Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Soup's on.

Some women claim flowers as the key to their heart.  For others, it's diamonds or romance.  For me?  I choose warmth.  I could begin my dissertation on how a warm-blooded girl actually ended up in New England, but I shall summarize it in the following sentence: In my quest to follow love (aka: move to my husband's hometown), I began my never-ending quest for warmth.  
Simple love for me is found in wrapping my hands around a warm cup of coffee on a brisk morning, a roaring fire, mittens, my well-worn UGG moccasins and freshly washed blankets.  And nothing says good old fashioned down-home love as homemade bread and a simmering pot of soup. 
I could sit here all day with these great things all within reach.
When we made the cinnamon rolls last week, I made two pots of soup to enjoy.  It was an easy way to feed a crowd and a flexible, compact meal.  The Pioneer Woman website inspired not only the cinnamon rolls, but some tasty soup options.  I made the Chicken Tortilla Soup for the cinnamon roll baking and the Cauliflower Soup a few days later for some easy football watching food.  I am always a fan of Chicken Tortilla Soup and I was pleasantly surprised at how good the Cauliflower Soup turned out.  I almost refrained from telling Charles about the cauliflower to assure that he would try it, but he didn't require much explanation.  He was on his second bowl before we could discuss the contents.  
And for the 3rd batch of the week is a Potato Leek Soup recipe that I make quite often in the colder months.  I started making this after I found myself with a need to use up some buttermilk.  I have tweaked this recipe a little bit.  I use chicken broth instead of vegetable and slightly more potatoes.  For those of you who are deterred from the words immersion blender as I once was, put it on your gift list or splurge at your local kitchen store on this simple tool.  Once you use it, you will be seeking out recipes that require one.  It is great for anything from soup to smoothies and I guarantee that you will love it!  Anyway, back to the soup...I have found this to be the best potato soup recipe in my humble opinion.
  • Ingredients

    • 1 pound leeks, cleaned and dark green sections removed, approximately 4 to 5 medium
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • Heavy pinch kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
    • 14 ounces, approximately 3 small, Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced small
    • 1 quart vegetable broth
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
    • 1 tablespoon snipped chives


    Chop the leeks into small pieces.
    In a 6-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and a heavy pinch of salt and sweat for 5 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook until the leeks are tender, approximately 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    Add the potatoes and the vegetable broth, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until the potatoes are soft, approximately 45 minutes.
    Turn off the heat and puree the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in the heavy cream, buttermilk, and white pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately, or chill and serve cold.
    Stay warm!

Monday, January 16, 2012

If you bake it, they will come

It started with a desire to make 
I will admit it, I took one look at this recipe and I couldn't resist creating an opportunity to make them.  This dream was met with my friend Laura's passion to do some networking within the Western Massachusetts blog community.  What better way to marry these two great tasks?  Invite some creative and inspiring women to spend an afternoon chatting and baking.  The end result?  A wealth of really good (buttery goodness, good) cinnamon rolls and some wonderful conversation with some pretty incredible women.
The Pioneer Woman perspective is nicer and neater and doesn't forget to put the yeast in the dough during the first hour when things are supposed to be rising.  Luckily we had a bread guru (I aspire to be a bread guru), Nikki who saved it with her knowledge of the fine tuned needs of yeast.
Our dough.  Pre-rising, pre-yeast.  It gets better from here.
The rising part allowed for some crafting and chatting.  We made tags for the cinnamon rolls since we were making enough to share.  And Laura had the great idea of printing the recipe to add to the gift.
and now we roll it out
Kristen's rolling out trendy style with Julia's apron on.  It inspires culinary creativity by wearing it.
These are 2 of the 4 balls of dough ready to take a butter bath.
3lbs of butter went into the creation of these rolls.  Yes, you read it right, 3lbs.  That's a  lot of butter.  It all went to a worthy cause - 15 batches of ooey-gooey cinnamon rolls.  
It's still a lot of butter.
Butter lined tins. 
This is the part where it all comes together.  The part that requires self -restraint to allow it to bake before digging in.
A quote from Kristen,"it feels like a bicep".
Eating these will not produce biceps, but the labor part definitely  justifies the  consumption.
Ready for baking.
I'm not a huge fan of frosting, but this sealed it.  We tweaked the recipe a bit, but it complimented the rolls perfectly.
4-hours of fun
2-batches each to take home and share
1-for some taste testing to enjoy our creations and reflect on the day
check out their great blogs:
(from left to right)
Kristen and Laura - http://www.planteatcreate.com/

