Thursday, May 29, 2008

Frances Scout

We've been getting to see a lot more of this cute little bug because she has had this week off school. It's not often that we get to have Franny home when Sophie and I are doing our normal routine. But every time we do, I get used to it and enjoy it and it makes it so hard to send her back to school. I am hugely grateful for Franny's school. It is absolutely right for her and I love that she can go. But it's also been really nice to have her home. After Sophie went down for her nap I put a movie on for Franny and did a little sewing. When her movie was over, she came and found me and gave me a big hug. She wanted to help me so I let her use the "big" scissors to cut the threads. She loves to help.

Today was our first day at the outdoor pool this summer! We had a great time. Especially Franny.

A little more on Franny:

She likes to take pictures now. Usually of me and Bobby. I think I'll make a collage of her work and post it sometime. After she took a picture of me, she wanted me to take a picture of her in front of a black backdrop I hung up for my aprons. At the last second she did this crazy dance move and jumped to the side. I loved how the picture turned out.


Franny has certain items of clothing that she really likes. A pair of stretchy pants that are 2 sizes too tight for her, her yellow "flower pants" that my Dad sent her, and this set of pajamas that my Grandma made for her. Only she HAS to wear them with these shorts over them. She came up with this on her own and we think she thinks it looks awesome. Oh yeah, and just fyi, she was wearing two pairs of panties in this particular picture. Not sure why.


I took the girls to Columbia last week for Franny's checkup with Dr. Stroud. She is a developmental pediatrician and is the one who gave Franny her diagnosis. We love her. We love her staff. We love visiting her office. So we were both happy and sad when they told us we didn't need to come back for our regular six-month check-up. They feel that since Franny is doing so well they won't need to see her for another year. In fact, her nurse practitioner said that Dr. Stroud didn't even need to come in on this visit because of all of Franny's progress. I said, "Aw, that's nice... I still want to see her, though." So I thought I better snap this picture since we won't be seeing her for a while. We love Dr. Stroud.

I don't write about autism enough. I'd like to be helpful to other mothers and families who have to face the challenge of raising a kid with autism. I don't know why I don't. I think I have a healthy approach to it. It doesn't scare me like it used to at all. I've learned so much and we've had so much help. And yet, 2006 started with a speech diagnostic test at the nearby university and ended with her autism diagnosis in December. It was one of the hardest years of my life and it totally rocked my world. There was a time when I really wanted to hear from another mom that it gets better. That someday I would feel okay about Franny's autism. That the sorrow and grief I was dealing with was normal. What's wrong with me anyway? Why am I always looking for validation? Is this normal? Am I normal? I finally found what I was looking for in a book, and then again in another book. Karyn Seroussi's book "Unraveling the Mystery of Autism" and then in Catherine Maurice's "Let Me Hear Your Voice." Well, it did get better. It got A LOT better. So why don't I write about my experiences? I wish I knew and I'll try to be better.

Here's something from Seroussi's book that I could really identify with:

"If this is so common, why haven't I heard of it before? I just discovered that there are two other children with autism on my street? Why wasn't I warned? This is not happening to me. I didn't sign up for this. I'm not cut out to be one of those noble parents of the disabled. But what if it is true? What if my beautiful, perfect baby has a severe, lifelong disability? The answer is this pain in my body. The answer is that my child has been kidnapped and no officials can be notified, no suspects can be questioned. Life goes on as usual, but my baby's soul and spirit are gone."

So sad, I know. I was crying really hard by the time I finished this paragraph. It felt good to know that someone else out there had felt the way I was feeling, though. And we got her back. And it took a lot less time than I expected it to. She started looking when we called her name. We saw her start using her finger to point. She started to learn words and to use them to label things. She learned how to follow directions and her eye contact improved. We started to witness miracles on a regular basis. There were so many who made such a difference in her life and ours. Since she was 2 1/2, she's had a team of people who get together monthly to discuss her progress. These people feel like family to me. I don't know what's going to happen with Franny. Obviously we can't predict the future, but I am thrilled that my little Franny is so happy. I never could have imagined that summer of 2006 what a cheerful, obedient, sweet little girl she would be as a 4 year old. I wish someone could have told me that 2 years ago. It probably would have saved me a few sleepless nights! :)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sweet Sassy Molassey

So, my sewing addiction is pretty much out of control. I just can't get enough. So, I decided to start selling a few things to help feed that addiction, which led me to create this blog with my talented friend Jenny, which then led me to open an etsy store, which I have named Sweet Sassy Molassey. Catchy, huh? ;)

sweetsass

So check it out if you have a second. Let me know what you think.

