Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Well look at you!

It's been a pretty crazy week. We had some relentless rain here in the place where I live and that rain would not let up until it made it's way into our new home and soaked a portion of our only recently cleaned carpet. It's like if the rain could talk it would say, "Welcome to home-ownership!" It's been a little frustrating, but we're powering through. Literally. I just used my first power tool today. Bobby's drill. Bobby has been helping as much as he can, but without time off this summer and his medical boards coming up, he doesn't have much time for home improvement- or in this case, maintenance. So I'm drilling holes in the dry wall to give the walls some air.

Yesterday I was out in the front yard playing with Sophie and checking on my gladiolas (they're coming along nicely) and I found this gorgeous lily. I was thrilled! I'm finding that I really enjoy gardening. I have no idea what the heck I'm doing, but it's still a lot of fun. I inherited these from the previous owners. There were a lot of weeds to pick and I almost picked these but I thought I'd wait and make sure they weren't something I'd want to keep. I'm sure glad I didn't pull these beauties out. Right next to these are some hydrangeas which have always been one of my Mom's favorites. I was so glad to see them come up and I'm trying really hard not to kill them!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Blueberry Vanilla Swirl Ice Cream

I actually wasn't crazy about this recipe. What is different about the frozen custard I make at home and the frozen custard I buy at Culver's or Fritz's or Freddy's? My home version coats the inside of my mouth and tastes very egg-y and I really prefer the non-custard way. I do however think I would make this again and use a different recipe- old faithful- and add the blueberry marble to that instead.

Blueberry Vanilla Swirl Ice Cream
from Tartelette

4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean or 1 Tb vanilla paste
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup sugar

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick. Run a knife through the center of the vanilla bean, not cutting all the way through, split it open and with the tip of a pairing knife, scrape the seeds. Place them in a saucepan over medium heat, add the milk and cream to boiling point but do not let it boil. Slowly pour the hot cream onto the egg yolks mixture and stir to combine (tempering). Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the cream coats the back of spoon. At this point you have a thick custard sauce. Remove from the heat and let cool completely, refrigerate until cold, or overnight.
In the meantime prepare the blueberries: in a small saucepan, combine the berries and the sugar and cook over medium low heat until the berries start to pop and release their natural juices. Let cool completely.
Process the custard according to your ice cream maker manufacturer's instructions and towards the last couple of minutes of churning time pour in the cooled blueberries and give it a couple of swirls. Pour the soft ice cream into a freezer safe container until it reaches your preferred consistency.
If you do not have an ice cream machine: take care of the vanilla ice cream first, during your last whipping, add the blueberries the same way and freeze.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Peach Raspberry Crisp

Yikes, sorry for the crappy picture!

Peach and Raspberry Crisp
from the Barefoot Contessa cookbook

4 to 5 pounds firm, ripe peaches (10 to 12 large peaches)
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups plus 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pint raspberries
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the inside of a 10 by 15 by 2 1/2-inch oval baking dish.

Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds, then place them in cold water. Peel the peaches and slice them into thick wedges and place them into a large bowl. Add the orange zest, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the raspberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid, add 1 more tablespoon of flour. Pour the peaches into the baking dish and gently smooth the top.

Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, and the cold, diced butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is pea-sized and the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on top of the peaches and raspberries. Bake for 1 hour, until the top is browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator and reheat in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until warm.

Serve with vanilla ice cream. If you're up to it, make this ice cream. You won't be sorry you did.

Friday, July 18, 2008

When was the last time you saw a mullet?

The fair is in town and we thought we'd make an appearance last night. It was not as hot as it has been in past years, but the food and games were in keeping with our previous NEMO fair experience as well as the high standard of freak we're used to seeing there.

Question for you: When was the last time you saw a real live mullet in person, not in some picture that you got in an email? Well, I can honestly say that I sighted a perfect specimen! And here it is:

We went on rides, ate funnel cake, cotton candy, and corn dogs, the girls played a fishing game, and we looked at stinky animals. I just love the fair.

