Monday, April 30, 2012

When Z Gets To Your Computer

Z is the little one in the middle
This blog is named A2Z Mommy and What's In Between not because I even pretend to know everything about parenting, or food, or life, but because it replicates my children's names. My youngest, Z, has quite a different life from his two older siblings, both of whom have A names, and most of those differences I believe are good. 
I started writing when Z was about 6 months old; I needed to vent and an outlet that wouldn't cause certain people to stop speaking to me. So, I started writing. The result is that my four year old has been more exposed to me doing a lot of typing and frantically jotting down notes than the other two. He loves to sit at the computer and *send* emails, *spell* his name, and *write* letters
While he's apparently reworking the English language (see below) Z is the first child to come close to having his fingers appropriately placed on a computer keyboard which automatically puts him ahead of his siblings (one of those good things). I figure that eventually he'll conform to the traditional English language just like the rest of us, but in the mean time, I love what he's doing now.

As my closing post to the A to Z April challenge, I'm so hoping that *guest bloggers* are permitted, as Z got to my computer and wrote a letter to his friend J:

Dear J,
zzzzzzssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssxzzzzzzxcvbnmlo876rdcvy65rfvytgvbfgdcvgrg5frdgrfgytrdfcvbghytrdxcvbnuy6trdsx ccvgty654rfgy6665rfg65rfgu6rfvrrdf5fv dc iyfcnkytfvbkygfgggggggfytftyfrtyrftyr tftyftyfryyyyyyyyyyyyjtrtrtrytrtyryrrrrrtyryrytrytrttytrt6yg5tghfduhuguh g hyndfhfhhgfgfdvhfghghfhfghgfhgfhfghgfghgffffffffffffffffffffffghfhfhfhgkfhgfhdfdghfhgfdhfghugiiugufuttughnfyhfjfhytguhfvfvuyf uhfucyhnyhfyvgggggggghchvcghcgh gh gc hg ghcghvggvcfddghhhghfhhfhgfhfdghbfdghjdfhjgfgfhdfgfgggggggggggggggggggggggfdghdjfghjgdgdfghfffhfhfhghfhghfhfjhfhfhgfhgfhgfhfhghgghfjkghfjkg, k;uyghuugtuguujgujrgkfkujgfutjhtgfuijvfujgfbhjgfbhjgfbvhgbuhgfihguuuhuuuuuuuuuiogtuigfijitutgjigfjhufiu

My A to Z posts were themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. I hope you've enjoyed reading them!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y Is For Yes Honey, There Is A Difference

Yes, there is a difference, but between what you ask?
Being a SAHM (Stay At Home Mother) and a housewife. I almost used this for my H post (housewife), but the picture of the half and half bars was so pretty, I couldn't resist. So, back to "Yes, honey there is a difference."
Being a SAHM means being able to do fun things like reading to a classroom, attend class parties, help kids pick out books from the library, or go on field trips. It also means being able to do errands during the week when there are fewer people in the stores, I've come to detest weekend shopping. And my personal favorite: summers off. Summer vacation is my reward for the rest of the school year of homework, class projects and a lot of driving.
The difference is the housewife part. Cleaning, dusting, picking up toys, laundry, need I go on? This is the part I feel like I didn't sign up for. Yes, I have come to appreciate having the house tidy and neat and (mostly) clean, but it's not the reason why I chose to stay home with my kids.
So yes, there is a difference. And given the choice, I'd love to do just the SAHM part, but for now, I'm also doing the housewife part.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Friday, April 27, 2012

X Is For Oxtail Soup

In preparing my posts, I figured the letter X would be a challenge. How many X-related things are out there with the prominent letter being X? Not many. But then, I started re-reading Like water for Chocolate and was reminded of the Oxtail Soup story. Oxtails wouldn’t exist without the letter X, so here is my X-ness.
In this story, which takes place in Mexico, Oxtail Soup is a cure all. Being very American, I had never had this dish, but was intrigued by it from the first time I read the book, about 20 years ago. Re-reading it this past February, I did my best to follow the recipe aspect of that chapter to come up with a way to make this cure-all. As I usually do, I tweaked what I was able to come up with and made the dish, allowing for some 2012 conveniences. The recipe I came up with is here and for my first time making a dish based on a story, it wasn’t too bad, but I honestly don'n know that I would make it again.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W Is For Winging It

