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26 September 2012

Weekend wrap up

JD's dad came into town this weekend, and, since his dad is a lot of fun and pretty low key, the weekend was a lot of fun and low key.  

As usual, I brought home donuts after mass for JD and his dad to enjoy. As the picture below shows, I had the dogs' rapt attention while I enjoyed my Dunkin Donuts cruller. 

Pickles was also the bodyless dog as he snuggled in a blanket after a long weekend of roughhousing with the family dogs. 

JD's brother gave us some of the last tomatoes of year. Yum!

We spent a sunny Sunday afternoon watching 6-year-olds play soccer. Which, arguably, is more entertaining than adult soccer matches. 

And the last of the summer roses ...

Tasty cakes

I don't know if I've ever shared this recipe before (I looked back and couldn't find any previous posts) but it is massively easy and amazingly tasty! I threw it together the other night before I started cooking dinner, and, as expected, it was delicious! The whole recipe requires 5 ingredients: crushed pineapple (1 can with juice), vanilla pudding mix (the regular sized box, not the jumbo), whipped topping (1 cup. I used the lite version), raspberries (to taste), and store-bought angle food cake. It's light and refreshing and super yummy.

Cut the angel food cake into three layers. Mix the pineapple with the pudding powder. Once it is well blended, fold in the whipped topping. "Frost" each layer with the delicious pineapple mixture. Arrange raspberries before adding the next layer of angel food cake. Repeat and repeat again. Put in the fridge for about an hour to chill the frosting mixture. Each within a few days. Which shouldn't be a problem given the tasty factor we are talking about here. 

20 September 2012

Doggie Round Up

When JD entered my life, so did his kids. Like me and B, he is a package deal with his beasts. I've mentioned them before, but I thought it appropriate for a little Doggy Round Up with a better introduction to our blended family. 

First, the big dogs. Here we have Bailey (aka Old Dog or Grey Dog) and Sunny (aka Yellow Dog or NO!) staring at me intently for a piece of popcorn to be thrown. Sunny only recently (yesterday) learned to catch. I was worried about her for a while. But, with an older sister like B, she was bound to learn something. 

Sunny also has an amazingly long snout. Kinda like B in that respect as well. 

B and Pickles (aka Little Man) the dachshund are amazing at helping me with my dissertation. Or, at the very least, keeping me company while I work. 

These two also get along the best. Sunny is still a puppy while these two are older and wiser. Or something like that. 

One of the rare moments when Sunny was actually still. This lasted all of four minutes. 

While the house has a million toys in it, we always want to play with the same one at the same time. This time, B got lucky. The other two heathens had to wait for her to finish.

My potty-time walks used to include just one grey dog. This is more representative of my view these days. 

We're more or less one big happy family. Of course, when Sunny chews on the carpet or Pickles pees on the floor or Bailey raids the pantry ... that's a different story. Never a dull moment. :)

12 September 2012

A taste of Easter

As a child, every Easter, my mom would make this amazing ham with cloves and pineapple slices all over it and then, for dessert, we would have the most awesome pineapple upside down cake. Once we stopped having big family gathers at Easter (around the time I was 10), the pineapple upside down cake seemed to disappear as well. While playing around on Pinterest the other day, I happened across a mini-pineapple upside down cake that used a muffin pan. The recipe looked super easy and wicked tasty. And, upon discovering that JD liked this dessert, I decided I needed to try this bad boy out. 

Cake Ingredients:

4 eggs
1 1/3 C white sugar
8 Tbsp pineapple juice
1 1/3 C all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Topping (which actually goes in first which is very confusing!):

1/2 cup butter (1/2 stick or 4 Tbsp)
1 1/3 C brown sugar
1-can pineapple rings
12-maraschino cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray your muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.  