Without a doubt, the most exciting part of the night was when we sat in the arena to watch the bull-riding. I'm not sure my bull-riding spectator experience exceeds what little I've seen on that movie 8 Seconds with Luke Perry. (Tangent: I still remember what Dylan McKay had on his answering machine on 90210- "This is Dylan. You know the drill." Speaking of 90210, the other day we were flipping through the channels and I shrieked, "Bobby, go back! Go back!! That's Andrea Zuckerman!" I made him go back to the lifetime B movie so I could identify the most obscure character on the 90's primetime soap opera I watched in high school. Yeah, that makes me look smart. I've lost the ability to conjugate French verbs and I can't remember how to do algebra, but I remember the nerdy girl's name from 90210. Awesome.) Everywhere I turn lately I am seeing evidence that I'm becoming a small-town Missouri girl. Like last night at the rodeo when I was trying to stifle a "yeehaw." Or the other day when I saw part of a music video while I was flipping through channels and I found someone (Kid Rock)- who not long ago completely repulsed me- the slightest bit attractive. What's happening to me?

So back to the bull-riding. I looked at Bobby and asked him, "it is okay that we have little girls here watching this?" We had Franny's friend Quincy there with us and I was worried that the cowboys getting bucked off the bulls was too violent for them. Bobby said, "Oh no, no." We watched about 5 bull-riders get bucked off and then there were some guys on horses trying to corral the bull back into the enclosure. They almost had him there when at the last second he darted to the right and outside of the arena. We had arrived late and Sophie, Quincy, Franny, and I were all sitting on a bench and Bobby was standing on the side of the stadium right next to us, totally exposed and only ten feet from the runaway bull! With nothing in between them, except one or two other spectators! Bobby said he didn't really have a chance to get scared, because by the time we all really knew what was happening, the bull was off and running away from the arena. It was all very exciting! Bobby took this picture of the bull. I love how it looks like there is blood dripping from his mouth. This would make a great cover picture if things had turned bad last night, especially with those demon eyes. The blood of innocent bystanders...


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Movin' on up!

We had so much help with our recent move and we are so grateful!!

Thanks to everyone who came and helped load the truck, took my kids so I could get stuff done, helped me clean our house, or even just called to offer to help. We are grateful to have such good friends. Here are a few of the rockstars who helped us move out. We had a whole additional crew on the other end from our new ward to help us move in. You'll notice Jessica is in the picture. She amazes me. She walks in, sets her baby down, and starts loading up the truck with our crap. I was totally planning on just kicking back and watching the guys work, but I couldn't very well do that while Jessica was lifting heavy objects now, could I? Just kidding about kicking back, but seriously- I was so impressed. Oh and by the way, she had already spent an hour or so earlier helping me clean bathrooms. Yeah, bathrooms. I felt so bad after she left and I realized I had asked her to clean our bathrooms?! Jessica, you're such a good friend and I miss you!

And then Rebecca who took both my children on moving day AND the day before so I could get some things done. We're really going to miss your family when you go!

Then Natalie called to offer to help clean the old place with me the next morning. Then she hired a babysitter and had me bring Sophie over there so we could get more done without having to deal with our kids. She was so fast and efficient. And she taught all about the self-cleaning feature on my oven. I'm no longer intimidated by the power of self-cleaning.

I have to put a plug in for my friend's new card business. They do greeting cards and then these small business-card sized ones as well. They are awesome so check them out!

Jessica, Jayne, Natalie, and me. Jess and Natalie, I can't believe you're not here anymore! Jayne, I'm so glad I get to keep you for another year!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Coconut Cupcakes

Coconut Cupcakes
from the Barefoot Contessa cookbook

Oh baby, I love these babies. They are so moist and delicious and the cream cheese frosting is to die for. It makes a lot. I cut this entire recipe in half but otherwise followed it exactly. (I cannot make a recipe that calls for a pound and a half of butter. I just can't do it.) I still end up getting 15 cupcakes out of this recipe.

