Friday, January 29, 2010

Delicious Potato Soup

About a year ago I discovered potato soup. I'd never had it before that, but for some reason I decided to try making it. And I love it! Every time I make it, I eat way too much because I just can't stop because it is So Delicious! Wow! This is the recipe I use. It's also the only potato soup I've ever had, but I can't imagine it getting much better than this.

This particular picture is a batch I made without ham. I didn't have any on hand, so I made it without and just added a little salt to make up for it. It was also delicious, but I like it best with a little ham.

Give it a try!

Chunky Potato Soup

3-4 medium potatoes
2 cups of water
1 small onion
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
Black pepper
3 cups milk
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cubed cooked ham

  1. Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  2. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add potatoes and cook until tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup liquid (adding water if necessary) and set aside.
  3. Peel and chop onion. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion to saucepan and cook, stirring frequently until onion is translucent and tender but not brown.
  4. Add flour to saucepan. Season with pepper to taste. Cook 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add potatoes, reserved 1 cup cooking liquid, milk and sugar to onion mixture in saucepan. Stir well.
  6. Add cheese and ham.
  7. Simmer over low heat 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Eat and enjoy!!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's a Boy. And a Girl. And a Girl. And a Boy. And a Boy. And a Girl . . . .

We are overrun with sea life! The guppies had babies. Both females did. Of course they did. It's what guppies do. And as soon as I can tell which is a girl and which is a boy, they are being separated. As cute as they are, I do not have room in the tank for 18,675 guppies!

And, just to make things interesting, the mystery snail also had babies. Now, of course that was preventable. We didn't have to leave the clutch of eggs there, but it made for an interesting science lesson. But the other four clutches are going! I don't have room in the tank for 11,652 snails! So far it looks like about 7 or 8 snails, but I'm sure that's optimistic. These things are tiny, like 2 millimeters tiny and they are crawling all over so I'm sure there are many many many many of the little buggers hiding everywhere.

I think it may be almost time for "The Adventures of Mister Sinister's Offspring".


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Who Says Ice Skating is Not a Full Contact Sport?

Some of this family likes to ice skate. Some of this family wouldn't be caught dead on ice skates. Some of this family is indifferent.

Sweet Pea and I enjoy it. I'm not an expert by any means but I can (almost always) make it around the rink without falling and like to think I do so with at least a small amount of grace.And Sweet Pea took figure skating lessons for about a year and she can whiz around the rink like a pro and has a ball whenever we go.

Snickers is indifferent. If he feels like it on a given day, he'll go. If not, he won't. As easy as that.

Doodlebug is also indifferent. He likes the idea of skating. But even more, he likes being anywhere Mommy is. So if Mommy goes to the skating rink, Doodlebug wants to come along. And if he has to put on a pair of skates and skid wildly across the ice to do so, he's all for it. At least for a little while.

And hubby? He wouldn't be caught dead on a pair of skates! Too cold. Too slippery. Too much exercise. Not enough TVs. Not enough computers. (But we love him despite that. His strengths lie elsewhere).

So we went skating. (All but hubby who chose to remain at home in his warm chair in front of the TV.) I helped Sweet Pea with her skates and she was off and skating while I worked on the boys and my own skates. Of course, as with everything else, there was an argument as to who got to have their skates put on first. We agreed to alternate. I laced up one of Snicker's skates, then one of Doodlebug's, then Snicker's, then Doodlebug's. All with a minimal amount of yelling, screaming, slapping, pushing, shoving and name-calling. Who says ice skating is not a full contact sport?

Then it was time for me to put mine on as the boys to tottered precariously around in cirles, ankles turning, bodies flopping, skate blades slashing at the air. I worked as quickly as possible, hoping to be done before the flying skate blades caused blood shed.

Snickers got on the ice first and took off. Not exactly like a pro, but he slowly and carefully started making his way around the rink. He was doing awesome! Sweet Pea whizzed past.

