April 25, 2010

On the cooling rack: Soft chocolate raspberry sandwich cookies

You might look at these and think, "Soft chocolate sandwich cookies?? Ha! Moron. Those are most definitely Whoopie Pies." But I disagree. They've got more chocolate flavor, they're a little more dense than the cakey whoopie pies I've had, and the filling isn't marshmallow. It's waaaaay better. AND they're so easy I'm embarrassed to be posting it.

These came about today because in making this cake, I made the mistake of trying to bring all the frosting makings to the hostess's house and use all her equipment. Don't get me wrong, she was fully equipped, but it wasn't MY kitchen, and I showed up with a baby after getting lost, so my state of mind wasn't what it should have been. I did the math wrong in trying to do 1 1/2 recipes of the buttercream, and ended up adding WAY too much milk. And that's not something you can just "thicken up" with more powdered sugar. So I "ruined" a whole batch before realizing it, but didn't have any more room temp butter to try to "doctor it up", so I ended up taking the whole show back home, tried to fix it, but had to start over anyway. By then, I had three full bowls of frosting, and only needed one for the cake. I got the bright idea to bring one of the bowls to the shower (the runniest/milkiest) for an impromptu fruit dip, which worked out great, but what to do with this thicker-but-not-thick-enough-for-frosting batch that already has raspberry in it?

And then I remembered the homemade Oreos someone taught me a decade or so ago. And I remember how much I love them, even though they're pedestrian because you use a cake mix. I don't care though. They're lip-smackin', gotta-have-another good. And with the raspberry frosting??? To die for!

I feel wrong taking the trademarked Oreo name (those blessed things), and besides, these really aren't that similar because they're soft and the flavor is totally different. They just look somewhat like the famous cookie, but other than that, they're nothing like 'em. But you just might like 'em better. I'M JUST SAYIN'!

Soft Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

1 devil's food cake mix
2 eggs, room temp*
scant 1/2 c. vegetable or canola oil

Mix together in a bowl. Use small cookie scoop (about 1" diameter) to scoop onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 6-8 min, or until tops are puffed up. Remove from oven, and this is the fun part, let the cookie sheet slam onto the counter or stove top. It flattens them slightly and makes the bottoms perfect for the frosting. Leave them on the sheet to cool for a few minutes. Remove to cooling rack. Cookies will be soft and flexible, but should firm up enough to frost once completely cool. Makes about 40 halves, so appx 20 cookies once sandwiched (unless you're like me and you "taste test" a couple before you can slap anything on 'em).

*I left the eggs out overnight (well, because my original plan was to make and eat them last night, but if you read the previous post, you'll know why that didn't happen), and it made all the difference in how these things puffed up. You don't have to leave them out overnight, but you want your eggs room temp!

You can use whatever frosting you want for the middles - buttercream, white, vanilla, [choke] store-bought, but I'll leave you with my go-to cream cheese frosting. It makes enough to frost a whole cake, so....you might want to half it for this.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1 stick butter, room temp (please, for the love, don't use margarine)
dash salt
1 tsp vanilla*
3-4 c. powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter together until nice and creamy. Add salt and vanilla - mix. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, tasting for sweetness and checking for spreadability.

*If you want the raspberry flavor, add 1/4 tsp raspberry extract at this point. Also, if you're feelin' it, a drop or two of red food coloring. Note: you want the raspberry. OM NOM NOM

April 24, 2010

On the cooling rack: Burnt soup. Yup. I'll tell you allll about it.

I don't remember all the reasons why Alexander's day was terrible, horrible, no good, and/or very bad. But just considering the title alone, I hear ya, bro.

It began with a lack of sleep last night - all of which was my fault. I'm a night owl, it's my reading time, so before lights out I read and read and read. Multiple books even. But then Tessa woke up earlier than I had planned (you can laugh). Usually, when she wakes up from the night or from a nap, she'll talk to herself, play with her animals, perhaps sing, maybe whine a little, but when one of us goes into her room to get her out of bed, she stops everything, breaks out into a huge grin, and says, "Hiiiiiii!!!!!" Not today. Full on whining from the get-go. Through the pick-up, through the morning kisses, through the diaper change, bath, and clothes. And the whining didn't stop ALL DAY LONG. In fact, as I'm writing this, I can hear her upstairs in her crib, trying to fall asleep, and whining.

