Favorites of the Week

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Mother's Day Card

A favorite picture – David’s Mother’s Day gift. He thinks I’m 52, but the fact that he said my favorite place is the Y makes me feel pretty virtuous.

Some favorite links of late:

Recipes I want to make:

Favorite moments this week:

  • Swinging with Joshua on my lap. The weather was just perfect, and he was going, “Wheeee! Hi, Birdy! Wheeeee!” Joshy keeps me on my toes and wrecks our home, but he is the sweetest little guy. He loves animals and often comes to announce, “Want Mommy kisses!”
  • Seeing Libbie in their kindergarten-graduation “Seafood Festival.” I am so glad that don’t have a cap-and-gown kindergarten graduation. This sweet program, where they were all dressed as ocean animals, was the perfect capstone to a wonderful year.
  • Receiving a poster of pictures from David’s year in the 3-year-old preschool class. As soon as I picked him up from his last day, I cried. David is a quirky kid, and I wasn’t sure how he would do in school after a whole year of staying home with me. He had the best teacher ever and just thrived so much this year in that class. We ADORE the preschool where Libbie went for last year and David has gone this year, and I am glad I have another kid to go through it, too!
  • Laying in bed reading The Husband’s Secret while rain poured and thunder boomed yesterday. <— That’s what I’m reading offline!

I know my blogging has been slow lately. Lots of work, lots of end-of-the-year stuff, and something has to go to fit it all in and keep my home livable. I hope to have a little time to plan and generate ideas after school lets out this week!

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

Chai Spiced Scones {Secret Recipe Club}

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Chai-Spiced Scones

Maybe I should stop making scones for Secret Recipe Club. First there were Cranberry-Chocolate Scones. Then Creamy Lemon ones. Oh, and these Scone-type Biscuits with Vanilla Lemon Curd. I guess the scones are a result of two things: I generally make what I have the ingredients on hand for, and I love some scones!

This month my assigned blog was The Hobo Kitchen. Ellie blogs from Hoboken, New Jersey, although she was born and raised in the Bahamas. She’s been blogging since 2008 about restaurants, recipes, and other fun stuff, and has an impressive recipe index. (I’ve never seen anyone with a category just for Boozy Cupcakes. I’m intrigued!)

I had the ingredients to make this Biscoff Cheeseball (including an unopened jar of biscoff, which I’ve never even tried … convince me on it!), but didn’t have any parties to take it to, and my husband doesn’t eat cream cheese. So instead I decided to make Chai-Spiced Scones. I love Chai, I love all those fall-ish spices like cinnamon and cardamom, and the recipe seemed to be singing my name.

I modified the recipe just slightly, to include some whole-wheat flour and also incorporate the food processor. I feel like the food processor was invented just so I wouldn’t have to cut butter into pastry dough. {I think I waxed on about my food processor when I wrote about those cranberry chocolate scones.}

Thanks for the wonderful recipe, Ellie! These are lovely, fluffy scones with just the right amount of crust.

Chai Spiced Scones

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 8 scones

Chai Spiced Scones

Adapted from The Hobo Kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. white whole wheat flour, or more AP
  • 3 T granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 5 T butter
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. sugar or cinnamon-sugar for sprinkling

Instructions

Cut butter into cubes and place in freezer for about 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.

Measure flours, 3 T sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cardamom into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix together. Add butter cubes, pulsing, until the mixture is crumbly and butter is dispersed.

Whisk together milk and eggs; pour into dry mixture. Pulse in food processor until the dough comes together in a ball. If it seems too dry, you can add up to 1 T water to bring it together.

Dump dough onto a floured surface and press into a circle about 1 inch thick. It should be about 10 inches in diameter. Sprinkle dough with some sugar or cinnamon-sugar.

Cut dough into 8 even wedges. Transfer with a spatula to the prepared baking sheet.

Bake 12-15 minutes, until lightly brown on top. Cool on a rack.

http://www.jessieweaver.net/2015/05/chai-spiced-scones-secret-recipe-club/


Sick, Sick … and Then Some Sickness Thrown In

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Dreary Doctor's Office
source: Timmy Gunz via Flickr

If the end of the school year wasn’t so close I could taste it, I think this week would have done me in.

