Tuesday, December 29, 2009

So, the rolls.

As I was saying, I finally hopped aboard the Pioneer Woman cinnamon roll train.

I was so nervous, what with the packets of dry active yeast and all. But then I remembered my friend Becky's mantra: "Do it scared", and I did it.

I have a feeling those three little words are going to open up a whole new world for me this year. A world where sewing machine bobbins do not turn me into a hair-twirling nail-biter and where I muster the courage to clean out the cavity and roast the danged bird.

I love my butcher block island and I loved tossing flour all over it even more.
I cannot stress this enough - don't be stingy with the flour. I was a little stingy and it did not serve me well...

Hey - check out my new rock! Cory surprised me with it just as I was about to flatten Her Royal Stickiness into submission. He thought it would look so nice on my eagle-talon, claw-like hands.

I must say, my quiet time in the kitchen wasn't quite as serene as usual with the paparazzo hounding me again, but this action shot bids him pardon for at least one more day.

And I'll be honest - I kinda liked the bright lights and the incessant clicking of the shutter. I felt so Paula Deene, minus the blue contact lenses and slightly eerie smile.

Holy Butter.

Ree-Ree says to use 2 cups of melted butter, but I only used a little under a cup and a half.

I contemplated the idea that she may have been bluffing. I could almost hear her snickering with the Punks about whether anyone would be silly enough to actually melt 4 sticks of butter and then dump it onto a flat surface that required eventual rolling.

It was a little like trying to roll the ocean up into my beach towel and take it home with me.
Only greasier.

Much, much greasier.

I read a brilliant idea earlier today: Soften the butter and spread it onto the dough.

You know that's what She does.

The secret's out. Who's laughing now, Dubsy?

My sous chef/photographer helped me scoop up the ooze and slap it over top. Every drop of sugar butter counts, when it comes to cinnamon rolls.

Ta-da! One of my SEVEN pans of rolls, drizzled in maple-flavored butter and ready to fly out the door.

Geez Louise - they were good. Definitely best straight from the oven, but not too shabby the next ayem, either.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Change of Plans

I had all sorts of things to tell you today.

I was going to tell you about my fun afternoon with Brooke and Sarah.

I was ready to dish about my inaugural baking of The Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls.

Have you heard of her? P-Dub?

I became a big fan over a year ago when my friend Linds alerted me to her site. I spent hours on end reading about how she fell in love with Marlboro Man and I've been hooked ever since then.

Well, semi-hooked.

I still love her, but come on - no way does she read all of those comments. I think a blog starts to lose a tiny bit of the personal feel when the comment ticker reaches the thousands each and every day.

It's not your fault, P-Diddy Wub-Widdy.

I love you all the same.

I'm just not hooked anymore.

But I'm definitely still semi-hooked.

I'm still very much quasi-obsessed.

I still stalk you in a very nonthreatening, casual manner.

We all need our space, now and then. I hope you understand.

I made your mac & cheese for Cory's work party and it was a hit. I used 2% milk instead of whole, though. Can we still be friends?

LYLAS*,

FPFG


Hi. I'm back. Sorry about that. I needed to go ahead and jot homegirl a note while it was fresh on my mind.

Where was I?

Oh yes, my day.

In what surely qualifies as a full-circle moment, I returned home from my fun afternoon out to find Cory grinning from ear to ear. I knew immediately what had happened. I knew it involved his beastly camera.

I was right.

_MG_6290

"By CBMartin. I’m in love with this!"

P-Dub is in love with my man. At least that's how I took it.

And who can blame her, really?


*Love Ya Like A Sister

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sneak Preview

We're still on Christmas vacation - just in case you wondered. We are currently in the "Revolving Door" phase of our vacation, in which one batch of overnight guest gives way to the next with mere hours separating them. I'm a towel and sheet washing fool.

We're trying to polish off the remnant Christmas cookies.
We keep forgetting what day of the week it is.
Calvin is at a sleep-over at Nana's house.

Ruby is playing with her Polly Pockets and has been singing "Blue is My Favorite" for the past 15 minutes straight. It's a song with just one line - Blue is my favorite. She tends to compose her songs using a very spare approach.

Cory has been hard at work on Silas's/Silas' room.

It may not look like much yet, but squint your eyes until they're nearly closed and wish away the sub-flooring and the large power tools and you might begin to see the vision I have for the room.

And don't you worry your pretty little heads - I'll be sure to keep you posted on the progress.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Weary World Rejoices...