I think I'll keep the blog as a place to post stuff that I'm selling online, as well as just little projects I work on at home for my family or to give away as gifts.

Now I haven't hit it big yet. No tax ID or business cards or anything like that. I don't have a number for customer service or sales, so while we're still such a small outfit I thought I'd answer some F.A.Q.'s.

#1. Will she be offended if I don't buy anything? Heavens no! I have never been the kind of person who is comfortable selling things to her friends. Even at a garage sale. I'm only doing this for Amy Butler. And Michael Miller. And Sandi Henderson. (These are all fabric designers. What can I say? I have expensive taste in fabric.) No, but seriously, please do not worry! I would hate for anyone to feel obligated to buy anything from me that they do not want or need. Phew, now that THAT's cleared up...

#2. How would she feel about a trade? Great! I love trades! Just ask!

seamstress

Shrimp Enchiladas and Sweet Corn Cakes

Franny's consultant came over for lunch yesterday. We do this every couple of months and it's a great opportunity for me to ask questions about Franny and get lots of helpful advice. Plus, she's fun to hang out with.

I've been craving shrimp like crazy lately, and I always love opportunities like this when I'm cooking for someone else besides Bobby to cook with seafood. I found this recipe on My Kitchen Cafe months ago, and I've been dying to try it. It looked so tasty and indulgent with all the whipping cream and sour cream... I couldn't resist.

So, I'm guessing some of you reading this are a little intimidated by cooking with shrimp, especially fresh shrimp, so I thought I'd say a little something on the subject.

First, why buy fresh shrimp with the shells still on when you can buy it cooked and ready to go? Let me tell you why. First, fresh will always taste better. Second, you can buy exactly as much as you need if you buy it from the case. Third, chances are, your recipe calls for some step where you have to saute your shrimp (or cook it in some other way) with an opportunity to flavor that shrimp with butter, lemon, spices, and salt so it will be delicious. If you've purchased pre-cooked shrimp, then you'll have one of two problems: either you go ahead and follow the instructions in the recipe to flavor the shrimp, resulting in a tough and rubbery texture, OR you skip that step and miss out on all those delicious flavors. Neither option is acceptable.

So here's what I always do. I really HATE shelling and deveining shrimp. It's gross and I always gag a little in my mouth when I have to do it. They don't smell very good and they're not very pretty. I'll usually do it the night before and keep them in the fridge so that the next day all I have to do is pull them out and they're ready to go.

So here's how ugly they look when you start.


But look how pretty they are only minutes later:


They cook faster than you'd think, so watch them. You don't want to overcook them.

Shrimp Enchiladas
adapted from My Kitchen Cafe

1/2 cup sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup onion, minced
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 cups Monterey Jack cheese, divided (you can use half pepper-jack cheese for great results)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cups ripe tomatoes, chopped
7 or 8 (9-inch) flour tortillas

Saute red pepper and onion in 1/4 cup butter until crisp-tender. Add oregano, salt, garlic powder, pepper, cayenne pepper, and flour. (I poured them into a small bowl and mixed them so they were ready to add all at once.) Stir for about thirty seconds and then pour the cream in. Continue cooking for 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add 1 1/2 cups cheese; stir until melted. Add sour cream, stir to blend. Set aside.

In another skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Saute shrimp and 1/2 cup onion until shrimp are pink. Remove shrimp and chop; return to butter and onion. Add chopped tomatoes and 1/2 of the cheese sauce. Spoon 1/3 cup shrimp mixture into each tortilla. Sprinkle cheese on top of shrimp mixture. Roll up tightly. Arrange seam side down in a 9X13-inch glass baking dish. Spoon remaining cheese sauce over tortillas and sprinkle with remaining cheese.


(I used Monterey pepper-jack cheese and I wish I had followed the suggestions in the recipe and used half Monterey jack and half pepper jack. It was pretty spicy. So I just added more sour cream and spread it on top. Worked like a charm, but I could have saved those calories if I had cut down on some of the heat in the pepper-jack. I'll leave it up to you. :)


I also served some sweet corn cakes, a lot like the ones you may have tried at Chevy's or my family's favorite restaurant while I was growing up: El Torito.