Libbie woke up on Monday morning unable to walk. (She’s 6 1/2 and 50 pounds, people. Not exactly portable.) On Sunday night, she had complained about her leg hurting, but nothing more than in passing as she went to bed. But on Monday, she couldn’t straighten it out. She ended up spending most of the day on the couch … except when Mama carried her up and down the stairs and the car to take her to the health center at school, and then the doctor.

We thought they would probably do x-rays, but after being forced by the pediatrician, Libbie was at least hobbling around a little. Instead they insisted my little one have her blood drawn – after much, much screaming – so they could test for arthritis. SERIOUSLY, DOCTORS? One pulled muscle?

(P.S. Thank you to our children’s minister, Sarah, who stepped in and watched the boys for me until Mr. V could take over.)

So Monday evening Libbie was still limping heavily, but at least I didn’t have to carry her. I thought she would probably go to school the next day, and I made plans with a friend to hang out with our little ones (her daughter is about 6 months younger than Joshua).

Tuesday at 5 a.m., I woke up to Mr. V throwing up.

Bye bye, plans. Can’t risk contaminating other children. No other puking, thankfully, from anyone else in the family.

Wednesday, I think I will get to go to Bible study. But taking Libbie and then David to school (which, by the way, is an hour-and-a-half endeavor … thank God I don’t usually have to take David!), Joshua coughed … and coughed … and coughed. It was a sad and pathetic cough. So I canceled the plans and took him home. Where he promptly started running a high fever and then took a 4-hour nap.

My home is cleaner than it’s been in months. Seriously. And I shredded papers. And finished the laundry.

Because Joshua was still running a fever Wednesday night, I didn’t feel like I could take him anywhere Thursday, even though he woke up fine. So I missed our last MOPS meeting of the year this morning.

And here’s what Joshua did today.

  • Started the dishwasher and pressed buttons on the yogurt maker.
  • Dumped a slushy on the sofa.
  • Threw an untouched banana in the garbage can.
  • Asked for pizza for lunch then promptly cried about it and refused to eat it.
  • Cried about being in the stroller.
  • Cried about having food on his plate other than processed cheese product at dinner. (Then went and swiped more processed cheese product off the food line where we were eating outside the dining hall.)
  • Cried mercilessly all the way from our apartment until I got to David’s classroom to pick him up, then some more after we found David, causing a giant spectacle for the other preschool parents.
  • Bit me.
  • Tried to take a cupcake off the counter.
  • Colored himself with marker.
  • Tried to put a medicine dropper in the paper shredder when I left it unattended for 20 seconds.

Yep, he’s just your everyday Toddlerzilla. But after this week of a little too much togetherness, I am stir-crazy and tired of the toddler antics. Someone send help if I can’t leave the apartment tomorrow.

(Did I mention that he wanted to sleep ON TOP OF ME for half of last night? Not beside me. ON TOP.)

(Thank you for dealing with my pity party. I feel better now just getting it out.)

(Oh good. He’s crying again.)

Booking It: April 2015

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I feel like I’ve found my reading vibe again lately. I zoomed through some great books this April. It probably helps that I finally finished my Bible-in-90-days reading plan (in 104 days). I want to write about that, but I’m not sure how. But maybe.

Meanwhile, here are the other books I completed in April.

only uni

Only Uni by Camy Tang – I think we all have our “I don’t want to think” genres. For me, that is Christian romance or light fiction. I read the first book in this series in October (I can’t believe it’s been that long!), so when this went on sale I bought it for Kindle. It was readable and interesting, but this isn’t my favorite series in the genre.

sunmoonstars

The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Steven Brust – A short fairy-tale retelling I’d had on the shelf for years, I finally read Brust’s offering to the Tor Fairy Tale Series. I had some difficulty seeing the connection between the fairy tale (a little known one, which is told intermittently throughout the chapters of this book) and the main storyline, about a group of young artists working in a studio. It is a thoughtful book when it comes to thinking about Art and its process.

