, fill it with water to measure it. Plan on 1-2/3 cup of gelatin per box. For a 10-cup mold, seven boxes of gelatin work well. If you are using a smaller mold, use less of each flavor, fewer colors, or make a second "sampler" serving. Even for a large mold, making a small sampler in a clear glass will hit the spot after taking 3 hours to make this and not being able to have any until the next day.

Order: For a nice look the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet) are most commonly used, but variations can be beautiful. For example, school colors for a school banquet or bake sale, or colors appropriate to a holiday, i.e. red and green at Christmas.

Setting: To set properly, the gelatin must be cold and not warm when it is put in the mold. It is also important that the layers are tacky to the touch and not solidly firm, as each successive layer is added. Otherwise the layers may not stick to each other. To prevent the layers from cracking as each layer is added, pour the gelatin over a spoon to break the fall, close down to the set gelatin. Each time the mold is put into the refrigerator to set, give it a quarter turn. This will keep the layers even. It takes less time for each progressive layer to set.

Unmolding: For best results, unmold just before serving. Fill a larger container or clean sink with warm water, not too hot (otherwise it will melt). Rub a few drops of water onto the serving plate, this will facilitate adjusting the mold after unmolding, if necessary. Either use a plate with a large lip and just a little bit bigger than the diameter of the mold, or use a larger platter, at least 2-3 inches larger than the mold, because it will spread when unmolded and cut. Dip the mold almost to the edge into the warm water for just a few seconds. Wipe off with a towel and check the edges to see if they are loose, if not, repeat the dip for just a few seconds. Invert serving plate on top and flip quickly. Having a spotter brings peace of mind!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Creative Inspiration and Motivation

I have had a need to be creative, or at least be around creativity when I don't have time to be creative myself.

I have managed to carve out some time to create a little bit. We have two small, square pillows that match a recliner that we own. The print on them does not really match anything else in the house and I needed a small project so I decided that I would cover them. Here's what I started with:

Next, I examined some of the things I had pinned in my Pinterest account:

Then I dug through my scraps and found enough fun stuff to get started. I began with the various strips that I had cut. Some where 2" and others were 1.5" which were perfect for what I wanted to do.

Of course, I needed a little bit of kitty supervision to make sure I did everything right and Moxy was just the feline to do that job. He took it very seriously.

After a bit of sewing, trimming, ironing and more sewing I created the pillow cover at the top of this post.

The pillow pattern is actually an envelop pocket pattern. The Feeling Some Love blog posted a great tutorial on how to make it.

Sometimes I have to get my creativity fix virtually. One of the things I love is typography. It is so much fun when I find others who love it, too. Most people just wonder what it is that I am actually talking about. Here's a video that is wonderful!

"Thrift Shop" (Grandpa Style cover)I love how this group reworked the song.

Here's the original "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore (contains profanity)

Here's a recipe that I adapted and served for dinner recently:

Lemon Chicken
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

4 Chicken Breast, skinless and boneless, cubed
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound small red potatoes, sliced into coins
2 lemons, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices and seeded
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Cappers (to taste, perhaps 3 TBL. would be good if you like them, if not, omit them.)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves

1. Begin by sauteing the chicken in olive oil or butter.

2. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add potatoes to pan; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook potatoes on each side or until browned. Remove potatoes from pan. Add lemon slices to pan; cook 1 minute on each side or until browned. Remove lemon from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add the garlic; sauté 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine and chopped fresh thyme; cook 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. (I did these parts ahead of time and finished constructing the dish later.)

3. Return potatoes and lemon slices to pan. Add 2/3 cup stock, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 2 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Combine remaining 1/3 cup stock and cornstarch, stirring with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture and cappers to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in lemon juice and butter, stirring until butter melts. Return chicken to pan, turning to coat; sprinkle with parsley.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The 1 Year Mark, Mardi Gras and The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Tuesday was a very full and fun day.
Ellie and Kohlton have been dating for an entire year - a pretty big deal. :)
We also had a fun Mardis Gras party at the Cure house - the Cures are always a party, but when they put one on officially, they are a blast! They served Red Bean with Ham Hocks and Rice, Jambalaya, rolls, a King's Cake and fun drinks. I had a non-alcoholic "Lava Lamp," a drink of sparkling cider with a shoot of blue jello mixed it.

During the school day I saved a little time at the end of each class to teach my students about Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. I shared with cool tilt frame video of Mardi Gras in Brazil.

"The City of Samba" (Tilt Shift Mardi Gras)

By the end of the school day on Wednesday I was all used up. I spent the evening watching, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." I read some of the book when it was originally published and now want to read it again. Though the movie cannot capture everything in the novel, it was still an enjoyable movie. I especially loved the soundtrack and the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" segments. I used to go to the special showings were people dressed the part and took along props. It was a ton of fun.I'm thinking that Ellie and the other kids may need to have that fun experience.

I'm thinking that I need to add a few more songs to my 1980's playlist. Here's the music from the movie:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack:

1. The Samples - Could It Be Another Change
2. Dexys Midnight Runners - Come On Eileen
3. Galaxie 500 - Tugboat
4. New Order - Temptation
5. The Innocence Mission - Evensong
6. The Smiths - Asleep
7. Cracker - Low
8. Sonic Youth - Teenage Riot
9. XTC - Dear God
10. Cocteau Twins - Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops
11. Michael Brook - Charlie's Last Letter
12. David Bowie – Heroes

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekend Party + A Good, Simple Recipe - Sausage and White Beans

We had a mostly low key weekend. The exception was Saturday night when we hosted a potluck and game night. I took some photos, but the camera was malfunctioning and did not record any useful images.
On Sunday I tried a new recipe, one for Chorizo and Cannellini beans. I thought it was great. Ellie did not care for it. I think it was the spice in sausage. It was quick to make.

