Livin’ the Dream

We had a rare weekend where we spent the whole time on the island (well, with the exception of breakfast in town on Sunday). And it was SO. MUCH. FUN!

Friday

We started with the Beach Bum Parade, an annual tradition on our little island where we get wet and wild before the official “start” of tourist season (Memorial Day weekend) and the subsequent onslaught of traffic, visitors, people who don’t know the rules of biking, etc. The first year we lived here, Jack was just a toddler and we, along with another couple and their toddler, thought, “What fun! A water parade!” As we walked toward our usual location from which to watch the parade (Tybee has A LOT of parades), some soaking wet kids who looked to be 5 or 6 started running towards us and I thought to myself, “Surely those kids won’t shoot water at an adult, much less one they don’t know.” I was, of course, wrong on both counts. The parade floats shoot water at the parade watchers and vice versa, and no one is safe. And thus began my love/hate relationship with the Beach Bum Parade.

beach bum 2  beach bum 3

Jack and friends prepare for battle.

beach bum  Not even adults are off-limits, unless you’re a cop.

Before and after the parade, we gathered at a friend’s house down the street. Prior to departing, we fed the kids (ok, grown-ups, too) pizza, pigs in a blanket, and other snacks while they attacked one another, soaking each and every kid to the core, despite our admonishments not to use all of the water supplies and dry towels before we even got to the parade. They were shivering and whiny as we left to join the real fun. This year, our location was perfect–there was a police car stationed to block off the street, so the adults could hang back in a self-imposed dry zone while still keeping an eye on our screaming, water-spraying offspring (first rule of [water] fight club: no shooting water at police!). As an added bonus, when the kids came running up to us, shivering, we told them to hunker down next to the police car’s wheel and warm up with the exhaust heat being put out by it–hooray for awesome parenting!

One mom (who shall remain nameless but whose bosom will appear in a picture further down in this post) stuck her beer in between her boobs so her hands were free to wield her water gun. We decided it was actually a brilliant idea, nicknamed it the Boobzie (get it? boobs + coozie!) and have a plan for a Kickstarter campaign. Feel free to comment on this post if you agree it’s pure genius and want to donate funds.

All in all, the adults that wanted to remain dry were able to do so, the kids had a blast (heh heh), and it was the best Beach Bum yet, IMHO. If you listen to the audio on the video clip, you’ll hear the kids’ rally cry/mantra of “Cheaters!” against their Goliath-like opponents.

Saturday

Jack and I spent the day at the beach with Boobzie and family while Tyler kayaked over to Little Tybee and Jack’s Cut (not named after our Jack, although the last time we kayaked over as a family, our Jack cut his foot on an oyster shell and proclaimed its new name “Jack’s Cut Foot”). The boys ran around catching minnows, digging up olives (the shell kind, not the martini kind), and collecting various specimens for their “touch tank” including a whelk and two of the tiniest starfish I have even seen. Seriously, they were the size of a kid’s fingernail–I don’t even know how they could’ve found them! The tide was super low, exposing a huge swath of marsh mud that the boys loved slopping in (in the interest of full disclosure, so did the other two parents. I tried to go along, but my disgust was pretty evident). They were literally up to their knees in it, making “mud angels” in it, and relishing getting covered in it from head to toe, then squishing their way back to the ocean to clean off and do it all over again. I wish I had some pictures, but I never think to take my phone to the beach.

olive trail  Once you know what to look for, olives are easy to spot!

I thought I spied Tyler kayaking back–it looked like him, his hat, his red kayak, and even though he had left with a friend, it didn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility that he would’ve decided to come back solo. So there I am, jumping up and down and waving, trying to flag him down and show him where we’re camped out, and Jack is screaming “Dad!” at the top of his lungs, but he didn’t seem to see us. He finally pulled up to the shoreline about 15 feet away and I started to approach him, and then realized this guy had no tattoos on his biceps. Um…so, not Tyler. Later on, we did see Tyler and his kayaking mate, and they immediately responded to our crazy waving. After they passed us to go put-in at Alley #3, not-Tyler came back and we all laughed that maybe he was hoping I’d come talk to him since I had expressed such fervent interest.