daringgreatly

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown – It took me a full two months plus some to get through Brown’s great work about vulnerability and what she calls Wholehearted Living. This is mostly because I would read a chapter or two, then have a short crisis dealing with what I’d read. It’s one I probably should have just started over immediately after I finished. Emotionally, this was rough for me, but I think that’s what makes it so important – it means it changed things for me. (Also see: Your Art Is Not You.)

when did i get like this

When Did I Get Like This? The Screamer, the Worrier, the Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyter & Other Mothers I Swore I’d Never Be by Amy Wilson – I think I first read about this book on Tiffany’s blog … in 2011? Did it REALLY take me that long to read it? I hang my head in shame. Because this is a wonderful “mommy memoir” about Wilson’s experience as a parent, from trying to conceive to preschool applications to your first vs. third child. It helped a lot that my kids are currently about the same ages Wilson’s kids were when she wrote this. I laughed out loud, read passages to my husband, and adored most of it. My only hesitance was in the chapters related to her husband. It felt a little man-bashing to me. But otherwise, I wholeheartedly recommend Wilson’s book. (You should also read her daughter’s open letter to Amelia Bedelia, with Mommy’s commentary.)

firstfrost

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen – First Frost is Allen’s latest book, published in January, and the third of hers I’ve read. (I read The Peach Keeper in 2012 and listened to The Girl Who Chased the Moon in September.) I love Allen’s version of magical realism, a genre that’s always appealed to me. And I love how she writes teens and adults equally well and often in the same book. My initial response upon finishing was anger that it was over. I want to know more about what happened! There is a prequel, Garden Spells, that I haven’t read, so I guess that will perhaps fill a void there.

antelope
The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle – This book is a collection of tales from the author’s marriage. If you have read Big Mama and like her humor, you will probably love it. I laughed out loud a lot and enjoyed the stories. Some of them seemed to be reaching for a moral, but generally it felt a lot like sitting around the living room with girlfriends and swapping husband stories (but not in a demeaning way).

What have you been reading lately? I need to tackle Shosha for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge, and I have it from the library, but I’m also reading Off the Record by Elizabeth White.

Added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy. 

Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings

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Recently I picked up The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Steven Brust. It’s one that’s probably been hanging out on my bookshelf for at least five years, waiting for me to dive into its pages. At just 210 pages, I don’t know why I’ve never read it. To-be-read-shelf-shock, I suppose.

I’ve always liked fairy tales, from the Disney movies to Shelly Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre. (THE BEST!) In college, Mr. V and I took our only class together (since otherwise he ONLY took Math, Science, and Computer Science courses): Children’s Literature. It was taught by one of my favorite professors and is a highlight of college for me. Not only was Mr. V in there, but also three of our other good friends. We sat in a corner and were perhaps a little bit of trouble. Oh, and four of us were English majors who didn’t need the class at all.

We read Little Women, Harry Potter, Where the Wild Things Are, The Snowy Day, and other wonderful children’s classics. A study on pictures in books using this Molly Bang book is really memorable, too. But I think my favorite section of the course was when we studied fairy tales. We looked at the originals: Perrault, Grimm, Andersen, Madame D’Aulnoy. Some of these tales are truly horrific compared to the mild, Disney-fied versions we see today. It was simply fascinating.

fairytaleretellings

I love reading fairy tale adaptations, too, and maybe someday I’ll actually write that children’s book from the viewpoint of the pumpkin in Cinderella. Here are some of my very favorite ones. (The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars does not fall into this category. It was OK, but not awesome.)

tamlinTam Lin by Pamela Dean – Maybe around the same time as that Children’s Lit class, my roommate Erin gave me a copy of Tam Lin to read. Now I don’t know the fairy tale of Tam Lin at all – and maybe the ending of the book would make better sense if I did. But the story of Janet, a bona fide English major nerd in college in the 70s, is a wonderful read, especially for any fellow bibliophiles. She and her friends are so smart they probably couldn’t exist, but I am sure those people are somewhere, right? The ending, again, is weird. But I think it ties in with the actual fairy tale.

