Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The One With the Lance Corporal and the Half Birthday

So tomorrow is Ethan’s half birthday. What did you do on the day you were 18 and a half? Well, Ethan is being promoted to Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps. Wish I had a better photo, but, well… he is in Virginia and I am in Cali. So this will have to do.

Ethan is stationed at the Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He attends the Navy School of Music, also referred to as the Armed Services School of Music. I wish Ethan could tell you about what he does there, because I am sure to get it wrong. But I am going to try, since his life is definitely more interesting than anything going on around my house.

His music education there consists of three parts: ear training, theory and mastery of his instrument, which is the French horn. He is a McDaniel, and therefore rocks everyone at the ear training part. The theory he has also flown through, since it is an academic venture that he tackles at the computer, and although he has never had theory, it mostly consists of principles he already grasps, but didn’t know the names for. The sticky part is the mastery of the French horn. He trains side-by-side with musicians with greatly varying experience, including many who are college graduates in music. Ethan has never even had private lessons, and although he is extremely musical, just being musical does not give him the technique he needs. He has to practice a minimum of ten hours a week, and sometimes much more in order to improve as rapidly as he wants.

It is Ethan’s plan to graduate from the music school in January. At that time he will be assigned to a Marine Band. There are twelve Marine Bands. I believe that one is in Japan, one in Hawaii, and the rest are in the continental U.S. Ethan will have the opportunity to submit his top three choices of location. In the meantime, he fills his days with P.T., marching practice, and hours and hours of French horn practice.

If anyone would like to drop him a note, he would love it, and so would I. He may be a Lance Corporal, but he is still an 18 and a half-year-old clear across the country from home. Here is his address:

School of Music, Marine Detachment
LCpl Ethan McDaniel
1420 Gator Blvd.
Norfolk, VA 23521

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The One Where He Is Testing the Fences (or How Little Boys Are Just Like Velociraptors)

This is my grandson Jif. (Yes of course it is an alias... I mean, who names their firstborn after peanut butter?) What I like the best about Jif, is he is smart. I know what you’re thinking… you’re wondering, how could I possibly know he is smart? He doesn’t even talk. Remember, though… I’ve had little boys once or twice before. And I am telling you that even though he can’t talk yet, my little grandbaby is smart. Smart enough to test the fences.

My boys were smart, too, and as I have mentioned before, my first three I had in three years. My first five, in eight years. So naturally they were a pack… united against their common enemy… me. They were like those velocipraptors in Jurassic Park… smart and fast. Do you know the ones I mean? Early on, Dr. Grant quizzes Muldoon, the Aussie dino wrangler, and the conversation goes something like this:

MULDOON: They're lethal at eight months, and I do mean lethal. I've hunted most things that can hunt you, but the way these things move...
GRANT: Fast for a biped?
MULDOON: Cheetah speed. Fifty, sixty miles an hour if they ever got out into the open, and they're astonishing jumpers...

I felt that way at times as well. They moved at cheetah speed. And my sweet baby Casey was not only an astonishing jumper, but quite the climber. I pulled him out of my grand piano once. Oh... and creative beyond belief. Josh once made pancake batter on my wood floor with a 10-pound sack of whole wheat flour, a dozen eggs, and… well, I won’t even say how he was watering it down.

But after all is said and done, it is the intelligence that will get you…

GRANT: Do they show intelligence?

MULDOON: They show extraordinary intelligence, even problem-solving. Especially the big one. We bred eight originally, but when she came in she took over the pride and killed all but two of the others. That one... when she looks at you, you can tell she's working things out. She had them all attacking the fences when the feeders came.
ELLIE: The fences are electrified, right?
MULDOON: That’s right. But they never attack the same place twice. They were testing the fences for weaknesses. Systematically. They remembered.

Eerie, isn’t it? I have seen my sweet little angels do just the same thing. I thought I was smart until I had my boy pack. This problem-solving ability referenced by Muldoon, while not always evident in their schoolwork, was definitely utilized torturing babysitters, making messes, or, as he so aptly put it, “testing the fences.”

Eventually poor Muldoon ended up with Dr. Ellie Sattler when the fences went down.
ELLIE: We can make it if we run.
MULDOON: No…….. we can’t.
SATTLER: Why not?
MULDOON: Because… we are being hunted.

Muldoon was shortly proven correct, as the velociraptors acted in a concerted pack effort to hunt and kill him. As the cunning female closed on him with her razor-sharp talons, he uttered the classic line: “Clever girl…” (you have to imagine that in his Aussie drawl.)

And then Muldoon was Dino Nuggets.

I’m not saying this sweet little baby is a bloodthirsty dinosaur with lethal weapons for hands (Although I have heard him, on occasion, make raptor-like sounds). And obviously Jif has it all over the lizard in pure cuteness.