I lifted Doodlebug over the step and onto the ice. I grabbed both hands (which he insists upon), stood behind him and we set off. Sweet Pea lapped us. We got a quarter of the way around and Doodlebug started complaining that I was going too slow. And I thought I was following his lead. Sweet Pea lapped us again. We sped up. We got about half way around the rink and Doodlebug was ready for a rest. (I'm the one behind him, slightly bent over so I can reach his hands. I'm the one with my legs splayed awkwardly to the sides to keep from kicking his skates with mine. And WHO needs a rest?) Sweet Pea lapped us again. Snickers lapped us too.

So we sat and rested while he complained about his ankle hurting. I adjusted his sock and tightened his skates. Eventually, we got back on the ice. Sweet Pea lapped us again. When we finally got all the way around and back to the door we came in he insisted on getting off the ice.

"I am NOT going back out there!" And he was serious. There was no way I was getting him back on the ice. OK, fine. I don't think I can skate bent over like that for many more laps anyway.

Meanwhile, Sweet Pea continued to skate wildly around and around the rink, whizzing by like a speeding jet. And slightly slower, but with a determined look in his eye, Snickers also whizzed by, more like a propeller plane than a jet, but speedy nonetheless.

For the next half hour, Doodlebug and I sat in the bleachers and watched. He hardly complained at all. (Except about the lack of snacks in his hands.)

Sometime I'll have to tell you about the very first time I took Sweet Pea and Snickers skating. They were both literally hanging off of me, feet flailing on the ice, skates knocking into mine, bodies smashing into my legs. And even though I had not skated in 15 years. 15 YEARS! I somehow, against all odds, managed to Not Fall Down! I don't know how I managed it, but I did. Luck was with me!


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Just Soak 'Em

Apparently, the best way to get clean dishes is to soak them. Like this:

Me: What are doing?
Him: Soaking this. It needs to soak.
Me: But then who is going to clean it later? After it's done soaking?
Him: What do mean? This is all that needs to be done. Whenever I soak dishes, the next morning they are all clean and sitting on the stove.
Me: Hmmm. I see.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Recreating the Awesomeness that is Calvin and Hobbes

I love Calvin and Hobbes. It was the best comic strip ever! I was very disappointed when Bill Watterson decided to stop making them back in 1995. There really has been nothing since that I've liked quite as much. I like just about any Calvin and Hobbes strip, but one of my favorite types are the strips where Calvin is making snowmen. I decided to pay homage to Bill Watterson and Calvin and Hobbes and the snowmen in my own way.

I figured, the best way to pay homage to a boy and his tiger and his incredible snowman-making skills was to recreate some of those scenes in one of my favorite mediums. Cookies! Yes. That's right. I said cookies! I decided to bake cookies to try to recreate the awesomeness that is Calvin and Hobbes.

What? Did you think I was going to leave my nice warm kitchen and go out into the snow and make a snowman sculpture like this one? Awesome idea, but no, you were wrong.

First I had to do my research and find some of my favorite comics that I thought would recreate well in cookie form. Once I found the ones I liked, I blew them up to cookie size and printed them out. Originally I was going to try doing it all freehand, but let's not get crazy. I decided it would be more accurate to use the actual comics as a tracing template (not to mention easier).

After my research I made some cookie dough. I used my old standby butter cookie recipe. It's almost a shortbread recipe, but with a few extra ingredients like eggs and baking powder. It makes a tasty cookie that holds its shape wonderfully and isn't too terribly fragile. (For a cookie, that is).

I cut out my template shapes from the enlarged, printed comics, laid them on the dough and cut around them.

As I was doing the tracing and cutting, both Snickers and Sweet Pea, at separate times, without being aware that the other had said it, both said, "Mom! You're weird!" In exactly the same tone of voice. What? Me? Weird? For recreating old comics out of cookie dough and frosting? Nah!

Then I baked those little suckers until they were done. Once they were cool, it was time to make frosting. I made a simple confectioner’s sugar frosting in a variety of colors and went to town. While the kids were busy frosting some heart-shaped cookies, I set to work on my creations.

