Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer Goals - Week 9

We had a fantastic summer vacation at the beach last week (Week 8 of my summer break). Following family tradition, we rented a house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My maternal grandmother grew up in Elizabeth City, NC, and the tradition began for her family when there was not much of anything except the sand, the sun, and the ocean. Although there are all the modern conveniences now readily available, I still love it for the sand, the sun, and the ocean.

My goals last week were about enjoying the beach as much as possible and spending time with my family creating memories... both of these were achieved.

Since we take our vacation towards the end of July, I always feel that it marks the end of my summer. August 1st is usually when I face the fact that I need to start focusing on the new school year: making plans, editing documents, making lists, etc. However, I get to slightly extend my "mental" summer break this year:


Kimberly is my best friend and sister-from-another-mother. We met on the bus in 6th grade, and have remained best friends to this day. Although we are only 3 months (to the day!) apart in age, she was one grade level ahead of me. We were constantly together through our middle school years, living at each others houses since we lived across the street from each other. When she moved to a different neighborhood, we remained friends. When she moved to California, we remained friends. We have lived 3000 miles apart since 1996, but that does not dampen our love for each other.

As our families grow, it becomes more challenging to afford and find time to visit each other. It has been FOUR YEARS since our last visit (she traveled to the East Coast for her niece's high school graduation). I have not met her 2.5-year-old son and her 5-month-old daughter, and she has not met my 3-year-old son. When her daughter was born in February, I pledged to find a way to see her... I can only afford to send myself and not my family, but that's enough for now.

So my only goal for this week: enjoy every moment with my sister.

Taken at my wedding

I AM SO FREAKING EXCITED!!! I will see you tomorrow, Timmie!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Birth of a New Cookie

I have been eating eggs for breakfast this summer, and to keep it relatively healthy I've been using 1 egg + 2 egg whites... which means I have a bunch of unused egg yolks. I hate just tossing them down the garbage disposal, so I researched methods to store them and recipes to use them. Unfortunately, they do not freeze well, so I can only extend their life by a few days in the fridge, enough to gather yolks and make a recipe of some sort.

First up: Egg Yolk Cookies

I found this recipe on Food.com (Love that site! Been a member since it was Recipezaar.) I started by following the recipe exactly as it is listed (except I did substitute one of the cups of flour with whole wheat flour).

*Pet peeve: I HATE when recipes do not list the ingredients in the order in which you use them. Drives my OCD bonkers!!!

Anyway, as I was mixing and adding and such, my mind wandered and I wondered what else could I do to make these fabulous. How about adding some of my peach preserves I made last summer? What a great idea! But how?

I decided to use my mini-muffin pans and my tart wand. I followed the recipe through to step 7 (form into balls about the size of a walnut) and step 8 (roll balls in sugar) which is when my baking took a detour. I placed each ball in a spot in the pan, used my tart wand to turn them into mini pie shells, and then I filled each with peach preserves. I had no clue how these would turn out. I could be looking at a sticky mess.

I baked them for 15 minutes, cooled for 5 in the pan, then gently twist/pulled to get them out of the pan and onto cooling racks... only about 5 fought me on getting out of the pan.

They are delicious!! If you want to make them, you can use any flavor of jam or jelly you like. I used an entire jar to make the batch, and still had enough dough remaining to make a dozen standard cookies. Enjoy!! And please do not drool on your keyboard as you ogle the photo below :)

I call them: Jam Cup Cookies

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Goals - Week 7

WEEK 7?!?! What happened to 5 and 6?

Life happened, that's what.

Some updates for you:

*Chore Charts: so far a success! The boys went shopping for the first time using their spending money. CT saved up to get a Lego set, which we spent quality time assembling. IG bought more Buzz and Woody toys to feed his obsession; check this post to see how his obsession is ruining my household.

*Cost Cutting: thanks to the internet, I have found 2 more methods for helping with grocery costs. Although I have not crunched the numbers, I hope that making my own Gummy Fruit Snacks and Granola Bars will lower my grocery bills. Of course the trade off is spending more time in the kitchen, since my boys (big and small) eat through these incredibly fast.

*Music Camp: fun, successful and exhausting! I had 9 campers between the ages of 6 and 9. We spent 3 hours together every day for 5 days, learning to play guitar and piano, as well as singing, dancing, crafting (yes, that's a noun now), and having a great time! As soon as the PR director of the School of Music posts pictures, I will update this to include a link :)

Week 7 Goals

Personal - Hmmm... no clue. Maybe reading for pleasure. Maybe finding 10 minutes of peace each day (not sure that is possible). Maybe taking a walk each day, which will give me at least 20 minutes of peace and a work-out.

