Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Reality of Blogging....

When I started this blog a year or two ago, I had a goal in mind of organizing my thoughts and home and sharing it with the whoever in the cosmos happened upon it (assuming it would probably just be my mom and a few supportive friends who wonder why I never call).  As it turns out, I managed to "meet" a few more people than that and  be inspired to keep writing. Getting a post written and edited was just as fun as whatever the post was about and I needed that.

But life has it's funny twists and turns and my cup runneth over with blue-eyed blessings who need me to be a little more "there" for them right now. For this reason, I've decided to end this blog. Because, let's face it, I just can't get enough of this crew, even when they are spitting up on me or jumping on my back demanding marshmallows or asking me what I was like as a kid.

And you've got Pinterest now.....

Of course, I'll be leaving the site up so you can reference it to your heart's delight. I just don't see any point right now to posting--not when there's babies who won't be babies much longer and 8 year olds with mind-leveling insights and questions.

Maybe someday I'll feel inspired to write again or have time to be attempt clever creations and at that point, I'll link you in to the next page. In the meantime, I wish you all the happiness in the world and the best of life. Take care of yourselves and remember that margarine sucks and baking is science and the best things we can give each other come from our hearts first......

Courtney V.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

I May Have Done Something Right....

The holidays are a baker's time to shine--it's our time to do it up big and show off and wow everyone's pants off and then sit back and grin. We plan for a month or two ahead of time and stockpile supplies and bake at night and hid our concoctions until the moment arrives and *POOF!!* there are goodies and candies and confections and yule logs and pies and you totally didn't know we could do all this.  Bakers are like little elves only we have social security numbers and can reach the gas pedal in the car while steering....well, most of us can.

Every year, that's my deal. I revel in that sort of thing.  I start baking the day after Thanksgiving. I use every available piece of tupperware available to me. I fill the freezer with so much stuff, we don't have room for real food.

I show off.  And I get to live out that principle my mother taught me to go no where during the holidays empty handed. It's about hospitality and generosity and good will.

I didn't do that this year.

Instead, we moved to a new house. And I spent enormous amounts of time cleaning the place and trying to figure out the best way to make my little family feel at home. And my in-laws came from the Old Country (Pennsylvania) and they really helped the kids feel like this was home and warmed our home with their love. This was the first time they could hold their new grandson and nothing beats the love grandparents exude.


After all that, we finally managed to shop for Christmas and put up the tree and join in on the feeling that everyone else seemed to already be enjoying-like coming late to a really good party. Holiday specials on tv and hot chocolate and kids in footie pj's and Christmas music and the church choir at Mass....

I don't know why...

And I did bake. I just didn't squirrel away goodies. I didn't stay up late at night isolated in my kitchen. I DID however, stay up late at night and rock babies and sing songs and tickle children and tell them stories of my childhood. I spent time with my family. I was in the moment with them.  And I don't think a big pile of goodies for my husband's associates or the neighbors can really replace that. (In fact, the neighbors brought US stuff instead!)

So we made cookies for Santa and goodies for class parties and cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast and I cooked some glorious meals but I also got down on the floor and played with my kids and went on a date with my man. And smiled. And laughed. And felt like a real human being.

Yule log that.

We have the saddest tree

school party treats

Here are a few pics of the last month. I pray the New Year brings you joy and happiness and many fabulous meals with people you love.

her future's so bright...

dreaming of a white Christmas

she took a bite out of each of them

this was supposed to be
for Thing 2's dress up....
she loves these...
I was worried they came with
a pole


my mom said it looked like
King Tut's face but, Honey,
it sure as hell didn't
taste like it...

that's right-I wrapped a turkey
in bacon....

seafood stuffed mushrooms
crepes for dinner...why not?
we never got out of our pj's
that day
quiet wonder. perfection.
hand made gifts are
the kindest


Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Birthday to the Damned Dog

**What I'm about to say may actually piss a few of you off, so let's be clear about something please: I don't care.

I was raised in the country with farm animals and gardens and dirt and dogs. Glorious dogs, smart dogs, mutts from other farms, born from other smart dogs that would protect and defend the homestead and the children, dogs that sat next to you while you fished and ran next to you as you played. Dogs you cried over when they died.

I love dogs.

 I actually feel a certain affiliation with dogs for their loyalty and fierce devotion. And much like a mother for her pups, come near my kids and I'll do more than just growl at you, trust me.