Before I go any further, let me just say that God sent us an angel in giving us Tessa. She is always cheery, friendly, sweet, hungry, and very kissable. I have no problem loving this girl, I adore being with her and watching her grow, and her natural sweet temper makes me look like I'm a great mom.

Let me put in another aside. I can't stand whining. I know there are moms out there who are nodding their heads like "yeah" (can't get THAT song out of my head to save my life) but this is to a debilitating degree. I hear whining, even from a kid I don't know - say, in Target or something - and I just want to march right over there and give her something to whine ABOUT! As soon as the pitch goes up in the voice, I go into bristle mode. If I were a porcupine, this is where quills would shoot out of my body quite forcibly. When I was a teacher, I would often hear students whine. Granted, I didn't hear it as much in my classroom as elsewhere in the school, for I was somewhat known as the Anti-Whine. When a student sent me into bristle mode, and before I got into full attack mode, I countered whatever they were saying in their whiny voice in a MUCH more whiny voice, then took it to the next level, just to show them how childish and dumb they sounded because I'm really mature like that. The following conversation is an example of how a typical whining interaction would have taken place:

me: ...so with each level, or "orbital", the energy of the atom's electrons actually increases. Let me draw what it might-
student: (without raising hand or otherwise asking for help) But miiissss... I don't geeeeett iiiiitt..
other students: hahahahahahaha. She told you!
me: (haven't yet cracked a smile because, well, it's just not funny to me) Would you like to get my attention in a manner more fitting to an 8th grader and not a 2-yr old?
student: Sorry, miss. (student never whines again in my class, but I can't speak for his others)

And that's how the whining issues in my classroom were usually solved. Can't do that with a 14-month old, I've learned.

I have tolerated kids' whining before - it's just a natural occurrence as they develop because they can't form words or signs and can't always walk over and show you what they want (esp if it's our kid). Thus the whine begins before toddling, but the sin of it gets washed away at baptism when they're 8, thank goodness, and then they're supposed to stop whining altogether. Unfortunately, I've known many an adult who's got some repenting to do. Tessa has done her fair share of whining, and I have taken it in stride - I realize she's hungry or tired or in need of a change of pace. I've almost always been able to take care of any particular need relatively easily. As I mentioned before, she's an angel, and we know we got lucky.

But today.... Today, no amount of sweet-talking, cajoling, flattery, enticements, empty promises, or animal crackers could satisfy her any longer than a few minutes. And then it was right back where we started. I knew she was tired, but the girl refused to sleep. So I let her stay up and get under the table where I was sewing (something for her, ungrateful thing). That was a mistake. I then let her play by herself in her room with her new hand-me-down (thanks, Debbi!) blocks. She loves the things, and she loves throwing them, crawling toward them, and then destroying any order whatsoever in her toys, books, and clothing just to get to them. I found her in the closet, banging pieces of my music stand together. I'll chalk that up to another mistake on my part. By the time I'd gotten fed up with that (and after I finished the small sewing project and hairclip I'd done in the meantime), it was - surprise! - time to eat again. So....she was whining. Okay, so, lunch. No prob. Do it every day. Mind you, I'm still not out of my underwear by this time, I'm starting to sweat a little hefting a 30-lb child who can't walk yet while 24 weeks pregnant, and the only thing I can be grateful for at this point is that I remembered to close the blinds the night before.

She whines for more food. Then throws it on the floor. Drinks water. Whines. Throws it on the floor - and thinks it's quite funny. Time to get out of the high chair. Crawls to the bathroom and whines when I don't let her pull up on the toilet seat. Whines when I don't let her break a frame. Whines when I pull her away from the carbon monoxide detector that has that deafening test button (why did they install that huge enticing thing in the hallway outlet???). Gets scissors taken away. More whining. Mama closes the laptop so she'll stop deleting my stuff. More whining. New soccer ball occupies her for about 4 minutes, then it's back to the whining. And I'm approaching bristle mode...

She FINALLY falls asleep and I think this is the end of the satanic drama and I can put my quills away. I get a shower in - yay me - and take 20 min for myself to crochet a flower. But I didn't finish. Because I hear it - and it's not a sweet pitter patter of anything tiny or feety. At this point I'm feeling like the Grinch when he grumbles, "all the noise, noise, NOISE, NOOISE!!!!"

Okay, I have to stop the story here and also say, I know there are moms out there who deal with this on a daily basis. This is nothing to them. In fact, this is a GOOD day! To you moms, I applaud you and have never judged you for keeping it to just one kid. I get it.

