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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Old-Fashioned Hard Candy

Another Christmas-time creation, another moment of nostalgia for me. 
DS7_8141 Twelve years ago, when my husband and I bought our house, my neighbor brought me some home-made hard candy at Christmas.  I had one of those moments where you you feel like your life is rewinding at a high rate of speed.  Everything around me went blurry. I probably went a little slack-jawed as I whooshed (yes, that's a word in my house) back to when I was about seven years old.  I was at my great-aunt Garn's house.  (Maybe it was Jane's? or Sal's?  My grandmother had a lot of sisters.)  I remember being there with lots of cousins that I didn't really know, but we were of course expected to play together nicely, and not be too loud, and for God's sake, don't knock over the damn houseplants.  I remember it being late, and being tired, but my mom and gram were not done visiting yet.

 Then I discovered Garn's candy jar.  It was filled with these beautiful, colorful, irregularly-shaped candies.  They reminded me of pieces of stained glass, except more delicious and digestable.  In my mind, I was in a dark room, with white Christmas lights in the background that made the candy sparkle.  Made the candy irresistable.  And I snuck piece after piece, licking the powdered sugar off of my fingers so as to hide the evidence.

Going back to my neighbor: she is a dear woman, and after I had a complete spaz attack because I hadn't seen that candy in 20 years and I was so excited, she agreed to teach me how to make it.  And now I share that knowledge with you. 

Old-Fashioned Hard Candy

Ingredients:
  • 2 C. Sugar
  • 1 C. Water
  • 3/4 C. light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. flavor oil (I use LorAnn)
  • food coloring
  • powdered sugar
DS7_8153DS7_8143Combine sugar, water and corn syrup in a 2 quart heavy saucepan.  Stir until sugar is dissolved, then cook without stirring.  Once it is boiling well, lower heat and cook more slowly to 300 degrees (hard crack stage.)  While it is cooking grease (with margarine) a cookie sheet and cover with powdered sugar.  Once it hits 300 degrees, remove pan from heat.  Add food coloring and oil flavoring.  Stir well and pour onto cookie sheet..  Sprinkle more powdered sugar on top.  Allow to cool a bit and then cut with kitchen shears or break apart with your fingers.

Word of warning...do not put your face too close to the mixture as you are pouring in the flavor.  Not that my sister ever did that while making the hot cinnamon flavor, nor did she burn her face.  Nope.
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Perfection in a Cookie


tootsThere is nothing that brings memories of my Grandma Toots rushing back more than baking her orange cookies.  Well, maybe the mixed up telling of an off-color joke, but that’s just not very grandmotherly, now is it?  (Sorry, Toots!) She would gush about these cookies and how pretty they are.  Also, she was proud of how well they freeze.  I’ve never frozen them.  My husband makes sure they find a good home.
Orange Rind
Anyway, as a kid, I remember going to see her in the summer and she’d have a plate of orange cookies out.  And I, being the picky little turd that I was, refused to eat them because of the orange rind.  I was, quite obviously, deranged.


As I got older, and less of a spaz about food texture, I realized how yummy they are.  And then when I got even older, married and had my son, I decided I needed to start baking them.  Gram sent me the recipe and I still have it in my recipe box, in her handwriting, full of warnings and admonitions.  DON’T LET THEM GET TOO BROWN.

There were several Christmases when she was able to help me bake them.  She hovered over me, like a disapproving school marm, critiquing the size and color of the cookies and the consistency of my frosting.  Gram passed away a few years ago, but I still hear her when I make them.  I now use a handy little cookie scoop to keep the size and shape more consistent.  I may let my frosting get a little too runny.  But I never, ever let them get too brown. 

Grandma Toots’ Orange Cookies (Toots is like foot, not boot.)