Tyler finally rejoined us around 4 and we decided to pack in all in and head to Huc-a-Poo’s for an early dinner. Boobzie picked up our hostess from the previous night and her son. Once arranged at our table for 10, I noticed the differences in our approaches to toting the necessities: hostess simply had $40 tucked into her tank top; since I was driving, I had my wallet with ID, etc.; and Boobzie had an entire purse, complete with the biggest black (fake) Sharpie I had ever seen! Naturally, I asked Jack if he would like a mustache and, being my son, he agreed.

jack

What do you mean I’m not 21? Just check out my sweet facial hair!

Next came Tyler, then hostess, then Boozie’s husband, who said he wanted a cat face like the guy from Kiss.

I think I did a pretty good job on the last likeness, no?

Kiss-Dynasty-Frontal   'poo crew

Two funny things to note at this point: the cat face got us all trying to substitute “meow” for “now” like in Super Troopers, and there was an uber hetero dude wearing a super obnoxious shirt that said “Show Me Your Kitties,” so our cat friend went up to him and told him he liked his shirt. The guy started to be all “thanks, man!” and then took one look at the cat face and literally took a step back. Only one of Boobzie and kitty’s sons wanted in on the fun, but he went all in, including a tribute to Uncle Leo’s eyebrows.

evil genius

Since Boobzie was driving, she didn’t want to give the cops a reason to suspect possible DUI by crazily magic-markering-up her face, so she opted for this classier, decolletage decor, for which our waiter immediately complied by donating a beer.

only rory  Boobzie prototype.

shenanigans  The shenanigans continue.

At this point, other people (read: complete strangers) starting noticing our silliness and also wanted in on the fun. There was a table of women behind us who all asked for some facial flair:

cat girl She was not down with accosting the guy in the obnoxious t-shirt for fear she might inadvertently punch him in the throat.

sharing the sharpie love See what I mean about how big the marker is??

contemplative 'stache Pondering life’s existential questions.

There was even an older gentleman at the bar with a full, grey beard who raised his beer to us every time someone else joined the ‘stache club. Since he already had full on facial hair, I asked him if would like me to draw a Frankenstein-esque scar on his cheek so as not to be left out. He delightedly agreed and proceeded to tell me that he once played Frankenstein in a play years ago!

You might ask what our children were doing the whole time we were coloring on people’s faces? Well, they were enjoying playing corn hole, which means basically throwing bean bags at one another in their case. Until Stayin’ Alive by the BeeGees comes on, then all bets were off while they get their groove on.

Perhaps the frosting on the cake to our markers on the face was the traffic jam leaving the island. Since Boozie and her crew couldn’t get off Tybee to head home, we all decided to go back to hostess’ fab pad and continue the fun. Except that her affianced wasn’t expecting company, much less his love with silly drawings all over her face, and he was in no mood for our loud crowd. Nonplussed, we carried on without him.

Sunday

Our final weekend day just happened to be our 13th anniversary. We celebrated by heading in town to Clary’s for breakfast. They were publicized in “the book,” as locals refer to John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but we just like their menu and consistently good service. There is dog-friendly, outdoor seating, so there’s always a chance to pet someone else’s cool pup to boot. After breakfast, we headed back to Tybee to meet hostess and her fiance for an afternoon on their boat. The plan was to spend the day on the beach at Little Tybee, but as Steinbeck said, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” (Can you believe I remember that quote from high school English? Shout out to St. Viator and Brother Ruhl!). It wasn’t yet low tide as we made our way out and the creeks and estuaries that make up the route were too low to navigate, so we went out to sea thinking we could hug the coast and go the long way. That didn’t work either. So we worked our way back up past Cockspur Island and around to the Bull River as, by that time, the tide had turned.

boat trip map

Our circuitous route in red: we covered Wassau Sound, Tybee Island, and lots of back- water. It’s breathtakingly beautiful when you are in the creeks and estuaries, surrounded by marsh grass with no buildings in site, and the water spreads before you like a living highway.

ready to go boating      Jack ready to go boating.

boating

This was taken before I lost my hat for good; Tyler’s flew off but we were able to circle back and retrieve it.