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The hidden perks of parenting

Winter has arrived.  Mornings at the park are on hold for the next few months.  This equates to some pretty interesting days stuck inside and a daily frustration of coming up with something fun to do.  I have officially shut down the many bells and whistles that were attached to the hundreds of toys that have made themselves at home in our living room since Christmas.  You can only cook so many brownies in Julia's play kitchen until you need another fun activity.  I have to admit, the TV has been on much more than I'd like to admit.  There are moments when I have thought to myself, if I hear the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse introduction one more time, I might go crazy.  Though these characters have a special place in my daughter's heart, the daily toddler-driven cartoons begin to wear on your sanity.  
Yes, the TV has even captured Charlie's attention!
 Two nights ago, I couldn't take it anymore.  We turned off the TV and decided to have a Pandora dance party courtesy of the Veggie Tales song mix.  We rocked out to Alvin and the Chipmunks and some praiseBaby and suddenly, our house was filled with one of the greatest childhood songs ever: Doe a Deer from The Sound of Music.  This song is iconic not only for the sing-along lyrics, but if you've watched the movie, it is wonderfully choreographed.  While holding Charlie, I taught Julia the steps straight from the movie (I just wish that I had a beautifully landscaped staircase and some Von Trapp children to help me out). Both of the kids got a huge kick out of it. 
Suddenly I had this huge appreciation for the opportunities that I have to share these moments with my children.  When you grow up you often forget about those great childhood gems that mold your memories.  One of the gifts of having a child is the simple fact that you open the door to experience it all over again.
This morning we had our first toddler storytime at the local library.  It reminded me of my favorite first grade teacher who used to read to us (on the number rug) with such conviction that the stories would come alive.  I watched Julia soak in the story today about a Superhero and I could see that same sense of wonder that I felt when I was little.  Frankly, I was a little bit jealous that I didn't get to make a Superhero cape during the craft after the story :)
Julia and Charlie have opened this new world of reexperiencing these great things.  Since having children, I have rediscovered my love for PB&J, some good old fashioned mac and cheese and stomping in rain puddles.  I have flown a kite, built daily forts, searched for bugs, went on a wild hunt for the "Silly Gilly Gumbo", marched in circles to music, and heck, I've even had a turn or two in a bounce house.  It may sound silly, but sometimes I stop and thank Julia for the opportunity to do some of these special things. While I have many painful days ahead filled with Mickey Mouse, glitter nailpolish, and reading the same book over and over again, I can't complain.  This stuff is just way too much fun!

And in the meantime, for those of you who need a fine balance, I have found a little snippet that you may enjoy.  Julia and I both agree that we like this clip.
I love Feist.  Julia loves Sesame Street.  And they came together for a special treat!
*WARNING* If you watch this clip, you will likely sing it in your head for days on end.  But it will make you laugh to sing, "1-2-3-4, Chickens come back from the shore".

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Homecoming (kind of)