Ingredients: 
·         2 C. sugar
·         2 eggs
·         1 C. buttermilk or sour cream
·         1 C. Crisco
·         2 medium oranges
·         2 tsp. baking powder
·         1 tsp. baking soda
·         Dash of salt
·         4 ½ C. flour, sifted

Grate rind of oranges.  Set aside 1 tbsp. for frosting.  Juice oranges and set juice aside.  Mix sugar and Crisco (beat well.) Add eggs, orange juice and rind, beat well.  Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda together and add to mixture, alternating with sour cream (or buttermilk.)  Drop by teaspoon on greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.  Makes 7-8 dozen.  Don’t let the cookies get too brown! 

Ready to Bake

Fresh from the oven

Frost with Ornamental Frosting
Ornamental Frosting

Ingredients:
·         ¼ C. Margarine, softened
·         4 C. sifted powdered sugar
·         2 egg whites
·         1 tsp. vanilla
·         ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
·         1-2 tsp. milk
·         Orange rind

Mix margarine and sugar.  Beat well.  Add unbeaten egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar.  Beat thoroughly.  Add milk and beat until it is of spreading consistency.  Mix in orange rind.

Frost.  Try not to lick your fingers.  Or lick them and keep it a secret.  It's your call.  Enjoy!
My Grandma's Orange Cookies






Thursday, December 1, 2011

10 Things about Breaking Dawn

Beware: There be Spoilers.
1. It's entirely unfair that this didn't come out when I was 15. I could have enjoyed it guilt-free.
2. The CGI seemed much improved. I wanted to pet the wolves.
3. Why weren't the vampires all sparkly at the wedding?
4. How in the hell did no one notice that Emmitt looked like he had clown make-up on? He was only pasty on the face. It was very distracting.
5. Jasper still reminds me of a wooden dummy.
6. The entire wolf-growling-human-voiceover Jacob-decides-to-be-alpha scene was so awful and cringe-worthy that the only words I have for it are not appropriate. And I use lots of inappropriate words.
7. C-section via fang? Wow. I covered my eyes. "Look, there's my baby-daddy covered in my blood because he just gnawed our daughter out of my womb." What a precious family moment.
8. PG-13? I swear I've seen more skin on network tv. Not that I would take my kids to see it.
9. Overheard in the theater: why is he (Jacob) wearing his shirt all of the time? I wonder just how creeped out Taylor Lautner is knowing how many 30-something women just want to see him shirtless. At least he is over 18 now!
10. It was an overly-dramatic, cheeseball pile of puke. And I loved it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Riddle me this, Batman

 I made a mistake earlier.  I lit three yummy apple cider-scented candles to make the house feel warm and cozy.  The mistake wasn't in lighting the candles; the mistake was in forgetting about the kitten.

Chester strikes again.

J walked into the dining room to find two candles burning.  The third had been flipped over on its top with wax sprayed for a good two feet, all over my dining room table.

 Since this is November, the month of Thanksgiving, let's see if I can focus on the positives here

I am thankful that she managed to flip it over upside down and the flame went out.  I shudder to think about what would have happened if that flame had kept burning.

I am thankful that she didn't set herself on fire.  She is a puffy cat, after all, with a big, puffy, feather-duster of  a tail and tufts of hair growing between the pads of her paws.  My first cat, Galileo, got too close to a candle one winter and singed his whiskers.  The smell brought me running and there he was, blinking and confused.  He never got near a candle again.  I'm not sure that Chester is that smart.

I am also thankful that I had some of those handy-dandy Pampered Chef scrapers in the kitchen.  They made quick work of the wax without scraping my table up.  Thank you Pampered Chef. Let me add that it's a good thing it is the winter, so it's cooler in the house.  That allowed the wax to come up off the table much easier.

All in all, it wasn't nearly as much of a disaster as it could have been.  For that I am grateful.  But here's the mystery.  I can't find any wax on her.   You would think that for all that mess that she made, her fur would be covered in wax.   For sure, there has to be some wax on one of her paws, or in all of that tail fur.

There isn't.