Here is a quick video of the boys trying to eat chips on the speeding boat:

When we finally returned to the marina, tired and sunburned, one of the local shrimp boats was docked and sorting through their catch. Most of this gets supplied directly to places like Lazaretto Creek Seafood, where you can buy it by the pound to go, and  Coco’s, where they’ll cook it for you.

shrimpers

We never actually made it to Little Tybee, but we spent the day on a boat in the water, which is just about the best way I can think of to pass the time, take in the beauty of our surroundings, and remember what brought us all to this island paradise, and living the dream, in the first place. After all, it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters, right?

Urban Homesteading, cont’d*

And now for the update on my mad gardening skillz…complete with first harvest/two easy peasy meals made from items lovingly grown by yours truly.

You be (bas)illin’

At planting time (approximately 2 months ago):     basil

Currently, 5 out of 6 4 out of 6 starter plants recommend my gardening talents (that sneaky one on the inner right side is technically an attached offshoot of the second plant in from the end!)

basil

You say toh-may-toes

tomato

I say, “can’t wait to make a tomato sandwich!”

you say to-mah-toI say to-may-to

There are three that are starting to ripen–they’re low and inside the pot, so I am hoping the birds will not have the chance to enjoy them before me. In years’ past, by the time I looked out the kitchen window to see a red ‘mater and the 30 seconds it took me to walk outside, they always managed to swoop in and peck my ‘mater (that sounds dirty, but I assure you, it is not).

I’m a pepper, you’re a pepper…

I don’t have a before shot for the three pepper plants, but they are growing like gangbusters! It was a little rocky after I first planted them and we had a crazy storm that blew them all over and they lost a lot of dirt, but, as you can clearly see from the multitude of peppers below, I triumphed!

pepper family

wouldntcha like to be a pepper toopicka packa peppers

A Sage for the Ages, But Neither Pine, Nor Apple

No before pix of pineapple sage, but it was just an itty bitty thing when I planted it and look at it now!

pineapple sage

I have been steeping it in sun tea and am thinking of creating mojitos this weekend (it worked with the loquats that grow like crazy around us!). It’s even getting ready to flower, and they look like they will be pretty and red.

The Honeymooners Special: Lettuce Alone

lettucelettuce alone

Not quite ready for a salad, but they’re getting there…and 100% of plants planted remain alive!

Gettin’ Figgy With It

One of the fruits of my labor (see what I did there?) that I am most excited about is the figs! Again, no before pic but I assure you this guy is thriving.

gettin' figgy with it   figgy 2

Can you see the tee-tiny baby fig? So far there are three whole fruits, which should be ready to enjoy sometime next month.

Eggs-cellent plants

Speaking of thriving, most of the plants I grew from seeds sown in egg shells started strong but are mostly all failing to thrive (read: dead). Not sure if they don’t get enough sun on the front steps, or maybe using regular eggshells instead of organic ones is the culprit (I am 90% sarcastic here but 10% convince-able that this could be a thing).

The seedlings out front are still hanging in there but don’t seem to have grown hardly at all in two months, especially when compared to the eggplant seedlings growing in the back yard.

eggshell plants

You see the white of eggshell but no green, yes?

eggshell plants2

Three visible egg shells, one visible plant (possibly a tomato? It was pretty obvious when planted what was cilantro, what was sage, etc., but with most everything dead, I have no frame of reference).

failure to thrive  Tee-tiny sprouts, but better than dead!

eggplants, meh  Eggplants

And now, for the stars of first harvest:

1st garden harvest   My precious…

I halved and de-seeded the peppers, laid them over a bed of uncooked rice, covered everything with 2 cans of red enchilada sauce and popped it all in the over. After about 30 minutes of cook time at 350 degrees, I sprinkled shredded cheddar over everything and let it cook for 15 more minutes until all melted and bubbly and gooey. Added chopped tomato as garnish and we chowed down.

I bought Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything about 20 years ago and still consult it on the reg. I used his recipe for pesto, combining fresh basil leaves, garlic, toasted pine nuts, olive oil, and parmesan (I cheat and use the “green can” parmesan because I know we always have some on hand!), which I tossed with cooked rotini pasta and shredded zucchini that I briefly sauteed in olive oil. Chopped another garden fresh tomato (Brenda 2, birds 0!) for garnish and color. Both recipes were delicious!