All I’m saying is, his mommy and daddy need to watch out. Because every once in awhile he looks right at you… and you can tell he is “working things out.”

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The One With the Comfort Food

What has happened to my life? Where did the lazy days go? I have been so busy my head is spinning. Could have something to do with that project I haven’t gotten around to telling you about yet… maybe. Oh, and I am making good progress on my recipe book. I have a list of about thirty more of my favorite recipes that I still have to make, so that I can include a photo or two with each recipe. It is going to be very, very cool. This was a great weekend. My amazing family... best friends… true church… and I just realized there is no school tomorrow, so I don’t have to get up at 5:00 a.m. Awesome. Too tired right now to make a lot of sense, so I will just leave you with a taste of my Sunday dinner.


and did I mention...this?

Friday, September 25, 2009

The One Where No Words Are Necessary

Just click it big...

The One With All the Spice

I dreamed about the cleverest blog post ever, woke up and quickly jotted it down, then went back to sleep. When I woke up again a couple hours later, I found that the brilliant prose I had so carefully penned had been replaced by some chicken scratches and a lot of gibberish. I don’t know who would sneak into my room and do something like that. So anyway, you are stuck with this: I have some friends by the name of Spice. And they have allergies... to cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cayenne...

Am I the only one who grasps the irony, here??? Well. That is all I have to say. That, and... make these Snickerdoodles. Why? Because you can.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The One With Elder Jones and the Foosball Game

Why am I smiling, you ask? Fun day? Well, let’s see… I played the organ for a funeral. Draw your own conclusions there. Shopping spree, then? Not this time… I actually screwed up and accidentally overdrew my bank account today. House all clean? As if. Actually, the fact is, I smile a lot. Not in pictures so much, I will admit. I love a good pensive expression, pout or smirk. But I actually spend much of my day laughing. Often at the expense of others. So this is just real life. And here are a few things that made me smile today. First, phone calls from a couple of different friends I haven’t talked to in awhile. I haven’t been exactly stellar at friendship lately, so it is nice to see I have retained a few diehards. Oh! A really fun blog story over at Fruit of the Carolyn… start with Part 1 and work your way up. And, I found a Lindor bar (my favorite chocolate) that DK brought home for me the other night, and which I had forgotten about until this afternoon. It is a little like finding a $20 in the pocket of a jacket you haven’t worn in awhile... except that it tastes better... that said, you wouldn’t really want to find one of these in your pocket after a few months. A package from my mom with dried pears, walnuts, a new shirt and a bunch of other cool stuff. I love packages. Oh… and that little secret project I’ve hinted about… that is making me smile.

My project is a leap of faith. It is requiring me to get back some confidence I have lost over the last couple of months (along with some of the flesh off my hands). I was reminded today of a particular incident that happened a couple of years ago, that involved my son Dillon, our foosball table… and one of these awesome missionaries. This picture was taken in my kitchen, where we used to serve breakfast to this many missionaries every single p-day. Those were such fun days. The previous Christmas we had bought a foosball table as a family present, and it was seeing a lot of use. Dillon was particularly good at it… he could beat anyone he played. The missionaries loved to play two-on-two tournaments on those Tuesdays. Some of them were pretty lousy at it, some were good, and occasionally one would come along who was really good.

One of those was a certain Elder Jones (in the picture he is the one with the craziest smile). Elder Jones was the sunniest, happiest missionary I have ever met. He reminds me that I used to taunt him that his girlfriend who was faithfully writing him would never wait for him (ask me later how that turned out). One Tuesday as they were all about to leave, Dillon ended up in a quick one-on-one game with Elder Jones. He had no idea just how quick it would be. Before Dillon even knew what had happened, Elder Jones smoked him in about a minute flat… 10-2. And then breezed out the door for e-mail time. Dillon was a little stunned. I figured he would just forget about it, but over the next hours, days and even weeks, he had to play constantly. He challenged everyone, perfecting his game a little more each time he played. It wasn’t a revenge sort of thing… it was as though it was his personal mission to improve. And better he was. After awhile, instead of trying to beat him, I would just try to get a single point before he shut me out. The funny thing is, I don’t think Elder Jones ever knew that ever after, he was famous in our house for his foosball prowess. Love you, Elder Jones!