In short, this is how I live my life- Winging it. While I can't always wing-it, as a mother of three who tries to squeeze in a writing job, reading, exercise and the necessary visits to school (that's why I'm home), I don't always have time to prepare for the "special" things. What special things? Class presentations, baking with 20 four-year olds and  the occasional committee meeting to plan school assemblies. Yes, I throw stuff together, add my sense of humor and a smile, and somehow it all works. I was like that even before having kids though, and I think one of the best compliments I received from one of my former bosses was that I have the ability to "wing-it" and be successful. It was right up there with being called a diamond in the rough.
If you can, try wining it some time- you might be surprised at the result.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V Is For Venting

V is for venting, and it's not always me venting, but I certainly do my share. It makes us feel good and often helps to realize we may not be the only person feeling a certain way, or experiencing something. One morning, while walking in the park, I passed one woman who was clearly venting while walking and talking on her cell phone. I heard bits and pieces about a mother, a Bat Mitzvah, and I'm sure more that I can't remember now. Later I heard two moms walking and venting about school. Venting is so good, and while I should probably feel annoyed listening to "venting in passing" I've done plenty of walking, talking, and venting myself.
Vent- you'll feel better.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U Is For Understanding My Mother

My mother always saw herself as the Little Red Hen

To know my mother is to, well, know my mother. She doesn't hold much back and has plenty to say. But to really understand my mother, all you have to do is listen to some of her favorite sayings. My sister and I grew up listening to her mantras and while they did get repetitive, the message certainly came across. Here are my three favorites:
People died so that you could vote. My mother believes in freedom, and in this expression she's referring to the American Revolution. A war fought so that the American people could be free and were ultimately free to vote and make their own decisions. Needless to say, every year on election day, my sister and I vote and remind each other that people died so we could so that.
If you don't say it, you can't be quoted. I've used this on my own kids and expanded it to if you don't email it, text it, it can't be forwarded. This is a lesson we've all had to learn- the women in my family have big mouths- all of us. I still repeat this mantra to myself often.
You're never just a little pregnant. This is my favorite and the one that scared me to death as a teenager, and a young woman in my twenties. Let's just say that it worked well enough that I never had to approach her and tell her I was just a little pregnant.

My A to Z posts were themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. I hope you've enjoyed reading them!

Monday, April 23, 2012

T Is For Taylor Ham

This is a Taylor Ham sandwich
If you're not from New Jersey, "Taylor Ham" is probably not something with which you're familiar. It is a truly "Jersey food." Technically it's a smoked pork roll, that happens to be make by the Taylor company. But, if you live here, it's just called Taylor ham and there's nothing like it for breakfast. Fried in a pan, or on a griddle, add a couple of slices of cheese and a roll or bread and viola! it's breakfast. We don't put it on pizza or anything strange like that, but it's completely acceptable for breakfast or lunch and if you live in my house, it's a staple of breakfast for dinner.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

S Is For Stephen King

He is the reason I read.
I started out with a reading deficit early on because I didn't learn to read until second grade. There are several reasons for this which in the spirit of brevity I will leave out. But, I was really far behind. As  result, I was always a slow reader, which made reading cumbersome.
As I got older and my sister blew through books, I was just not there, which is not to say that I didn't read, I did. I liked mysteries and read just about every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book in my mother's collection, which lived in my closet (along with a full set of World Book Encyclopedia) but I never felt a passion for reading. By the time I reached high school, I was reading only what was required, and nothing additional.
In my twenties I saw the book, It, by Stephen King. My mother had read a few of his books as had my best friend; I remember specifically Cujo and Pet Sematary being among them.  I was hooked! My interest in reading increased, and my speed of reading improved; as did my spelling. Going only from memory (and I'm sure I'm missing some), I continued on with The Tommyknockers, Needful Things, Pet Sematary, Thinner, Desperation, The Regulators, Dreamcatcher, Bag of Bones, The Stand, The Green Mile, Cell, Duma Key, and now 11/22/63 is on my shelf waiting for me.