Also, I’ve convinced myself to move all of the front porch pots to the back yard. Stay tuned to see if anything changes, I mean grows…

*this title is still entirely ironic.

Urban Homesteading*

After the last several years of “Tyler’s garden,” i.e., a huge portion of our yard dug up and planted with over a dozen rows of “crops” including everything from okra and squash to sunflowers and green beans, and involving renting a tiller from Home Depot, backbreaking additional digging, raking, and weeding (usually with Jack occupying the one “good” shovel to see if he could “dig to China”), combatting an assortment of man-eating mosquitos, fire ants, and gnats, and Tyler’s ultimatum that he would no longer be planting a garden for which Jack and I don’t help, this year I decided to scale back and try my hand at container gardening.

Working in a warehouse, I have access to free wooden pallets, so I began (of course) by plotting (pun intended!) my garden ideas on Pinterest. Jack and Ty got equally excited by free pallets and began making plans to make a tree house, albeit a grounded one as we have no trees big enough to support an actual tree house in our yard. I folded down my seats, laid down a tarp, and loaded in the max number I could fit in one trip, five pallets, in the first week of February (plenty of time to continue building my collection before planting time!).

As luck would have it, Tyler’s brother and sister-in-law came to Tybee for the weekend. The men were adventuring out to harvest oysters, necessitating that I unload the pallets so Jack and us girls could spend the day out and about and pick up libations and snacks to complement the (potential) oyster roast at day’s end. Long story short, we got home after the boys, and my pallets had all been broken down and used for firewood to fuel the outdoor fire pit oyster roast!

Fast forward to actual planting time. We stopped by Savannah Victory Gardens‘ seedling sale and checked out their offerings. Although our zucchini in previous years was always gangbusters (zucchini overabundance cliches exist for a reason!), we never had much luck with melons, so anything on a vine that spreads was out for my container plan. We selected several small 6 flats: lettuce, various peppers, eggplant, and basil; along with 2 heirloom tomato varieties. When I saw the sale mentioned in a friend’s FB post, I was excited b/c it was in an area none of us had ever been to, what  I suspected used to be the old Roberds Dairy Farm that I have heard reference to now and then. The idea that there is farm acreage so close to the Bonaventure Cemetery and waterways of Thunderbolt was difficult for me to wrap my brain around, but beautiful to finally tour. From there, we hopped over to Home Depot for some pots and a few more impulse-buy plants: a fig tree, pineapple sage, and 3 more kinds of peppers, along with a big bag of potting soil.

Somewhere along the line of my Pinterest-inspired garden, I pinned an idea to germinate seeds in used egg shells, so I had been saving the shells as I cooked with eggs, and purchased 4 packs of seeds for $1 at the dollar store: sage, tomato, cilantro, and spinach.

Here are pix of the first stage. Remember the Crystal Gayle 70s tune Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue? I am hoping to cheerfully be singing “Don’t It Make My Brown Thumb Green” if I am able to sustain and harvest anything from our garden this summer! Stay tuned!

Tomatoes

tomato

Lettuce

lettuce

Basil

basil

*This title is entirely ironic.

The People in the Trees–Book Review

I am an avid reader and I am always updating my “to read” list with recommendations from various sources. I mostly read fiction and love a good historical thriller from time to time, especially art historical thrillers (for example, The Swan Thieves). From FB or blog suggestions by authors I follow, to the website www.bookpage.com, to a 6 month old copy of People magazine in the doctor’s office waiting room, when something catches my interest, I make a note on my phone, scrap of paper, etc.

I always opt to add books to my online library queue, so I don’t necessarily remember the original source of a recommendation, or even why I  wanted to read it in the first place…it could be months or even over a year before I finally get around to checking the books out from the library, especially if it is a new publication (for example, Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch. Have you seen how big it is? There’s no telling how long it will take the 12 people in front of me to read it!). The downside to my library queue is that once a book is returned, the record is erased and it’s up to me to remember the name and/or author if I want to recommend it. So I have decided to add an occasional review to this blog as both a way of remembering really great reads and sharing them with a bigger audience. For ease of finding any books mentioned herein, I am including a link directly to Amazon. I have nothing against e-books, but my preference will always be old school physical books.