Charlie has graciously allowed a room tour.  This is not just any room tour.  This is Charlie's "it's officially done and I can live here" room tour.  It only took us 6 months to finally pull it together for him.  There are several reasons that it took this long for Charlie to finally sleep in his room.  I will list the top three:
1. He is the second child.  Enough said.
2. His room was held as a bargaining tool.  Charlie would stay in the bassinette until the room was complete. Charles didn't like this idea, but it was the only way that I could assure that the pictures would be hung.  
3. With the knowledge that Charlie could possibly be our last child, I took every opportunity to keep him right next to me as long as I could.  At one point a few weeks ago, we had a running joke that Charlie would return home from the prom and tell his friends, "Hey guys, goodnight.  I'm going to my parent's room to sleep in the bassinette now".  Somewhere in each of my blogs I end up having to acknowledge, "poor Charlie".  Yes, poor thing.  Good thing he has a great room.  
Anyway, let's start with how the room looked less than a year ago.  You might remember the horrible wood from this BABY BOY GRAY post.  Let me just insert one picture to bring it home.  It doesn't help that I took this picture at night, but the room was so dark, I could never imagine this space as a child's room.
 Fast-forward 9 months.  
I can just hear him saying, "Hi my name is Charlie.  Also known as Cha-ley to my sister.  Often referred to as 'Choo Choo Charlie' and 'Charlie-bear'.  Anyway, welcome to my room!"
We started with a white and gray pallette on the walls, and it just made sense to add in the yellow.  The yellow carpet pulls it all together along with the wall hangings.  My parents also bought Charlie a great nightlight that has red and darker blues in it, which work in small ways throughout the room.  (You can see the nightlight peeking out from behind the chair).
So much brighter huh?
The two prints on the right are from two of my favorite Etsy shops.  You should check them out!
Almost Sunday has custom prints (you can see Charlie's stats in the "our little sunshine" print if you look closely).  I would like to order one of everything from her shop.  Amazing graphic designs!
Raw Art Letter Press had a great assortment of "sunshine" themed prints.
Both were great to order from - so accommodating and eager to embark on a custom order!
The "you are my sunshine" frame is from my most favorite beach store ever - South Moon Under.  Rehoboth Beach may be 400 miles away, but this frame is like a little piece of beachy goodness.
This letter "C" is brought to you by the lovely Kate Morgner.  I think it was inspired by Pinterest, but she is pretty stinking creative herself! :)

The hanging shelf was made by my grandfather.  You can't see it well, but it is a great blend of sturdy and funky.  I love it.
It is quite difficult to capture the great pieces of this room through pictures.  But there it is.  We've come a long way.  The room is done.  I tossed the white flag of surrender in the big debate on when Charlie will finally be allowed to sleep here.  He we have successfully made the transition on the first of the year.
Sleep tight Charlie-bear.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Once upon a time in a time far away, I left.  A friend and I decided one night that we would drive to Colorado.  We packed up our clothes and our dogs, left our responsibilities for a week and we drove.  We drove until we reached the place that made the most sense. Across the neverending fields of Kansas.  Catching every sunrise.  Embracing the freedom.  Singing along to Rosie Thomas all the way.  
I happened to find my journal from that time 8 years ago as I was putting away some Christmas things.  I laughed as I read and relived that great sense of accomplishment for following through.  A little urge to drive across country, as crazy as it sounded at that moment, was met with action.  
In every heart is the deep ache for adventure.  It is up to us how we choose to quench it.  Sometimes it means doing the craziest things that don't make sense.  Eight years ago I slept in a car in the middle of a Colorado winter just so that I could catch the thrill of a Steamboat Springs sunrise.  I was so excited from the adventure of it all, I didn't even realize how cold it was. 
It was amazing. 
I was younger then.
Adventure has taken on a whole new meaning.  
Charles and I sat down and made our lists of resolutions and somehow life has become a little bit more predictable.  As we talked about our goals for the year, I thought back to some of my words in my journal from 8 years before.  
On January 1st, 2004 I had written out my resolutions:
*Take road trips - CHECK (I left for Colorado the next week)
*Take a pottery class at the local art museum - CHECK (ahh, and in the midst of it, I learned to relax!)
*Read "To Kill A Mockingbird" - CHECK (still my favorite!)
*Spend more time with Grandpop - (I pray I did, he died later that year)
*Embrace love - CHECK (I'm not sure that I meant meeting my future husband, but I just so happened to meet Charles in April of 2004 - pretty neat timing)
After these resolutions I wrote:
Sometimes it makes sense to be predictable.  I don't know that there are many road trips in my immediate future this year.  If there are, they involve 2 car seats and lots of gear, which somehow negates the freedom factor of a true road trip.  I do know that there is a big place for adventure in my life right now.  
It looks different, but I am content to hang out with my rockstar
 and blow bubbles after bathtime.
 I resolve to take more photos
and run a half marathon.
Resolutions don't have to be boring.  Sometimes we get so caught up in the "must do's" that we miss the whole point.  
So, this year I left an extra special space on my list of resolutions.  A space for one crazy thing that makes no sense in the predictability needed as a parent.  I dare you to squeeze in one more space for adventure on your list. One thing that you talk yourself out of or think you will never achieve.  Keep it  there.  You may not check out for a week to explore, but you may just find one of those spontaneous moments to embrace it.