And so, thank you, Mr. King for making a reader out of me.

* this post was scheduled to go yesterday for S day, and while I had heard of Blogger issues with scheduled posts, had yet to encounter the problem myself, until yesterday.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Friday, April 20, 2012

R Is For Reading

I love reading, but I haven't always (more on that in tomorrow's S post). It takes me away to another place, even if only for a few pages paragraphs before crashing out for the night. I always thought it was some kind of anomaly that I didn't like reading as a kid; so many people I knew loved it. So, I had a goal when it came to my own kids. My goal was to keep them interested in reading, and in order to do that they had to have the right books. My son was easy. He immediately took to the books in the classroom and never looked back. The challenge: getting him to move on to new books. My daughter, not so much. She wasn't into the books other kids were into in her class and as my first, I wasn't familiar with all that was out there. The best thing I did was to take her to the book store. We sat for about an hour perusing books. Once she found a series she loved, it was easy to keep her reading.
One thing I did go back to, that I wasn't expecting, was reading together. As my kids have gotten older, I've returned to reading with them. It's different this time; now we each read a chapter to the other and talk about the story. I've done this with each of my older children, and I believe they have benefited from two things. 1)  the additional one-on-one time together and 2) they've read books that no one else in their classes have read and that makes them special.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Perfect Picture Books- Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars

I'm happy to report that I actually made it through all of the PPB posts from last Friday, and I think I even read them all by Saturday morning. A major accomplishment for me and now I have quite the list for the library! This week, I'm going with space. We've had some warm clear nights recently, so it seemed appropriate. Enjoy!

Title: Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars
Written and Illustrated by: Douglas Florian
Publisher: Harcourt Inc., 2007
Suitable for: ages 4 and up
Themes/Topics: Poetry, science, astronomy
Opening: On a clear night you might try/ To gaze upon the starry sky./ A telescope or binoculars are/ Great aids to observe a star.
Brief Synopsis: Through beautiful rhyming poetry, this book covers the major and minor planets, the constellations, the galaxy, and a black hole. There is even a glossary
Links to resources: There is a poetry kit created by Douglas Florian here on the Harcourt website. The Skywalk app on the ipad is amazing to take outside, even on a cloudy night.
Why I chose this book: Aside from being educational, the rhyming makes learning about about stars.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q Is For Quite Different

Me and my sister in Huka Falls, New Zealand
Ah yes, quite different. I'm talking about my sister (she's the on one on the right). We are different enough in looks alone that we've been asked if we're biological sisters. The answer is always "yes" but it takes some talking to both of us (at the same time) to see our matching mannerisms and how then there is really no doubt.
Herein lies the beauty of being siblings. Despite our differences (physically and otherwise), we always have a good time together, still share private jokes, and know exactly what the other means when talking about "the dinner table" growing up. I can talk her off the ledge when she needs it, and she knows how to make me laugh. So, here's to being sisters and quite different.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P Is For Parchment Paper And Potato Chips

I love, love, love parchment paper. For anyone who has ever cooked with their oven, but hates the clean up, parchment paper is your new best friend and one of the best inventions ever. A fun thing to make on parchment paper is home made potato chips, you can even have fun by using different colored potatoes.
Here's how:
Heat your oven to 400 degrees
Wash your potatoes (and really, they can be just about any kind, but I like the smaller multicolored ones)
Thinly slice potatoes (you can use a food processor or mandolin for evenly sliced potatoes, or if you're having a particularly calm moment in the kitchen, go ahead and cut by hand)
Place potatoes in a bowl and toss with olive oil.
Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Sprinkle with salt.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until nice and crispy. (Ill be honest here, I didn't actually make a note of the time it took to make these, so watch your oven and your potatoes)
BTW- my kids LOVE these!

