February 28, 2007

"Your chocolate is in my peanut butter!"

Do you remember those old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercials? There are several different versions, but they all have the same premise... one person is eating a chocolate bar, while another person is eating from a jar of peanut butter (gross... and generic peanut butter at that), and the food of each accidentally comes in contact with the other. And thus the Reese's Peanut Butter cup was born. You must admit it's a pretty great combo.

While a jar of peanut butter and a chocolate bar doesn't get me excited, I admit I'm a sucker for a Reese's... not Reeses' Pieces, and not the miniature PB cups, but the original regular-sized ones. (Yes, there is a difference.) But I get very excited around Easter when the Reese's "Eggs" appear in stores. Oh yum! It's the ultimate in chocolate/peanut butter heaven. The miniatures are good for one thing only... and it's pretty darn good. Our family loves what we call "Reese's Cookies" (thanks to my sister, Helena, for the idea).

1) Make your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.
2) Bake the dough in miniature muffin tins, slightly undercooked.
3) While the cookies are baking, "peel" enough miniature Reese's PB cups (one for each cookie).
4) After removing cookies from oven, immediately press a PB cup into each cookie.
* Tip: Let cool, then gently twist to make it easier to remove.

Here is my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, suitable for Reese's Cookies, or just good ol' plain ones.

(This is a double batch.... why would you make a smaller one? Only bake as much as you want, and freeze the rest.... form balls on a tray and freeze for 30 min., then transfer to plastic bag.)

1 c. (2 cubes) real butter (cold, cut into small pieces)
2 c. dark brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
4 eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 c. flour
1 (12 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet mini-chocolate chips

Cream butter, sugars, and baking soda in mixer using whisks. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, then chocolate chips. Bake 350 degrees for about 10 min. (depends on cookie size and your oven).

February 26, 2007

A bear by any other name....

I think my children are fairly intelligent, and they have a decent vocabulary. They also have well-developed imaginations. But when it comes to naming things, they are severely lacking.

Collin received this bear as a gift when he was a baby (from a fire fighter who worked with Jay's dad) after "the car accident." He has been rather attached to it ever since. He no longer cuddles with it when he sleeps, but he is reluctant to let it leave his bed, and it's the first thing he packs for sleep-overs. And yes, the treasured bear has a name by which it is exclusively known.... "Brown Bear." Not quite original, but at least somewhat descriptive.

When Mary was born, one of my neighbors bought her a darling outfit to wear, as well as this soft plush baby doll. Mary loves it. It is very cuddly, and she still sleeps with it every night. We have had a few moments of panic when the doll has gone missing at bedtime, but she is always found eventually. She has survived many washings, 4 or 5 re-stitching sessions, and 1 decaptitation. Fortunately, I'm a pretty good doll surgeon, and she is none the worse for wear. And the name of Mary's beloved? "Squishy Baby." A little more original than "Brown Bear" I guess, and certainly descriptive.

Jay gave Mary a plush pink bear for Christmas. Mary was delighted. You can probably guess what she named it. Yep. "Pink Ribbon Bear." She took it to school for show-and-tell after Christmas break. She was very proud when she explained to me that she told the class, "Her name is Pink Ribbon Bear, but I call her Pink for short." Wow. That's clever.

Even when they play make-believe with each other, they call each other "sister" and "brother" instead of giving each other names. When I was a kid, I came up with all sorts of names for myself when I played with my friends. (Ashley, Megan, Lavinia, Jessica, and Morgan were my favorites.) Is there something wrong with my children?

Mary has a lot of dolls but hasn't named any of them. The Barbies have all retained the name "Barbie." It's kind of funny when they talk to each other. ("Hi, Barbie. What are you doing today?" "Well, Barbie, I'm going shopping. Do you want to come?" "Sure Barbie!")
One day when Mary and I were playing with her "Sweet Streets" doll house and family, I got to play the daughter and decided she should not be called "daughter" anymore. So, I christened her Sally. It actually stuck!

Jack also received a small plush bear when he was a baby. It's a lovely shade of blue. And, of course, Jack calls him "Blue Bear." The other day Jay brought home a new plush bear he found on a sale rack somewhere, and he gave it to Jack. Jack was delighted, and quickly replaced "Blue Bear" with this new one. And when he can't find it, he says, "Where is New Bear?"

February 24, 2007

A "PG" post on a "G-Rated" blog

As a wedding gift from family members, Jay and I received a very nice set of Calphalon hard-anodized cookware. I love it, and it is still going strong 10 years later. It has served us well... and in some unexpected ways. Every piece has been put to good use, but the stock pot has seen a little more action than its siblings.