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut
For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.
Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.
Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Green Necklace

A year ago today a very good friend of mine moved away from the place where I live. A week later another very good friend was scheduled to move away. This happens every July when the second year med students leave for rotations and I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that every July I'm going to be sending off some really close friends.

But I often think about that day in particular. July 14, 2007. One year ago today.

We woke up early and Bobby went to the Pace's house to help load up their moving truck. Bobby needed some medicine from so I did something that at that time was totally out of character for me. I took both children to Walmart by myself. At that time Franny was not invited on shopping trips. Especially to Walmart. She was difficult to manage and she would often scream or run away from me and almost always caused a scene. It was not really a problem because I could just do all my shopping while she was at school. But Bobby needed me to go this particular morning and so I mustered up the courage and faced one of my biggest fears at that time: WALMART WITH TWO CHILDREN.

It actually went pretty well. We didn't need to be there long so we picked up what we needed and passed by a jewelry clearance rack. There was a long beaded green necklace that caught Franny's eye. I looked at the tag. $3.50. I thought, "Why not? We can swing that." So now that Franny was entertained by the green necklace I thought why not pick up a few more items. We shopped for a little while longer and then headed to the cashier's line. (I didn't want to push my luck.)

As we approached the cashier I started to get anxious. It had always been difficult to convince Franny that she needed to surrender whatever treat we were bribing her with long enough for the cashier to ring it up and hand it back. I was getting to the point where I really understood that negative behavior should not be reinforced so I felt prepared to deal with an outburst and proceeded to ask Franny to hand the necklace to the nice lady ringing us up. She flipped out. Lost it completely. I asked her once more to give the necklace to the cashier, and when she continued to throw her fit I calmly explained to Franny in simple words that we would not be buying the necklace today. Unfortunately I had parked in front of the OTHER end of the store, so while Franny screamed and screamed, I gripped the handle bar of the cart and with my head held high with resolve and determination I ignored her screams and the stares of many people around me and walked along the front of the store in front of the bank, the guest services desk, the salon, and the picture studio when Franny suddenly stopped screaming and said, "I'm sorry Mommy."

What? Did she just say, "sorry mommy"? I felt my heart soar. She had started to use words but I had never heard her come up with a "sorry" on her own with out any prompts. I knew exactly what to do. Instead of walking out of the store with what little dignity I had left, I veered to the left towards the jewelry section, grabbed another clearanced green necklace and we tried the whole thing again. Franny handed over the necklace after only being asked once, we paid for it and we've never had that problem again. (With Franny anyway. See here how Sophie is following in her footsteps.)

Kind of a small little breakthrough in my limited experience of parenting, but it was a big enough deal that I called my Mom on my cell phone as soon as we got into the car. I was thrilled that I had done something well and taught Franny a lesson. My mom listened closely to the story and she seemed just as thrilled as I was. We talked about it for quite a while and though I don't remember exactly what she said, I remember feeling happy that I was sharing that experience with her.

After that we headed over to the Pace's to help them clean. Then after the house was completely emptied, Ashley and I had a yummy girl's lunch where we talked about the name of the restaurant we would someday open. We sent her and Abbey off and felt pretty sad the rest of the day. Now we had to prepare for sending off the Sessions and Miss Franny's BFF Alyssa. I made cookies that afternoon- they were Heath Bar Toffee Cookies. They were delicious and I called Jill to see if we could come over and play and bring dessert. Then I got an email from my farewatcher (a great service from Travelocity) alerting me of cheap tickets to California. I got on the phone with my mom again to tell her that maybe we could afford a trip out there this summer. She got really excited and we threw around a few ideas for a short family vacation in August- maybe we could get a beach house in Carlsbad or something. I told her about the cookies I made and then she said, "I can't believe this! I just made those cookies two weeks ago for the very first time!" Call waiting interrupted and I checked to see who it was and said, "Oh mom, I better go. It's my friend. I'll call you later. I love you." We went to the Sessions spend some time together. My plan for the week was to soak up as much Jill and Alyssa time as possible before they left for Utah. My Mom and I had been on the phone a lot the previous week. She was very sympathetic and listened as I told her I had no idea what I would say to Franny when she asked for Alyssa. How could I explain to her in words that she could understand why she couldn't play with her whenever she wanted?

