Thursday, January 31, 2008

Birthday Supper

Here's what I fixed for Joshua's birthday supper.

It's actually one of those "un" recipes. Lasagna noodles (about 12). Two pounds of ricotta cheese. Two eggs. One 10-ounce box of chopped spinach, thawed, with the liquid squeezed out. Then I added some salt, pepper, Pampered Chef Italian Seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. These ingredients were carefully measured. (NOT!) I opened a JAR of spaghetti sauce (Archer Farms tomato basil from Target) and spooned a litte in the bottom of the pan. I spread a little of the cheese mixture on each lasagna noodle and rolled it up. It didn't take long at all. I would recommend not doing this OVER Poodles in long hair. :^) Delilah was quite underfoot and she got a PLOP over her right shoulder. Cosette licked it off, spinach and all, and Brooke wiped Delilah clean. Anyway, just lay each roll in the dish over the sauce. Top with remaining sauce and shredded Parmesan cheese. (My sauce and cheese rolled off.) If I make this again, I'd serve extra sauce on the side, as Steve said he would have liked his a little bit saucier.

Unfortunately, Joshua was not feeling quite up to par. I think a few weeks working out in the cold and the rain and mud have done a number on him. But he did rally enough to enjoy some of the cake.

This is Pioneer Woman's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever, only I was completely out of cocoa and when I went to Target the other day, the only cocoa they had was Hershey's Special Dark. So this cake is VERY dark chocolate - VERY rich - VERY good! Definite "mainline" chocolate. I highly recommend this cake - and it took less than 45 minutes to make, beginning to end, including the frosting! I had the HARDEST time keeping the girls out of this until Joshua got home from work!!!

Twenty Years Ago

I never thought I'd say....

"20 years ago, my first child was born."

Twenty years seems like such a long time. But in reality, it seems like just last week.

It seems like it was just a few days ago and Brother Stroud was holding you, tiny and squirming, before our church family and proclaiming, "God, this is all You have given us to make a man out of...."

And today, you are a man. No longer a child, but still "my baby"....


Happy 20th Birthday, Joshua. I love you more than you will ever realize.

You are the one who made me a Mom. You have taught me so much about God and love and sacrifice.

And how little I know about being a parent. :^)

You make me laugh like no one else.

You are so special to me and I love you with all my heart. Always.


"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD..." Jeremiah 29:11-14a

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Brush Your......dogs.....Teeth! Please!

I'm one of those people who KNEW that it was recommended that you brush your dog's teeth on a daily basis. But my life is VERY busy - some days I'm doing good to brush my own. So I would brush the Poodles' teeth occasionally -maybe a few times a year.

But after our dental visit the other day, and after Brooke read the article in the February edition of Dog Fancy Magazine, and she decided to check all the Poodles' teeth. We discovered that Delilah had a tooth that was loose and appeared to have a hole right in the center of it.

So first thing this morning, Delilah, Brooke, and I headed out to the veterinarian clinic. It was time for Delilah's yearly visit anyway.

Thankfully, the "hole" we saw wasn't decay, but actually the tooth had loosened and come down so that what we saw on either side of the "hole" was root. But her tooth is loose and, if it doesn't come out on its own, she'll need to go back next week for an extraction.

So now the result of my neglect hit me fully. I love all my Poodles - but Delilah is my heart. It makes me very sad that something I've neglected to do may have caused her pain - and led to the loss of a tooth. Now, she is almost nine years old and, according to the magazine article, most dogs experience the loss of their first tooth due to dental neglect by the time they are three years old. But regardless - I've learned my lesson. So we went to the store and bought a new tube of doggy toothpaste and a new doggy toothbrush. All the Poodles had their teeth brushed by either myself or Brooke. Then they got a dental treat.

So we now have a new routine.

Yes, cats need their teeth brushed, too.

So save yourself the guilt I've been feeling and brush ALL the teeth in your household! :^D Dogs and cats, too!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dentist Visit

Our family is weird. We love the dentist. (Oh, okay....STEVE doesn't love the dentist. But that's because every time he goes, it entails MULTIPLE visits. So we won't talk about his feelings for the dentist. That's for another post.) When my kids were little, if one was going and the others weren't, they'd be upset. To them, going to the dentist is like a big family reunion, only no cheek-pinching aunts.