I have suffered some humiliating shut-outs of my own over the past couple of months, mostly due to my own pride and thoughtlessness. I have decided it is time to take on some new challenges, improve my game, and dominate. You will be seeing the results soon enough.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The One Where He Stayed Back to Feed Lamoni’s Horses

I am going to do something today that I generally avoid. I’m posting the letter we received from our missionary son today. I only share his letters with family, for a variety of reasons. Let’s face it… we Mormons are pretty strange. We have our own church vocabulary. I mean, what is an investigator? A person you hire to solve a case, right? Nooooo. In Mormon lingo, it is someone who is learning about our church. We send our sons away for two years when they are 19 years old, where we don’t see them at all, and only talk to them twice a year by phone. Hmm. The more I think about it, the less crazy that sounds:). But Casey (Elder McDaniel) only has about two and a half months left of his mission. He has become fluent in Spanish and is becoming quite proficient at ASL (American Sign Language). He was unique and fun when he left, and over the last two years, he has become just downright amazing. By the way, in the photo, he is the tall, skinny one wearing all white. I learned a lot from his letter today, and I thought you might find it inspiring as well. So here goes...

Dear Mom,

Yesterday we had a special visitor. The whole mission was invited to go to a meeting in Arlington. We had a pretty good idea of who would be there, and we were right: President Uchtdorf! All the missionaries in the Dallas and Ft. Worth missions went to see, and shake hands with a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of God. Well... all except for one missionary. When we found out about the meeting we were very surprised, because it was the same time as our church services. We would have to leave before church, and get home after. I had very mixed feelings. We have two baptismal candidates scheduled for this weekend. We needed them to go to church, and we also we had an awesome new deaf investigator coming. The mission president said I would be crazy not to go. Also the other missionaries were talking about it all week. I asked them what I should do, which they all answered with ease... of course I should go see President Uchtdorf. But it didn't feel right. So I was praying, and it was clear as day, and obvious. I have less then three months left. I spend too much of my mission trying to experience and learn. I knew it was time to give selfless service. I think the other elders got the idea I didn't want to go, or that I was trying to vindicate myself somehow. But that wasn’t the case… I wanted to go so bad! Anyway, I set up plans to have my companion go, and I would stay back and “watch the sheep.” He took a tape recorder so as to not leave me out. And for the next couple hours I was the only missionary in the entire Texas Dallas Mission. I didn’t know what would happen in church, but it was way worth it. Each of the members that heard that I stayed back said I was crazy. But I could see the bishop could tell I stayed back to support him and his ward. Our deaf investigator came, and she got lost. But I felt prompted to walk the halls during the meeting, and there she was. Also as I was walking by the stake president’s office, one of his councilors called me in, and thanked me for all the translations I’ve done. And I was able to take care of our Baptismal candidates. When I told one of them I stayed back to make sure all the investigators were taken care of, she started to cry. But I didn't feel bad at all for missing it, even when the other elders returned, talking it up. Later I was reading in Alma 18. When Lamoni asks where Ammon was, the servants reply, “You commanded us to feed, and prepare your horses.” (Apparently watching Ammon chop off arms, made them forget that detail!) And Lamoni was overwhelmed to hear that Ammon was caring for his animals. You may remember the talk Elder Oakes gave... “Good, Better, and Best.” It would be good to listen to an Apostle of God and shake his hand; It would be better to selflessly serve my brothers and sisters; but it was best that I could be where I needed to be to have special oppurtunities to serve, and listen to the Apostle's talk afterward, and apply those words to my life. According to the mission president and other missionaries I am crazy. But that is okay, because I am so happy to be a missionary, and to serve my brothers and sisters, and bring them unto their ultimate Savior.

This is getting long, but it was a crazy week. We took Sis. Leyva to visit the temple (the photo is of her baptism). We had helped her set a goal and she acheived it: She finished the Book of Mormon before we went to the temple Thursday. She hasn’t even been a member of the church a whole month, but now knows more than the majority of members in the world.

I also went on an exchange with My son, Elder Kelly {meaning that Elder McDaniel trained him as a greenie missionary many months ago}. He is the New AP (assistant to the mission president). I was nervous, but I was glad to see there were still plenty of things I could teach him, and new things he could teach me. Did I mention my bike was stolen? It was sad… my 200 dollar bike almost lasted all two years. I got a full 9 months in bike areas with it. Anyway don’t worry… having your greenie be the AP has certain benefits. Anyway I hope y’all have a great week. Love Elder McD.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The One Where She Spills Her Guts

Okay, not literally. I don’t know if I have ever told you this, but I never throw up. Well, almost never. The amount of times I have thrown up in the last 35 years: One. Number of times I plan to throw up in the next 35 years: Zero. Just so we’re clear.

So figuratively speaking, here is what is going on in Victoria world.

1. Church. I am going to be teaching the 11-year-old girls, and doing their twice-monthly activity days. I think they realized that having someone who has made so many children cry teach the six-year-olds was probably a bad move. Despite the fact that I am a boy mom, to which Cambria can attest, as she has suffered the consequences for these twelve years, I think I can handle five 11-year-old girls, and we should get along swimmingly. Raising six sons has to prepare one for something. What is that something? I haven’t figured that out, yet.