Back to the noise. Too short a nap - whiny. Third poop diaper. Whiny. Wants to crawl right off the changing table and I won't let her - whiny. To get back at me, she throws anything within reach off the table, including the large bottle of baby powder. Whines. Yanks brand new handmade-with-whatever-love-and-affection-I-was-feeling-toward-my-sweet-pea hairclip out of hair and throws that across the room, too. Grrr.

Time to fold laundry. She wants to be near whatever I'm doing. I let her. For every item I fold, she has unfolded two (well, until the math doesn't work out anymore), and has strewn them around the hallway. I'm getting serious bouts of heartburn with all the bending over and retrieving I'm doing. Laundry load gets folded in only three times as long as normal. I go take it upstairs to put away, and you can guess what I hear. I give her my phone to play with. She calls Europe. I take it away. Whine. I sequester her in the pack n play with her favorite toys while I fold same load and put it away. Two minutes......and there it is. I know! Let's feed her! That always solves everything!

Only temporarily today.

While she's somewhat occupied and in one spot, I take the time to get tonight's dinner ready. I've got my ham hock all ready (and hocked), even thought ahead and bought celery yesterday for today, got the split peas a-soakin', onions peeled and ready to chop, carrots - check. Sweet! Wait, whine. Ohhh, poop diaper. The fourth today (total for today = 6). I decide we need to take our frazzled selves outside for a little stroll and get some air and look at some pretty green trees. Half a minute in, and, yup, there's the drizzle. Going anyway. To the recycling bin on one side of the complex, mailboxes on the other side, while getting our mail Tessa and I notice a teenager who's walking his dog near the fowl/foul lake (both apply right now) and then watch him KICK THE GEESE! Repeatedly! They weren't even doing anything, but getting kicked sure pissed them off, so flap their wings they did, only to get kicked again. Made me so mad. On the way back, I then notice two more teenagers sneaking between our townhome and the next one, smoking pot (great), which they try to hide when they see I see them. Had a small debate in my head over whether I should call cops or not. Normally I wouldn't bother, but it's right next to our place, they're underage, and we have a little girl who will, (one day) be walking around the premises and considering her knack of finding and eating things I can't even see, well, you can understand my concern.

I decided to let it go for today. But I so badly wanted to be that responsible adult who gets on kids' cases and ends up saving the world. One day.

Walk in the house, time to boil the peas and ham hock, so I turn on the heat, and....whine. At this point, I completely lost it. I got on the floor where she was and had her face me. I told her to stop it in a very loud voice - something I've never done. In fact, I have since tried to recall any other time I've raised my voice at her other than fake laughing and jabbering to get her to talk and giggle, and I can't. I was angry. And I lost my patience. So then I got angry at myself. I put her into bed, hoping that even though it was late in the day, she'd at least get a snooze in and I could protect her from further Mommy Wrath. In taking her upstairs and getting frustrated for getting so frustrated, I...left the soup pot on high and the thing boiled over. That was when I started crying. And I hadn't even started chopping the onions yet.

Time got away from me in order to have dinner somewhat ready or almost ready by the time Ted came home from studying all day in the library, so to cut time, I uncovered the pot and let everything boil longer instead of allowing it to simmer an hour and a half or so. I'd been crying so hard over everything that all holes in my head were clogged and I didn't smell the damage until it was too late. Note: split peas are denser than water and therefore sink. When high heat is applied, there's no water there to buffer the temperature rising, so those peas are gonna burn, gonna burn. And...they did. Allll on the bottom of the pot. My beautiful hunk of pork product! Ruined!

Ted had made it home by then and had been sympathetic to my tears, had asked if I needed anything, but I was too flustered and upset to first, think of any way he could help me, and second, explain why I was crying in the first place except to say "ALL THE WHINING!" I couldn't put into words that I'd just reached my first day of yelling at my innocent child, and then going a step further and wondering what the heck I was going to do if #2 does this every day. That made the tears flow even more, then somehow I smelled the soup, and I almost lost control of my bladder I was so upset. I mean, honestly... Who burns soup??

So that is most of the story. I'm reserving the rest of the story for my journal's eyes only. (Piqued your interest, didn't I? Too bad.) Let's just say it's a good thing Wendy's is so close, because a Jr Bacon Cheeseburger can cure just about any ill.

And just so I don't end this on too sour a note, I've included pictures of the very small projects I finagled while she destroyed three rooms and I was still in my oh-Tessa-you-little-rascal stage.

