Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Peppy Peppers

Often on the weekends, I try to do something a little special for breakfast. Nothing elaborate, but something beyond our usual toast or yogurt and granola.

This past weekend, it was Bell-Pepper Egg Flowers. I saw the recipe in a Parents magazine earlier this summer, and wanted to try it. Our peppers were a little slow this year, but we had a bunch come on last week and I decided to give this a shot.

Basically, all you need to do is heat some vegetable oil, about 2 teaspoons, in a pan. Slice your bell peppers into approximately 1/2" rounds. Mine were a little smaller, so I cut them closer to 3/4" thick. Lay the rings in the pan and cook for about 2 minutes. Then flip them and crack an egg inside each one. Cover the pan and cook for 6 minutes or until yolks are firm. The recipe didn't say to flip them after the eggs had cooked a bit, but I did because nobody in this household likes their eggs runny at all. 

Mine ran out the bottom a bit, but ended up flipping without a problem.

Some looked prettier than others, though none of them looked quite like the magazine photo (which has terrible glare here).

The recipe also suggested sprinkling a bit of Parmesan cheese on top. We skipped the cheese and just ate ours with toast. We had one left over and it actually reheated nicely the next day, which surprised me. I thought Bert would get more of a kick out of this, but I don't think he quite made the connection that it was supposed to look like a flower, and he was a little put off by a fried egg when he is used to scrambled. Oh well, maybe next year.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Squeezing the Tooth Fairy

This little article came from my mom-mom, via my mom, and I just have to share it because it is, well, absurd.

Inflation costs Tooth Fairy

NEW YORK (AP) - Days of finding a quarter under your pillow are long gone. The Tooth Fairy no longer leaves loose change.
   Kids this year are getting an average of $3.70 per lost tooth, a 23 percent jump over last year's rate of $3 a tooth, according to a new survey by payment processor Visa Inc., released Friday. That's a 42 percent spike from the $2.60 per tooth that the Tooth Fairy gave in 2011. Part of the reason for the sharp rise: Parents don't want their kids to be the ones at the playground who received the lowest amount.
   "A kid who got a quarter would wonder why their tooth was worth less than the kid who got $5," says Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and professor at Golden Gate University.
   To avoid that, Brian and Brittany Klems asked friends and co-workers what they were giving their kids. The Klems, who have three daughters and live in Cincinnati, settled on giving their six-year-old daughter Ella $5 for her first tooth.

I'm pretty certain that we maxed out at a dollar, and I think most of the time we got a special coin, like a 50-cent piece in lieu of actual spending money. But five bucks for going through a natural growth stage? Come on.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Nesting? Maybe?

My mom asked me a week or so ago if I thought I was nesting at all. No, I replied, just trying to stay on top of the day-to-day stuff. Then I found myself baking two days in a row and wandering the house with a can of Pledge and a dusting rag. So yeah, maybe I'm nesting. The house isn't spotless, but we are enjoying some fall-flavored goodies.

On Friday, I baked some muffins.

Spiced Carrot Muffins
Everyday Food, Jan/Feb 2004

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. plain yogurt (I only had fat-free French Vanilla on hand but that worked fine)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
2 c. peeled, shredded carrots (about 5 medium; I highly recommend using a food processor to shred them – so much quicker!)

1. Line 12 cups of a standard muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, butter, and egg. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add yogurt mixture. Stir until just combined. Fold in carrots.

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups (about 3/4 full). Bake at 375˚ for about 20 minutes.

Since I was dirtying the food processor and a couple of bowls, I opted to double the recipe and froze about half of what I made for later.

Then on Saturday, I made mini pumpkin croissants. Bert hasn't stopped asking for "puppin rolls" since.

Rather than type out that whole recipe, click here for the link. Simple and quick. You are going to have plenty of leftover filling; I actually used three cans of crescent rolls and still had about a cup of filling left. We've been eating it on bagels and toast, and Bert likes dipping animal crackers in it. We've also been enjoying it stirred into plain oatmeal for breakfast.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bert Loses It

Lately Bert has had a few all out screaming fits. Sometimes we can't figure out why, other times it's clear what is upsetting him. Though why toys falling out of his bucket was such a disaster, we'll never know.

Turn up your volume if you want the full experience!

Welcome to the terrible twos, I guess.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sofa, So Good

Way back when we moved into the first place we rented, we bought a second-hand couch. It was not stylish, it was purely functional. And cheap. And now we have lived with it for over six years, bringing it with us from our rental place to our house when we moved.

We really didn't think we would worry about replacing it for awhile yet. Our thoughts ran to getting out of the toddler years, and possibly puppy years down the road if we decide to get another dog, before we would get a new couch.

What we weren't really thinking about was that when Bert moved over to his big boy room, we lost our only guest bed. Huh. What now? One overnight guest could sleep on the couch, or we could buy an air mattress. Neither of those options oozed hospitality. We started mulling getting a sleeper sofa. Then we threw caution to the wind and just went ahead and bought one.

Ok, so we didn't really buy the couch on impulse. I spent a couple weeks browsing the websites of furniture stores that we have nearby, narrowing down things we liked and were in our price range. Then on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, when we thought we could hit the best sales, we headed out. Six hours, numerous stores, and lots of sitting and testing later, we ended up back at the first store we tried, buying the first sleeper sofa we really liked. (Funny side note: None of the couches we sat on felt right until we realized we were sitting on the wrong ends. Keith always takes the right side, and I'm on the left, and they all felt weird when we switched.) We were told it was out of stock, so the normal three-day delivery time wasn't available but it should be ready in about ten days. Much to our delight, it ended up taking only a couple days and was actually delivered within a week.

