Monday, June 28, 2010

Death to Dusty: An Allegory

At approximately 12:17 pm today Dusty "Buster" Keel left this world.  There were no signs of illness, no indications that there were any sort of blockages- she was just busting dirt one second and the next second she was gone.  It doesn't appear that she suffered much, she was dutifully busting a pile of rubble, she made a groaning sound, and then she expired.

Dusty "Buster" Keel  2006-2010
Beloved Companion to Coach

It's ironic really, I registered for Dusty when we were getting married (which, incidentally will be 4 years ago this Thursday).  Coach said it was a silly thing to register for; he didn't see the need.  He was perfectly happy with his old, reliable dust pan, Pammy. 

But I said, "Oh, the dustbuster is so sleek and pretty, she is efficient, and she joyfully cleans up messes.  All she requires is to be recharged every so often.  She'll never let you down." (Hint, hint)

Coach rolled his eyes.  He doubted her- frankly I think he resented the whole needing to be recharged thing- in his world there is no recharging. 

"Real men don't recharge" he says.

Then we honeymooned in the Caribbean.  Turns out, he does recharge, and he snorkels, he drinks champagne, and he goes to art auctions to get out of the heat, but that's a story for another day.

Anyway, Dusty became a member of the Momsense family in July of 2006.  After two days, Coach was smitten.  They were inseparable, and she has been joyfully busting our messes ever since.  For that we are all eternally grateful.

But now all we're left with is Pammy the Dustpan.

And now?  Coach isn't satisfied with his first love, Pammy the Dustpan.  Oh sure, Pammy works fine, has maintained her flat figure, and never ever requires recharging.

But she's not Dusty.  Dusty was exciting, electric really.  She's a hard broad to replace- she had voltage and verve.  Pammy is introverted, task-oriented, and frankly, a little boring.

So it looks as though Coach will have to choose a new dustmate soon. 

Or maybe I'll choose her for him.

See y'all!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

If You Build It They Will Come

Which is exactly what we did.  We drove through Kentucky and into Indiana where all you could see for miles was this...

Until we saw these jutting up through the corn stalks...

...roller coasters that would rock your world and a water park to boot.  And honestly, looking back on it now- we could have probably gotten away with just driving them through the hundreds of miles of corn fields, telling them about Children of the Corn and Deliverance, because that was darn good entertainment for Coach and me, but in the end we paid to be amused.

And amused we were, but I'll have to fill you in on that Monday evening.  I've had to put myself on a schedule, because I have become impressively unproductive since summer began (thus the lack of blog posts, recipes, and general zeal for life).   Lights were supposed to be out at 10:30- I'm already off schedule.

Coach's head is exploding.  He hates to veer from the schedule.

See y'all tomorrow!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Candy Girl

Alright, so like I said, I've had some mightily impressive writer's block, and last week I did say that daydreaming about salted caramel cupcakes was partly to blame. So I kept writing about making them, but then I didn't. I was also suffering from some mightily impressive activity block, and I blame that on the fact that it's 250 degrees outside with 320% humidity.

Another day, another story.

So, back to the cupcakes and writer's block. I posted something about being blocked on Facebook last Wednesday and then promptly went to play trivia at a Mexican restaurant. When I checked my phone I had a FB message from Leslie the Southern Drama Queen- she said she'd come to Franklin and bake with me- perhaps give us both some blog fodder.

It would also give us the most fattening and delectable cupcake EVER. The recipe is here.

And here is a video that Mrs. Drama Queen put together of our cooking experience. All photos and video footage are courtesy of Leslie, The Southern Drama Queen.

A couple of things:

1. Caramel and humidity- mortal enemies. Pioneer Woman's Salted Caramel recipe had to be manipulated a bit. More on that later.

2. I am a mess, and I don't mean the quirky adorable kind of mess; I mean the "Get thee to a gym, and a colorist, and for Pete's sake get a good night's sleep" kind of mess. There will be more on that later too.

3. Coach does, in fact, bust out the dust buster- please notice that I don't even notice anymore.

4. I learned something about myself: I will risk candy burns so severe that there is nerve damage to taste salted caramel. It's that good.

5. Salted caramel almost drove us to therapy.

6. The cupcakes have driven me back into the arms of Jillian Michaels and her torturous Shred.


See y'all!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer FUN!