Upon closer inspection, which she loved, I found one single drop of wax inside her one ear.  ONE DROP.  She reeks of Apple Cider Yankee Candle, but all I can find is One. Stinking. Drop. Of. Wax. 

How in the world did she manage that?

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Better Half

I am going to admit something.  One of the many things that I love about J is the fact that he is so handy.  I don't think that I could have married someone who couldn't do things like fix a faucet, hang drywall, or put some under-cabinets lights in my not-so-new kitchen.
Don't get me wrong.  I am not some helpless female.  My father made sure of that.  I learned how to mow the lawn, how to hammer a nail without smashing my thumb, how to help hold the 2 x 4s that are being cut with a circular saw and still sort-of protect my ears.
I have been taught to appreciate the sheer beauty of a cordless drill (Makita was the early love, but nowadays it's all DeWalt yellow.) 
I learned how to check the air pressure in my tires, how to check and add oil, how to drive a stick shift.  In fact, I even knew how to find the fuse box and change the fuses on my 1984 Fiero.  That came in handy the day a fuse blew and my windshield wipers quit working.  I just pulled over to the side of the road, wiggled down under the dashboard (not a lot of room in those Fieros!) changed the fuse and I was on my way.  Well,  after a triumphant little dance, I was on my way. 

It was important to my dad that my sister and I be self-sufficient.  As we grew up, my dad did all of the repair projects around the house, teaching us a little here and there.  As I got to know J better, and learned that he had many of  the skills that were valued in my family, I loved him all the more.  He has done the vast majority of the improvement work on our house, with help from my dad and his dad.  When something goes wrong, I know he can fix it.  And as much as I hate to sound like a wimpy woman, I love knowing that I will be taken care of.  I am spoiled by him and his handiness.
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

I am thankful for traditions

I am trying really hard to write more this month. I want to focus on the things that I am grateful for. As irreverent as I can be, I do realize that I am surrounded by many wonderful
people and things.
Yesterday, I packaged up the dress that Keebles wore for her baptism back in 2002. I sent it to my sister so that her daughter can wear it for her baptism his month. And I cried.
Sentimental things kill me. I hate to cry, but show me a Kodak commercial about kids growing up and I turn into a sniffling mess. Show me a wedding, of the friends- or soap-opera-type, and I am a weeping wreck. If I read a story about one person sacrificing for the good of others, and I am a blubbering boob. Don't you dare do something kind for me, or I will completely lose it. Yeah, I'm weird.
Back to the dress. My niece will wear it this year. My daughter wore it in 2002. My sister wore it in 1977. I wore it in 1974. My mother wore it in 1951. It is this beautiful, ivory 4-piece affair. I imagine what my grandmother was thinking when she picked it out for my mother, her only daughter. Apparently she didn't like the length of the overcoat, and had it cut shorter than the dress. (See photo.). But, my Gram was like that. She liked things done her way.
I am grateful for this tradition that ties the women in my family together. Even if it made me cry a little.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Playing in the leaves

I am pushing 38 years old. Pushing very hard. But I still act like a 5-year-old sometimes. Lots of times. More often than I care to admit.
Today, when I got home from school, I found this pile of beautifully colored leaves. And I couldn't resist tossing them up in the air and watching them swirl down. Which, of course, led to me getting out the camera and attempting to photograph them as they fell. You would have done the same thing, right?
This is difficult for several reasons. First, they fall a heck of a lot faster than you'd think. The camera can't focus on them.
Second, in order to actually catch them as they fell, I had to switch to manual focus, pick a focal point and hope that as they fell, *some* of the leaves would actually end up in the focal plane.
Third, it's hard to balance the bright sky against the leaves. I opted for exposing for the leaves, which meant the sky was blown out, but whatever. Your mind is wandering now. :)
Fourth, how in the world do you explain to your neighbors why you are in your backyard, tossing handfuls of leaves into the air (repeatedly) and taking pictures of them. And giggling. Not that I looked up to see someone in their driveway. That would have been embarrassing.
So, here are the pictures. They aren't perfect, but they are fun.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Life Lessons