The Lunar Chronicles Series – Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, and (to come) Winter – I think I only gave this series a try because it was based on fairy tales; I am not a sci-fi reader. But the combination of a fun future setting, the fairy-tale elements, romance, adventure, and some brainy heroines makes this series killer. I didn’t love Fairest, but the other ones are phenomenal and I can’t wait to read Winter in November.

briarroseBriar Rose by Jane Yolen – I love that Jane Yolen writes stuff like How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and also this, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty set in the Holocaust. It’s been quite a few years since I read it, but I remember really loving the tale.

Wicked by Gregory Maguire – What would this list be without Wicked? Unlike the musical, Maguire’s book is heavily laced with Oz-ian politics and animal/Animal rights. It is long, dense, and fascinating. I’ve also read Maguire’s Mirror Mirror and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. They were good, but not great in my memory.

monstroudbeauty - EditedI guess Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama is kind of a Little Mermaid retelling. I’ll admit I know nothing about The Little Mermaid except the Disney movie. It is an amazing book with mermaids and other fantasy elements and I adored it (and read it in one sitting).

This site seems to have a pretty extensive list of fairy tale retellings, although I don’t agree with all the mini-reviews. It does make me feel like I am not the only person who loves these adaptations.

Do you have a favorite fairy tale or retelling?

Pistachio, Cashew, and Chocolate Toffee {Secret Recipe Club}

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Pistachio & Cashew Toffee

 

I am doing a quick fill-in for someone in Group D of Secret Recipe Club, so this is my second reveal for April. Fun! I got to explore the new-to-me blog Hapa-tite. Nicole is a (very gorgeous) twenty-something of mixed cultural heritage who loves and embraces her father’s Hawaiian culture. She lives in the DC area, and writes about a mix of recipes, bento box ideas, tea, and restaurant reviews. Nicole is also a graphic designer and has one of the most beautiful blogs I have seen!

I would love to try some of Nicole’s other recipes, like these Date Bars or Homemade Filet-o-Fish, but for today I decided to tackle Pistachio Dark Chocolate Toffee.

I’ve never actually made toffee, but this looked so delicious and I had a bag of pistachios, so it spoke to me. I didn’t realize toffee is really not that difficult to make; this whole process took me maybe half an hour. And I have a whole pan of toffee that looks like it could have come from Williams-Sonoma (without the $45 pricetag!).

This toffee would make a beautiful gift or just nice to have around for some good, teeth-sticking-together, toffee snacking.

Just a note that I used pistachios and cashews … entirely because I got tired of shelling the pistachios. So buy pre-shelled ones or don’t be as lazy as I am. I liked the cashews, but I think all pistachios would probably be best. Or you can throw whatever you want on top of this: dried cranberries, sprinkles, crushed candy cane, candied ginger … the possibilities are endless.

Pistachio, Cashew, and Chocolate Toffee

Pistachio, Cashew, and Chocolate Toffee

Adapted from Hapa-tite.

Ingredients

  • 1 c. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 ounces chocolate (chips or chopped) - I used about 2 oz. very dark chocolate and 6 oz. milk chocolate chips
  • 1 c. chopped nuts, preferably pistachios, or other toppings

Instructions

Have an ungreased 9x13 pan close by while you make the toffee.

In a heavy saucepan, heat butter, sugar, water, and salt over medium heat. Once butter is melted, whisk constantly until you feel like your arm will fall off and the mixture reaches 300F. It will be a medium golden brown color. When the mixture gets sort of melted-marshmallow consistency and comes away from the side of the pan as you whisk, you're getting close.

Immediately pour the toffee mixture into the 9x13 pan and spread out. Let cool.

Melt chocolate in the microwave in 30 second increments until it is about 75% melted. Then keep stirring until it's uniform. Spread gently over the toffee. Immediately top with chopped nuts or other toppings. Use the bottom of a glass measuring cup to gently press the toppings into the chocolate.

Cool in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes or at room temperature 2 hours, until the chocolate is all hardened. Break off pieces and serve. Store any extra in the fridge.

http://www.jessieweaver.net/2015/04/pistachio-cashew-and-chocolate-toffee-secret-recipe-club/

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