I am straight-up in love with the past two days.

We've been living in our jammies.

And I'm completely infatuated with my kitchen.

I already had an inkling, but now I know for sure.

Next time I feel blue, bundle me up in my robe, toss me into the kitchen and throw away the key.

I will surely emerge feeling brand new.

And my little family? Well, it's the best one ever.

I'm not trying to hurt your feelings. I'm sure yours is alright, too. Some things like this are just indisputable.

The kids are now robed.

Some mamas indoctrinate their young on fashion statements such as skinny jeans. Around here, it's all about the indoor fleece over-garment.

Comfort is the new Cool.

We learned this year (again) that less is more.

And I'm not left with that sinking "Christmas is over" feeling.

We set out to spend time together, to share the anticipation and joy of the season with our little people, to give beyond ourselves, to remember the Reason. And we're left feeling satisfied.

This year, for Christmas, I got knee socks and a surprise Snuggie. It was fun to have a couple of surprises - it always is.

But my heart has been more fixed on things that don't come in a box, and I'm so glad.

I'm thinking of our little guy across the ocean and hoping he's being spoiled a little and wondering if his Foster family loves Jesus and praying that they do. I'm hoping his first Christmas is a good one.

Next year, we'll be a family of Five.

It's hard to imagine having one more thing to be so thankful for, but I think I'll figure it out.

Merry Christmas, friends. If you're on EST, you have 2 more hours to soak it in. Make them count!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Different Kind of Normal

I keep wondering lately why my baby is getting so big.

It's inescapable to me these days - she's a kid. And I love it. I am not a mom who weeps over my babies growing. Part of my job is to teach them independence and bravery and I like seeing those things manifest in them.

But don't get me wrong - it gives me a little tear. And a teeny sniff.

We spent tonight with Ruby's birth mama.

Yep.

It's our life, you know? It's our world, and I love it.

But when I take a step back I am struck with the knowledge that our life is not normal.

Holy cow - I am thankful for that. I'm happy to be the abnormal one.

Because I love Ruby's birth mom and the rest of her birth family.

They are my family now. I love them like my family.

When we adopted Ruby, we adopted them, too.

I remember back to the time I thought I could never do an open adoption. It scared me. You hear all the stories... But I'm singing out a new story. It starts with sacrifice and obedience and faith and ends with love that just keeps on going.

It does get confusing and complicated sometimes. We are all human and we all have human emotions and we struggle together to love Ruby in the way that is best for her. We have learned to be honest about the things we don't know for sure.

I do not feel competition. I do not feel jealous.

We all trust our Heavenly Father who brought us together in this out-of-the-ordinary way. We know He'll see us through.

I can feel my heart open right up when I think of the people Ruby has in her life who love her so much. Her circle is larger than most, and that could never be a bad thing.

As for tonight, we laughed and ate and played. Ruby showed off her mad ABC recognition skills and played the role she plays best - Class Clown.

Oh, and I made baloney boats for dinner.

What? You've never had baloney boats?

I pity the fools.

These are a well-kept secret, but they are slowly taking the country by storm. Fried baloney, mashed potatoes, creamed peas.

What's not to love?

You know that you're family when I serve you baloney boats. And I know you're family when every plate is scraped clean.

In an attempt to balance out the weirdness of the meal, I baked an apple cranberry pie with homemade crust that was all jacked up but tasted pretty good, if I do say so myself.

I love abnormal. I love things that look different but are really quite perfect.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Up My Sleeve

I have been eating my weight in clementines.

Over the weekend, I learned a fancy new trick from the resident pro.


It's called "make one thing blurry while another thing is in focus".


Or something technical like that. I forget the exact wording.

I'm hoping I'll be able to recreate the technique when duty calls. I think it might come in handy.

Like when I want to show you another member of the Homely Casserole family but I don't have the wherewithal to clean off the counter.

Focus/Blur.

Or when I want to show you my Valentine's Day decorations but my Christmas tree is still up.

Focus/Blur.

I almost feel like a magician. I'm like David Copperfield, minus the sinister gaze and the bad hair and the dark soul.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Vacation Kick-Off

I'm a girl who is always looking for a party.

Oh wait, that's my sister.

What I am always looking for is a reason to celebrate. And to slack.

Our kids are not in school yet, but we celebrate Christmas vacation like it's our job in life.

Kick-off was Friday.

We started the evening by delivering these to our neighbors.