I bought the purple shorts at the dollar store a couple days ago. Just attached the ruffly trim (which I got from a scrap store) to dress them up a bit. Much cuter.

And I finally summoned up enough courage to try making a felt hairclip after spending an hour on the phone last week with Laura, who has mastered the art. She gave me some tips, then told me to just go for it, even if I make a mistake (you'd think I was auditioning for Broadway or something). It's the experience that teaches you. So, it's not perfect, but it was at least fulfilling and I learned how to do it better next time.

These photos were taken between sessions of whining.

Don't play so innocent, little girl.... I heard you tonight, even when you had fries in front of you!

April 19, 2010

Have your cake and eat it, two

Have you ever had an idea pop in your head that was so perfect and got you so excited that you nearly wet your pantaloons and somewhere amidst the swooning at your own cleverness you neglected to care about things that normally would alarm you, like a leaking poopie diaper or the fact that you're in your underwear while the apartment complex gardening company is outside your sliding glass door mowing your lawn whilst you stand there in raptured glee among poo fumes?

That happened to me.

The grand idea popped into my head after much deliberation and pondering upon the subject, so the moral of the story is to always ponder and you will be considered wonderful by any and all.

The subject? Upcoming baby shower for a friend.

The deliberation? I volunteered to help with the shower, so what cake to make? What flavor? Frosting or ganache? Which frosting? What decoration? Why is her favorite color blue when she's having a girl?

Further deliberation? What do I do for a gift? I've always been the practical type who gives diapers and wipes and boobie pads because EVERY MOM NEEDS THOSE and we all hate paying for them, but they're necessities of life, like Diet Coke and Peanut M&Ms. And bacon.

The pondering? I have recently become....obsessed? no. Addicted? no...Curiously engaged in pursuing acts of craftiness as long as 1) it can be perfect the first time I make it, 2) it's not something someone would throw away after looking at it and moving it around your dining room table for a week, hoping it will find its own niche in your home (sorry, papercrafters), and 3) it doesn't cost me more money to make than it would take to just buy a completed and better version of it.

Further pondering. I went through a gamut of ideas to hopefully fulfill the "what can I make to add to the diapers and boobie pads?" conundrum. Dyed and appliqued onesies? Never done them before. Freezer paper onesies? Still haven't purchased my own fabric paint and I remember the good designs being tedious. Sew a skirt? Maybe I could swing it, but there are a lot of women who could do it way better and might try, thereby making my skirt look like something a hobo would wear. Bead a few bracelets? Done that - have the materials, but want to try something different.

And that's when the almost-pantaloons-wetting and poo-fume-ignoring and Mexican-gardeners-getting-a-free-PG-13-rated-peep-show-cluelessness kicked in.

The cake would be chocolate chunk raspberry because she's had it before and couldn't stop foogasming over it (which is the basis of our friendship). That was the only given in this scenario. Everything else came together in a flurry of converging neural synapses that almost exploded my brain. The convergence went something like this:

Cream cheese frosting won't hold up as well as a buttercream so I'll do the buttercream even though I haven't made it as often OOH! and since the cake has a hint of raspberry the buttercream should too and I suppose I could decorate it with raspberries but I had such a bad experience relying on that last time because when we bought them the day of the party all the good raspberries were gone so we had to pay a dollar more per box for the last two organic boxes where half of them were already beginning to mold or mush under the weight of the others God bless pesticides screw the raspberries strawberries are looking gorgeous right now and huge so I'll use those does that mean I should try to find a strawberry extract? maybe I can if not I can soften the raspberry extract with some vanilla after all I only want a hint and I don't care if her favorite color is blue she's having a girl so she's just gonna have to get used to pink dammit we all do so the frosting will be pink which will be perfect since it's going to be raspberry buttercream anyway besides who wants a blue frosting that tastes like raspberries it's not like I'm running an Icee machine out of a 7-11 so pink it is with strawberries and OOH! there's a pattern for a crocheted slice of cake in that book Ted gave me and it's easy enough to change the frosting color from white to pink yarn but that pattern only has it as a two-layer cake and this one will most definitely be four layers with berry bits between because that's just what I do so I can't settle for a two-layer slice of cake but the rest of it looks pretty cute so maybe I can adapt it to three layers instead because if I try to do four layers it will be monstrous and this is supposed to be a little crawling baby's toy and OOH! I can put jingle bells in it so it's like a little rattle but would that be too much like a cat's toy I don't want this thing to look like it came straight out of PetSmart so OOH! I'll crochet a few strawberries to go with it since that's what's going to be on the real cake and then it'll look even more like food and I'll add bells to those too so when she opens it and shakes it around I'll say it's CAKE AND JINGLEBERRIES!