All right, time for a fun post (let's get that rant from last time farther down the front page)!  It's summer, and we have been playing hard!

First, the kids have been building things.  Race car tracks, train tracks, car garages from blocks, Lego space police cruisers, Lego car carriers, Lego semi trucks, Duplo army bases, Duplo doll houses, and blanket forts.  Even Sapphire is getting into it now that she can put Duplos together.  The boys insist I take pictures of everything they make so they can remember how to do it.

We also tie-dyed some clothes.  Onyx wanted more army clothes, so we got some brown and green dye, tied the shirts (and socks, and underwear), and dyed them outside.  I thought they turned out pretty well (even though I forgot to do light colors first).  My hands were black for a few days afterwards, but I think it was worth it. 

Then we've had swim lessons!  All three kids are swimming at the same time, so I enlisted Wes to take pictures on his day off.  Quartz spends most of his time underwater, so his pictures didn't come out as good, but Onyx loved showing off his "alligator walk", and Sapphire loves to splash-swim.  She insists on carrying her towel around her shoulders before and after every lesson.

And soon we'll go on our trip to see my sister get married!  Yay!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Blah, blah, blah... and Some Chocolate/Caramel Heaven

So I've been gone for a bit.  I wish I could tell you I have been sailing around the world or basking in the Caribbean sun or ridding the world of evil, but I haven't.

Basically I've spent the better part of the spring battling some sort of hideous writer's block.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Nothing.

And still, today, basically nothing to say.  But, I guess the only way to overcome the block is to just start writing again and either bore you all to numbness and lose you forever, or get my groove back and live happily ever after.

Judging by the difficulty I'm having getting this particular post off the ground today, I'm saying it might be a rough couple of days...or weeks...or, well we'll not go there.

Part of my problem is that I've been obsessed with a creation that LP the Drama Queen (sorry folks, she's gone private) put in my head.  We both love Ree at The Pioneer Woman and her many recipes.  A few weeks ago she put up a recipe for Salted Caramel Brownies.  They were heavenly.  I posted the recipe for you here on Momsense too.

Well Mrs. Drama Queen ups the ante a bit and sends me a message about how good she thinks a chocolate cupcake with a good dollop of PW's Salted Caramel would be.  Since then all I have been able to think about is a caramel filled chocolate cupcake.  And normally that would be a very good thing, but my Weight Watchers points are keeping me from eating one, so I've not made them yet.

And yes, if it sounds like I'm blaming my writer's block on an obsession with a caramel filled chocolate cupcake, you are absolutely correct.  I am.  And to prove that it is the deprivation that has kept me from writing, I will do a little experiment.

I will finally make those cupcakes today, and I will eat one tonight after Coach and I return from trivia night at our favorite mediocre Mexican restaurant.  And if I post tomorrow, and if it is full of witty banter and light heartedness, we'll all know it was the deprivation.

If I don't post, or the post isn't up to par, then I'm prepared to blame Big Mama and her turquoise paint dilemma, because nothing gets me off kilter more than when someone has paint selection issues.  It's just another personality quirk that makes me who I am, which if you asked Coach, he would tell you is completely maddening. 

Anyway, I've spent the last few days obsessing over turquoise paint for someone I have never met in person, and have somehow assigned myself the role of her personal color consultant, all unbeknownst to her.  For the record, I told her to try Benjamin Moore's "Mermaid Green" because a dear friend painted her kitchen and family room that color and Paula Deen went nuts over it (ummmm, yes, she has moved in next door to Paula Deen- lucky duck.)

I've also been running a track camp for 5-14 year old kids.  I can't talk about it.  I will say this, it is the hottest week we have on record for June.  And there's no swimming in track.  It's a downfall of the sport. 

And most importantly I've been trying to come up with the perfect chocolate cake recipe and icing recipe to do PW's caramel justice.  I think I've pulled it off.  Try this and get back to me.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/3 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups hot coffee

 In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and eggs and mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, cocoa, baking soda and salt and mix. Add 1/2 of the flour, then 1/2 of the sour cream and mix. Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream. Drizzle in the hot coffee and mix until smooth. The batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared muffin tins and bake until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay), about 20-25 minutes. Halfway through the baking, quickly rotate the pans in the oven to ensure even baking, but otherwise try not to open the oven. Let cool in the pans 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely.