2. Sing Noel. Sing Noel is a Christmas music program that our church hosts for the community the first weekend in December. It is sort of big. There is an adult choir of over a hundred, a young women’s choir and a children’s choir. I will be playing for the adult choir again this year, and the rehearsals begin the second week of October. Performances Dec. 5th and 6th. You’re all invited. That means I will actually have to practice.

3. Family. Casey is my Number Three Son (rankings determined by birth order, not by popularity), and he is currently serving a mission for our church in Texas. He is teaching about Jesus Christ to the Spanish-speaking population in the downtown Dallas area. He has also been teaching in ASL (American Sign Language), not for the first time during this two years. He told us that he had to say his first prayer in ASL on Sunday. He said it was “stressful, because everyone was looking at him.” He cracks me up. Ethan is my Number Four Son (again, determined by birth order… no offense intended) and he is currently stationed at Little Creek Amphibious Base near Norfolk, Virginia, attending the armed forces music school there. I mention sons #3 and #4 because it is their absence which leaves a hole in my family…which hole is going to be filled in December. We have had overlapping missionaries for the last five years, and so in that five years, I have not once had all of my family together. Casey finishes his two-year mission December 9th, and Ethan will be home for Christmas, making possible a kind of McDaniel family Perfect Storm. Am I a little excited? Yes!

4. Food. Yes, I have been eating. And cooking. And I have a new project. It is not more catering. I will not be catering again in 2009… unless someone with whom I share blood (or my bed) requires it. So what is the project? If you have downloaded any of the recipes I have posted in the last week, you will notice that I have changed the format. I have been going through all of my recipes and adding photos and tips. By the end of October I plan to have my seventy favorite recipes, complete with my own photos, so that I can print them into a recipe book. I have a friend who is getting married, and I hope it will make a very special wedding present. My current thought is to print them and put them in sheet protectors in a binder. I could actually print a bound book, but I kind of like the sheet protectors, since I tend to splatter everything in the kitchen. Thoughts or suggestions from my creative readers?

5. Music. I have jumped off the deep end, and started a project that I will complete by the second week of November. It is very, very exciting, and is going to require all of the time leftover from taking care of my family and completing numbers 1-4 above. I am not quite ready to announce it, but you can look for me to do so in the next ten days, and (hint) you will be able to pre-order said project.

6. Blog. In November my blog will see its first birthday. It will probably be due for a makeover. I have worn out “The One That…” and maybe the blog title as well. What do you think? Any great makeover suggestions?

7. Pets. I am going to buy Skippy a dog.

8. Just kidding on Number 7… sorry, Skip.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The One For Dinner

This on was for my awesome friend Garry (who does not like onions in any form). I needed to use up some leftover grilled chicken, and I needed to stick with ingredients I had on hand. I came up with this dinner that you can put together in just about twenty minutes, even if you need to grill the chicken (I have included my grilled chicken recipe, just in case). And guess what… it is really yummy. I promise that if you click the photo to see it full-size, you will be making it for dinner tomorrow.

But wait… that’s not all. How about a dessert that only has six ingredients, looks fancy enough for company, and you make the crust entirely in your food processor? That would be this Plum Tart.

By the way, I got impatient and the plums I used weren’t very ripe, and it still turned out juicy and delicious. Don’t say I never gave you anything...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Totally Basic One

I don’t have much to say, but I couldn’t look at the picture of my witch claw at the top of my blog anymore. So… a recipe. It is the good old fall-back. You might recall that in “Little Women,” which is one of my favorite books, they all made fun of Beth because she didn’t have anything more interesting to post in their paper than a recipe. So mock if you will, but I have a cookie jar full of these, and you don’t. There are a few recipes that I have made so often that I don’t ever have to pull out a book, a recipe card, or consult my computer. This is one. I can throw it together so fast that I can pull a batch out of the oven before you can find your car keys and drive to the store and back with your sub-standard store-bought cookies. It is the good old Nestle Tollhouse recipe. I have tried a lot of others, but sometimes basic is the best. Click on the photo to enlarge… and then lean in… closer… now SMELL!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The One Where She Flashed Bloody Gang Signs

Halloween hand modeling, or bloody gang signs? You can decide. Skin is an amazing thing. These are some of my burns, two weeks later. They look better every single day. The way bodies heal is pretty crazy. My right hand is almost totally healed (or scarred over? It kind of looks like a dog bite!) I hadn’t really felt like playing the piano in awhile, but it is funny how knowing that I couldn’t play for the last couple of weeks made me want to. So today I played around a little… I can use most of my fingers, and it turns out you don’t really need them all. So I’m putting up this little tune I played this morning, as a celebration. Let’s call it… Eight Fingers. (Click on the playlist to hear it)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The One With the Chocolate in the Charger

Once again, I am confronted with the realization that I cannot control my own fate. Okay, so I don’t really believe in fate, per se… but you know what I mean. The last week of August, I had to cater a wedding reception for 500. Usually I have a partner to cook with, and we can split up the tasks. Having a partner doesn’t make it twice as easy. It makes it exponentially easier... something more like twenty times as easy. I know that doesn’t totally make sense, but it is true. Maybe when I am catering with Fawn, she does most of the work! I hadn’t thought of that… I hope it isn’t true, but there it is. A distinct possibility.