Here was the cake:

Here's the inside, which we'd already cut into before the present-opening (all part of the master plan):

And after pulling out the diapers and boobie pads, she saw this:

And she promptly freaked out. So much that I forgot to say "CAKE AND JINGLEBERRIES!" And here's the side-by-side:

PS - thank you to Ted for buying me the book that prompted the fun in enough time to have it ready for the shower and for coming up with the "two" pun in the post title. You didn't really think I was that much of a grammar idiot, did you?

April 17, 2010

On the cooling rack: Birthday "Pizookie"

I say "Pizookie" in quotes not because my version was a cheap, sub-par imitation, but because if it didn't come from BJ's Brewhouse, it's not technically one of their someone-needs-a-medal creation. But heaven help me, I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference in a blind taste test.

The actual word "pizookie" is so catchy that it took me until only recently to realize that it's a combination of "pizza" and "cookie'. Duh. But it's not just a pizza cookie because it's bigger and more perfectly round than a normal cookie.... No, no, no. Some genius up there in the BJ's R&D department came up with a beauty. They cook a phenomenal tasting cookie dough at a high temperature in a 6-inch diameter deep dish pizza pan with a little butter on the bottom that makes the bottom and sides ever so delicately crispy while the inner 4-inch diameter stays gooey, but nice and hot, which instantly starts melting the LARGE scoop of vanilla ice cream they plop on top. It's a simple dessert done to perfection, and anyone who's had one will swear by it.

Ted does.

Let me start by saying that this success story didn't come easily. As an amateur baker, I like to try new treats and experiments, and of course if you live under my same roof, you're subject to the tasting and forming of opinions about them. Ted and I have now been married three years, so that's three birthdays, three V-days, three sets of the Fat Holidays, and 156 weekends, most of which have sponsored some sort of concoction-making. Gee, and I wonder why my rump is lumpy.

When I do make something, especially if it's something new, I guess my need for accolades hinders honest opinions from the man. He's not one to emote effusive compliments if they're undeserved, and even if they are deserved, they're nearly impossible to eke out of him. He just doesn't moan in epicurean bliss, whereas I do it on a pretty regular basis. So I've had to learn to take anything above "It was good" as something that really blew his socks off (I have a translator in my brain, thankfully). For instance, when I made a turkey and rice soup from scratch the other day and he said, "This tastes just like my mom's", I about fell over and thanked my lucky stars (she's a great cook and I've witnessed him get wistful every now and then about certain meals and treats of hers).

There's the background to the next chain of events. We were on a walk a few weeks ago, and Ted was pushing the stroller. We had somehow gotten onto the topic of BJ's in general or Pizookies specifically, and either topic induces a wave of nostalgia for a chocoholic version of their Pizookie that I had about a year ago when a gaggle of girls from our freshman year at college got together for a weekend. I shared a Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Pizookie made with Ghirardelli chocolate and double chocolate ice cream with a square of dark Ghirardelli chocolate on the side with a friend at that meal. Neither of us can figure out why we shared. One bite and we almost ordered another one. So when Ted mentioned the word "Pizookie", he was speaking of the original and my brain had skipped right to the too-chocolate-for-words version. I replied with something like "Well, the original is good but that choc-" when I was EMPHATICALLY interrupted by my dearly beloved. He stopped the stroller mid-push, stuck his hand out in front of me and yelled, "Stop! You can't just stand there and say, 'the original is good.' You know it's way better than 'good'. It's freaking incredible, and I will not let you take another step until you acknowledge that."

I was blown away. In our three years of marriage, 5 months of engagement, 1 month of second-time dating, 6 months of friendship, 1 year of not talking at all, and 2 months of first-time dating, I have NEVER heard him speak so highly of a single dessert in such a tone. Yes, I wish it had been about one of my desserts, but I loved the effusive outburst so much that I really didn't care.

So for his birthday last Thursday (tax day), it didn't take too much to come up with what I would make this time.

I was given the recipe for some of the BEST chocolate chip cookies I've had in my life, so instead of using store-bought tubes of pre-fabricated cookie dough, which I've known some people to do... (you know who you are), I took great care in making the best version I could. I have a 6-inch deep dish pan (what self-respecting amateur baker doesn't?), but I opted for the heart instead because despite his lack of food-induced moans, I love my birthday boy very much.