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O Is For Osso Buco

My Osso Buco is a lot like my chicken soup and my spaghetti sauce: a little different each time I make it. I won't say if that's a good thing or a bad thing, it's just my thing.
What I love about making this in my Crock Pot (the best Christmas present I have ever received!) is that I can start at 10 a.m. and dinner is ready whenever we are hungry. For my kids, that's somewhere around 5 (I have a snack cut-off time of 4:30) and for me, it's whenever my husband gets home from work. My Crock Pot keeps the dish warm without drying it out which is very beneficial in my house. 
Slow Cooker Osso Buco
4 veal shanks
1 cup of flour
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 large onion cut in eighths
3 carrots cut in quarters lengthwise
2-3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2-3 cups chicken broth
1 cup white wine
2 bay leaves
Juice from ½ lemon
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 small can of diced tomatoes, drained
Italian Seasoning, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste
What’s Next:
  • Put flour, salt and pepper in a pie plate or shallow dish.
  • Coat veal shanks in flour-salt-pepper mixture. Set aside.
  • Warm olive oil in a Dutch oven or large wide pot.
  • Brown veal shanks in olive oil for 3-4 minutes per side. Place in slow cooker.
  • Next, saute onions, carrots, and garlic in Dutch oven, adding more oil if necessary. These should only be cooked for 5-7 minutes. The vegetables should be browned, but not too soft. Toward the end of cooking, add a generous amount of Italian seasoning. Transfer to slow cooker with veal shanks.
  • Add chicken broth to slow cooker, filling to about 2/3 of the way up to the sides of the veal shanks.
  • Add white wine, bay leaves, lemon juice and cover.
  • Cook on high for 4-6 hours.
  • About 30 minutes before cooking is done, add the parsley, diced tomatoes and lemon zest if desired.
My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

N Is For Things I've Noticed

Red Velvet cake batter YUM. 
I almost called this post "Observations" but then I wouldn't have been able to use Osso Buco for tomorrow and I'd be N-less. In the spirit of keeping it short, I'll just list five things I've Noticed.

  • Reading for the A to Z had been more difficult than writing for it.
  • Cake batter and cookie dough always taste better raw. (See photo)
  • Children are born with a gene that automatically alerts them to the fact that you're on the phone. And, despite your best efforts to make all phone calls while they are in school, there's always just that one which comes after 3pm.
  • No matter how good my intentions are, there never seems to be enough time to so all the writing I need want to do.
  • However my day is going, good, bad, or busy, I'll almost always stop for a moment to feel the warmth of the sun on my face.
My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M Is For Meringue Cookies

You just can't go wrong with egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and chocolate chips! These are my all time favorite cookies and they are really so easy, and light, and tasty that they just need to be shared. I started making these in high school as I believe it's important to know how to make your favorite foods. This way you can eat them any time, and easily share with others. Here's the recipe. Enjoy!

2 egg whites
8 tablespoons suferfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (optional, but why wouldn't you?)

What's Next:
Preheat oven to 275.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of your mixer and let come to room temperature (about 30 minutes)
Beat on high.
When the whites become foamy, add vanilla. Then add sugar one tablespoon at a time.
When whites become stiff, stop beating.
Stiff egg whites are shiny and won't fall off the beater

Gently stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by spoonfuls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 45 minutes. Turn oven off, and let sit for another hour in the oven as it cools.

And there you have it! One of my favorite foods in the world!

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Friday, April 13, 2012

L Is For Laughing Out Loud

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a laugh out-loud kind of person. I've been told that it's infectious, but can be irritating embarrassing in a movie theater. I love laughing out loud. Even if I manage to do it only once in a day, it's enough to help me feel like I've had a great day. And I hate NOT feeling like I've had a great day. Now, if I could only manage to do it when my kids are giggling and doing their own laughing out loud at dinner, that might even be a better stress reducer than that glass of wine I start thinking about.