Home - Paint the front railing. I have finished the prepping process, however I refused to paint with the temperature over 90 degrees. The weather was finally accommodating last week, however I was then busy with Music Camp.

Work - I have a PD session to attend on Tuesday. I think that is enough for this week. I usually try to push off most work tasks until August 1st, which is coming all too soon.

Week 8 will be spent on vacation. No goals, other than to enjoy my family and try to relax.

Granola Bars

Thanks to Pinterest, I have more recipes I want to try than I have time to actually try them. But it was time for the granola bars recipe. Yet another snack that my boys (including the big boy) inhale faster than I can purchase them. 30 bars gone in a week.

So yet again I used on online recipe to make some bars; no tweaking required... yay!! Well, a little tweaking, but only in the process, not in the ingredients. And it takes slightly longer than 3 minutes... maybe 5, but definitely less than 10.

First tweak, I line my pan with parchment paper. My best baking friend is parchment paper. Whenever you want to be able to lift your item out of the pan to easily slice, use parchment. Oh, yeah. When I tried to "push" the mixture into the pan (by the way, the pictures involved a doubled recipe in my big jelly roll pan), the mixture stuck to the spoon and my fingers. So another sheet of parchment paper, my best baking friend. Now it was super easy to push the mixture really well into the pan.

The hardest part of the recipe: allowing the batch to rest on the counter for 2 hours WITHOUT my boys eating it.

When they are set, I just lift out using the parchment paper and slice. If I had been a little more exact with my sizing, I could have sliced this batch into 36 bars (3 x 12) but instead I only got 3 x 11 with the bars all the way to the left a bit wider than the rest. I place them in a plastic container, using the parchment (hurray for reuse!) to layer between levels, and leave them in the snack drawer to be devoured.

The flavor is reminiscent of rice krispie treats, but so much better since there is no marshmallow; I am not a rice krispie treat fan.

*If you need an invite to Pinterest, let me know :) I will need your email address to send the invite through Pinterest. But be prepared: IT IS AN ADDICTION!! Therapy may be needed in the future.


I started a quest a few weeks ago to find a recipe for Gummy Fruit Snacks. My boys LOVE gummies and my budget can not afford to keep up with how quickly they eat through them. So I found this recipe online and began the experiment.

I followed the recipe exactly and used my mini-muffin pan, since I do not have any ice cube trays.

They were... decent. Not nearly enough flavor for me and my boys, but the texture was good. My next thought was to find a good balance of flavored gelatin with unflavored gelatin to get the additional flavor but keep the texture. I went through various experimental versions over the next two weeks.

Some were too jello-y and we needed a spoon to eat them.

Some had the consistency of a bouncy ball and we could not even bite them. No, we did not experiment with how high they could bounce since I did not want to encourage the boys to play with their food.

I'm now very close to what I want.

I use 3 ounces of concentrated juice (thawed), 5 teaspoons of flavored gelatin, and 4 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin. I am able to buy the gelatins in bulk, so that helps lower the cost of production: it comes out to 62 cents per batch! :) I purchased ice cube trays in different shapes to see what will happen; my boys love pirates! What is pictured below is actually three batches based on the 3:5:4 ratio. I placed them in the refrigerator for a while to help them set.

They are still too sticky for my likes, however the boys love them. The fruit and pirate trays worked really well, since they are silicone and I can bend them to get the gummies out. The white tray... not so good. I had to use my fingers to dig our the circles and hearts, and I am not able to get the stars out at all. I think I will just use them make ice cubes and purchase additional silicone trays. The boys really want gummies in super hero shapes :)

If you have any tips for helping them not to stick to the trays and/or for making the gummies a bit less sticky, I would love your suggestions.

Disney Makes Me Rated R

I would love to be a fly on the wall during a Disney movie brain-storming session, especially one in which they are discussing naming the characters. Can you imagine the amount of laughter involved with some of the suggestions?

Let's take "Toy Story." Rewind to the character naming session over 12 years ago.

"Let's name the cowboy 'Woody'."

<Everyone at the session imagines every parent in the world having to discuss their child's obsession with Woody... and proceeds to laugh hysterically until they pee themselves>

Fast forward to present day. These are the characters that my 3-year-old is obsessed with:

"No, I haven't seen your Woody."

"Are you looking for your big Woody or little Woody?"

"Do you have a Buzz?"

"Do you have a Woody in your lap?"

"Has anyone seen his Woody?"

"Which Buzz do you want?"

<begin sarcasm> Thanks, Disney. You're the best. <end sarcasm>