About once a year, my kids get the usual gastrointestinal ailment that all kids do.... about 24 hours worth. It's starts with one child waking me in the middle of the night (they walk all the way around to the far side of the bedroom to my side of the bed, instead of to Daddy, who is nearest the door.... hmm... I wonder why?) saying they have a stomach ache. While I am trying to wake up fully, the child begins coughing in that tell-tale way (which does the trick of bringing me fully to my senses), and we make a mad dash for the toilet. We usually only make it to the sink, but that's better than on the floor.... or their bed, or my bed, or me.

Afterward, I gently lead him or her back to bed for another tuck-in, and retreat to the kitchen where I retrieve what is affectionately known as "The Pot." It will serve them well for subsequent occurrences of...... well, you know.

It's perfect. It's tall/deep, which means the kids can stick their head down in it, and thus avoid the "splatter" effect, which mom appreciates. And its nice flat, stable surface makes it unlikely to tip over, which mom really likes.

My children have all had their turn snuggling with the "The Pot." They dread it, and yet they are grateful for it in their time of need. Now the kids just come into our room in the middle of the night and say "I need The Pot." And if anyone complains of a tummy ache at bedtime, they will have "The Pot" placed next to their head before they go to sleep.

You may be asking yourself, "Do they still use this pot for traditional purposes?" Well, if you are coming to our house for a pasta dinner, the answer is.... uh.... of course not!

February 18, 2007

Your Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman

Jay and I have a rotating bedtime routine for the kids. One of us puts Jack to bed while the other reads to Mary and Collin reads to himself. Then, whoever put Jack to bed reads to Collin. The next night we switch. It works out quite nicely.

The routine for each child varies a little. For Mary, it's a picture book or a chapter from a beginning level chapter-book, plus a song or two.... like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," or "Goodnight My Love" (Shirley Temple, "Stowaway"). Collin gets a chapter or two from a longer tome, and doesn't usually request a song, though he does frequently ask to be carried to bed.

Jack gets a short picture book, and a song. When it's my turn, I usually sing "Baby Mine" from the movie "Dumbo." It's a sweet lullaby, and it's a fun time to cuddle. Jay used to sing it too, at Jack's insistence, even though Jay didn't know the words (Jack would correct him). But as of late, Jay has a new song he sings every time..... "Spiderman" from the original 1967 animated TV series. I know, kind of odd for a lullaby. It started because Jack requested a "Batman" song. Well, since "Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, Batman" was too boring, Jay suggested "Spiderman" and it's been a hit with Jack.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that Jay knew every word from all three verses. The funny thing is that now Jack knows every word. It's a crack up to hear him sing it, which he does all day long it seems.

Spider-Man, Spider-Man,
Does whatever a spider can.
Spins a web, any size.
Catches thieves- just like flies.
Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man.

Is he strong? Listen bud.
He's got radioactive blood.
Can he swing, from a thread?
Take a look, overhead.
Hey there! There goes the Spider-Man!

In the chill of night, at the scene of a crime,
like a streak of light,
he arrives, just in time!

Spider-Man, Spider-Man,
friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Wealth and fame he's ignored.
Action is his reward. To him,
life is a great big bang-up.
Wherever there's a hang-up,
you'll find the Spider-Man !!

February 16, 2007

A Little Bit of Bragging

Jay is an amazing "gift giver." He is always extremely romantic and thoughtful about what he gives, and remembers every casual mention of something that might be a suitable gift. I have to be careful what I wish for. Sometimes he gets a little extravagant. Although I love it, after a few years of marriage, I finally had to tell him to scale back a bit.

On our first Valentine's day, he gave me my first box of Godiva chocolates. Absolutely heaven. It was especially memorable because it came on the day I ended my year-long chocolate fast. (I will save that story for another day.) The tradition has continued every Valentine's Day since with no regrets.

But the chocolates are just incidental. On our second Valentine's Day, Jay brought home this buffet.I had fallen in love with it on a recent visit to a small antique/junk shop in downtown Mesa, and Jay remembered. I still love it.

The following year, he went back to that same shop and bought the matching china cabinet that I had also fallen in love with, but it was much too expensive. Jay talked the shop owner into dramatically reducing the price... after all, he knew it had been there for at least a year.
After that, I insisted that Valentine's Day gifts be limited to chocolates and flowers.

This year, Jay finally started seeing things my way.... he skipped the red roses. We both agreed it is silly to pay double one day of the year, when I would rather be surprised by them on another day at random.

Besides, Jay doesn't need to forced to be romantic on one certain day. Even though he skipped the roses, he bought me these gorgeous pajamas.