Perfect Picture Books: Otis And The Tornado

One afternoon in the library, a book on the shelf to my left caught my eye. The mostly black and white (cepia maybe?) drawings of a farm with an adorable little red tractor made me stop. I thought, "Oh, it's Otis. I'll check that out." But, to my happy surprise, it was actually Otis and the Tornado. We checked it out and read the story several times. I love the illustrations and the way Otis pops off the page in his red against the more neutral background colors of each sketch. It's a great follow up to the original story of Otis which has previously been featured on Susanna Hill's Perfect Picture Book Friday series. Enjoy!

Title: Otis and the Tornado
Written and Illustrated by: Loren Long
Publisher: Philomel Books, 2011
Suitable for: Preschool to age 8.
Themes/Topics: Storms, unfriendly animals,farms, helping others, making friends, bravery
Opening: Life was calm on the farm where the friendly little tractor named Otis lived. It was summer. The sun shined bright, the birds chirped, and after all the work was done, Otis and his friend the little calf liked to play. The story continues on to where the reader meets the unfriendly bull and because he is unfriendly, the animals don't play with him. But, when a tornado hits the farm, Otis helps his friends and is ready to wait out the storm when he hears the very sad sound of a scared bull.
Brief Synopsis: From the publisher: When a tornado threatens the farm, Otis the tractor must try to save the animals, including the unfriendly bull.
Links to resources: Loren Long has his own page of activities which includes drawing, matching, and mazes. Additionally, as we read through the story, I asked my son about tornadoes and wind and we talked about the pictures and how strong wind can be and the damage it can cause. We also talked about the farm animals and what they needed to do to be safe during a storm. It was a great conversation-inspiring story.
Why I chose this book: I was immediately drawn to the illustrations. As we read through the story, Otis and his innate senses of having fun and helping others comes through in almost every page. His bravery is admirable and to be honest, I'd love to know the bull's back-story. Why is he so angry and unfriendly?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K Is For Keeping With The Season

I love cooking with foods that are in season. There's always something to look forward to, and when spring arrives, I get my veggies on! For those of you who also like spring vegetables, here's a recipe for Risotto with Roasted Spring Vegetables. It's for a slow cooker and one of those foods I was able to just dig into with a spoon. A really big spoon. Enjoy! (Just for fun, I put this up on a food blog: 2sisters2cities. There are other spring onion recipes there too!)

Risotto With Roasted Spring Vegetables
2 golden beets, washed and green parts cut off
3 spring onions (not scallions, white part only)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into quarters or thirds depending on size of stalks
1/4 pound haricots verts, trimmed and cut into thirds
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Goya vegetable seasoning packet
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
What’s Next:
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Place asparagus, haricots verts, and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Wash beets, and trim onions. Place onions and beets in aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold up sides of foil and tuck in together to make a packet.
Place both the vegetable packet and baking sheet in the oven. Set timer for 45 minutes. Then remove cookie sheet. Leave beets and onions in for another 15-20 minutes. Be careful when removing foil packet as hot liquid may drip out.
Place water, risotto and vegetable seasoning in slow cooker. Stir together, cover and place on high setting. Your total cooking time is 2 1/2 hours, but the vegetables will be added about 3/4 of the way through, so you may want to set a timer.
When cool enough to handle, remove beets from packet, being careful to keep juices in tact in packet. Cut up beets into bite-size pieces and cut onions into quarters.
When there are about 30-45 minutes left of cooking time, place asparagus, haricots verts, beets, onions, cheese and accumulated juices into slow cooker. Stir to combine.
When rice is cooked through, serve and enjoy.
Notes from my experience:
I was nervous about not using chicken broth for flavoring, but the roasted vegetables, vegetable seasoning and the accumulated juices add a good amount of flavor.
Spring carrots are also in the stores, so if you don’t like beets, feel free to use carrots instead and be sure to save the juices as they will add both color and flavor.
My original publication of this recipe is here, with more pictures. I was trying to keep this short, but alas, was unsuccessful. Trust me, it's worth it.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J Is For Jumping Into The Blogosphere