Click here to see the original comic that I decided to start with. The last panel with the snowmen and the car is the one I recreated.

And this is my finished cookie recreation:

This is just the first of many Calvin and Hobbes cookie recreations I plan on doing. I had a lot of fun with this and hardly swore at all. There were a few mishaps. Of course there were. But it's all fun. And tasty too!

I have some others planned, and if you have any favorites that you'd like to see cookiefied, let me know in the comments!

Stay tuned!


Friday, January 22, 2010

A Quarter Inch of Sugar Helps the Muffins Go Down

Friday's are muffin day. Sweet Pea decided one Friday that she wanted to have blueberry muffins for breakfast. I had a boxed mix in the cupboard just waiting so I mixed it up and we had a tasty breakfast. One Friday turned into two turned into three and now every Friday is muffin day.

And you know how they often sprinkle muffin tops with that course sugar? We like that. So for muffin day, we always pull out the colored sugar sprinkles. We make them tasty AND pretty!

We (me and the kids) have been known to waste large amounts of time decorating these with different patterns of colored sugars. (The above picture is from a pretty tame batch). Hubby thinks we're crazy and is just as happy with plain tops. But I guess I can't blame him. Sometimes we do go overboard a little with the sugar, especially if Doodlebug is helping so I guess I can understand him not wanting to crunch through a quarter inch of sugar.

But now I'm running out of the colored sugar sprinkles I had on hand and was looking around for somewhere I could buy these more cheaply. They cost a fortune at the grocery store! And oh, but Google is a wonderful thing! Apparently it's really really easy to make your own colored sugar. Just take some sugar, add a few drops of food coloring (liquid will work fine, as will powdered) and shake it until it's all mixed up. Now I'm incredibly excited about making my own colored sugar, every color I can manage to make from my handful of liquid food colors. So, for today, I'll use what I have, but next week watch out! Homemade sprinkles here I come!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Potato Chips, Cheese Puff Chains and Other Nonsense

Just the other day I overheard someone saying to someone else, "I think I have a new favorite potato chip."

The first thought that crossed my mind was "There's more than one kind?" I mean, a potato chip is a potato chip right? Yellowish in color, salty, tasty, but just a potato chip.

I can hear some of you saying, "What!?! JUST a potato chip?!?! Is she out of her mind?!?!

OK. OK. I know. There are many varieties, many brands and they are all vastly different, right? OK, if you say so, but chips just aren't my thing. They're OK. I will eat them if they are there - right in front of me, but I wouldn't go out of my way to eat them, especially if there is chocolate or cookies or other baked goods around that I could eat instead. I am most definitely a cake/cookie/candy person at heart. Snickers is the same. The hubby and Sweet Pea are equal opportunity snackers and will eat just about anything tasty. But Doodlebug is definitely a chip person. He has yet to meet a Dorito, cheese puff or potato chip that he doesn't like. In fact, his last birthday party was centered around his two very favorite things - kittens and cheese puffs. Yeah, you try to make a birthday party with a kitty cheese puffs theme! But I was up to the task. The party was complete with hand-made birthday invitations:

Front Picture:

Inside Picture:

Construction paper kitty prints on the floor and tablecloth:

Hand-strung cheese puffs chains:

A kitty-eating-a-cheese-puff cake:

And a hand-decorated shirt:


Let me tell you, I felt rather silly stringing chains and chains and chains of cheese puffs together with a needle and thread. It was very messy, tastylicious work. (Not as tasty as cookie chains, or chocolate chains, but tasty nonetheless). But overall the party was a hit and the decorations were just right.

For his next birthday he's requested a Dorito and doggy theme! How am I going to string chains of Dorito's? It will be a challenge, but I think I'm up to it!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

As Evil As Brussels Sprouts

Just look at that face. Isn't it sweet? Doesn't that look like the sweetest little gerbil you've ever seen? So soft and fuzzy, cute and wiggly with long whiskers, a little pink nose and soft gray fur.