Salted Caramel (courtesy of Pioneer Woman)  (I will double for the cupcakes!!!)

½ cups Heavy Cream
2 cups Sugar
½ cups Water
¼ cups Unsalted Butter, Cut Into Pieces
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
2 packages (about 1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon) Powdered Gelatin Mixed With 1/4 Cup Water

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm heavy cream. Do not boil.  In a separate tall saucepan, combine sugar and water. Do not stir. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture turns an amber color—not too dark, but definitely amber. Remove pan from stove.  Add warm cream, butter, and salt. Stir gently until mixture is smooth and well combined. When it is smooth and calmed down a bit, pour in gelatin/water mixture and stir.

Pour some caramel (let it cool slightly) into a squeeze bottle.  Insert tip of squeeze bottle into a cooled cupcake and squeeze some caramel into the cupcake.  Repeat for all cupcakes.  Then frost with the cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 pkgs. 8 oz cream cheese- room temperature
1/2 cup butter - softened
32 oz. powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp. vanilla (or to taste)

Place cream cheese and butter in mixer and cream together.  Add powdered sugar slowly.  Add vanilla.
After injecting the cupcakes with caramel, frost them and roll the edges into Heath Bar Bits.  (Or you can crush up toffee bars or any other kind of candy bar you like.) 

Finally, use the remainder of the caramel to drizzle on top of the sprinkles.

So, do you see why I've been out of sorts all week?  I'm telling you - these cupcakes may be the key to world peace.  I'll let you know.

See y'all tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rage, rage, go away (Toilet Troubles)

I am writing about this embarrassing and bodily-function-filled incident in the hopes that it will help my rage and frustration subside.  Feel free to not read its disgusting and gruesome details.

Lately Onyx has had trouble using the toilet.  He goes up to his room, is quiet for awhile, and then calls down, "Mom, I peed on the floor".  You would think that I would notice him going upstairs to do this, but usually I am just so happy that no one is fighting that I try and get a few things done in the few "precious moments" that I have.  Plus, Onyx often goes off to play by himself and does not pee on the floor, so it's not always positive indicator.

Today I was out front pulling weeds.  Onyx went in the house.  Later, I hear, "Mom, Onyx is covered with poop."  Well, we clean it up, he sits on the toilet for awhile while I read him a book, but when nothing is forthcoming I leave him to get dressed while I help Sapphire, who is still sad because she got poked by the cactus (she seemed more offended than hurt).

Big mistake.  "Mom, I pooped on the floor" from upstairs.  And this ain't no dry-rabbit-dropping-style, this is full, my-momma's-been-feeding-me-whole-grains gloppy goodness all over Onyx and the carpet.  I lost it.  I have never swore at all, let alone in front of the kids, but I yelled at him why couldn't he just use the bloody toilet (I blame my current reading for that choice of epithet).  He seemed sad and claimed it was an accident.  "I thought I didn't have any poop".

I still feel like yelling.  The carpet stinks despite four passes with carpet cleaner and a washcloth.  Onyx is taking a bath by himself, but I'm sure in five minutes I'll hear, "Mom, I peed on the floor" again.  I feel like he's old enough to just go use the toilet when he needs to (though lately we've started making him use the toilet when its obvious he needs to but still is not going anyway).  Do I need to shadow him all the time like a toilet ninja?  Lock his door with a big sign on it with a picture of a toilet?  Give awesome rewards for using the toilet (we already have a star chart he does not care much about)?  Shower Onyx with attention and positive reinforcement so he'll feel so good he'll just want to use the toilet all the time?  Just laugh and think about how in a few years he'll just always use the toilet?

I don't know what to do, and I think that makes me the most upset.  Plus, there's the whole control issue where I sometimes operate under the delusion that I can actually influence what my kids do.  I can try to manipulate him into doing what I want, but my amount of control is limited.  I remember this age with Quartz, too.  He had similar pee troubles, and similar issues of wanting lots of attention and throwing a fit when he couldn't have his own way.