It's really more like a blind leap of faith, a constant work in progress, an addiction, and even living in a separate world. Up until my jump here, I had made plenty of other jumps, but in many ways they were actually a bit easier.
Yes, this is me doing a back tuck a few weeks ago. A much less scary "jump"

Ski jumps: as a kid skiing, there was nothing like the rush of catching air and landing safely on two skis.
Tree jumping: growing up, we had a very tall pine tree in our back yard. I used to climb up to one branch..... and jump. Next round, same thing, but climb a little higher... and jump. I'd keep going until the branches seemed too thin and it hurt when landing.
Rappelling: harnessed to ropes and wearing a helmet, jumping backwards down a rock cliff was really fun.
Rap jumping: just like rappelling but face forward. This fun activity was accomplished in Australia and I'd do it all over again.
Bungee jumping: While traveling through New Zealand, we arrived at a beautiful spot for bungee jumping. Yes, I was with a group. No, no one wanted to go first, so I did.

All of these "jumps" were easier than jumping into the blogosphere. I had to teach myself what to do. I wrote for an audience of one for about two years and I didn't know how to really get to other blogs or how to market my own. While I've never had a problem sharing with others, here I have to remember my audience and not send the wrong message. Like many of you out there whose blogs I've visited, I started this to build my writing platform.
Was it worth it? Yes! What I've received since resurrecting my blog in the fall of 2011 is actual real live followers (THANK YOU!!!! THANK YOU!!!! I just hit 51), funny comments that have made me laugh out loud, lots of writing practice, and the opportunity to write in different genres; my favorite: Flash Fiction. So, while this has not been my easiest jump, it's certainly been a good one!

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Is For Ice Box Cake

I made an icebox cake a few years ago and brought it to a friend's house for dessert on New Year's Eve. As we entered the house, my friend's husband stopped me.
 "Is that an ice box cake?" he asked.
 "Yes," I said.
 "My mom used to make those. I haven't had one in years." 

I could tell that this little dessert was invoking memories. I had my own memories too. This was one of those staple desserts that my mom used to make for dinner parties, and if it wasn't an ice box cake, it was an apple pie. Simple but delicious. And by the way, great the next morning for breakfast too.
Sadly, I don't have a picture of the ones I've made in the past or the one I made earlier this winter for a holiday party (which I made with peppermint and green food coloring) but that was delicious. If you're up for either an adventure or a memory, here's the recipe:

1 pint heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons powdered sugar
1-2 packages chocolate wafers (Nabisco makes them)

What's Next:
Place cream in a large bowl.
With a hand mixer, beat at high speed until the cream begins to thicken. Slowly add vanilla and powdered sugar. Test for sweetness and keep beating until fully stiff and it looks like whipped cream; which is exactly what you are making.
Next, take a chocolate wafer and place a spoonful of whipped cream on it. Place another wafer on top of whipped cream. Place whipped cream on top of that wafer and then another wafer. Continue alternating and stacking, and when you get to about 7-8 wafers, you can lay this down on it's side and keep going. (You'll want a long rectangular platter).
When all of the wafers are done (or as many as you want to use) spread the remaining whipped cream over the top and around the sides of your stacked wafers.
Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. The whipped cream softens the chocolate wafers and you end up with a chocolate/vanilla layered piece of deliciousness.
To serve: cut slices sideways so it looks like zebra stripes.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Monday, April 9, 2012

H Is For My Favorite *Halfs*

No, "halfs" is not technically a word, but for this post, I'm just going to go with it. 
My favorite "halfs" are:
Half and Half Bars. Yes, that is the deliciousness that is pictured above. No, I didn't actually make those, my father did and they were awesome. The recipe is my grandmother's and if you click here, you will get said recipe. These are so good, you'll want them for breakfast and not feel guilty when you have the second one with the second cup of coffee.
Half Days. This is a new one for me. I used to dread when my kids had half days. By the time they got to school, I was so desperate for a little me time that the half day was KILLER. Now, I love them. My kids are home early, but that leaves more time for homework, AND play. There is no lunch on half days, so that means one less morning to scramble though to get everyone out the door on time.
Half Full. This is how I live. I won't use the cliche because you know what I mean. That perspective is representative of the only way I know to be, and I'm willing to bet that at one time or another it's probably saved me without me even knowing it.
So, here's to the *Halfs* in my life.
Do you have any favorite "halfs" or "wholes"?