Dogs should be protected from abuse; they should never be used for fighting or illegal sport; they should never be left in your hot car, your cold back yard, your abandoned house to fend for itself. A dog should never be kicked (that's what husbands are for....I'M KIDDING),  dropped off in the country (where some of our dogs came from when I was a child), or let loose to continually breed.

Every kid should come home from
school to find a puppy....
That said, my dog is not my child. A dog is not a human being and not a person and their rights are limited....they don't get a vote on what's for dinner and they don't sleep in our bed. I'm not going to build my future around the dog, the way I do around my kids. I don't buy them gifts at Christmas; I don't refer to them as members of the family--I'm not the dog's "Mom"....that's some other bitch. The bottom line: I don't treat the dog better than my kids; I know some people that do that and it infuriates me to a blinding rage.

Our dog came from a craiglist add that turned out to be posted by a puppy mill. We didn't know that when we saw her picture but after seeing what conditions she was living in ("in spite of" is more like it), we not only took her home, we reported the farm. No creature should be forced to live that way.

The dog came home with us. The dog had never worn a collar, never been on a leash, never been inside a car or a house, never had a dish of food for itself, never had toys, never been bathed, groomed or loved. It took a couple of days just to convince her to step out of her open crate and explore our little home. Poor puppy.

And then the dog got comfortable. The pro's: she guards the house and children, she helps the Dev's relax, and she hoovers the floor around the dinner table like a hair-covered shop vac. The con's? hair hair hair everywhere, half-gnawed rawhides on the stairs in the middle of the night, cold noses shoved under the covers in the middle of the night, hair hair hair, the inability to tell the difference between  someone knocking on the door and someone one in a movie knocking on a door....and, my personal space issue-she likes to lick my toes and it makes me a little crazy. In fact, as an introvert, I find the dog a little smothering in general--the worst being the week before I delivered the wee lad when she herded me from room to room all. day. and. all. night. And did I mention the hair????

"unbreakable squeaker" huh? 
Said dog, Silhouette or Sil, also just so happens to share the same birthday as Thing 2 so it became an issue as to wether or not we would "celebrate" with the dog. Why an issue? because while I'm all about finding fun things for the kids to experience, never in my life have I ever had a dog birthday party (let alone really know the exact day any of our dogs were born on, to be honest). I felt some kind of moral confusion to be honest...there are children out in our world that should be so lucky to be celebrated, why am I baking for a dog???

But in the end, the excitement of small children is a powerful motivator (could imagine if they organized and lobbied Congress?).  Thing 2 got yellow cake with flowers; the dog got cupcakes.

A couple of things about this recipe....first of all, no special ingredients--you will probably have all of these items in your house already. Secondly, you'll never have to worry if the kids try to eat them because you know what's in them and none of it is 'bad stuff.' Third, you can freeze these, just like muffins and pull them out as desired. This batch yields approximately 2 dozen standard size muffins.  Mini muffins are perfect for smaller dogs.

Preheat your oven to 325 and pull out two bowl.

In the larger bowl, blend together the following:

3 cups flour (I use a blend of whole wheat and ap)
1 tbs baking soda
3 cups of shredded carrots....the smaller the shred, the better

In a separate bowl, whisk together

3/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of honey
3 eggs

Now add this to the dry ingredients and add

3/4 cup of peanut butter (don't use the "all-natural" type whenever you are baking unless it specifically says to by the way)

Blend all of this together and scoop into the muffins cups so they are about 3/4 full (they don't rise much).  The larger muffins take about 18 minutes, the smaller ones around 112-15. Allow to cool before serving to the pooch or freezing.

...and if it happens to be the silly beast's birthday, by all means, pipe a bit of peanut butter on top to let them know you are really glad they bark at people in the middle of the night, even if it's just at you holding a sleeping child....

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cranberry Crunch Muffins: Feed 'Em and Weep

I am OFFICIALLY overwhelmed. I only THOUGHT I was crazy before but now I'm in that unholy land of so much to do that depends on someone else getting their crap done so I'm spinning my tires. I'd rather EAT the moving boxes than be in that position. The Dev's is doing his very best to calm me but he has seen the crazy in my eyes and knows it's basically just a countdown to meltdown now.

All this while trying to keep the kids from going haywire and reassure them that their stuff isn't going into a box so I can donate it (yet). Thing 1 has moved with us a bit so she knows to roll with she's seen what her new bedroom is going to be. Thing 2, on the other hand, is sensing my stress. Packing with a toddler could be an Olympic event, I'm convinced.

And the baby? he's too busy growing and farting to care. (How can something so sweet and cute stink so much????)