In an hour or two I might be ready to laugh at this, but right now I feel like I need a long bike ride, or twenty minutes with a book, or a vampire to stake, or maybe just a long rant on the blog.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Random Sunday Stuff- No Supper

**Updated- Let it be duly noted that neither Debbie Gibson nor the Bangles sang "Heaven on Earth."  Mrs. LRP informed me it was my Doppelganger, Belinda Carlisle who sang it solo.  I should have known that- Coach says I look "Dead up, just like her."  I don't see it, and I definitely can't sing it.  But- thanks Miss Drama Queen!

Oh, don't be fooled, we had supper- I've just given you the recipes before.  We had crab cakes, and fresh peaches & cream corn on the cob, salad, and the kids supplemented with popcorn shrimp.

It's SUMMER!  AC and G have been in Hilton Head all week long,  so- I've spent a lot of time this week sleeping more than I should and staring at a computer with writer's block playing more solitaire than I really should admit to.

All that came to a screeching halt yesterday when they came home.  But, before they got home I figured I'd pretend I had been productive all week by taking a trip to the Farmer's Market in Nashville, which gave Coach, V, and I  the opportunity to check out the XM radio in the new car.

And, might I say that my life is forever changed.  There is a 70's station, and 80's station, a myriad of other decade stations, and....

a station simply called - Margaritaville.  It's Jimmy Buffett and friends 24/7.  God has shown favor on XM radio.  It is heavenly.

We've heard "Safety Dance" in excess of three times this weekend.  We've also gotten our fill of Journey, Air Supply, REO Speedwagon, Poison, and Barry Manilow.

Heaven on know, like the song?  Was that Debbie Gibson or the Bangles?

And, might I add that the synthesizer got a really bad rap during all the grunge rock of the 90's?  Seriously.  Now that I have 80's all the time- I realize, the synthesizer was genius.

Not quite the genius that the Bee Gee's were- but still- artificially manufactured music is totally underrated.

Milli-Vanilli anyone?

Anyway, today we went to SATCO and ate mediocre Tex-Mex, then we went to see Marmaduke.  I wanted to hate it- I did.  I saw the reviews, I read the mommy blogs that talked about the hour and a half of their lives that they would never recover, and I really wanted to hate it.


OH MY WORD- I LOOOOOOVVVVVE movies that include talking dogs.

It's a quirk- I know.  I'm educated.  I hold not one, but two post-graduate degrees.  I read.  I teach.  I'm supposed to love movies like The Queen and Shawshank Redemption

But I don't.

Instead, I love Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Marmaduke

Sue me.  It's an escape.  And if a Siamese Cat and a Great Dane make me laugh, who are you to judge?

Then we ended the day by bribing the kids to risk life and limb on the diving board for 1/2 cup of store-bought ice cream.  They thought they were getting a good deal.

Coach did his first flip off the diving board after he and all three of the kids stood slack-jawed as I did a flip off the diving board with no pomp or circumstance. 

They thought I was lying. They didn't think I could do it.  G even begged me not to, saying "Mom, please don't- you'll get hurt and there are people I know here."

But I did it.  And I have to say, it was the first time in our relationship that my athletic prowess superseded Coach's.

The gauntlet was thrown.

Thus his first flip ever.  I must say, in all fairness, that his first attempt was somewhat cartoonish and ended with him saying, "The whole side of my face is numb- I'm not going to lie."

The only time I have ever been prouder of myself was my first attempt at Wii boxing.  It was Hilton Head 2008.  Coach's entire family was there.  And I?  I. KNOCKED. HIM. OUT.

It was total luck.  We both knew it.

But the diving board flip?

Totally not luck.  I've been mastering that baby since the late 70's.

See y'all!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thank You For Being a Friend

I cannot tell you how many hours of Golden Girls we watched in college.  Matter of fact, aside from the few hours a week we took to watch Grease and Days of Our Lives, that was really the only show we watched religiously (okay, and maybe Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place too).  Don't judge, someone had to preserve the pop-culture of East Tennessee.

Anyway, we're awfully sad around here that Blanche left this world today.  Turns out, no one in the family is more upset about her passing than AC.  She's at the beach right now with her dad, but she did send my mom an e-mail that read:

"can you believe that the star of golden girls just died?! that means no more new epesods!" 

 Please excuse her inability to capitalize or spell correctly, as well as her belief that she is living in 1986.

See y'all!