As with any work of art, you may love it or hate it, but an emotional response one way or the other is better than indifference! Without further ado, my first recommendation is The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara. This is the fictional tale of a Nobel Prize-winning doctor’s historical narrative to a colleague and the story is so detailed and compelling, I kept wanting to pause reading it to Google the various characters and places that were so richly described as to seem truly real.

The story follows the somewhat unremarkable career of Norton Perina from childhood, to medical school, to lab work, to an unlikely invitation on an anthropological expedition to Micronesia. The book presents a setting antithetical to western culture and mores and explores what happens to such an idyll when exposed to western influences. If you have ever read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude and been enchanted by the “magic realism” of the environment, the remote jungle setting of The People in the Trees will likely appeal to you. But the story is more complex than the effects of westerners on paradise and poses probing questions for the reader’s consideration, such as “If a great man does unspeakable things, is he still a great man?”* The epilogue, the logical conclusion of Perina’s narrative, will leave you re-thinking everything from mankind’s continuous search for immortality, to the ethics of scientific studies, to societal norms of “acceptable” sexuality.

I look forward to hearing what you think of the book (or any others referenced here). Happy reading!

*quote from the book jacket.

Pinterest Lies!

So I planned an amazing Lego-themed party on Pinterest for Jack’s birthday when I was on sabbatical. Luckily, I had it all figured out in my head AND on paper (ok, technically, electronic paper), so even though I was working when his b-day week rolled around, I figured I could get it done easily based on my superior planning skills.

We did have the “vision” to make our party favor crayons well in advance, but that was mostly due to Jack’s eagerness to use a knife for chopping crayons.

lego crayon man 1

It took a while to chop, melt, cool, and de-mold the crayons, and we lost about 50% of the mini Lego man figures per batch due to them not completely coming out of the mold, so as usual, it took much longer than I had originally planned, but at this point in time, the party was well over a month away, so no worries!

Keepers on the right, broken men on the left:                                      lego man crayons       

crayon army:       lego man crayons 3

crayon army casualties   lego man crayons 2

Aside from that one advance-made bonus, I ended up doing EVERYTHING in the 24 hours prior to the party, while my husband looked on like I had lost my mind yet again. Fortunately, Jack is old enough, and interested enough, to want to help, and I had even made a list of things he could do, which included, among other things, all things related to the party favor bottle cap necklaces (from cutting out the circle images we would be ModPodging into the bottle caps, to cutting the thread into necklace lengths, to hot gluing the little jewelry bails on the bottle cap for the thread to loop through),

 bottlecap necklaces

to party favor goody bags with foam circles attached by two-sided tape to make them look like Lego bricks,

lego goody bags

to drawing faces on the square yellow plates, to cutting string cheese to make little circles for Lego crackers (this was totally a stroke of genius while waiting in line at the deli counter; I was thinking I would just get a brick of cheese and somehow manage to cut a million little circles when I realized I could cut string cheese…finally, my love of all things cheese pays off! And of course, he HAD to say, “look, mom, I’m cutting the cheese!”), to writing little menu cards in his best Lego Chima font. It was awesome…see for yourself:

Lego party spread

Put I am here to say that Pinterest lies. I pinned this Chi-colored rock candy, thinking, two ingredients, one of which is water, plus food coloring…how hard can it be (famous last words)? This is another recipe that calls for a candy thermometer, so of course it was doomed to fail from the get-go.

chi rock candy   This is the pinterest pic, not mine. I dissolved the corn syrup in water and added the magic gel-based food coloring that took me 20+ minutes to find at Michael’s until it was the perfect Chi hue. It bubbled and boiled for a good while and, not wanting to scorch it, I poured it into a foil-lined jelly roll pan, just like in the original pin (ok, they did not line their pan with foil but I am all about the easy clean up). To further speed things up, I stuck it in the fridge, figuring that would make it harden faster. Or not. It was basically like Chi-blue-colored corn syrup, so we named it the “Sacred Pool of Chi” and called it even. By the time the party started and we had everything out on the table, we ran out of room so I discreetly pitched it…no muss, no fuss.