So anyway, it was a Friday. I had done as much of the prep work as I could on Thursday. Alright, that is a lie. I had procrastinated a few things I could have done on Thursday, and they were coming back to bite me. It was two hours before the reception, and I was officially losing my sanity. I had co-opted the help of my 16-year-old son Dillon and his friend Sam, and we were running from place to place, dropping off supplies at the venue, picking up last-minute items at stores. I sent Dillon into a store with my credit card to pick up all the cut fruit for the displays, and I kept Sam to help me load my car quickly while Dillon was in the store. As we pulled away from the store, my mind was a snarl of stressful thoughts. I was imagining all the things I still had to do, and realizing there was not time to do them. Just then, I noticed a car backing out toward me. I was already passing her, and I chanted aloud, Don’t hit my car, don’t hit my car… and then CRASH. She hit my car.
Maybe it was just a little reminder. Things can always be worse. And after all, it is just a car. I really don’t care about cars. So this week my car is in the body shop being fixed. The lady’s insurance paid for a rental car, which happens to be this pretty sporty Dodge Charger. I have been enjoying driving around in it. Except this morning we got in it to go to church, and Skippy told me, Mama, I think you ruined your new car.

It is not ruined, exactly.

I had glazed two giant chocolate ganache cakes a couple of hours before the event I catered yesterday. When it was time to leave, they were still a little wet (translation: gooey chocolate bombs just waiting to go off). So we lined the back seat of the Charger with newspaper and set the cakes, still on a cooling rack, where they would not slide around. And they didn’t. All the way to Orange, thirty miles and three different freeways. All the way until the off-ramp thirty seconds from the venue. It was a shorter off-ramp than I anticipated. You know what? They still tasted good, and a little upholstery cleaning later, and you can barely tell at all. And you know what else? There are worse things. Ask any car rental place. I bet they will tell you that they practically never have people coming in to complain that their rental car smells like chocolate.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The One Where She Saw the Wolf

Last night about 6:00 p.m. I got a call from DK. He had asked a few weeks ago if I would cater a luncheon at his office. I didn’t think about it again… until last night when he mentioned that the luncheon was today. Surprise catering! It was like a Food Network challenge. You have eight dollars per person, and seventy people, and you are feeding them at 11:45 tomorrow morning. Oh, yeah... and don’t forget: you have one hand, and one witch claw. At least that is what one of my kids told me my left hand looks like. Nice.

So here is the menu:

Mixed Baby Greens with Raspberries and Sugared Pecans
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad
Homemade Butter Rolls
Homemade Whole Wheat Bread
Chocolate Ganache Cake
Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

I mapped out what I had to do before I went to bed... making the homemade croutons for the Caesar, making the rolls and the bread, cooking the pasta and making the cakes. Tasks that left a lot of down time, waiting for things to bake or rise. But yesterday a package arrived in the mail. It was the book Shiver, which I won in a blog giveaway from Debbie at Cranberry Fries. (Thanks Debbie, you made my week!) So in between cooking, baking and doing dishes, I rewarded myself with chapters of the book.

The book was even yummier than the food… I consumed all 390 pages before the last cake was out of the oven at about 2:30 a.m. And that was when it happened. It was steamy in the house, and so I took a five-minute break on the backyard swing while I waited for croutons to toast. I came in to turn out lights in the living room, and there, crouched right in front of my white slipcovered chair, was a wolf. I am not kidding you, here... it scared me so bad my knees went weak and my heart skipped a beat. I almost fell on the ground in full arrest, but then suddenly my heart kicked back in, beating about four times faster than it should have.

Funny thing. Turns out it was not a wolf, but actually a fairly innocent-looking guitar, just hanging out, leaning casually against the chair. Why, for a split-second, was it a feral wolf? Read Shiver after midnight sometime, and you will see.