Here is my son, on his 9th birthday, putting on his Oakland Raiders Darren McFadden jersey.  He loves that jersey with all of his heart. 
Some may think it's silly to allow a child to invest that much time and energy into an NFL team (or any professional sports team for that matter) with their bad attitudes, insane salaries and giant egos, but the way I see it, you are only little once.  And I kind of think that a life without passion gets pretty boring.  I'll take the sports obsession over girls any day
Fast forward to tonight.  He'll be turning 12 this week.  I think that this jersey has easily been worn over 100 times in the last three years.  McFadden is the leading rusher in the NFL as of this week.  The Raiders are competitive this year.  KJ is so proud to wear it.
We had a softball game and he was playing football with his buddies while his dad and I played.  He took the jersey off because he didn't want it to get dirty.  He folded it up and put it in the dugout.  When it was time to go home, the jersey had disappeared.  Yes, out of our own dugout.  He is crushed.
My gut reaction was the be really upset with KJ for not taking better care of his stuff.  He had been waving it over his head and celebrating/bragging about McFadden's rushing yards.  I am a HUGE believer in personal responsibility, and all of this could have easily been avoided if he had just kept the stupid jersey on.  Or put it in the car.  He could have prevented this from happening.
But then I started thinking that I am placing all of the blame in him, the victim.  Sure, he could have kept the jersey on and he'd still have it.  But how sad is it that he couldn't trust that the darn thing wouldn't have disappeared right out of our dugout?
I hope hope hope that there was some misunderstanding and that it's going to show up in someone's bag.  But if it doesn't, you had better believe that he'll never be so naive and trusting again.
And that kind of breaks my heart.
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The end of an era

Sigh. My laptop is beginning the death rattle. It makes weird beeps and whistles. Sometimes it just shuts down because it feels like it. Sometimes it turns itself on in the middle of the night (Perhaps I should start calling it "Christine.") I fear we are nearing the end of our time together.
It's been a good laptop. It has edited hundreds of photos and stores thousands more. It has created many a digital scrapbook and written several honked off letters that were never mailed. It has played for hours on Webkinz, Build-a-Bear, Topps Town. It has researched fantasy football stats and how big the biggest snake in the world is, and how to make duct tape purses. It has been witness to more time on Facebook than I would care to admit, being a part of smart-aleck comments and copious over-sharing on my part.
I hope that my husband, fixer of all things technology-related, can squeeze some more life out of it.
But just in case he can't, I'm backing it up right now. I don't want to take any chances.
And the point of all of this is to test out the free Blogger app that I just downloaded to my iPad. It works, I think. :)
And now back to the Laptop. I can't have it getting jealous, you know.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My deep, dark depression

For the love of God, where has the time gone?


Let me admit something to you:  I am not a baby person.  I loved my kids when they were babies, I did.  I loved to hold them and smell them and just be with them. I loved their sweet little voices and chubby little hands and their fine hair.  I loved reading them stories and knowing that I was the one who could comfort them.  I loved the way they looked at me.

But, honest to God,  I love these years more.  They can catch a ball and help me make dinner and talk about Harry Potter.  We can go on vacation and I don't have to stake out the diaper-changing stations, or fill my purse full of graham crackers to prevent temper tantrums.  They actually go to sleep in hotel rooms.

I can converse with them.  And they converse back, using real words and ideas.  You are thinking, "Shannon, they talk back now."  Sure, they do, on the rare occasion.  But I can actually use the voice of reason with them (assuming I haven't gone all psycho-mommy.)  

But, here is the killer.  As much as I love these years, (and I do,  I honestly do) I am fighting off the deep depression that goes hand in hand with the realization of "Holy hell, my kids are in 6th and 4th grades this year."  And then I start to miss the snuggles, the baby-bath smell and the sweet little voices. 

