Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A quick weekend getaway

We spent last weekend in Ocean City, NJ.  Thursday was our 20th anniversary so we did what anyone would do and took the kids with us to the beach.  We usually go by ourselves but it just wasn't in the cards this year.

It was a beautiful weekend.

The beach was lovely.  The waves were fun and the water was cool.  Maybe 66 degrees but I'll go in as long as it's above freezing. 

I also made this pretty vignette...tiny, tiny shells.
We went out to dinner on Saturday but there was nothing special enough to take a picture of.  Why places say things are spicy when they are not even close, I'll never know.  And I fall for it every time and I'm always disappointed.  You'd think I'd learn but I keep trying to find the perfect spicy item.  I usually have to make my own.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

At least the view is pretty...

I've been getting up in the wee hours lately and this is what I had the pleasure of viewing bright and early the other morning:

At least this is pretty.  The bathroom I took it from is still hideous and now that it's summer, it's scorching hot with no air conditioning.  It is a nice view though.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What's Sid been doing?

Sid has been scratching floors, barking at things that aren't a threat and staring off into space in a disconcerting manner.  He's insane and not in a good way.  In the beginning of February Sid developed separation anxiety.  Every time I would leave to take a kid to school or go to work, he would park himself in front of the door and growl and bark and snap at me if I wouldn't take him with me.  Hospitals as a rule do not like dogs so he has to stay home.  It got so bad that I was starting to get scared of him, which really doesn't help but he grabbed me with his teeth and it was frightening.  I took him to the vet and she suggested we try Prozac.  It's been three months and he was doing ok and then it started up again.  I don't know what to do with him.  He needs to live with someone who is home all the time, has a one story house with no slippery floors and isn't bothered by a dog that walks backwards frequently.  I'll keep looking for this person or if you perhaps know someone who fits that description, please contact me.  I'm not sure I'll make it for another 5 or 6 years.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Storm Clouds Over Philly

We were driving back from Margate yesterday and hit a really big storm on the AC expressway.  By the time we got to Philly, this is what we saw.  It's taken from the car window as we were crossing the Walt Whitman bridge.

The beach was lovely and the water was warm enough to swim in, of course I'll go in regardless of how cold it is but it was fun.  Our first beach trip this season.

Monday, May 13, 2013

My running friends

The very best thing about taking up a more serious running habit has been the friends I have made along the way.  Mary, Jen and I have been running together for almost 2 years because Mary was a big girl and asked at the end of our running group if I would like to join her for some runs over the rest of the summer.  Of course I said yes because she's fab and she's an only child too so it's like we're kindred spirits.  She already knew Jen so she joined us as well.  Susan came along a little while later when her running buddy sustained an injury.  We all belong to a much larger running group but it's always been the four of us at 5:30 in the morning, year round.  We've had a lot of fun training for some longer runs...freezing to death or roasting or even getting rained on (except Susan - she melts in the rain).  We have all done the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia for at least the last two years (I joined in last year but they've all done it more than that).  This is us last year after we finished the 10 miles.
Susan, Me, Mary and Jen
We just did it again on Sunday.  Everyone did great except for me.  I think I ripped a calf muscle but have to wait for the official diagnosis.  (It's official... I have a slight tear...it's much better already)  I hobbled the last 2 miles.  It wasn't fun.

Anyway, I'll never be one for a marathon but Mary ran her very first on Sunday, all by herself.  Running 26.2 miles on Mother's Day is not my cup of tea.  Nor is it the other 364 but it's very exciting for her.

Because she's such a good friend, I wanted to do something nice for her so she knew I was rooting her on so this is what I came up with...yummy chocolate cupcakes with vanilla bean icing and inspirational cookie toppers.  I hope she likes them!  I had a much more grand idea in mind but you know what they say about best laid plans.  I need to practice my writing and get the right icing consistency.  That would be a start.  Also, I need to remember to take photos before I'm running out the door with the box.

And run she did.  Yippee!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pinkies Chocolate Lunch Box Treats

Remember the Hostess SnoBalls of your youth?  I used to love those things so when I saw the recipe for Pinkies Chocolate Lunch Box Treats in The Back In The Day Cookbook I knew I had to try them.  I've had the book since Christmas but hadn't gotten a chance to try anything from it yet.  I think I baked far too much at Christmas and I was kind of done with cake for a while.
I even had the coconut extract that it required so I was good to go.  There are a lot of steps but it's not a hard recipe even though it does take a while.  The cupcakes were so good that I'll definitely use that recipe again.  I made the icing/filling which is an odd recipe with a cooked milk/flour slurry that you beat into butter and powdered sugar.  It does make a nice fluffy icing however I do have one problem.  I found that I really, really, really don't like coconut extract.  Who knew.  I don't think I ever used it before.  Also, they call for powdered food coloring which I didn't have but I used regular red liquid food coloring and shook up the coconut in a plastic bag until it was pink.  It worked pretty well. 
You have to remove the cupcakes from the paper liners and dig out a small hole in the middle for the filling. 
Mine weren't all that pretty but that's ok because you cover them in icing and coconut anyway.  So you pipe some icing into the holes and then you are supposed to refrigerate them but I didn't because I'm impatient.  Then you ice the whole outside (except for the bottom) and dunk them in coconut.  Place them nicely in a cute cupcake liner (that you can't see in this picture) and they turn out like this:

They look like what they're supposed to but I couldn't get past the coconut flavoring.  Frank and Dylan both liked them but I ended up making some plain vanilla buttercream and filling and icing some with that and topping them with coconut.  The cake was delicious and I'll definitely make them again but with just vanilla flavoring.  I think the coconut on the outside is enough.  Or maybe I just bought a dud bottle of coconut emulsion.  It's long gone now.

I'm looking forward to trying something else from this book.  During a lovely bout of insomnia last night I reserved four new cookbooks from the library so we'll see how that goes too.  I might actually find something else exciting to make.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dr. Seuss's Birthday

When your dh teaches 4th grade, Dr. Seuss is a big deal.  In previous years he's done door decorating contests which I had lots of fun with.  This year they are doing stuff but nothing that I could entertain myself with so I had to come up with a plan on my own.

I googled Dr. Seuss cookies and found this.  I couldn't find neon food coloring but they turned out cute anyway.  I really wanted to do some royal icing decorated cookies and I found lots of lovely examples but the time constraints just wouldn't allow it so I went for these instead.

I used Georganne's (aka LilaLoa) vanilla variation recipe that you can find here.  It worked really well.  I didn't chill it first and used about 4 cups of flour.  Also I only used vanilla extract because that's what I like.

Anyway, here's the recipe:

The Vanilla Variation
from LilaLoa
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 (or 4 1/2 cups) flour
Cream the butter and the sugar together well.  Add the eggs one at a time and mix well.  Add the vanilla.  Add in the salt and baking powder (which I think I used baking soda this time by accident and it worked fine).  Mix.  Add in the flour.  If you are using the dough right away you can add the whole amount of flour.  If you are going to chill it, stick with 4 cups even if it's a little sticky.  It will depend on the weather, the season, lots of things.  I used only 4 cups and used the dough right away and it was fine.

Separate the dough into however many colors you want and dye it with food coloring.  Using gloves is smart unless you like rainbow colored hands.

Pinch off a small piece and roll it into a ball.  I got about 25 or so from each color.  My purple looks brown in the picture.  It's not.  It's ugly purple.  I should have gotten a mixing chart out but I just squeezed in some red and blue and got a moderately unpleasant looking purple.  I doubt the 9 year olds will mind.

Take one ball from each color and make a ball, then start rolling it out into a snake like log.  Make note of the greasy fingerprints I've managed to put on my counter top from doing this!
Coil it around in a circle and place it on a baking sheet.  Leave a little room in between because they kind of puff up a bit. Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes.  I put the timer at 10 and kept my eye on them. 

The original idea I saw had sprinkles around the outside and while I did that they kind of ended up baking up underneath the cookie so they were unnecessary in my book.  I'll leave them off next time.  It might be nice to dip the rims in melted white chocolate and then dip them in sprinkles if you really want something like that but I lacked the time and the inclination to do it but it's an idea.

Also, after doing a whole tray with the bigger balls, I decided to pinch my colors in half and them put them together in a ball.
I liked the look I got with this better.  More variation in color.

Here's what they looked like when I got done.

They're colorful and Seuss like.  See how the sprinkles are?  I don't like that part but the rest is ok.  Plus I had fun making them.  We'll see how they go over.  And I promise the purple is prettier than it is in the photograph.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chocolate Sable Cookies

I've been eyeballing this recipe on the Smitten Kitchen website for a week or more and I had to wait to get my dutch process cocoa from Amazon so I finally got a chance over the weekend to make these cookies.  Why grocery stores don't stock dutch cocoa I will never know.  I'm sure I could have found it somewhere but it's easier to wait for the UPS person.
 Anyway, they were worth the wait.  I had a little trouble with the recipe and made a few changes to the original recipe.  I had to add an extra egg yolk and when that didn't make the dough come together I added two more tablespoons of butter and beat the heck out of it.  That did the trick.  I was worried the texture wouldn't be sandy and sable like but they came out just fine.
I have much baking on the agenda for Valentine's day.  These were just for us but I'm making a couple of things for my husbands 4th grade class.  It'll be fun.  Maybe I'll share.