But despite all that looms on the horizon, Thanksgiving is coming first and that means gratitude and food in delicious cooperation.

With so many great flavors this time of year, it's easy to whip up some yummy breakfast items to stave off the  maddening crowd while you prepare the turkey day feast.

These cranberry muffins are a perfect example of using what is in season....I didn't use oranges for my batch since I have some tangerines on the counter.

Preheat the oven to 375 and spray or line your large (think coffee house) size muffin pans.

 4 cups Ap
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbs baking powder        Blend together in a large bowl.
1 tsp salt
zest of one orange

2 eggs
1/2 cup veg oil
1 1/2 cup milk                 Whisk together before adding to the dry stuff but don't over-mix.
1/2 cup orange juice

2 cups chopped cranberries  Now add these and stir together before filling muffins cups 2/3 full.

1/2 cup chopped walnuts    
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

 Sprinkle the walnuts and sugar on top of the muffin batter and bake for approximately 20 minutes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Moving Day

....anybody have a truck?

Just kidding.  Kind of.

So, um, yeah, in the never ending adventure that is life with a Gypsy like Mr. Devlin, we are moving soon. Not far, like the last 3 times, but, you know, with 3 kids in tow, any distance can seem great.

I mention this partially because it's my latest distraction (when I'm not cooking, cleaning, nursing an infant, chasing a toddler and trying to remember how to do long division for the sake of Thing 1). I also mention it because if any of you dear readers have any tips or pointers or things that just worked so absolutely wonderfully for you, please share. Help me and help any of the other readers as well.....what's your best moving tips?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Pumpkin Bread Recipe I Can Never Find

When the frost is on the pumpkin and the fodder's in the shock and the duh duh duhduh duh duh something something turkey cock....yeah, I know I had to recite that poem 5th grade but every year I forget a little more of it....which isn't the only thing I find I forget every year. 
I have this nice little pumpkin bread recipe that I really like and every year, I dig through about 20 books and a box full of slips of papers and then I remember what book it's actually in.
 This year, I'm going to be the smart one and just post it on my blog so I know where to find it. You'd be surprised how often I actually do that-post something here so 
I don't lose the darn thing. Often, very very often. 

So, Saturday, I'm stalking my way through facebook and I swear every friend I have was making pumpkin bread and it reminded me of college when somebody would pop some microwave popcorn in the dorms and the next thing you knew, everyone was popping some because the power of suggestion was too great (that was back when the college I went to had one microwave in the dorm, down in the laundry area so if you didn't hurry, you'd by waiting with your little bag for 30 minutes in line behind every one else...I'm so old).


This recipe makes a nice couple of 9x5 loaves so you can store one in the freezer if you'd like. We've been eating it for breakfast over here and it's been nice and moist for quite a few days now. 

Here's what you need:

Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare your pans. I think this also breaks down to 7 mini loaf pans if that's your thing. 

In a medium bowl. blend together the following dry ingredients:
3 1/2 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Now for the spices....true confessions, I don't measure my spices because I love fall spice and the idea of measuring 1/4 tsp of fresh ground nutmeg has always seemed ridiculous to me. Basically, you want a blend of  cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger and black pepper. However it is that you want to get down with your spices is your thing. I like a lot of cinnamon and about a 1/2 tsp of the rest. Mix all of this together with a fork and set aside.
In your mixing bowl, blend
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oil (vegetable, canola, corn, whatever)

Once this is fully blended, add in
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Now open that 15 oz can of pumpkin puree...make sure it's NOT pumpkin pie filling by the way.
Blend this in and then scrape down the bowl before adding in the dry ingredients. Just mix until nearly combined before pouring in 

1 cup of buttermilk (sour milk, yogurt, sour cream)

Blend smooth and scrape down the bowl to be sure it is well blended. Now, if you're a nutty kind of person, you could also fold in 1 cup of toasted chopped pecans and it will be lovely but I actually like this recipe without. It makes a really beautiful but firm bread that slices nicely.Divide the batter between the pans and tap them on the counter to remove any bubbles. I sprinkled the tops lightly with cinnamon sugar as well to create a bit of a crusty crunch on top. 

Bake for 35-50 minutes, depending on your oven. Check with a toothpick or thin-bladed knife to be sure it is fully done on the inside before removing to a cooling rack. Let it cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely. Wrap in a bit of waxed paper or parchment and seal in a ziploc bag for storage once the bread is completely cooled. 
There, now I won't loose this silly thing again....