However, all prior candy-making attempts aside, the biggest Pinterest lie was these chocolate-covered marshmallows designed to look like Lego heads:

:  lego heads

On the above-referenced trip to Michael’s, I set out to find yellow candy melts and a black icing pen. I got to the (slightly intimidating) candy/cake aisle replete with all of the terrifically complicated-looking cookbooks with misleading names like Hello, Cupcake! Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make to Wilton cake pans designed to make any aspiring baker hang up his or her apron.

.stand-up-cuddly-bear-cake-main

Have you ever tried baking a 3D cake? Years ago, when I was young and naive, I bought this duck shaped pan to bake an adorable duck cake for a rubber duckie-themed baby shower I was hosting for a friend.

bathtimes-just-ducky-cake-main

This was my goal; luckily this was before digital cameras were ubiquitous, so you’ll just have to use your imagination to envision how horribly sad my duck cake turned out to actually be. HINT: even your worst mental picture is probably not nearly hideous enough.

As for the candy-coated marshmallows…dip a marshmallow in melted chocolate and put it on a stick–how hard can it be, right? I am starting to feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy continually tricks him into trying to kick the football.

Charlie Brown and Lucy with football

So there I am in Michael’s, looking for yellow candy melts. They have EVERY color you could think of, except, you guessed it, yellow. They have sea foam green candy melts, and cherry red candy melts, and even chocolate brown candy melts (um…forgive my lack of candy-making skills, but couldn’t you just use, y’know, regular chocolate for brown?), but NO yellow. There wasn’t even a space where maybe yellow candy melts had been but someone else on a marshmallow Lego-head-making frenzy bought them all up leaving an empty space to let me know yellow candy melts had been within my grasp. Ok…I am a reasonably smart girl, I can figure this out. I purchase two bags of white candy melts, knowing I have yellow food coloring at home. BOOM! Take that, non-existent yellow candy melts and, by extension, me for not actually having clicked on the original pin to maybe find such helpful tips out.

So, into a pot on the stove they go, but they aren’t melting quite fast enough for Jack, Mr. Impatience himself, so I move them to a microwaveable bowl and zap them for a minute or so. I take a spoon to help facilitate the melting and for a moment, all is right with the world. Then Jack squirts a couple of drops of food coloring in and I continue to mix…and…it seizes up like bright yellow cement. I think the problem might be that is isn’t hot enough (I never claimed to be good at science), so back into the microwave it goes, only to become even harder if that is physically possible (maybe I am on to a new kind off synthetic diamond here!). Good thing I bought two bags of melts. I actually read the directions this time around and see that anything added to the melts will basically ruin it. Duly noted.

lego marshmallow heads 3

I decide to try and outsmart candy-making science (never a good idea), and melt the chocolate and add just a teeny-tiny bit of food coloring. Not exactly smooth enough to dip the marshmallows in, but definitely spreadable like think frosting. Good enough.

lego marshmallow heads 2

lego marshmallow heads 1

I added some smiley faces with the black icing, stuck them in the fridge, and filed this experience under Pinterest lies. Or I suck at candy making. Maybe a little of both.

lego marshmallow heads

A Clean Fridge is a Happy Fridge

So I decided to clean out the fridge, which inspired me to utilize the mish mash of random ingredients on hand before venturing out to re-stock the fridge and fill up all of that newly available shelf space. I even cleared away the forest-full of mostly obsolete schedules, expired coupons, and other paper items that have accumulated under our fridge magnet collection in the past couple of months.

And voila! Look at all of that empty space just begging to be filled up! Of course, I quickly realized that I put the drawers in wrong, so there is actually a small shelf now available under them, which I have decided to use for thawing meat items rather than go through the trouble of taking them out and correcting the situation.

clean fridge

And the super clean, brand-spanking-new-looking front! Of course, there are a number of important items that need to live in this location, so I simply moved them to the side of the fridge where they are a little less visible to kitchen visitors who perhaps don’t care about Jack’s karate class schedule or summer reading program rewards coupons.

clean fridge 2

I inventoried what I had against a stack of recipes I have been wanting to try, and made a list of just a few things I needed to make the most of what was on hand.

One of the first things I tried was Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipe for banana ice cream, as I am pretty much the only one in the house who eats bananas, banana ice cream, banana cream pie, you name it. It called for Almond Milk, which I have never tried, but decided to in this instance so I could make the recipe…besides, I had a coupon!