I didn't want to go out again to get some masa harina so I substituted 1/3 cup flour + 1 Tbs corn meal for the masa harina and was pleased with the results. So yummy!

Sweet Corn Cake

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup masa harina
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  1. In a medium bowl beat butter until it is creamy. Add the Mexican corn flour and water and beat until well mixed.
  2. Using a food processor, process thawed corn, but leave chunky. Stir into the butter mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, sugar, cream, salt, and baking powder. Add to corn flour mixture and stir to combine. Pour batter into an ungreased 8x8 inch baking pan. Smooth batter and cover with aluminum foil. Place pan into a 9x13 inch baking dish that is filled a third of the way with water.
  4. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven F (175 degrees C) oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Use an ice cream scoop for easy removal from pan.
And here's how the story ends:












Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In case you hadn't heard, Reese's and Whoppers got together and said, "Let's make something beautiful."

And it is beautiful.

(I feel foolish when I give free advertising on my blog. Like, shouldn't I be getting paid for this? These babies are so good, I'm sure they sell themselves. That makes me feel a little better.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Went to Chicago

My sister and I (and I think my cousins Jessica and Chrissy, too) used to love this movie! I felt a little bit like Calamity Jane leaving a small town to head to Chicago. Except we took a train and not a stage coach. I came home and dazzled Bobby with my version of this classic Doris Day song. Such a treat for him.

I took the girls to Chicago so we could see my sister Julia and her husband Grant. (She was there for work and he came along.) We had the best time. I always knew I'd fall in love with Chicago. I've wanted to go since we moved here but was waiting for the right timing. Bobby and I were already planning to go this summer and when Julia mentioned she had a business trip there, I practically shrieked with excitement and screamed, "we live 5 hours from there!!"

This trip also helped me get back in touch with a good friend from Provo. Dan and Meredith live in Aurora and we stopped there for a visit and had a delicious meal and they drove us all the way in to the city and dropped us off at our hotel. So nice of them! It was fun to visit with them and see how their beautiful family has grown.

So this trip to Chicago was a big deal for me. I had a really amazing time with my girls. They made great traveling companions. Franny was up for anything. Monday night, after a FULL day of sight-seeing, after a bath and moments before bedtime, she turned to me and said, "Franny go Chicago please?" She wanted to go back out on the town! She was perfect the entire time. I never thought I could enjoy traveling alone with two small children as much as I did.

Monday morning we hit the Aquarium. My favorites were the Beluga whales. They were so pretty! The girls really liked the blue iguana. In the water below where the blue iguana was perched we saw some funky-looking lobsters. They were cool. I bet they would taste fabulous with a delicious lemon-butter sauce. Anyway, Sophie loves to go to Walmart and look at the lobsters. When I pull her away from them, she calls out "Bye lobsters. BYE LOBSTERS!" over and over and she waves at them for what seems like five minutes. Well, when she saw these lobsters she said, "Lobster?" It was almost like, "what are you doing here, lobster?" I was not expecting to see you here."

Then we made the VERY long trek back towards our hotel. Franny spotted a park with a playground so we stopped there after we took pictures at the fountain (which was modeled after the fountain at Versailles.) Franny played there for a long time while we adults rested and Sophie slept in the stroller (which we borrowed from Natalie. Thank you Natalie! It was a lifesaver!) She met this cute little girl from Australia and they played for a while. I talked to her Mom for a while and her husband is an actor and they're living here for a few months while he works on a film. I thought that was pretty cool. I have no idea who he is or what movie he's acting in, but it was kind of cool to be hanging out around an international celebrity family. :)

Photobucket

Julia and Grant left to get our luggage and bring it to our new hotel and I pushed the stroller towards the Palmer House Hilton. We stopped at Millenium Park- which I have been SO excited to see since I saw Mary's pictures years ago. It did not disappoint. Franny saw the fountains after that and I promised we'd go home and get her swimsuit on and come back. We played in the fountains twice. Our first visit is in the video I made, but the second is not. We went again on Tuesday and it was WAY more crowded. She was in her clothes at this point and got completely soaked. I had a change of clothes so it was no problem. She had so much fun and I wish I got pictures but we left the room in such a hurry that I forgot my camera.

