Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve Pancakes: A New Tradition??

I did a wee bit of internet searching yesterday looking for a few new customs to add to our New Year's Eve repertoire. We usually stay home and have champagne, 12 grapes, and black eyed peas at midnight (stemming from our Key West upbringing); it could definitely use some shaking up as well as some pre-midnight fun that Amelia can join in. One custom that I stumbled upon (from France, maybe?) was eating pancakes. Sounds promising...
Of course, the little black chair was dragged into the kitchen: 
And lots of whisking occurred:  
The result? Very yummy stacks courtesy of a recipe found here:

If I may say, thank you so much for taking the time to drop by this little space. I wish each of you a wonderful, fabulous, fantastic 2010! 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Barefoot Wednesday ?!: Repurposing Leftover Tomato Sauce

Let me preface this entire post by saying I am on vacation from work, which is why such a thing as homemade dough managed to happen mid-week. 
It began with my determination not to purchase any food for dinner-making-purposes until we had made good use of all the food leftovers, etc. from the holiday company. This included the giant pot of tomato sauce that was made on Sunday. The life cycle of said sauce?

  •  Sunday: Meatball Subs...Whenever I make meatballs, I make a bunch and we have subs because I don't have enough large pots to make meatballs, sauce, and pasta. Plus it's just yummy. 
  • Monday: Meatball subs again ;) 
  • Tuesday: Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Wednesday: Homemade pizza!

I have done this before with leftover sauce, using Pillsbury pizza dough, which suits me fine during the week. Since I'm on break and had the ingredients in the house (except honey, so I substituted sugar), I decided to go for Ina Garten's pizza dough. You can find it here as part of the white pizza with arugula recipe. 
The pizza dough got rave reviews by all, including the little one, who declared it "awesome." Like Ina's recipe, I chose to make each of us our own little pizza. And now the sauce is gone;)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hand-painted Graphic Tee: Fingerprints

This was made a few weeks back, but I couldn't show it here for obvious reasons (hi, Dad!). I am always on the lookout for cool t-shirts for my dad, who lives in South Florida and thus does not require gifts of the knitted kind :) He is also a lover of handmade gifts, so I thought I would combine the two this Christmas. Making a t-shirt was not an option (no surprise there :), but I was able to buy a very nice, dark brown cotton tee at the craft store for a very reasonable price. Win!
I wanted the shirt to be a hand-painted gift from Amelia; yet, I really wasn't into the thought of an Amelia "free-style" painting on it. Instead, I dipped her index finger into fabric paint, and made just one row of dots across the top and stopped at that. Less is more in my opinion. I also chose to inch the line closer to the neckline of the shirt, for risk of it looking a tad Charlie-Brownish in design if I put it any lower. 
It was so easy! I could see this being a great present for t-shirt lovers, with so many finger-print design options for even the youngest of painters to be a part of. Feel free to take it and run with it! 

Monday, December 28, 2009

More Than This

You haven't seen a "book bits" post here in some time; partly due to the holiday hustle and bustle, but also due to me being a little stuck. I really wanted to love this book. The first fifty or so pages were of those books where you can enjoy the author's words instead of just reading to see what happens. 
Flip forward fifty pages and I just couldn't maintain an interest level. I like the story (click here for a description), I like the two main characters, and yet...maybe it's because I am impatient and I want the characters to get together immediately, or maybe the secondary characters play too much of a role for my taste. 
My friend S. is an English teacher. She says that there are too many wonderful books in this world to muddle through one that is just not working for you. So it is here, page 178, that I stop. 
This book was well-reviewed on Amazon, so I am going to go with an "it's not you, it's me" review here, folks. That is to say, I think someone else may find it delightful. 
Please let me know if you are up for it and I will send it your way! 
PS: Fair Warning: my books tend to be of the dog-earred and coffee-stained variety ;)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Barefoot Sunday: Cheese Puffs

To date, I had been avoiding making anything of Ina's that included a "Pâte à choux" dough (French pastry dough, pronounced "Pah ta shoo"), due solely to the intimidation factor--though her profiteroles make my mouth water every time I watch that episode. This Sunday, I was up to the challenge since I had my mom (a.k.a., a willing victim) to help me in the kitchen ;)
We watched, with fervor, over this little pot...what in the world is scalded milk supposed to look like? 
Then, immediately after adding the flour, we took turns beating the mixture "vigorously with a wooden spoon," per the recipe. It created this giant lump o' stuff that would have terrified me had I not seen Ina already make her own lump o' stuff on the profiterole episode. 
In the Cheese Puffs recipe, out of Barefoot in Paris (Thanks, Jason!), Ina says that while a Pâte à choux dough seems complicated at first, you essentially end up getting the hang of it. I would agree with that whole heartedly, it was certainly complicated but not as scary as I was making it out to be.
About 40 cheese puffs disappeared with the blink of an eye. That should tell you plenty about the recipe :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Two Crafty Mama's Make Jewelry

My own crafty Mama brought up with her a treasure trove of beading fun! It's so pretty to look at in its organized glory, but bust into it we did, making necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and more. 
I must say that this nifty tray made it so much easier (only a few minutes were spent on hands and knees searching for misfit beads):
And if you will excuse my messy bun, here are the earrings I made to wear out to dinner tonight: 

I used jewelry-making pliers to bend the post in order to snake it through the large bead and then straighten it back out. Otherwise, you would see the silver wire running through the "donut hole" area--tricky, but worth it I think. 
Thanks for the crafty fun, Mom!
PS: Barefoot Sunday Tomorrow--Man, time travels fast when you're having fun!