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G Is For The Googleness of Life

Up until a few years ago, the only reference made to google was the number. Beyond infinity. I still don't really get that as I feel you can always add one more. Right? Crazy? Over thinking the whole thing? Maybe. Probably.
I love Google. It gets me my blog, my email, some pictures, my searches, and really anything can be "googled." With all of that though comes the challenges.
I just figured out how to use Google Reader two weeks ago. Yesterday I realized that it could be an app on my Google friendly android phone. I downloaded it hoping to be be able to keep up with my reading of the A to Z posts. Sadly, I'm still behind. Maybe that's what the Sundays are for. Anyone?
I still don't understand Google+ and don't have the time haven't made the time to figure it out.
Blogger. What a great platform for creating a blog. It's easy and pretty straight forward, oh and free! But there's the old dashboard and the new platform. Some things don't necessarily cross over from one to the other, so maybe it's just me but I am sure I'm missing something and could be using my Blogger tools better.

In the Googleness of life, would I be lost if I were Googleless? What do you think?

My A to Z posts were themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. I hope you've enjoyed reading them!

Friday, April 6, 2012

F Is For Floats

I had my first Root Beer Float with my grandmother at a Friendly's some time in the late 70s. I loved eating with my grandmother; she was all about french fries, ice cream and as I learned, Floats. My grandmother was a diabetic, so while she wasn't supposed to eat foods with sugar, there were cases of birch beer and root beer and sugary cereals at her house when we visited, that were of course reserved for her grandchildren. She also loved root beer floats and was known for only having "just a sliver" of cake.
I don't remember if on that day I had a traditional Root Beer Float (vanilla ice cream and root beer) or if that was the day I incorporated my favorite ice cream flavor: Chocolate Chip Mint. But, while some people look at me strangely when I ask for it, a Root Beer Float with Chocolate Mint Chip ice cream is delicious. My creativity kicking in, I've also tried vanilla ice cream with fruit flavored sodas like pomegranate and cranberry (the GUS brand is great) and chocolate ice cream with Dr. Pepper. You can have lots of fun with floats, so if you're into them, try some new flavor combinations and let me know what you like!

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Perfect Picture Books: Otto The Book Bear

In honor of National Library Week (thanks Vivian!), I'm sharing Otto the Book Bear.

Title: Otto the Book Bear
Written and Illustrated by: Katie Clemenson
Publisher: Disney, Hyperion Books, 2011
Suitable for: Ages 3-7
Themes/Topics: Reading, moving, libraries, book characters coming to life
Opening: Otto was a book bear. He lived in a book on a shelf in a house... and he was happiest when children read his book.
Brief Synopsis: Otto comes to life from the pages of his book, but accidentally gets left behind when his family moves away. He goes on an adventure that eventually takes him to the library where he finds many other book friends and children who love to read.
Links to resources: I spent a decent amount of time looking for online resources, but I feel like I'm noticing a trend in newer books not having a lot of resources. Anyone else? In the mean time, I think I would ask kids to talk about how they would feel if they were left behind, like Otto was. I would also ask them what kind of book they would want to be inside of and I'm willing to bet I'd have very different answers between my 8 year old and my 4 year old.
Why I chose this book: This book was recommended to me by the children's librarian in our public library. It was was of many books in a stack I checked out that day. I love the idea of a bear coming to life outside of a book, and how important it is for him to be read by children. It's how he really feels love and I think that's awesome.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E Is For Eggs