We came home and I fell asleep on the floor after trying and failing to beat the Legend of Zelda for NES. School for Bobby had just let out and we were feeling pretty care-free. Then the phone rang at about 11:30 PM. Bobby didn't get to it in time, but he saw it was my brother Richard. He didn't really think anything of it because he figured Richard had forgotten about the time difference and was just calling to chat. The phone rang again close to 1:00 AM. This time Bobby made sure to answer it and he knew it meant bad news. It was my dad. Bobby woke me up and I immediately felt scared. My Dad was calling with the news. My whole life changed during that phone call. We didn't know exactly what was going to happen at that point. But something told me right then that everything was about to change, and whatever was happening right now was going to impact the rest of our lives in a big way.

That green necklace belongs to me now. Every time I look at it I think of those last conversations I got to have with my mother. I spoke with her three different times the two days before she died. They were all three great conversations. Not the kind of conversations a mother and daughter have when they know they're about to say goodbye. Normal conversations- the kind they have on nearly a daily basis, the kind they know they'll be able to pick right back up on the next day. I'm so glad these were my last conversations with my mom. I cherish them. And it's funny how a cheap plastic necklace from Walmart can carry so much meaning for me.

I think I'm always going to hate this day. Something about this day simultaneously brings me farther away from what happened and right back to it all at the same time. And not in a good way. It's been a whole year since those phone conversations and any living memories of my Mom. And everything that's happening right now (face-melting heat, friends moving away, our recent move) are all things that were happening a year ago.

Something I'm extremely grateful for is the kind of mother she was. She was the kind who said "I love you" in every phone conversation. She never held back with her compliments and praises. I know exactly how she felt about me. I will never have to wonder if she is proud of me or if she loves me or if she approves of the decisions I make. These are things I just know. I hope I will follow her example and that my children and husband can say the same about me.

I was always going to post the slide show that was played at my Mom's funeral, but we couldn't find a way to put it online. It's online now and you can view it here if you want.

Hungry camels and frozen berries

Bobby and Justin had to fly out to Philadelphia this weekend for a test they had to take and so the girls and I thought we'd tag along so we could hang out with Ashley, Abbey, and Hayden for a fun-filled weekend. And that it was. I was so happy to finally get to see Hayden. What a sweet little baby!

The first morning we were there we went to see Grant's farm. Oh my gosh. It was so much fun. Jodie and Nora came along and Franny was so happy to see them! It was so hot. Like so hot that you think your face is going to melt off. Sophie was loving all the animals and Franny never really fully recovered from her brief encounter with the hungry goats we fed with a milk bottle. Poor Franny. :)

Then we found the camels. They were very sociable, standing right up at the gate and eating out of people's hands. He was looking right at Ashley and she saw a good photo opportunity so she asked Sophie and I to pose. Then, out of nowhere, the camel turns, opens his mouth and tries to eat our heads! It was crazy. Mind you, he has barely moved up until this point. Ashley took the picture at the perfect moment, simultaneously capturing me looking my best and the camel with his jaws wide open. It was hilarious!!


I left my stupid memory card at home so there were many photo ops missed by me. I wish I were posting tons of cute pictures of baby Hayden, that sweet little pixie Abbey, Franny and Nora on the train, Sophie's first time down a water slide by herself, and Franny's 100th time down a water slide by herself. (That day anyway.)

I did however have Ashley take a picture of a new dessert we tried. I saw this on the Barefoot Contessa a year or so ago and thought it might be fun to try.


Frozen Berries with Hot White Chocolate
adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

2 half-pints fresh raspberries
2 half-pints fresh blueberries
1 cup heavy cream
10 oz good white chocolate, chopped (I actually just used ghiradelli chips, even though Ina says not to use chips)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Early in the day, spread the berries on a sheet pan in a single layer and place them in the freezer. (This prevents them from sticking together.) Once they're frozen, store them in a freezer bag.