The additional topping  of chopped almonds mixed with maple syrup and sea salt really made this extra delicious…so good in fact that I decided to have a second helping, which was decidedly not a good idea when I went for a run an hour later with all of that sloshing around in my belly. Verdict: Absolutely easy once you have the supplies on hand (i.e., almond milk and sliced, frozen bananas), but you really should eat it as soon as it is made because it freezes too hard to eat later. Plus, the almond milk is really good on cereal, less calories than my usual skim milk, etc. Bonus!

Whenever we head downtown Savannah, my son loves to stop by River Street Sweets for a praline sample (or two, since I usually give him mine). If you’ve never had a praline, it is a butter-y, sugar-y, delightful little sugar-high-inducing treat. But at almost $3 per praline (they are sold by weight), and only 4 ingredients, all of which I had on hand, I decided I would try making some myself. Of course, I only had about a half cup of cream on hand, so I ended up having to do some math and half the recipe.

NOTE: This is the first of three attempts (more on the other two tries later) at cooking something that needed a candy thermometer that I thought I could wing without one. Apparently, recipes call for specific tools for a reason, as I have no idea what the “soft ball” stage of cooking is, but figured if it was bubbly and gooey and smelled delicious, I was getting close. I didn’t want to overcook or burn it, but apparently it wasn’t quite done. I dropped them onto waxed paper and let them cool. They were good, but they weren’t transcendental, like those made on site at River Street Sweets. And you’d better believe my candy snob son did not think they were a worthy substitute. I guess I will continue to pay the premium for someone else making them and hope that maybe Santa will being me a candy thermometer for Christmas.And, yes, I realize these pictures make them look ever less-appetizing, but they were all eaten before bedtime, so they weren’t all bad.

homemade pralinehomemade praline 1

Then I decided to get really creative and make ravioli! I had made pasta from scratch years ago in a cooking class at the museum where I planned such events for our members and knew it was pretty simple (again, 2 ingredients! How wrong can it go??). So I mixed up some flour and eggs and rolled it out:

homemade ravioli dough

Then I used up all of the random bits of stuff I had leftover: some ricotta cheese, some frozen spinach, some pine nuts, and parmesan cheese (in the green can, we are not fancy), and threw in some crushed red pepper because I just love that kick it gives everything.

homemade ravioli stuffing

homemade ravioli 2

They weren’t the prettiest pasta I’ve ever eaten, and in fact the dough was a little thick so I should have rolled it out even thinner, but overall, I was pretty impressed with myself!

homemade ravioli 1homemade ravioli

And of course, no pasta dinner is complete without freshly-baked bread! I used the bread machine cook book for the recipe and let the machine do the mixing, then rolled it out to proof, then simply baked it.

french bread 2    french breadfrench bread 1

The house smelled amazing, and I managed to not burn the bottom while having uncooked dough on the inside like I have in the past…it was delicious! The down side was that we were completely out of butter and is there anything better than bread hot from the over slathered with butter? I could’ve sworn I still had a pound of butter in the freezer from the boatload I picked up at Sam’s, but apparently not. Naturally, when I picked some up the next day, at the more expensive store than I usually stop because it was right next to karate so I didn’t have to make a detour en route home, I discovered the last pound of Sam’s Club butter in the freezer. Lesson learned? Cleaning out the fridge is great for organizing meals, but not when you skip the freezer and have an iffy grasp of what lurks in the frozen kitchen netherlands.

Next up, a fancy-dancy, ladies-who-lunch kind of salad reminiscent of one of my fave spots in KC, Eden Alley. I threw together the last of spring greens salad mix, leftover wild rice (crazy!), the remaining half of a peach that Jack vetoed, some blue cheese crumbles (I try to have blue cheese and Frank’s hot sauce on hand at all times for when I crave buffalo chicken, which is pretty often), the last of the pine nuts (I even took a minute to toast them since this was no ordinary lazy girl lunch but a fancy salad), and tossed it all with a little bit of peppery Greek dressing (bottled…I am the only one eating this salad, so no need to be a total overachiever and make it from scratch. Besides, the point is to clean out the fridge, so in using the bottled dressing, I am one step closer to finishing it off). The verdict? Amazing! I even took the time to sit at the table, with a napkin, and enjoy it, as opposed to many of my consumed standing up/in front of the tv/in my car meals.