Tuesday the girls and I headed out to Jamba Juice for a mid-morning breakfast. After that we did some fun shopping- for them, then for me, then for them again after Sophie spilled her jamba juice on her lap. Franny really impressed me in Forever 21. I was looking for some t-shirts and the girls wanted skittles. I pulled out my diaper bag to retrieve some candy and after I found my t-shirts, we started to head out. Franny said, "Mommy, need to go purse." I was worried this might happen. I accidentally left her purse at the aquarium. I took it off for her in the restroom and I don't think I ever picked it up. So I explained to her that we didn't have it anymore and that I was sorry, etc. Then she said, "No Mommy, need to go purse." I turn around and saw that I had left the diaper bag on the floor and I was all ready to leave it behind in the store! What would I have done. Thank you Franny!

Later that afternoon after more frolicking in the Millenial Park fountain, Grant met up with us and we paid a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. IT WAS AWESOME. My girls were awesome. I was so glad I got to go! The best part was, somebody handed Grant a couple of free tickets on his way in.

When Julia got off work we all went to eat at Giordano's and had some delicious pizza with a LOT of cheese. Franny ate her first plate of spaghetti and she LOVED it. (I decided that on vacation I'm going to let Franny have food with processed wheat flour in it- like pasta, McDonald's chicken nuggets, etc. It doesn't seem to have any effect on her and it just makes things a lot easier.)

As Julia and I were walking around I turned to her and said that if Mom were still around she would have met us all here. She has never been to Chicago and I know she wouldn't have missed the opportunity to check it out AND see her granddaughters. The girls and I would have shared a hotel room with her, so the newlyweds could have their own room. She would have bought the girls some darling outfit from Gymboree or something, and she would have laughed with Grant every time Julia turned the wrong corner on our way to the hotel room. It was really fun for some reason to imagine all that.

I think I want this to be a tradition. I pictured when my girls are older and taking a trip like this with them. I even thought about someday when they have kids of their own, and them leaving them home with their husbands and meeting up somewhere like Chicago. We'll see the sights, do some shopping, catch a show. That's something my sisters and I never really got to do with my Mom and I look forward to having that kind of tradition with my girls. And maybe my sisters, too.

Here's a video/slide show I put together with highlights from the trip:
video



As wonderful as the trip was, it was nice to come home to Bobby. I wish I had a picture of the look on Bobby's face when Franny gave him a hug when we got home. She squeezed him so tight and would not let go. He seemed so happy to have his girls home.

Rhubarb

I love rhubarb. Last year marked the beginning of my seasonal affair with rhubarb stalks. I'm up for some good rhubarb lovin' as long as it's available at the market. I tried this recipe once before last year and this time I added a few raspberries. I was really happy with it. So happy in fact that I single-handedly ate two of the four tartlets!
Rhubarb and Raspberry Tartlets with Vanilla-Ginger Crumb Topping

(adapted from La Tartine Gourmande)

* 1 recipe sweet Pâte brisée (recipe below)
* 1 lb + 2 oz rhubarb (I used two very large stalks)
* 2 oz sugar
* 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed

* 2 inch ginger root, peeled and grated extremely thinly
* 3/4 cup almond powder
* 3.5 Tbsp brown raw granulated sugar + 2 Tbsp to sprinkle over
* Confectioner’s sugar

Steps:

* Peel the rhubarb and cut it in 2.5 ” long sticks.
* Place them in a colander placed over a bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 cup fine sugar. Let rest for 1 hour so that the rhubarb looses its water.
* In the meantime, roll your pastry dough thinly and divide in four 8 x 4″ rectangulars, and place them on a baking sheet.
* Preheat your oven at 420 F.
* Make small holes with a fork leaving a 1/2 inch border. Cover with a plastic film and place in the fridge.
* Mix together the almond powder with 4 Tbsp raw brown sugar, the vanilla seeds and the ginger. Crumble.
* Take the dough out of the fridge and top with the almond crumble, leaving the border intact.
* Arrange the rhubarb sticks on top and sprinkle with additional 1/2 Tbsp on each tartlet.
* Cook for about 20 min. Remove and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar if desired.