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Happy, Messy Home

I write this amidst a happy, messy home. Full of life, love, and a whole lot of remnants from a day's worth of celebration: unwrapped boxes and ribbons, a nearly-finished family jigsaw puzzle, half-assembed toys, piles of already loved-on toys, dishes from various solo-ventures back into the desserts from last night. This is my favorite kind of mess! 
PS: This photo is of my nativity set made my Lladro, given to me by Jason's parents long ago. I love it. A beautiful reminder of why we celebrate this day. 
PPS: Tune in tomorrow for "regular programming ;)"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Merry Christmas Eve

Hello, all! My little one is snug in her bed and so not asleep yet! 
It has been an evening filled with tradition: 
~ making & eating lasagna
~ watching A Charlie Brown Christmas (Linus makes me cry every year!) 
~ opening one present each...pajamas to be worn tonight!
~ putting out milk and cookies for Santa and
~ putting out reindeer food
~ reading: Twas the Night Before Christmas
The reindeer food was a tradition started by Amelia's preschool: It's oats mixed with glitter; quite pretty actually! And so fun to include along with Santa's treats. 

A lovely, safe, and wonderful Christmas Eve to all! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Catering to Your Crowd

My family is nearly here! About 40 minutes away I am told--just enough time to chat!
In planning the meals that will occur over the next few days, I had to keep reflecting on what was important: dishes that I can make ahead so I get to be part of the fun and dishes that all family members will actually eat and enjoy (no one likes to be left out!). So, no fancy pastries or snazzy roasted vegetables of one shape or another or large birds to baste. Nope. Today, just some burgers, hot dogs, baked macaroni and cheese, and cupcakes. Tomorrow? Lasagna and chocolate cream pie. Yum. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Scarf for My Boy

I want to knit a successful scarf for my husband Jason so badly. He deserves it. My first attempt at knitting was a scarf intended for him, yet that failed miserably. Since then, I have an Amelia scarf and a Danielle knitted necklace under my belt, so I think I am ready to take the project on. Thankfully, he's chosen a nice giant yarn (check out those massively huge 9mm needles!) and since the first official day of winter was just a day or two ago, I am hopeful to have his scarf completed before beach season ;)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cookies and Lights at Caroline's

Annually, our dear friend Caroline opens up her house to several families with young children. She feeds us yummy food and then entertains our children by baking & decorating cookies with them--making a fine mess of her lovely home while we grown-ups chat on the sidelines (awesome). Then, we all bundle up and walk down the block to see the beautiful Christmas lights at a neighborhood park. It was soooo cold, but that's all part of the fun and memories! Here are my favorite images:
Thank you, Caroline!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Barefoot Sunday: Sunrise Smoothie

This was a fun, easy, and delicious breakfast concoction. The flavor was smooth, and not overpowered by any particular ingredient. Also, I very much enjoyed the lack of banana in the recipe--the strawberry/banana flavor combo is not my favorite. You can find the recipe right here at love when that happens!
In the Barefoot Contessa episode where this smoothie is made, Ina serves it to her pals alongside a sour cream coffee cake. Sounds delicious...but if I am going to make it until lunch without getting crabby I am going to need some protein; so our smoothies were enjoyed with scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast (with help from Amelia :): 
In doggie news: Isa enjoyed some extra watermelon while practicing her "sit"--she's almost got it! Now, if we can only get her to use the new doggie door...
I love Sunday mornings. Have a lovely, lovely day.  

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Photos and Captions from Today

Finally, sunshine! 
Oh, the things we will do for our children; i.e., wait in a crowded and sensory-overloading line at the mall for over 45 minutes to see Santa. 
Ah, finished! Now time to relax...and read/write blogs :)

Barefoot Sunday Breakfast tomorrow! 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Winding Down

Today was the last day of school for me and Amelia as we head into our Christmas Break. I am so excited to finish some crafts, books, and whatnot and then begin some new crafts, books, and whatnot--with some family and holiday fun in the middle. 
This evening, though, we are simply winding down from all of the energy and excitement of the past few weeks and settling in. My lovely, exhausted Amelia put herself to bed before Jason even got home:
That was the best picture I was willing to get for risk of waking her. While she sleeps, I am just going to relax, ignore the clutter, and look forward to a fresh new day tomorrow. 
Happy Friday all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Orangette's Pasta with Fried Prosciutto, Parmesan, and Butter