toasting pine nuts for homemade raviolipeach salad with rice

While walking the dog, I happened upon a fig tree in a vacant lot, so naturally, I liberated a handful before the birds could get them. A little leftover French bread, a drizzle of olive oil, and the last of the blue cheese and I had a snack worthy of a chichi bistro with sky high prices!

fig feta bruschetta

Then I made a couple of recipes that I had pinned. No pics, mostly because mine wouldn’t be nearly as pretty as the original posts. The baked sweet and sour chicken was a little scary in the making…dredging chicken in corn starch and then dipping them in eggs is not as easy as it sounds and I had to stop and scrub all the gooey stuff off my hands a couple of times so I could actually use my fingers and the whole cooking-with-ketchup thing had me grossed out (I hate ketchup…love tomatoes, marinara sauce, salsa, cocktail sauce, but hate ketchup. When I worked at the Wheel at KU we had this big industrial bag of ketchup that I had to refill the individual ketchup bottles from and I don’t think I ever recovered from it.) but everything came together in the oven and was delicious! We had a friend over for dinner and he wasn’t sure if he should be pleased dinner was so good or worried that we served him an untested dish, essentially making him a guinea pig.

.ketchup dispenser

I also whipped up some Spicy White Bean Dip, which I actually bought sriracha sauce for because when I used to eat at Blue Koi in KC, they had amazing lettuce wraps and won tons and I would douse them in sriracha until I was practically crying from the heat. So I thought this would maybe be a little like that. Except it wasn’t. The sesame oil was too overwhelming…I think I might try it again but substitute Frank’s buffalo sauce for the chili sauce, skip the sesame oil, and top with blue cheese crumbles. I’ll keep you posted on how it works out.

Jack has a new favorite phrase, “rub some bacon on it.”

Mine would be “put some Frank’s buffalo sauce on it and add a little blue cheese. sriracha

Childhood Influences, Then and Now

Thinking about Jack’s expressions and gestures from his favorite tv shows like Lego Chima and Regular Show has me remembering the two big influencers from my childhood, The Preppy Handbook, and, almost conversely, the Valley Girl book, which in my humble opinion, led directly to the inability of my generation to speak a sentence without using the filler “like” several times. I can still recall my teachers cringing and impatiently correcting us: “Were you like late for class or were you actually late for class?”

They also made a Valley Girl movie:

Click on the movie link above for the best line in the whole movie: when Nicolas Cage is taking movie tickets, smoking while he works and wears 3D glasses. His ex girlfriend (the Valley Girl) comes in with another guy who asks if the movie is in 3D and Cage responds, “no, but your face is.”

And of course, Frank Zappa sang the song:

Which is not to say that I didn’t love watching the Brady Bunch every day after school, or reading anything and everything by Judy Blume (or even V.C. Andrews when I was a little older, although probably too young to have been reading such smut). But I guess my point here is how wired everything about Jack’s childhood is. We did away with cable in favor of Netflix streaming, much to Jack’s chagrin as they do not show Lego Chima episodes (YouTube does, but not current enough for his taste), and he is a pro at navigating the site to add shows to his queue. He even has his own laptop at school, and his 2nd grade school supply list included a flash drive and blank CDRW disks. Despite all of this, he still spends a good amount of time actually playing with his Legos, combining them in new ways every day, creating bigger and better vehicles and battles of the good guys vs the bad guys, regardless of whether they are ninjas, aliens, Chima animal tribes, or any other character, which I love to see.

It is so weird to be of the age as a parent when I remember being Jack’s age and can look back to see how so much of what happened then shaped who I am today. Many of the friends I made when I was his age are still friends 30+ years later. Tyler and I find ourselves saying things like, “When we were your age, cartoons were only on Saturday mornings,” which to Jack’s 24/7-Netflix-streaming, internet-connected mind must be barely comprehensible. Digitally speaking, he can watch what he wants when he wants to (assuming parental permission, of course!). This makes me think of Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka, whining “I want an oompa loopma NOW, daddy,” which is a line we frequently chime at Jack when he gets a little too focused on wanting something that can wait, like yet another Lego toy.