First you mix the eggs, white sugar, and pineapple juice together in a mixing bowl. Beat it with an electric beater for 2 minutes. I could have used my KitchenAid stand mixer, but the quantity was so small that I thought it not worth it.  Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a seperate bowl. The original instructions say to sift this, but I don't own a sifter. And, to be honest, I didn't notice a difference in the final product because I didn't sift it.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes.  

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and add the brown sugar.  Stir on low heat for one minute until the sugar is mostly dissolved. When you have a thick grainy semi-liquid that smells like heaven, it is done.

Spoon a layer of the warm brown sugar mixture into the bottom of each muffin tin, then place a pineapple ring on top. Because regular muffin pans are too small for a whole ring, I had to cut each ring into smaller pieces and make a circle out of them. Apparently there are large muffin pans out there, and I'm thinking I need to get my hands on them.  Add a cherry in the middle of each pineapple. Pour cake mixture over to fill muffin tin until the mixture is just below the top of the muffin cups.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. You know they are ready when the toothpick comes out clean. When they are ready, remove them from the oven and let them cool in the pan for a few minutes.  Run a butter knife or plastic knife around the edge of each cake to help loosen them.  Place a wire cooling rack on top, and quickly flip over on top of sheet tray to catch extra drippings. This part is essential because they will drip. Feel free to catch any drippings with your finger for a little taste. :)

With brown sugar mix, pineapple chunks, and cherries.
The cake mix has been added. 
The finished product, dripping with brown sugar syrup. 
Serve these bad boys up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and they make a great sweet dessert. JD's one complaint was that the pineapple slices seemed to "go bad" after just two days. So, to avoid this, make sure you eat them all before that!

I modified this recipe from one I found here, and I'm so thankful that I did!

11 September 2012

Honoring what has become history

I woke up this morning and realized that, once again, September 11th had snuck into the calendar, ticking off another year since the greatest single tragedy on American soil. 11 years have passed. More than a decade. I resolved not to blog about it or tweet about it or Facebook about it but instead honor it in a more quiet and personal way. I still struggle with this day, but, like with most tragedies, it gets easier each year. But when I arrived in my classroom, my mind changed.

This year marks the first year that none of my students were alive when the towers fell. Last year was hard because it was the 10th anniversary, and most of my students were only infants when it happened. But this year is different. This year my students view 9/11 simply as a historical event, something that they read about in a history book that they have no real connection to. It doesn't carry the weight and significance that is has every year prior. In fact, the student news broadcast this morning didn't even mention the towers falling or the attack on the Pentagon or the heroes that died in that Pennsylvania field. The "this day in history" fact was reserved to recognize O. Henry's birthday. I don't fault them, but it does indicate that things have changed dramatically. For me. For the world. For this generation of kids. A decade has passed. Time keeps moving. People move on.

Today, the event that shaped my adult life and changed this nation and the world forever is simply a brief section in a history textbook for my students. The emotional significance and cultural importance of these events have faded to lines on a page with a few patriotic and heart wrenching photos. The way my current students speak of the events of that day is markedly different than the way students in previous years have. Their comments are far less solemn and serious. There is a lightness and casualness in their tones that reinforces how removed they are from it all. I'm not judging my students by any means; they just weren't alive to understand the impact that those events had on their lives. American life in 2012 is normal for them. This is the way it has always been. There is no "I remember before 9/11 ..." for them. Their entire lives have always been post-9/11, and they know nothing different. In some ways, I'm jealous of that innocence. Life is different now, but they don't know it.

It's hard to describe how it feels to know that the events that molded you and changed you so dramatically has passed into the annals of history. It makes me feel old that I've experienced history that my students will only passively learn about. It makes me sad that almost an entire generation has passed by since that tragically beautiful autumn afternoon and that generation will never know a nation of trust or even "friendly" skies.

I struggle to find the right words for how I feel about this anniversary and this tragedy, and sometimes it's just best to leave it be. But I know that, for this New Yorker, that day will never be forgotten.