Yes, he had us fooled too. He's cute to look at, but under that soft fur and those quivering whiskers lies the heart of a vicious little beastie. If you look closer you'll see the gnarled, curled claws and the evil red eyes blazing with hatred. The whiskers aren't quivering in curiosity. They are quivering in barely controlled rage. How dare they put me in this cage next to that other gerbil! How dare they try to feed me delicious snacks and stroke my soft fur! How dare they coo at me and tell me I'm sweet! I'm not having any of it! Let me at them! I crave the taste of blood! Fresh fingers! [drool].

OK. So he's not that bad, but as far as friendly neighborhood rodents go, this one is not. Remember back when I introduced him and he got into a furry flurry with sweet, gentle, lovable little Sandy? Well, he was showing his true colors. He is a nibbler, a finger-biter, a run-from-any-human-contact type gerbil.

And Sandy is the complete opposite. I wouldn't say he loves human contact, but he is so curious that he will step onto your hand when you reach into the cage. He won't quite step on all the way so you still have to work somewhat to snatch him up, but he seems to enjoy it. He will run in and out of Sweet Pea's fingers, in and out of her pockets and up her arms. He eats snacks from her hands and as far as I know, he has never bitten anyone. (Except Frosty when Frosty attacked him on their first meeting, but even then I think he was more intent on escape rather than biting. Let me outta here!).

So there you have it - both spectrums of the gerbil world: Sweet as honey and evil as brussel sprouts (I apologize to those of you who are fans of brussels sprouts. Maybe you and Frosty would get along. ;-)


Tuesday, January 19, 2010


About a year ago Snickers brought a paper home from school for sign-up to boy scouts. It seemed like something he would be interested in, but when I asked he immediately said no, he was not interested. I asked him a few more times over the next week or so and always got the same response. Then one day I thought to ask him why he wasn't interested.
Snickers: Because harvies.
Me: Harvies? What's that?
Snickers: You know, if you go camping you might get bit by a wild animal and get harvies, or something like that.
Me: Rabies?
Snickers: Oh yeah. That's it. I don't want to get rabies.

Pretty good reason I suppose. Maybe not entirely accurate, but at least it's a solid reason. I had to explain that it would probably be a while before camping even came up and that most boy scouts don't get rabies when they go camping. In fact, I've never heard of even one although I suppose it may have happened at some point in the history of boy scouting. (If I'm wrong and some huge percentage of boy scouts get harvies rabies while camping, let me know so I can let him know he's right and ban him from boy scouts for life in case he changes his mind.)

Despite my reassurances, he still didn't want to join boy scouts. I think is has more to do with stepping out of his comfort zone and doing something new than it has to do with fear of contracting a disease from wild creatures in the dark woods. But then again, I could be wrong. He does tend to avoid 'icky' things and on a scale of 1 - 10 a diseased wild animal, frothing at the mouth and passing on deadly germs is right up there.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Attempt at Creativity

Here's my latest go at art for the Creative Every Day challenge. Remember when I posted about that back on January 1st? I've been creative in other ways, but I really wanted to finish some more art. I'm not real happy with the way it came out - it's kind of lopsided and I don't like the background at all, but I like the idea, so you may see another go at it in the future in some other media. But for now, this is it:


Friday, January 15, 2010

15 Awesome Children's Books

I love children's books. Even before I had children I loved them. The stories, the illustrations, the huge variety of awesome titles to choose from. Any topic or style that you can imagine. Over the last ten years or so I've had a wonderful opportunity to explore a lot of great children's books. I have an excuse - I have kids. But you know, you don't need an excuse to enjoy these. They are so much fun. Here are some of our favorites through the years (in no particular order).

1. Hondo and Fabian - written and illustrated by Peter McCarty
I love the simple story and the beautiful, soft illustrations. The kids especially love when Fabian unrolls the toilet paper. Fabian Escapes is also a big hit.

2. Bear Snores On - by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
I love the fun rhyming tale and the incredible illustrations.