And by the way, the Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad was so good that they ate almost ten pounds of it... and then they used the homemade bread to sop up the last of the dressing left in the bowl. This salad is a thing of beauty. One guy told me he loved it so much he wanted to marry it. So, naturally, I figured you would want the recipe:

Friday, September 11, 2009

The One Where We Bomb Them With Butter

September 11th. Eight years later. There is this quote from September of 2001 that I like, but I don’t know to whom it may be attributed, as I have found credit given to three different sources. I am going to go with a Rabbi Moshe Waldoks. He said…

“A military response, particularly an attack on Afghanistan, is exactly what the terrorists want. It will strengthen and swell their small but fanatical ranks. Instead, bomb Afghanistan with butter, with rice, bread, clothing and medicine. It will cost less than conventional arms, poses no threat of US casualties and just might get the populace thinking that maybe the Taliban don't have the answers. After three years of drought and with starvation looming, let's offer the Afghani people the vision of a new future. One that includes full stomachs. Bomb them with information. Video players and cassettes of world leaders, particularly Islamic leaders, condemning terrorism. Carpet the country with magazines and newspapers showing the horror of terrorism committed by their “guest.” Blitz them with laptop computers and DVD players filled with a perspective that is denied them by their government. Saturation bombing with hope will mean that some of it gets through. Send so much that the Taliban can't collect and hide it all. The Taliban are telling their people to prepare for Jihad. Instead, let's give the Afghani people their first good meal in years. Seeing your family fully fed and the prospect of stability in terms of food and a future is a powerful deterrent to martyrdom. All we ask in return is that they, as a people, agree to enter the civilized world. That includes handing over terrorists in their midst.
In responding to terrorism we need to do something different. Something unexpected... something that addresses the root of the problem. We need to take away the well of despair, ignorance and brutality from which the Osama bin Ladens of the world water their gardens of terror.”

Today my thoughts are of butter bombs and bribes of hope. I like the idea, and I hope you don’t think I dishonor it by sharing my recipe for some butter bombs of my own.... you can download this recipe for my all-time favorite rolls:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The One With No More Sticky Notes

I am a list-maker. It is genetic. Got it from my mom. She used to present each family member with a to-do list on a Saturday morning, when all I really wanted to do was watch cartoons. I think we had three television stations that we could receive, and those Saturday morning cartoons were what we lived for. I still like me a good cartoon. But now I make my own to-do lists. I like to put them on sticky notes on my computer desktop. Virtual sticky notes, not real ones. Then I delete the items as I complete them. I have to admit that those lists actually helped me when I was a kid. I work better when I have a clear idea of what has to be done, and some way of marking progress.

But I have found as an adult, that anything I have to write on a sticky note is probably something that I really don’t want to do. Otherwise I would have just done it, rather than sitting down at the computer to compose a sticky note. For example, in the amount of time it took to sit down and type up a sticky note that says to call the insurance agent back, I could actually have called the insurance agent back. But that would require me doing the thing I don’t want to do. Creating a sticky note is a much more pleasant alternative. But I will admit, I weary of moving Monday’s jobs to Tuesday, and Tuesday’s list to Wednesday, as I have quite a collection of chores that I am studiously avoiding.

But this morning was different. It is not noon yet, and I have checked everything off my notes, and actually closed them... No sticky notes on the desktop! It makes me feel very accomplished. I must have been crazy busy, you are thinking. But no. My strategy involved something I will call simplification. I didn’t work harder; I just lowered my standards. Yes, I still have breakfast dishes in the sink. Bed made? No. But they weren’t on the list. Do you see where I’m going with this? Genius! My list consisted of, Get up. Get Skippy off to his first day of First Grade. Go for bagels with Kathie. Check my e-mails. Find a good book to read. Write a new blog post. Check.

And look at me… not even noon, and my whole To-Do List… wiped out and put away. Just wanted you to know I’m on a roll, over here… and I am just tingling with anticipation to see what is on the list for tomorrow. Maybe I will watch cartoons.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The One Where We All Said “Goodnight, Ned”

I don’t usually post twice in a day, but (heaven help us) AT&T is coming tomorrow to dismantle our internet... and I have a feeling it is going to be a challenge. Just wanted to leave you a little treat in case I never make it back. My favorite movie song Of. All. Time. Blue Shadows on the Trail. This was Skippy’s lullaby when he was a baby... Goodnight, Ned.

The One With Skippy’s Perfect Day

I love the way Skip loves nature. He loves camping so much that he pretty much lived in his tent for a week after we got home from Glacier. Up on the hills to the right, DK was taking pictures of white mountain goats on a cliff. Over to the left were fields of the most amazing wildflowers. This was probably one of the five most beautiful places I have ever been. I don’t think I appreciated the beauty of nature when I was young. I just wanted to get where we were going... do something “fun.” But Skippy just takes it all in. Go ahead. Click on the photo and join him.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The One With Vic’s Lucky Day

Skippy saw me pulling these pictures out of iPhoto, and asked me, “Did you put these on your blog?” I said, “No, not yet. But I’m going to…” “No!” He said. “People will never look at your blog again. That is gross.” Okay, so maybe I have to give up my dreams of being a hand model, but it is not that gross, is it? So the story is, a couple of mornings ago, I burned myself. I took these shortly after it happened, to send to my daughter-in-law the RN. I couldn’t take pictures of my right hand, which was also burned, because I couldn’t figure out how to work the camera with no hands.