And instead of paying a fortune at an expensive restaurant, we had dinner at home. I made Jay his favorite meal....
rib eye steaks rubbed with butter, kosher salt, pepper, garlic, and herbs
red potatoes with butter and parsley
arsparagus drilled with olive oil and garlic salt
sparkling cider
.... which we ate by candlelight served on our beautiful wedding china and crystal, after the kids had gone to bed. (I love my china. It totally makes me smile every time I look at it.... which I get to do every day as it rests in it's lovely cabinet.)
Did I mention the year that Jay gave me this for Valentine's Day? (The tea pot that matches our china--Noritake, White Palace--and four cups & saucers)

February 15, 2007

Jack's "Super" Day

Jack turned 3 this week. We don't do parties at this age.... well, I shouldn't say that, because the kids consider what we did to be a full-fledged party; I blew up a few balloons, and the five of us had cake and ice cream after dinner, after which Jack opened a couple of small gifts.

Since Jack is really into superheroes, I made him a "Superman Cake." I'm no Martha Stewart, but I thought it looked pretty good. Jack thought it was wonderful, and that's what counts. He is thrilled to be able to say that he is "3" now, though he prefers to tell them he is "4." He thinks that is when he will have "arrived."

February 11, 2007

Sméagol / Gollum

Jack hangs around with me all morning, usually playing in my room while I get ready. The other day he walked in while I was doing my hair. He asked, "What are you doing mommy?" I replied, "I'm getting ready to go." I don't remember if we were going anywhere in particular (we would be going somewhere eventually), but that was the simplest answer. After a short pause, Jack had another question, "Are you going to town?" Huh? Does he think we live in the "country?"

On another day while he was hanging out in my room while I was getting ready, I noticed him trying with all his might to reach something behind my nightstand. He finally called out in frustration, so I went to see what he was up to. "Mommy, I can't reach the ring." I looked and saw a faded plastic ring lurking behind my nightstand. I had no idea where it came from, but Jack sure wanted it. I pulled it out and gave it him. He was utterly delighted! His face lit up and he put it on, petting it on his hand and saying, "My ring! My ring!"
It was a little disturbing, but I chuckled, as I imagined him saying, "My precious!" Later, when we arrived home after picking up Mary from school, I was helping Jack out of the car. He took off the ring and chucked it. I was surprised and asked, "Jack, don't you want your ring anymore?" He scowled and said, "No! It doesn't have powers."

That was pretty creepy.

P.S. No, he has NOT seen "Lord of the Rings."

Good Guys Always Win in the End....

As the mother of a boy with an active imagine who is also very interested in the idea of "good-guys vs. bad-guys", I frequently find myself telling Collin that the good guys always win.... eventually. He is old enough now that he hears negative news stories at times, and understands them. He has a difficult time accepting that the "bad guys" sometimes get away with stuff.
Way back in November (Veteran's Day, to be exact), Jay and the kids had the day off, so we all went to the Phoenix Zoo.
The weather was perfect and we had a great time.

As we walked away from Monkey Village, something on the ground caught Jay's eye.... it was a $50 bill. He picked it up and looked around for someone who might have dropped it, but there wasn't anyone nearby. Collin saw it and was pretty excited. "Dad, can we keep it?" Jay said, "Well, it's not ours." Collin responded, "But we found it." So, Jay said, "Well, what do you think we should do with it?" Collin thought for a minute. You could tell he knew exactly the right answer, but he thought he would give it a shot anyway: "We could buy stuff with it." Jay: "Yes, we could...." Jay is patient, so he waited for Collin to make up his mind. Finally, Collin said, "But we should try to find out who it belongs to."

Together they took it to the Ranger Station where Collin said, "We found this and it's not ours." The park ranger looked at Collin and Jay like they were crazy and said, "Well, thanks. Would you like to leave your name and address? If no one claims it after 90 days then you get to have it."

Just the other day, our letter carrier arrived at our door with a registered letter for Collin. He was quite pleased.

After paying tithing, he gets to spend $10, and the rest is going in his savings account. He said, "Mom, I'm really glad I did the right thing." He learned that choosing the right pays off spiritually, and sometimes temporally too.

And now he knows that "good guys" always win in the end.

February 07, 2007

The Simple Life

Mary was playing with a couple of Barbie dolls. The two gals were having a conversation that went something like this.....

Barbie #1: "I don't go to school anymore. I go to high school."

Barbie #2: "I go to high school too!"

A few minutes later, I had a conversation with Mary that went something like this....

Me: "Mary, do you know what high school is?"

Mary: "Yes. It's a school that's high."

Me: "Who goes to high school?"

Mary: "Tall people."

Me: "Oh. Is that all?"

Mary: "No. Moms and dads too."

If only life were as simple as Mary makes it. After all, Barbies are rather tall....

February 02, 2007

The Art of Conversation

Jay called from work. Jack wanted to talk to him. This is what I heard.

"Um, Daddy? (pause) Uh.... um...... (exasperated sigh and eye roll)..... never find."

No, that's not a typo.