Sausage and White Beans
via:the Tasty Comforts of North Georgia Blog (modified)

1-2 pounds Chorizo Sausage, cut in chunks (This is a spicy sausage, some other sausage could be substituted)
1/2-3/4 cup Chicken Stock
2 14.5 oz cans Cannellini Beans
1 Red or Orange bell pepper,cut into thin strips
1 Red onion, Diced
3 stalks celery, chopped, leaves left whole
2 Bay Leaf
3 sprigs of Thyme (or 1/2 tea. Thyme, dried)
3 sprigs Sage (or 1/2 tea. Sage, dried)
3 sprigs Rosemary (or 1/2 tea. Rosemary, dried)
(Salt and pepper to taste)

Cook the sausage. Remove from skillet and set aside. Pour the chicken stock in pan. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the flavorful bits. Add onions, cook for about five minutes. Add celery and bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper, if using. Add beans and sausage back into skillet. Add bay leaves, and sprigs of herbs. Simmer for about 30 minutes allowing the flavors of Spain to fill your home.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Snowy Day Chili and Prepping for a Party

Light snow began to fall this afternoon. It has been entirely too dry so far this year. Here's what we were doing last year. I hope we can go again soon.

I love these photos of the kids.

We are having a party at our house this evening. We'll have a potluck and then play some games.
Smokey, Spicy Chili
(Serves 12)

2 pounds ground Beef (cooked and crumbled)
1 pound bulk Italian Sausage (cooked and crumbled)
4 (15 ounce) cans Chili Beans, drained (Sub. 1 can for 1 can of Kidney Beans)
2 (28 ounce) cans Diced Tomatoes with juice (smoked or roasted is nice)
1 (6 ounce) can Tomato paste
1 large Red Onion, chopped
4 cubes Beef Bouillon
1/2 cup beer (I used water since I did not have a can of beer on hand)
1/4 cup Chili Powder ( I used 1/2 chili powder and 1/2 Ancho chili powder)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon minced Garlic
1 tablespoon dried Oregano
2 teaspoons ground Cumin
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (e.g.Sriacha or Tabasco™)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tea Cumin
1 tea Ground Black Pepper
1 tea Paprika
1 tea White Sugar
1 tea Smoke Flavoring (I added this. You can use liquid or powder form)

Toppings (Optional):
Sour Cream
2 (10.5 ounce) bag corn chips such as Fritos®
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar Cheese

In a large crock pot combine the beef, sausage, beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, celery, bacon bits, bouillon, and beer. Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and sugar. Stir to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

After 2 hours, taste, and adjust salt, pepper, and chili powder if necessary. The longer the chili simmers, the better it will taste. Remove from heat and serve, or refrigerate, and serve the next day.

To serve, ladle into bowls, and offer the toppings

Monday, February 04, 2013

Special Valentine's Day Cupcakes - Video & Fun Printables

Ellie spent part of Sunday making a special batch of Valentine's Day cupcakes for Kohlton. Her idea is to give him a few small surprise presents between now and Feb. 14th. Here's a sampling of what she created. I think they are really cute.

I think this is my favorite one.

They are white cupcakes with homemade Buttercream Frosting.

She was inspired by "DIY Cupid's Arrow Cupcakes" over at the Creature Comforts blog. If you want to get the same printables, like the little hearts with sayings, you can find them on that blog.

Here's fun song to cap off a Valentine's Day inspired post. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Sadie Hawkins Dance & a Chicken Enchilada Recipe

Ellie had a fun time yesterday. Her bike coach, Eric, owns and outdoor sporting goods company and he invited a few of the kids to tag along at the SnowSports Industries show. She got to see a ton of stuff and came home with many great freebies like t-shirts, a pair of headphones, a hat, etc.

I cleaned up the table in the craft room and began a project making envelope pocket pillow cases to cover couch pillows. I will share details and images from that project soon.

In the evening I took the kids with me to the Sadie Hawkins dance at my school. As you can see here, they were super cute. We found some fun outfits for the dance at the Buffalo Exchange, a vintage and funky contemporary consignment shop.


Here's a great recipe that I am making for one of our meals this week. It makes a huge, wonderful pan of food that will feed an entire group of people.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole
(For a 13" x9" pan)

12 corn tortillas
2-3 pounds of chicken (cut into chunks)
2 pounds Cheddar, Colby or CoJack cheese, shredded
1 large can Stoke's Green Chili w/ Pork
1 small can Mild Enchilada Sauce (red, mild)
1 small can Medium Enchilada Sauce (can the size of soup cans)
1 can diced Green Chilies (small can)
1 small-medium Onion, chopped
1-2 Garlic Cloves, mashed
2 cups Sour Cream (or 1 small container)
1 small can Jalapenos, diced (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9"x13" pan.

Saute the chicken with a little salt, the onion, green chilies and garlic. You can add a small bit of olive oil, if you like. Cook until the chicken is done and the onion is limp.

Mix the Stoke's green chili sauce with the enchilada sauces and heat.

To prepare the casserole by assembling the layers as such:

3 corn tortillas spread along the bottom
Chicken mix
scoop or so of sauce
bunch of cheese
repeat this two more times.
Top with 3 corn tortillas

Place the completed casserole on a cookie sheet or something else to protect from bubbly overflow.
Cool for 15 min. before serving. Offer the sour cream and the jalapenos on the side for those what want them.
Enjoy - it is a big hit at our parties.
Bake until bubbly.