Pour cream into a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and pour in white chocolate and vanilla. Give it 30 seconds or so to start melting the chocolate and then stir until all the chips are melted and you have a smooth sauce. (You can also heat all of the ingredients together in a double boiler.)

Place the frozen berries in one layer on dessert plates and allow them to sit at room temp for 10 minutes to defrost slightly. Pour the hot white chocolate evenly over the frozen berries and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

4th of July in P-burg

We went down to spend the 4th of July with Bobby's family this year and had a great time. And wouldn't you believe it? We didn't even make it to see David for some tropical sno! Unheard of! Usually I can't on us dropping at least 20 bucks on those babies.

I've written a lot about Pittsburg. It's where Bobby's family hails from and we love to visit family there. Molly and her family are moving away from there soon and we are going to miss them so much! Here's some of my previous posts about Pittsburg:

Gay horse
Cocks in the hen house
Another Great Weekend in P-burg
Family Reunion BBQ

It was the usual cast of characters plus a new dog masquerading as a horse. My father-in-law just bought a Great Dane! Sophie was in heaven. That kid is a dog-lover. I don't know where she gets it. Franny couldn't stand to have them near her. They are all good dogs with the exception of my father-in-law's pride and joy, the infamous Buster. A small but wily Jack Russell Terrier who just won't quit. Any time Sophie or any of the other grandchildren gets near him, he growls menacingly. I really don't like that dog. (By the way, the JR Terrier that Nicole and Sophie are hugging on is not Buster- that's Kiki. We like her.)

A trip to Poppy's house always means rides on the lawn-mower, tractor, 4-wheelers, and dirt bike. The girls had a blast. I especially love the one of Franny with her uncle Wes. He is so cute with our girls!

And of course there's the pond, providing hours upon hours of free entertainment. Sophie wasn't crazy about swimming in the pond, but Franny had the time of her life, despite the excess number of giant catfish.

The last night we were there we went with Larry to eat at a new place in town called Freddy's. We all ate outside in the scorching heat because my nephew Jacob didn't want to wear a t-shirt. It ended up being perfect, because our three and a half families were the only ones crazy enough to sit outside, so we could let our kids be rowdy and talk loud and have fun together. After that Niki and Morgan and Justin joined the rest of us and we went to see Wall-E. Franny was really excited because she got to sit next to her older cousin Zoe (who couldn't be any sweeter) for the whole movie.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Dark Side

I painted my first room this week. It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be, until I thought I was finished and found all these areas I needed to touch up. So I was up on my step stool for another hour painting tiny little strokes near the ceiling. Then this morning I found 5 or 6 other areas that need touching up. Now I'm not sure I'll ever be finished!

The other night I asked Bobby to help get me started and show me some pointers. I did a few strokes to "cut in" - that's painter talk - and panicked. I hated it! Against the yellow I was painting over it looked almost purple. Bobby suggested I go ahead and paint a whole wall before I decided to pick a new color. Well the next morning I painted an entire wall and I definitely liked it more. So I continued to the next wall, and the next wall, and then next wall until I was done. The funny thing is, I'm still not entirely sure about it. Sometimes I think, "way to go Katherine, you picked a really cool and complex color with a lot of gray in it, but also some brown and with the right accent colors it will look really cool." But then sometimes I think, "Who are you kidding Katherine, you don't know crap about color."

And sometimes I worry about painting so much grey in the house. Will it be gloomy and depressing? I don't think it will, but what if it makes us all really dark and depressed? What if start wearing lots of heavy black eye makeup and listening to death metal. People will be like, "Oh yeah, that was Katherine's dark period" and it will all pivot on my decision to use gray for the color of our walls in one of the most important rooms in the house!

What have I done?! :)

Here's the look we're going for, sans the bathtub. Soon I hope to paint the trim white. (First I want to paint the girls' room. Our color of choice for their room? Black, to intimidate my subordinates. Just joking.)

(Here's a picture of the living room before we bought the house with the previous owner's stuff):

And here's a picture of the opposite corner of the room in the new color. (Doesn't even look like the same room!):

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