Drumroll please...

Now wasn't that exciting? We are pretty stoked about a new couch, and glad to provide something better than an air mattress to any guests we have. We had taken one of the living room valances along while shopping to make sure the color would work, and are happy to find it looks great in the living room in the flesh. Or in the upholstery, I guess would be more accurate.

We have resigned ourselves to the fact that this is the couch for the kid years, and it will someday have to be replaced. But one feature we really liked is that all the cushions are removable, so we can have an everyday side and a company-is-coming side. So if you come to visit, we'll put our best side out. (Just don't flip and see what the other side looks like, deal?)

And perhaps the best part of the way the timing all worked out was that the new couch's arrival on a Friday meant we could drag the old one out to our garage sale and make a couple bucks on it. We were happy to see it go, and the people who bought it were really excited to get it for their son who was moving into his first place. Funny how that works.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Having a Ball

Summer is rapidly coming to a close and while I'm ready to say good-bye to hot and humid weather, there are things I love about summer that I will miss. Towards the top of that list is ice cream, especially of the homemade variety. We only managed to make strawberry ice cream this summer, due to a snafu with our ice cream freezer (motor burn out, we think). But when I came across a recipe for vanilla bean ice cream that made a single quart and I actually had vanilla beans on hand, it was the perfect opportunity to finally pull out our ice cream ball. Finally as in my mom gave it to me as a birthday or Christmas gift several years ago, and we hadn't used it yet. (Sorry, Mommy!)

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
from Cooking Light

1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 Tbsp. light-colored corn syrup
1/8 tsp. salt
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated low-fat milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large egg yolks

Combine the half-and-half, 1/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, salt, and evaporated milk in a medium heavy saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; add seeds and bean to milk mixture. Heat milk mixture to 180˚ or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Remove pan from heat; cover and let stand 10 minutes. Combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and egg yolks in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add hot milk mixture to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan. Cook over medium heat until a thermometer registers 160˚, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 20 minutes or until egg mixture is cool, stirring occasionally.

Pour milk mixture through a fine sieve in the freezer of an ice cream freezer; discard solids.

Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Spoon ice cream into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze 3 hours or until firm.

And this is where the fun started. It only took about 20 minutes of playing with the ball in the yard to get the ice cream to freeze, and it ended up more solid than homemade ice cream done in a traditional freezer usually does. We stopped once to scrape the sides down like the ball's instructions recommended.

Bert got a kick out of rolling it down the hill.

And rolling it back up.

And down again.

And then he was done.

Ready to scoop!

Ready to eat!

Does this face say "delicious" to you?

The ice cream tasted great, and we got to work a bit of it off before we chowed down. We were surprised how firm the ice cream got in the ball, and that it only took about 20 minutes since the instructions said 30 to 35 minutes. But no complaints here for getting our ice cream faster than we expected!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Little Trimming

It's been a busy week around here, with appointments and playdates, a garage sale, and a certain pregnant lady who feels the need for a daily nap more than ever these days. So, when the going gets tough, it is pretty evident that it's the blog that loses out. I'm guessing that over the next couple of months, posts will be rather irregular, so I hope you can find something else to fill in on your rotation of procrastination. (Thanks Farah, for that phrase that cracks me up whenever I think of it.)

At any rate, we did get a little farther in the laundry room. Rather, Keith did. My only direct contribution was taping off the windows as he got ready to paint the trim.

First step was popping of the trim around the the ceiling. This room, with an approximately 50' perimeter, had about six different styles of trim going on. Obviously an afterthought on the part of whoever built it. We opted to buy new and replace it all rather than put time and effort into painting something that looked wonky to begin with.

Then you saw the debacle of sanding down every square inch of the room.

After that, all the walls and surfaces had to be wiped down twice to get rid of all the dust. Actually, I did help with that part too, cleaning anything I could reach without getting on the ladder. Next Keith spackled and caulked any holes from old hardware or gaps in the trim. I thought I had photos of all that, but I guess I was toddler-wrangling and didn't take any.

After that, I taped off the windows, and Keith got to work painting the trim and the new door, which only had a primer coat. Three coats later, and the room already looks much fresher. We just went with off-the-shelf Designer White in semi-gloss from Ace's Clark + Kensington line to keep it simple. 

You can see on either side of the doorsill where Keith had to sand it down. There had been blue paint there, just continued in a straight line as if it were part of the trim. Very strange in our opinion. So our plan is to stain the wood since it won't show wear like painting it would.

If you look at some of the photos, you can see we played around with a couple of paint swatches for the walls. We started by looking at a blue, a green, and a red and narrowed it down to red, though we weren't set on the first one. So Keith picked up a few more, and we picked one of these two, which look pretty similar in the photo. Guess you'll have to stay tuned to see which one we picked!

We are aiming to get this wrapped up before the new baby arrives, but since he could be here any day, I don't know if that will happen. At any rate, as long as I can continue to use the washer and dryer throughout the process, I can live with a bit of mayhem back there.
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