So you can use any good recipe of cookie dough you want (or cheat - it's not like I'm going to know), but preheat the oven to 425. It's not your typical 350, but this ain't your typical batch of cookies. The higher heat cooks the whole bottom, edges, and top of your pizza cookie and keeps the very middle in its highly desirable salmonella stage. Cooking times will vary with the size pan you use (I really don't recommend you go bigger than a 9-inch cake pan, but even that's pushing it. The heart pan is 7" at its widest point), so watch it. Mine cooked about 13-15 min if I remember correctly. Should look like this:

Notice it looks completely cooked (I just typed "cookied" and I'm drooling). You don't want to take it out before the top looks done like that lest you have just a raw liquid-type thing you have to drink with a straw. Wait. Hmm.. next experiment?

WHILE STILL HOT OUT OF THE OVEN, plop a hefty amount of quality vanilla ice cream on top (pictured is Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean) so the contact heat starts melting it into pure sweet cream that creates rivers of pleasure all through your little hills and valleys of dough and chocolate. Eat immediately. DO NOT let this thing cool down, DO NOT be scared to blow on your first few bites of it, and DO NOT ever reveal to your cardiologist the real reason for your skyrocketing cholesterol. Blame it on genetics.

The aftermath:

I'm embarrassed to admit that I almost needed an oven mitt to remove the pan off the table. That's how warm it still was...

Oh, what bliss. Happy Pizookie Birthday, sweetie. I hold your food orgasms in my heart.

April 15, 2010

Pep Rallies: They're not just for High School Anymore

I think I remember enjoying high school pep rallies, but I'm not sure. Sometimes it was fun to see what the ASB had cooked up for a skit, it was always amusing to watch our hoochie cheerleaders with their latest booty-bumping choreography, and if there was some sort of court for some sort of dance, I enjoyed looking at the male eye candy. Never cared for the dates on their arms, but teenage boys cleaned up in suits, you betcha.

However, I was usually playing in the band for said pep rallies, so... you may understand why I say I think I remember enjoying them.

But this one was totally different. The day after Duke took the title of NCAA champs in Men's Basketball, the campus was a-flurry and they quickly set up a "Welcome Home" rally-type pep thing. I was going to go swimming at our complex pool since it was pushing 90, but a friend talked me into going. I guess it was a good thing, too, because the only Duke blue shirt I have is a maternity shirt, so it forced me to finally pull THOSE things out again. (It used to be my Dodger blue shirt, but look what a cross-country move makes you do - change loyalties.) But honestly, the event turned out to be much more cool (as in "hip" or "rad" or "groovy", not temp-wise) than I thought it would be. I texted Ted to join me, but some mean ol' professor had him in a mandatory meeting right through the whole thing. It was like Christmas on campus (as in "exciting" or "anticipatory" or "pine-scented", not temp-wise), yet there were Scrooges keeping their Bob Cratchits clustered away in air-conditioned classrooms. Meanies.

Don't know what kind it is, but I stopped mid-stroller-push to stare at this Pinky-Burst tree. The business school is right behind.

This was the scene upon entering - scoreboard was set to the final score of the championship game, and they were replaying the entire 40 minutes from the night before. Every once in a while they'd cut to the news coverage of the team landing at the nearby airport, getting on buses, and traveling back to campus. Each cut to the live transport was accompanied by raucous applause. Southerners and their sports... Gotta love 'em. Yes, I totally joined in.

The disgusting aftermath of the haul up the hill in humid 90-degree weather, pregnant, pushing a fat baby. The only redeeming quality is the nice rack I'm a-sportin'. Go, girl!

If you didn't watch the game, shame on you, but if you did, you know that it was a nail-biter right to the end. Even the last seconds were filled with stomach-churning agony as we watched that last half-court shot get so close to completely changing the outcome. So when that scene replayed on the scoreboard, the entire stadium erupted in cheers as if it had just happened, and amidst all that cheering, the team walked in. NICE TIMING, WHOEVER WAS IN CHARGE OF THAT.

The illustrious and now more decorated Coach K, saying some very kind words (sans crazy game eyebrows and pursy lips) about his team:

And...the very cute and very charming and very kind Jon Scheyer. He was one of the seniors who just said a few words of thanks to everyone. They all kept it nice and short and sweet and grateful - not cocky at all, so it was right up my alley.