Why was it my lucky day, you ask? Well, when my skin came in very brief contact with the 350-degree molten sugar, my reaction was to scream, and to hit the pan so hard that I partially dismantled my stovetop, and the sugar splashed in a stream all the way up the front of me to within an inch or so of my chest, neck and face. It didn’t burn my face. It didn’t go in my eye. Lucky, lucky, lucky. The burns look a bit nastier today than they did in the pictures, but they will heal just fine. I spent most of Wednesday soaking in cold water, and the swelling is not too bad.

Nevertheless, I am all bandaged up and thought I would take it easy today. Carolyn requested something kid-friendly. I, myself, am happy to stay arms-length from the stove today, and so the answer to both is: Hobo Pies. DK makes me these for breakfast pretty often, as he did today. I am not posting a downloadable recipe, because you can see how easy this is going to be. DK insists these are ever-so-much healthier than a Hostess pie or a Kellogg’s pop-tart, because he makes them with my homemade whole wheat bread and just a light brushing of butter. Use any canned pie filling, or your own homemade fruit and jam... PBJ or whatever you like. And then a dusting of powdered sugar at the end. Oooh! And imagine the savory possibilities... maybe sloppy joe meat and cheese, or ham and swiss with a little mustard?

I think I won this particular pie-maker in a chili-cookoff (remind me to post my steakhouse chili recipe sometime), but here is a whole page of them for sale at Amazon. These are great fun on a camping trip, but DK uses them right over the stove practically every morning. If you are using homemade bread, slice rather thinly. Otherwise, use the cheapest white bread you can find, so it condenses well in the pie maker. Cut the crusts off your bread, and trim to approximate the shape and size of your pie maker...we have round and square ones. Lightly butter the outsides of your bread (less than a teaspoon for both slices), and fill with a couple tablespoons of your favorite filling.

I had cherry pie filling, and Skippy had fresh sliced strawberries. Put the second buttered bread slice on, and close your pie maker. (DK uses a different technique--he places the whole slices of bread in and closes the pie maker, then trims them to fit).

Toast over a campfire... or a kitchen fire... for about 90 seconds on each side. The first pie might take 30 seconds longer, because the cast iron needs to heat up.

Turn out your yummy pie onto a plate and sprinkle with a little powdered sugar.

Come on… you know you want to try this…

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The One With the Three Thousand Dollar Pizza

I am perfectly aware that most of you are just stopping by for the recipes this week. But I am sure you are equally aware that I don’t just hand them over. First I have a story, or a song, or an opinion on some subject or other. If you are impatient, and want to ignore my story, I won’t try to stop you. Just scroll down and take your recipe. Today is slow typing. I am using four fingers on my right hand and only the pinkie finger on my left. But that is a story for tomorrow (more of a cautionary tale, really). For today, the story of the $3,000 pizza. Where do you buy such a pizza, you ask? Why, Costco of course.

It was the Pizza Margherita variety to be specific, with tomatoes and basil. Dillon is severely allergic to pine nuts, and he asked before he ate, if there were any pine nuts in the pizza. I assured him there were not, and he ate a slice. In my defense, pine nuts are usually only found in a pesto-type sauce, and as you can see from the photo above of an actual Costco Pizza Margherita, this is definitely a marinara-type sauce. He asked as he finished the slice, “Are you sure there are no pine nuts? I can taste something…” (as he started wheezing ang clutching his stomach). At that point, I dragged out the box, and guess what was in the sauce? You guessed it: pignolias… piƱones… yes, pine nuts. Pine nuts are really interesting little things. A quarter cup of them has over 20 grams of fat. That is impressive, don’t you think?

So anyway, Dillon chugged some Benadryl, but the damage had been done. Hives, head to toe. Asthma. Vomiting. But the most shocking thing that happens to Dillon is facial swelling. Did you ever see Will Smith in the movie Hitch, when he had the seafood allergy? Dillon’s is much worse. Shocking, in fact. More like the Elephant Man. DK rushed him to the ER that night, and for several hours he had the whole ER staff working on him. He was in critical condition when he arrived. Scary. A friend of ours works in the ER, and she said she couldn’t even recognize him. The $3,000 was the ER bill from that night. Expensive pizza.

If you are still with me, you have earned your recipe. We are going vegetarian and healthy tonight, with one of my favorites: Three-Tomato Spaghetti. One of my readers, Aleta, asked if I had any easy-to-make, diabetic-friendly recipes. This is a quick, easy meal with few ingredients, and to make it diabetic-friendly, prepare it with whole wheat spaghetti. I actually like this pasta even better warmed up the second day… I like the way the spaghetti absorbs the flavors.