Sweet
Pâte Brisée

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 lb. very cold unsalted butter, diced

Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and toss quickly with your fingers to coat each cube of utter with the flour. Pulse 12-15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the otor running, add 1/4 cup ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and form into 2 disks. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.I hope to be bringing you more things rhubarb in the near future!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Al Fresco

al fresco

Cheeseburgers. Easy enough, but here's a few simple tricks to make your burgers FABULOUS. I've heard it's a good idea to mix your meats, like 1/2 ground sirloin, 1/2 ground chuck. I just use ground chuck, 80/20 (a little fat in your burger is a good thing.) I put the ground beef in a bowl, shake some Montreal steak seasoning in, about 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, kosher salt, pepper, and sometimes A-1 steak seasoning- although lately we've been leaving it out. Mix in seasonings with your hands or a wooden spoon and start shaping your burgers into patties. (I usually get four small burgers for each pound of meat.) Now, here comes my most important hamburger tip: a pat of butter hidden inside the patty. I'm totally serious. One pat of butter inside your hamburger patty and you'll be thanking your friend Katherine for your totally awesome, moist and delicious hamburger. When you're grilling them or cooking them in a skillet, resist the urge to use your spatula to flatten the patties. You'll squeeze the juiciness right out of them! Butter is also our friend when we're preparing the buns. Spread butter on each side of the bun and broil them for 2 minutes or however long it takes for them to get all toasty and warm. And don't forget the mayo. (NO miracle whip!)

My kids were mostly into the homemade fries. Sometime when I'm not so tired I'll tell you how to make those, too.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day 2008 - not so bad!

It was actually pretty darn good. I really haven't been looking forward to it. It's the first one since my Mom passed away and I figured it was going to be kind of rough. But my family took care of me and really made me feel appreciated and loved and I am so grateful to them. Especially Bobby.

I woke up to this:
Bobby surprised me with these (24 yards of darling fabric):
and these fun buttons:

He made dinner and he did all of the dishes. The only thing he didn't do was get up and walk to the closet to get the board game we were going to play. When I asked him to get it, he pointed to the stacks of fabric and said casually, "Hey remember how I bought you all that fabric? Everyone was like, 'look at that homo looking at fabric.'" I thought he had a good point, so without another word I got up and retrieved the Sequence game from the closet. It was a really fun day. Thanks honey.

You two are pretty great, too.

Blackberry Pie Bars

I've been seeing this one all over lately and was dying to try it! Next time you're going to a bbq or picnic, consider making this instead of lemon bars. Yummy! (Found recipe on Taste and Tell.)

Blackberry Pie Bars


Crust & Topping
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chlled unsalted butter

Fruit Filling
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 (16-ounce) packages frozen blackberries, defrosted and drained

For the crust and topping:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until fully combined. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Add the butter to the flour mixture and process until the butter is evenly distributed, but the mixture is still crumbly.

Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture for the topping. Press the remaining crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 12-15 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Cool for at least 10 minutes.

To make the filling:
Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl, then add the sour cream, flour and salt. Gently fold in the blackberries. Spoon the mixture evenly over the crust. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs evenly over the top. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. Cool for at least 1 hour before cutting.

Makes approximately 2 dozen bars.

Sophie and Sloth

Hey Sophie,

Remember that time you got pink eye and I gave you Franny's medicine, and you woke up looking like this? We would have called you "Sloth" all day, only I couldn't remember that character's name so instead we said, "You look like that guy with the deformed face from goonies!"

It was so hilarious! I was taking Franny to school and Sophie was still sleeping, so I grabbed Sophie out of her crib, put her in her car seat, and while I was backing out of the garage, I finally saw sophie's face. I was like, "Holy crap! What happened to your face?!" Poor Sophie.

(This was months ago by the way. I just never blogged it.)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mushroom Hunting



A friend of ours in the ward lives out in the country and invited us and the Haas family to come out to her land to go "mushroom-hunting." They have several mushroom patches on their land that grow plenty of morel mushrooms each year and they were kind enough to share them with us! I'm not going to lie, it's one of the weirder things I've done since moving to the Midwest, but it was an absolute blast. After we were done picking them, we cleaned them, split them up and sauteed half in butter and the other half we breaded and fried in butter. They were so good. Even Bobby liked them and he is a natural born mushroom-hater. (Gets it from his Mom.)






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