And while I was caught up in all the hullabaloo, this was the scene just below me.

You'd think I never fed the girl. Her thighs say otherwise.

Gotcha, little girl. Step (crawl) away from the animal crackers...

You pay attention when history is being made! Or else!

Creation: Crocheted Spring Purse

Spring is here! Time to celebrate and wear it proud. I saw this pattern in a book, and though I think it's adorable, there's no way I can fit my wallet, camera (though it's small), keys, phone, diapers, sippy cup, wipes, toys, a couple of pens, a spoon, applesauce, and pretzels in there. So I made it for someone else. TWO someone elses. I photographed the first one, but had a Moron Day and deleted the pictures before I could download them.

The first edition was for my sweet sister who had a birthday at the end of March. Her life has been topsy-turvy as of late, though I can't say I really pity her. She was a nanny in ITALY, of all places, from August to January, and when she got back after Christmas, someone somewhere told her that the work visa she currently held wasn't gonna cut it, so she had to come back to the U.S. to try to work it out with the consulate. They gave her the run-around, in way more detail and paragraphs than I'm going to get into, but in the meantime, my brother's family in Heber, UT, had quite a scare with their newborn boy. He contracted RSV, had to be lifeflighted (is that a verb?) to Salt Lake, and the parents were quickly in tow. However, they had 4 other boys left at home. So my sister dropped everything with consulates and visas and flew to Utah to stay in their home while little Jake recuperated in the hospital. She took care of four CRAZY boys so our brother could still go to work and Sara could stay with her son in the hospital. What a dear. What an unselfish thing to do. It's so like her to do that, too, so I made this for her.

Edition #2 was for our neighbor and friend, Ashley, who is constantly tending and tickling our little (huge) munchkin while I go do various errands. She's got her own day job and an additional side job, she's putting her husband through his last year of law school and planning grad parties and baby showers, but she always has time to take Tess under her wing. I told her I would have made her a scarf from a cool pattern in the same book, but it was probably too warm for that. She happened to be over one day when I was crocheting this purse, and she decided she wanted one, too. Same color, same handles, same size. (phew) I was only too happy to oblige.

So thank you, thank you to daily heroes who make the world go round. I love you immensely and think you're pretty stupendous.

It's not much, but it's from the heart.

April 11, 2010

Charleston: A day on the town

Charleston was so beautiful that we spent two days "just walking around" instead of the pre-planned one. Ted (trivia receptacle) mentioned that this is one part of the country that has very specific laws regarding what can be built and where, what color it can be painted, any and all signage, and even landscaping the city wants to use. All of this is done in an effort to preserve as much as possible the look that has existed for hundreds of years, and I must say, the efforts are well worth it to tourists like us. Not only was it a gorgeous spring day (which one hopes for on their spring break), but the scenery was enough to just want to sit on one of the large rocking-chair porches and drink it all in. But there was too much to see! So, walk we did.

Some streets were brick, while others were cobblestoned. I expressed my love for the cobblestones until I had to push an umbrella stroller across one for an entire two blocks. Then they weren't my favorite. But they were cool to look at!

We visited Fort Sumter, the site of the beginning of the Civil War on April 12, 1865. It has been excavated and somewhat restored, with some of the original cannons, and they've built a museum to showcase some of the artillery and a HUGE original flag. I was focused on how crazy it must have been to be a part of nonstop blasts coming to and going fro, but I also couldn't get out of my head that this was the place the four girls in the movie Shag told their parents they were visiting and instead went to Myrtle Beach for the weekend. It's not like the Fort was THAT big! How were their parents so easily fooled that it would take them an entire weekend to see it all?!? Of COURSE they were going to go to the beach and meet boys and enter shag contests and throw a party in the senator's house! I mean, the Fort was cool and all, but those things were much cooler when I was 18 and about to go off to college. I'm just sayin'. Sometimes parents are stupid and gullible.

I got a picture of my two favorite people closer up in front of this house, but then I realized the whole reason I took a picture of this house was because it reminded me of so many gorgeous houses and magnolia trees that I miss in my hometown. The scene could have been straight out of Pasadena, for all you know. But nope, Charleston, SC.

There were fountains a-plenty:

Our friend Ashley happened to take this shot right after Tessa stuck her hand in the stream of water and splashed it all over herself, inducing gasps and whimpers. Notice how great a mom I am - laughing at my poor unfortunate child. Whatever. She got over it.

This was one of many incredible-looking churches. But I included it because it was my favorite.