Eggs have had such a waxing and waning role in my life. I didn't really like them as a kid. Then I had a fried egg and was smitten with the delicious runny yolk-- perfect for dipping toast or bacon. While pregnant with my daughter I had a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich every day for 9 months (really 10, but that's a girl thing). Fast forward a couple of years, my son had an egg allergy. No more eggs. They weren't banned necessarily, but we didn't eat a lot of them either. He outgrew his egg allergy, but never really came to like them unless they were part of a cookie, pancake or brownie. Then I had one more son who, not surprisingly, also had an egg allergy. At 4, he's outgrown it, and actually likes eggs. So, we're back to lots of eggs in the house, and as this post is coming just before Easter, it feels appropriate to share that this is the first time in 10 years that I'll be dying actual, real, hard-boiled eggs with my kids for Easter. I've been waiting for a very long time to do this and am one excited Easter Bunny!

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D Is For Distractions

Distractions. Kids. Distractions. They're inevitable enough so that I can't even count the number of blog posts I've seen where people ask, offer help for, or just vent about distractions. I don't think there is much that can be done about them. Whether you work at home or in an office they're there. Taking it a step back, even when I'm home and not working, just doing the "mom" thing as it were, there are other distractions coming from my kids. Distractions that keep me from finishing up doing dishes, making dinner, folding laundry- you name it. So, I guess the lesson here is that no matter what we do or how hard we try, there are always distractions, and as you'll see in my Z post, if you can make them work for you, then maybe they're not that bad.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C Is For Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Poundcake

I know, two food postings in a row. YUM! 
Chocolate and Cinnamon together- even more YUM!
This post includes a recipe that I have to share because it's so easy and so good. My kids love it and in my opinion, you just can't go wrong combining Cinnamon and Chocolate.
Amy, I know I tell you every day, but thanks for sharing this with me last summer. This is just one reason why my kids think you are so fabulous!

  • 2 1/2 cups sugar (separating out 1/2 cup)
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 block of Baker's Semi-Sweet chocolate, grated
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray two loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a small bowl mix the reserved 1/2 cup sugar with the 3 teaspoons of cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. Into a large bowl sift flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 2 cups sugar.
  4. In a separate bowl combine eggs, milk and oil then add to flour mixture.
  5. Pour half of the batter into prepared loaf pans.
  6. Sprinkle half of the chocolate cinnamon sugar mixture into the pans. Pour the remaining batter into the pans then top with the rest of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Using a skewer or knife swirl the batter around being careful to reach the bottom layer so that you will have a nice swirl pattern when sliced.
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes checking with a toothpick because ovens vary.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Monday, April 2, 2012

B Is For Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie. This was my dad's favorite, and I'm sure still is. As the baker in the family, he's moved on to other things like Lemon Meringue and complicated works of dessert I don't dare attempt.  I don’t consider myself a baker, mostly because I’m not very good at it. But, I can hold my own with a pie.
I've been disappointed so often in other people's pies, and by that I mean stores and restaurants, that a couple of summers ago I made it my business to get better at pie making. A year or so after that, I inherited my grandmother's pie plate. A plate that I'm almost afraid to use because it's irreplaceable, literally, and I've broken so many other things in my life.
Last summer in the spirit of winging it (see future post on 4/26) I started getting creative by adding spices not called for in a recipe and mixing fruits. Last fall, I added cranberries to an apple pie for Thanksgiving and I keep looking for rhubarb in the stores so I can play with that. Even in my winging it though, some things will remain the same when it comes to pies: about half of the time I don't make my own crust, and I will always and forever, without a doubt make a crumb topping. I just don't see the point in two crusts.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Is For Air

Air. It's the simplicity of it, but yet the power it exudes. Gravity is part of air, and while it usually wins, it doesn't always.
Air is what I flew through when bungee jumping or rappelling. Air is what I flow through every time I do a round off back handspring, which I have happily just picked up again at the age of 41. Air is what my son runs circles around with arm outstretched. It's incorporated in the sunsets I make my kids look at each night, and it holds the stars we admire regardless of the temperature.
I love flying through the air, especially when using my own hands and feet.

My A to Z posts are themed with food, parenting and life, but not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!