We don't really know our neighbors (a downside to country living) and I decided it was time to change that. One of them thought we were trying to sell him the cookies. Whoops.

We headed home to bake up a pepperoni/onion/banana pepper pizza. It's our family fave.

Only this time I made the dough from scratch. I had never done this before, even though I've had the recipe and the active yeast for nearly a year. Active yeast is in the same camp as bobbins and whole chickens - they intimidate me.

The pizza was pretty good, mostly because of this sauce. The crust was a little crunchy on the edges. (How does Papa do it??)

We changed into our jammies while the pizza baked, then we settled in at the coffee table for a double feature of Frosty the Snowman and Max Lucado's The Crippled Lamb.

For the grand finale, we all camped out by the Christmas tree. What this means is that Cory and I effectively went to sleep around 8:30. Pretty amazing.

We both felt a little crippled ourselves the next morning, but this is one more tradition that we'll keep in regular rotation.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Success!

I am vindicated.

I baked another batch of the molasses cookies and they aren't disgusting.

Bless you, unspoiled Crisco.

It's a Christmas miracle.

I also received an extra-fun pre-Christmas surprise. My newspaper tree is featured today on one of my favorite decorating blogs - The Lettered Cottage.

Huzzah!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Comfort Food - Not Your Ordinary Green Bean Casserole

Every year around this time I look out my window on a regular, unassuming day, to find this:

It acts innocent enough, in the beginning. As if we're all naive of its terrors. It pretends that it's nothing more than an eye-candy dusting of confectioner's sugar. Aw, it's so pretty! That's what it hopes we will say. And we do. At first.

Then, we realize that it shnookered us. It buttered us right up with it's baby powder fluff. Truth be told, it's moving in and it fully intends to wear out its welcome. Before we know it, we'll be up to our eyeballs in it and the precise shade of green that was once our grass will be but a distant memory.

Cory never mentioned this dastardly condition when he moved me here from sunny Southern Ohio. He mentioned Amish buggies and quaint bulk food stores and people who seeded their pastures with Black Eyed Susans, but he forgot this little detail. I had no idea I was signing up for this. Nevermind the fact that I met him at college a mere 20 miles from here. Nevermind that.

I'm not sure what it is about this season, but I think we can all agree: when the temperature drops, it's time to wheel out the casseroles. It's a known fact that the outdoor temperature is inversely proportional to the required mass of one's dinnertime meal. One goes down, the other goes up. This here is no time for salads. This kind of weather calls for rib stickin' meals. And do I ever have one for you.

But I'll warn you now, she's none too pretty.

And I'll warn you again: Everything is better with homemade mashed potatoes. So go ahead, boil up a mess of Yukon golds (5 or so) and toss 'em in your Kitchenaid mixer, along with some butter, sour cream, salt and pepper.

Or, just do them however you normally do them.

Or, mix milk into potato flakes. But I don't wanna hear about it.

I'm just going to come right out and say it - I am a mashed potato snob, with a capital S. I'll save the rest of my snobbery list for another day. This much I can say - the list is short, but it's iron-clad.

While your potatoes are doing their thing, brown a pound of hamburger with a chopped onion. Drain it. Mix it with a couple cans of tomato soup and a few cans of green beans.

Layer the mashed potatoes over the meat and beans. Cover with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 until it's hot and bubbly.

She's got a face for radio, but she's darn good.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Our Week So Far

I'm no world traveler.

I like being at home. You know...I'm an introvert and all.

On nights when Cory works late, I typically don't turn on the tv (unless The Bachelor happens to be on) or even music. I love the sound of silence.

And the tapping of a keyboard, of course.

And the crunching of Santitas White Corn Tortilla Chips.

And maybe even the flipping of pages.

But all of that is neither here, nor there.

And thankfully, you expect nothing less from me.

We're back to our routine - back home. Hallelujah.

Here's what we've been up to this week:

Calvin as Toby Mac

(My son has a fascinating/freakish propensity for encircling himself with random objects. And he's a pack rat, so there is never a shortage of said random objects. Thoughts? Feelings?)

FPFG perfuming herself with cloves of garlic.

(I made my first batch of homemade pizza sauce. More on that later...)

Morning art class.

Ruby's masterpiece, which manages to be both in the lines and out of the lines, all at the same time.

Building without ceasing.

Roller-Derby.

Or, if you prefer, (and I do), Ruby-Derby.

I love my life. I want to smooch it on the forehead.