Spanish moss EVERYWHERE:

A small stretch dubbed "Rainbow Row". Fitting name, obviously.

As I crossed one of the streets, I noticed the sun was at a perfect point for a perfect photo. Unfortunately, I'm not a perfect photographer. This was me trying to be fancy.

Our group decided to try one of the restaurants that had been recommended in our "1000 Places (in USA and Canada) to See Before You Die" book. All of Charleston was in there, but they made special mention of this restaurant: Bowen's Island. We would never have just happened upon this place on our own, because it was on the edge of town, down a remote paved road that turned into a remoter dirt road full of huge ruts and bumps, and into a remotest cul-de-sac that housed a barn, a shack, and near-mountains of oyster shells. The barn was the restaurant, the shack was where you pre-paid, got your drinks (go with the cans, folks, because I personally saw a rat walking near the "water cooler"), and could watch your food get deep-fried. If you ordered oysters, you witnessed the little critters getting scalded to death in the huge boiling kettles you passed on your way to the barn/restaurant. Also, if you ordered said oysters, they came to you in an industrial-sized shovel, and the waiter just plopped them on your table. Good luck shuckin'.

None of us ordered oysters.

Here's our group in the quaint surroundings. Patrons were encouraged to write/carve on the wooden panels and 2x4s that made up "the walls", and there was a very fat dog lying in wait to receive any ill-placed table scraps. It reminded me of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and our chubby daughter simultaneously. Note to self: when fat and pregnant, always move to the back of group pictures.

The oyster carnage. This was only one of the dozen or so piles of shells out there. Oh, and go Duke.

Tessa is a bit of a flirt, but even she has her limit. This was about the 14th hug she got that night. From the same cute boy. I hope she keeps this attitude as a teenager, but it's probably wishful thinking considering who her mama is.

April 9, 2010

Creation: Flower Headband

There are now two very cute Mias in my life - one in CA (who is actually living in our old house) and one in a nice neighborhood in our new ward. I've babysat the one here a couple times, and I thought she might like to do a craft today. Really, I wanted to do the craft, and I made her join me. I've been gathering materials slowly after reading this tutorial from a friend's blog, then I put it off because Tessa not only doesn't keep things on her head very long - she drools all over them and bites parts off (still searching for a missing button, but I stop at rifling through poop).

So when Mia came over for an afternoon, I decided to make the best of it. I did most of the work, but she picked out the beads and ate the rest of the Jelly Belly centerpiece. I appreciated the 4 calories per bean that won't be packed onto my own jelly belly.

Perfect little headband to go looking for bugs with.

April 5, 2010

Blue Devils are National Champions in 2010!!!

This 90-degree day was gorgeous, pollen-filled, and fruitful!

As Ted's first year of law school comes to its final weeks, we have found ourselves totally devoted to the NCAA basketball outcome. Of course, we have a slightly more vested interest than if he had chosen to go to University of Michigan.

We invited ourselves over to our friends' house - they're both avid fans, and even though John has been a bball junkie lately, he wasn't there to watch it with us and his wife Melanie (who made some slammin black bean salsa). Because he WON TICKETS to be there in Indianapolis!! This guy gets all the luck - it's pretty uncanny. He paid 25 bucks and got tickets to both semifinals and the National Championship game. He graduates law school in a month, and from his phone call after Duke won a thrilling final game, it was the icing on his illustrious law school cake. I mean, career.

To further cheer on the team, I stopped in "the Jelly Belly aisle" of our local Target to purchase this: coconut, french vanilla, black licorice, and plum. NO blueberry - you know how we feel about those.

(When I got home I noticed on the receipt that instead of charging me the $7/lb for the things, the cashier typed in the wrong PLU and only charged me the $0.57/lb banana rate. It must have happened because Tess was distracting her with her flirty "hiiiiiii!" which obviously turned our cashier into butter. Sheesh, it works on me every day.)

So with treats a-plenty, a crawling one-year old who threatened to push any and all buttons on the TV, and some old school recording of the game onto VHS, we witnessed history being made, cheering the Blue Devils along in our Duke blue. Hey, I'm 22 weeks pregnant. It was the only correctly-colored shirt I could muster.

And then Tessa's poop diaper leaked onto my white pants. Thanks, girl. Go Duke!

Posted by Picasa

ps - You know you have kids when your team wins at midnight and you have to celebrate with "silent screams".

The Cooling Rack

Baked goods are only half the story...