And unless you are inviting Dillon over to dinner (I can’t afford an ER trip right now…), try this side dish with your spaghetti… it really makes an easy, beautiful side dish with just about anything. I thought I didn’t like asparagus until a couple of years ago. Turns out I just don’t like bland or overcooked asparagus. This, I love. If you’re scared, just leave off the pine nuts. You big chicken…

And since these photos are of my actual dinner tonight, I am off to eat...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The One With the Baby Trifecta… (Or, Ice Cream For Breakfast, Anyone?)

Today’s post is about babies… three ways: Babies, music, and food. My own personal Baby Trifecta. I know… you’re wondering how I’m going to tie these all together. Be patient. First the babies. My babies. There was nothing better. I get to do a lot of cool stuff now, and heaven only knows, no one wants to change diapers and make milk forever. But seriously, it was the best. Everyday magic. Found this picture of Cam the other day. Babies are yummy.

Which brings me to #2… the music. Yesterday Tandy came over. Tandy is beautiful, stylish in a Bohemian sort of way, and talented through and through. We had a great time yesterday recording this sweet little song that she wrote. I love how Tandy is committed to working until the music is just right. It took us some hours, but despite not feeling well (she was coughing and could barely sing by the time she left), we made it just perfect. Her lullaby made me think of rocking babies to sleep. Click on the mp3 player, dream of babies… and enjoy!

And #3. At this point, you are probably expecting baby food. Nope. You will love this recipe for Dutch Baby. It is an all-time favorite missionary breakfast from back in the days when we used to feed 12 missionaries every Tuesday morning. Here, though, I am serving it the way DK eats it…. with ice cream on top. Yes, he eats ice cream for breakfast. But I am telling you, this would make a fairly spectacular dessert for company. Here is what it looks like fresh from the oven. Which is how we eat it most of the time, with some syrup or fresh fruit...

But then we take it up a notch. Click on this one and view it big. I defy to look at it without trying to lick your screen. Baby food? As if.

P.S. Please leave a comment so I know you were here. I like to hear when you like my songs, and I’m sure Tandy would like a little love, too. If you hate the songs, remember what Thumper told Bambi: “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” Or you can just stop by and throw rotten fruit at the house or whatever. Or better yet, Tandy’s house.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The One Where the Smoke Wouldn’t Clear

The air is heavy with smoke today, and everything palls under a strange pinkish-orange cast. I don’t sleep well, and I think it makes my brain hazy. The day doesn’t feel quite right, but I’m still posting my first Food Week recipe, my favorite homemade pizza. In honor of our current Southern California conditions, you should probably cook these pizzas out on your grill, and call them Smoky California Pizzas. Here in Orange County, we are sort of between the Los Angeles and the Pendleton fires. Disclaimer: DK may correct that statement, since everyone knows I am geographically challenged. When the fires came two years ago, we were right in the thick of it, with flames visible from our house. Click on this one, and view it large... I took it from the lake, about 1/4 mile from my house:

It is a strange thing, being in the line of fire. I remember one year where everyone in our church drove around for days with their most prized possessions in the trunks of their cars… photo albums, important papers… just the things they couldn’t replace… in case they had to be evacuated at a moment’s notice. I don’t know if you have been following the news, but two firefighters have lost their lives battling these fires. We are praying for the weather to change to give the firefighters and displaced residents some relief.

Okay, so… Smoky California Pizzas. We always make individual pizzas, and everyone gets to choose their own toppings. That way you plain people can be plain, and I get to have everything I want. Don’t you think that pizza promotes friendship? Everyone is in the kitchen, getting their hands messy, competing to make the best pizza. By the way, what does your favorite pizza have on top? My personal favorite is pesto with shrimp, mozzarella, fresh Roma tomatoes and pine nuts. I also love Kalamata olives, fresh sliced red pepper, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes… mmm. Oh, and this one makes a great, simple appetizer: just fry up some bacon and caramelize some onions in a little olive oil with a tiny pinch of sugar. Brush the crust with olive oil, and top with crumbled bacon, caramelized onions and mozzarella. Mmm. Sauteed mushrooms wouldn’t be bad in there, either.

I thought it also might be appropriate today to cool things down with a recipe for the kids.

This Frozen Lemonade Pie is easy enough for a six-year-old to make, with some help.

How do I know? Because Skippy made this one, with just a little mom help. Enjoy!

Don’t be fooled by the serious expression. He is so excited about this pie, that he has asked me every two minutes since we put it in the freezer, if it has been two hours yet.

Oh... and seriously, people... where have all my comments gone? Anybody out there???