I kind of miss the 517 times a day that KJ asked me "But, why?"  I am sad that Keebles is actually capable of sleeping without Yellowie, her security blanket.

So, please, can I freeze time?  I know that's not really possible, but can I at least put on the brakes?  I want to savor these years between complete neediness and total independence.  

Pretty please?  I want to slow life down and experience these last 6-8 years that I have with my babies.  Even if they aren't really babies anymore. 


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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

For The Love of Ketchup

We took the kids to Riviera Maya last week.  It was our first big family vacation.  We were so excited for a week of relaxation in the sun. There were a couple of things that we chose not to tell our kids about beforehand, to keep the anxiety and whining to a minimum.
Number One:  Saltwater tastes awful and will likely make you want to puke if you swallow too much.  It's funny to me that we can swallow gallons of chemically-treated pool water, but gettting a mouthful of natural saltwater is sheer torture. Especially when you end up with it up your nose.  Yikes, that burns like H-E-double-hockey sticks.
Number two:  They will have chicken nuggets and french fries and all of those foods you love, but they won't taste quite the same.  We let the kids discover this one for themselves.  And we acted all suprised when they said, "This doesn't taste right."  They finally figured out what foods they could live with:  bacon, bacon and more bacon.  The fries tasted ok, but weren't crisp.  The chicken nuggets were fine.  The ice cream was a staple of their diets. 
But, the worst, most devastating part of the "The food tastes weird here" debacle?  The ketchup.  It wasn't thick, red, delicious, Heinz Tomato Ketchup.  It was catsup, thin and runny and orange-ish.  It was a travesty.
Side note:  A little research tells me that there is very little difference between ketchup and catsup; and that people in Latin American countries tend to eat catsup.  But don't tell my kids that.  They are sure there is a major difference and catsup is the equivalent of skunk pee and was invented to torture kids.
When we got to the Cancun airport to head back home, tired and sunburned, but relaxed, we had lunch at that totally American establishment, TGI Fridays.  We had big juicy burgers, crisp, seasoned fries and REAL HEINZ TOMATO KETCHUP. 
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It was heaven.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I Heart Faces: Props


How many people can blow bubbles with their own hands? My daughter can! In fact, she's quite good at it. My special, home-made bubble solution helps!

This photo was entered into the I Heart Faces photo challenge. This week's theme: props.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Oh, the humanity!

Those of you with weak constitutions may want to look away.
The carnage is massive. 
As my father would say, "Six dead, nobody hurt."

Yes, that is the headless torso of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.  Look closely and you'll see a light saber.  Perhaps that's how the turtle became a headless torso.

My children rediscovered their Legos this week.  It's a million degrees out, with 150% humidity and we are all whiny and short-tempered.  So we started watching the Star Wars Trilogy (-ies).  Logically, we began with Return of the Jedi (Episode VI.)  That led to Attack of the Clones (Episode II, obviously ) which led to "Hey do you remember our Star Wars toys?"  Which in turn led to, "Let's get out the Lego bin."

Mind you, the Lego Bin is more like a small bathtub.  It holds 8-gallons of Legos and probably weighs at least 25 pounds.  Now, imagine with me the sound of 8 gallons of Legos being poured out onto the floor.  See Spongebob's legs, parts of Jango Fett's ship, Luke's Speeder, Indiana Jones' motorcycle, the Knight Bus from Harry Potter.  Remember the HOURS upon HOURS that you put into building these things that will NEVER again be the same. 

And then get over it, because really, what's more awesome than Lego people?

We spent more time than I care to admit sorting through the 8 gallons of Legos looking for body parts.  There was such joy when we found things like Luke's hair and Darth Vader's cape and the Emperor's head (who knew that the two K's would remember which specific head belonged to the Emporer?)  We nearly had a tragedy when we couldn't find Obi-Wan's hair.  Imagine that being lost in an 8-gallon tub of tiny little plastic pieces.
They have spent the last two days just playing with Lego guys, setting up elaborate scenes and taking pictures.    I am having one of those triumphant moments where I am grateful for my pack-rat tendencies.