Flag flying over Fort Sumter

05 September 2012

My new roomie

JD finished the move yesterday. It took a solid week to happen, but it's done. I helped ALL weekend long (in the sweltering heat), and he wrapped it up without me. All that's left is the unpacking and organizing. He didn't bring a ton of stuff, but it still needs to be organized and made livable. The first thing that he did to make my place our place was to hang his mounted ducks. They were originally hung in the bedroom, but that wasn't happening. We relocated them to the office. Taking down the picture of Ted Williams and replacing it with taxidermied animals. Never in my life would I have envisioned having mounted animals on my wall, but, surprisingly, they don't look too out of place. In that room. And, if it makes JD feel more at home, I'm happy to make the sacrifice. I love him, and it's all about compromise, right? 

They actually go well with my NYS cattails. 

Now, when all the rest of the mounted animals show up in our (eventual) new place ... we'll see how that goes. 

Labor Day dogs

Labor Day in my house was quiet. JD was off somewhere (South Carolina?) hunting with friends before he finalized the move, and I was at home with two of the kids. I got a lot of work done ... laundry, cleaning, organizing, and dissertating. The kids? They slept. In various positions. But they slept. All day. 

1st position
Pickles, looking bored.
2nd position
3rd position
4th position
My leggy beast
5th position
The cuddle bug

At least they moved around enough to burn a few calories, right?

This dog loves bananas

See? She doesn't even waste time peeling it. She just eats it whole, peel and all. 

04 September 2012

Popping Corn

Recently, Kiki posted one of her HYSTERICAL kitchen disasters which included popcorn. I, personally, LOVE popcorn. It was the first thing I ever cooked on my own. It's the only thing I consistently cook well. When I first made it for JD, he was confused as to why I was using the stove because he was only accustomed to the microwave variety. (Surprisingly, this is not the first time I've had this reaction. Many friends along the way have said the same thing.) That, for me, is sacrilege. Microwave popcorn should only be used when showing a movie to a class full of students on a lazy afternoon. All other times, it should be popped on the stove.

And, since I make this about once a week, I guess I'm an expert. ;-)

There are a few keys to making good popcorn. First, I prefer the yellow corn variety because it pops up larger and fluffier than the white kernels. All of those fancy schmancy gourmet popcorns never really produce a good bowl of corn. Make sure to keep your popcorn in an airtight container because it will go stale and then it will not pop. I also always use safflower oil. Coconut oil and olive oil don't have a high enough smoke point to handle the heat needed for making popcorn on the stove top. Safflower oil is a nicer and healthier alternative to corn or canola oil.

I use a large pan with a sturdy handle and a glass lid. I like to be able to see what is happening inside as they cook so I can make adjustments. A heftier pan with a thicker bottom is generally best since it distributes the heat better and there are fewer hot spots (which leads to scalded/burnt corn). I heat the pan on high and add the oil. I don't measure my oil; I just put in enough to cover the bottom of the pan, but there shouldn't be a lake of oil. Don't add the corn until the oil is hot. The longer the corn sits in oil, the less likely it is to pop. Once again, I don't measure the corn. I, again, cover the bottom. I read somewhere once that you should use 2 tablespoons of oil and a cup of corn. (Kik, I've NEVER heard of 2-3 cups of corn. That's A LOT!) I've found that eyeballing it works best. The rule of thumb is that one tablespoon of kernels pops into 2 cups of pop corn.

After the oil is hot, sprinkle in the corn and make sure it is in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Cover it and walk away. Don't mess with it. Wait until the corn pops rapidly. Once it starts to slow a bit, give it a little shake. Once it slows considerably, remove it from the heat because it is done! Have your bowl ready because you don't want your popped kernels to burn in the pan.

I ALWAYS add butter and salt. I melt my butter in the microwave and pour the golden goodness on a little at a time, shaking it to ensure even distribution. Then I add salt. And shake. And more salt.

And then I eat it.

Usually by myself.

Because I don't like to share.


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