3. Dirt Boy - by Eric Jon Slangerup, illustrated by John Manders
The story is so much fun and the illustrations are awesome - just the right amount of ick. The kids absolutely loved this one.

4. Guess How Much I Love You - by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram
Very very sweet story and the bunnies are so cute! A favorite of my daughter's when she was very small.

5. Kittens First Full Moon - by Kevin Henkes
The simple illustrations and amusing story are perfect.

6. The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear - by Don and Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood
Very cute and beautifully illustrated.

7. Where the Wild Things Are - written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak
A classic. It's popular for a reason.

8. Corduroy - by Don Freeman
Cute story and illustrations. The kids used to love this one.

9. Small - written and illustrated by Clara Vulliamy
Another cute story with super cute illustrations.

10. No Matter What - by Debi Gliori
We have always loved the little wooden, wheeled rooster in this story!

11. Mouse's First Halloween - by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Buket Erdogan
It's just spooky enough for real little ones. (All of the "Mouse's First ---" books have been hits).

12. Anasi the Spider : a Tale from the Ashanti - by Gerald McDermott
Different than a lot of the others on this list. The bold colorful illustrations catch the eye and the kids love the story.

13. The Quiltmakers Gift - by Jeff Brumbeau, illustrated by Gail de Marcken
A very nice story and beautiful full-page illustrations.

14. The Chocolate Cat - by Sue Stainton, illustrated by Anne Mortimer
A cute story with beautiful illustrations. I can just smell the chocolate when I read this.

15. Russell The Sheep - by Rob Scotton
An awesome funny story with cute illustrations. I love Russell's hat and his froggy friend! Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton is also a favorite.

And a few more:
Anything by Sandra Boynton, but a few favorites have been Snoozers : Seven Short Short Bedtime Stories for Lively Little Kids, Snuggle Puppy, Pajama Time, Moo Baa La La La and But Not the Hippopotamus. These are all classics. We've never met a Boynton book we didn't like (with the possible exception of Doggies (a Counting and Barking Book), which the kids loved. I, however, got somewhat sick of reading all the barks. But it's still a fun book!)

Snickers has been especially fond of anything Dr. Suess and Doodlebug will enjoy anything with even a passing reference to a cat.

I'm sure I'm missing some great ones that we've enjoyed through the years, but this is a good start. What are some of your favorites? Post a comment and let me know.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cupcakes Make Me Smile!

When you look at a cupcake, you've got to smile.
- Anne Byrn

Cupcakes are fun. And delicious. This is a picture of my Pink Lemonade cupcakes with lemon cream-cheese frosting that won 2nd prize at the State Fair this past summer. If I ever find where I put misplaced the recipe, I'll post it here. In a nutshell, I started with a basic vanilla cupcake recipe and modified it, adding color and flavor here, modifying this and that until I thought it was just right. Then I did the same with a basic cream cheese frosting, adding some tangy lemon zip here and a little color there and topping it off with a yellow gumpaste rose. The sweetness of the cupcake - lightly lemon, contrasted nicely with the tangy zip of the lemon cream cheese frosting (if I do say so myself).

And if you're looking for more baking inspiration, Check out the super delicious cupcakes at Poppy Mallow Cupcakes and Cupcakes Take the Cake. Yum!

And EpiCute - the cute food blog  is awesome! It has more than just cupcakes. It's chock full of all sorts of cute foods and snacks.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Random Quote of the Day (And Winter Weather, Sunflowers and Squirrels)

"It was one of those chilly and empty afternoons in early winter, when the daylight is silver rather than gold and pewter rather than silver."
- G. K. Chesterton
That describes yesterday to a T. With a high of 20 F and lots of clouds, everything was gray, silver and pewter. A good day to remember this beautiful sunflower that we had growing in the back a few months ago.

It grew all summer long, getting taller and taller. We all watched the bud grow larger and larger, checking it daily for signs of blooming. Then it finally bloomed, huge and bright, following the sun every day. And when it finally faded, it provided entertainment for us and nourishment to the squirrels.