And just in case you were worried that Indy's hat there might not have found the rest of his body, Keebles just came up the stairs, quite pleased with herself.  I am happy to report that Lego Indiana Jones is once again whole.


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Monday, June 20, 2011

My Boys


What is it about baseball that keeps us young? That allows men to feel like boys? That creates this bond between father and son? Bryant Gumbel said, "The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love."
I never thought that I would feel that way, but it has this quality of being something bigger, something to be revered. I love going to my son's games, learning the strategy involved, watching these 11-year-old boys turn double plays and steal second and lay down beautiful bunts. I'm afraid it is getting into my blood.
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This photo was entered into the I Heart Faces photo challenge

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ink

I have issues. I am willing to admit it. For as long as I can remember, I have loved pens.
I'll backpedal and admit thatI love handwriting, but that didn't start until later in life. My mother forced my 5th grade teacher to give me a failing grade in handwriting because my writing was so atrocious. Fast forward to the 8th grade, when I had an ecentric teacher who made us practice handwriting everyday. And she marked it wrong if it didn't match hers exactly. So, although she was bizarre and intense (really intense) I credit her with improving my handwriting and helping me to love the art of forming letters.
So, why this picture? I took it for a "Collection" theme. These are bottles of fountain pen ink. Yes, you can still buy that stuff. I absolutely love writing with fountain pens. There is something about the liquid ink, the way that there are variations of depth of color in each stroke of the pen, that seem like artwork to me. I especially love it when I use certain papers and the blue lines repel the ink a little bit, giving even more variations in the pen stroke.
If I didn't know it would be completely insane, I'd have even more bottles of this stuff. Yeah, I get ink all over my hands. Sure, the liquid ink smudges easily. Yes, I have ended up with fountain pen ink on my face. But it's all worth it for the handwriting. In this day and age of email and text, we are losing the personal touch of a nice, handwritten note.
And so I treasure my bottles of old-fashioned, impractical, fountain pen ink.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Surprise!

Surprise, indeed. The entry didn't post. whoops.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Learning to get along

Chester has been part of our family for about 10 days now. The introduction of the two cats went much better than I anticipated. We took it slow, over a few days.

At first, there was much hissing (good Lord, cat breath stinks even worse when they hiss.)

Then there were suspicious looks, followed by hissing. But at least it was less hissing.

Then, we moved on to general mistrust and butt-sniffing.

Next, came some not-so-gentle whacks to the head from Einstein. He just needed to remind Chester that this was his house, not Chester's.

Finally, we got to the point, about three days ago, where they were sort-of-playing. We supervised this closely, since Einstein is approximately 7 times Chester's size. There were friendly whacks to the head, hiding and pouncing and more butt-sniffing. I decided it was all going well and left them unsupervised while I got ready for school.

I was alarmed when I heard an unusual noise from Chester. It wasn't pain, it wasn't fear, it was more a cry of indignation. And I found Einstein carrying Chester into the house from the back porch by the scruff.

This is where it stands now. They chase each other and wrestle and play. Einstein tolerates Chester attacking his tail and jumping on his back and kicking him in the face...to a point. Then Einie pins Chester down and bites his scruff. Chester meows a few "Hey! Not fair!" kind of meows and Einstein lets him go and he come right back for more.
The way I figure it, Chester probably deserves what he gets.



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But, we are well on our way to friendship. Or at least tolerance.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

He's He-ere!


Chester arrived yesterday and we have survived the first night. Keebles slept with him in the guest room and discovered a few things:







1. He likes to bite toes.
2. He is fearless and will jump down off of the bed.
3. He thinks the litterbox is a fun place to play
4. He can just crash and fall asleep in 0.5 seconds
5. Kitty poo smells really bad.


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