When I read Orangette's post about this meal last week, my mouth watered and I was waiting for the perfect day to make it. Ta da! It was today. This meal is delicious, fast, doesn't dirty a slew of pots, and only required one purchase beyond my pantry staples (the prosciutto). It was yummy and I'm still full ;)
I do feel compelled to tell you, friends, a little more about this little picture and this little blog. I do like to take pretty pictures. I also like to keep this blog a positive-feeling place to visit. Yet, I do not want to pretend I'm something or someone that I am not. If I were to zoom out from this particular shot, here is what you would see: the rest of the kitchen table whose top is cluttered with ornaments, wrappings, a lunchbox, papers, mail, and a few non-refrigerated groceries still in the plastic bags because I forgot to bring in my green bags yet again. Just keepin' it real, folks!
PS: If you make this, you absolutely must follow the recipe's calling for unsalted butter because prosciutto is already so salty. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In the Works and Dreams

I love flowers (as you can tell from my various "pretty picture" posts, I'm sure.) I also love to create. Mostly in the past I have used acrylic paint on canvas for creating flower images. This one I painted for my dad last year, based on a photograph I took in my grandparents' house in New York: 
And here is a very early stage in a new idea creating flower images out of fabric and felt: 
My dream is to one day have my own little corner of the art/craft world. My little dream company even has a name already...but I'm not going to tell you quite yet ;) For now it just exists in my head. Someday soon....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Trying to Keep the Balance

Jason and Amelia had their favorite Chinese take-out for dinner tonight while I attended a work function...very appropriate given these cute little Christmas "take-out"containers that Amelia's gifts to give are wrapped in. Along with Christmas cards, that has been the only crafting really happening around these parts. Really, I am striving for balance between what I would like to do, or feel like I should do, and what I am really mentally, emotionally, and physically capable of doing. Aren't we all, though? So, tonight, during this late post I wish for you all balance, peace, and joy. Now pass the chopsticks--I'm ready for some leftovers! 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Torte-Turned Sandwich...and Some Pictures Too

Hello! Boy, was today Monday for the three of us in my little family...I am officially giving myself the night off from holiday to-do's and will very shortly park myself on the couch for some deliciously mindless television watching. First, though, I would love to share what became of the leftover torte: 
I microwaved the vegetables just long enough to take the chill off (about 45 seconds). Then, I spooned it over a day-old baguette, sprinkled some shredded mozzarella over it, and put it in the oven at 350 degrees until the bread was nice and crispy. It was so tasty that I would venture to say I might make the torte just to get to the leftovers :) 
We had a lovely 30-minute respite from the nasty, depressing weather yesterday; I promptly leashed up Isa and Amelia and I took her on a neighborhood stroll, trying our hardest to avoid the puddles and grass so saturated it felt like quicksand. Of course, I brought the camera: 
PS: Though not the prettiest, this last picture is my favorite. Do you think, perhaps, they are just not speaking to each other? I wonder what happened...:)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Barefoot Sunday: Roasted Vegetable Torte

This was, easily, the very best dish that I have made so far. 
Here's why: 
* Ina's directions created a perfectly seasoned and endlessly delicious dish. I could've just pulled up a chair to the platter and eaten the whole thing (but that would be bad manners, don't you think?)
* The kitchen smelled mouth-watering. 
* The prep-time and clean-up were both short, and totally worthy of the dish.
* It's stunning; a definite crowd pleaser in terms of presentation, yet not at hard as it looks. 
* The feeling of pride when you flip it over and the torte comes out just right...ah, bliss!
Here's how it began: 
Flipping through the books for ideas...I wanted something earthy, but not heavy, as the holiday pounds are already coming between me and my favorite jeans: 
Found it! And purchased the provisions: 
The fun kind of chopping where you feel like a culinary expert: 
And the big reveal...ta da!!!
PS: Yes, my "serving platter" leaves much to be desired...just pretend you don't see it ;)
PPS: You can find the recipe in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Handmade Gifts By Amelia (Don't Peek, Family!)

Amelia has been making Christmas gifts for our close family ever since her tiny hands could  finger paint. The first time was when she was just over a year and a half; she finger painted designs on a few sheets of thick paper and then I cut, laminated, hole-punched, and ribboned them into bookmarks (one is lovingly saving my page right now!). Since then she has painted magnets, frames, and little store-bought clay sculptures.  This is a cherished tradition for us, as it is one of our gifts to her, in a way. When our family members open their gifts from her, I don't watch their reactions; I watch her face light up with the joy that comes from giving. 
This morning we braved the rain: 
Had a little lunch out (still raining): 
And gathered the supplies for this year's project: 
Here is her progress so far: 
I will likely leave the finished products a mystery for now (these are only part-way finished). Tune in tomorrow, friends, for a delicious Barefoot Sunday!