I've been going to the same dentist for 29 years now. That's a LONG time. When I mentioned that to Dr. D. today, he said, "We must have started early - you're no older than 29 right now!" Is it any wonder I love this guy? And Mrs. A., the hygienist, is just my favorite. She definitely hasn't been with Dr. D. for 29 years, but she's been with him for a while and I just love her, too.

Dr. D. has two lovely grown daughters - one is a hygienist and the other is a dentist, married to a dentist, both now in practice with Dr. D. My girls go to Dr. D.'s daughter, Dr. K. We like keeping our dental money all in one family. :^) Morgan will be job shadowing Dr. K. on 2/19 and she is so excited!

My girls with their all-time favorite dentist.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Two Men and a Poodle

Look at this handsome dude.

Yes, ladies, he is single. :^)

Here's another handsome dude.

He's taken.

Evidently by Cosette.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Christina!

Brooke's best friend, Christina, turns 15 today! Happy Birthday Wishes to a very lovely young lady!

Brooke made her an oil pastel drawing of a hibiscus.

I think she did a good job. This was her first time to use pastels on canvas, although she has done a number of works in a sketch book.
I'll have to post my favorite pencil sketch she has done recently. Perhaps tomorrow. I'm tired!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Gentleman, Show Your Tartans!

My bloggy friend across the Pond gave a blog challenge today, which necessitated two posts for today. GASP!

She is preparing for a Scottish Supper, haggis and all, and showed the world her tartan. And challenged the rest of us to do the same.

Steve's family is Scots-Irish, a group of Americans who hailed from Scotland, stopping over in Ireland first. He has had a bear of a time trying to find his tartan, although after much studying, he discovered he belongs to Clan MacDonald. There are myriad tartans for the MacDonalds, but here is one...

But if you look up his Irish tartan, you get this, from the Monaghans....

Ugh. I'll take the Scottish tartan, thank you very much.

My maternal grandfather was from Canada, his family coming from England. Granddaddy adored all things Scottish and lamented that he was not Scottish himself. His heart would fair to burst when he heard bagpipes and one of his favorite vacations was the one they took to England and Scotland.

And elderly gentleman from Scotland once told me that "if your heart beats faster at the sound of the 'pipes, you must be Scottish." Hmm.....

Not long after Granddaddy died, my Grandmother asked me to do some genealogy research for her on the Internet. She had already done quite a bit, going back in some cases to the 1500's, and had quite a book made for both her family and Granddaddy's. In my research, I discovered that, not one, but TWO of Granddaddy's ancestors were of Scottish heritage. Oh, how he would have loved to have known that!

So, while it took Steve quite a while to find his Clan, I discovered I belonged to TWO!!! MacBeth...

and MacLaren....

Unfortunately, neither Steve nor I have any articles of clothing in our clan tartans. Steve would love to have a kilt, but those are quite expensive and I don't foresee him wearing it any more often than once a year.

And, Dorothy, for the record, I'm awfully glad you don't bear a grudge. :^D

So, check here and then show us YOUR tartan!

Tea, Anyone?

Tea. One of the world's oldest beverages.

My bloggy friend from the Duckabush Blog posted about an adorable tea party and craft that she enjoyed with her older daughter. She is a big Starbucks coffee fan, as am I, but was talking about tea and asking for our favorites. As much as I adore coffee, I probably am addicted to the CEREMONY of tea much more. And I've wanted to blog about tea for a while, so I decided this dreary Saturday was just the day!

Here is my stash of tea. Okay, so at least half of it is not REALLY tea, but herbal teas, which aren't really really teas at all, but tisanes. Minor technicality. I have quite the collection of blacks, greens, whites, rooibos, honeybush, and herb teas. We love tea - can you tell?

Whoops! This little guy got left out! He's one of my favorite holiday teas, I mean tisanes.

So today I decided NOT to have coffee with my breakfast, but one of my very favorite breakfast teas from Upton Tea Company, River Shannon. This tea was a gift from one of my dear friends, Ashley, for my birthday, along with another favorite of mine, Black Currant. Yum! One thing that Upton does when you buy a gift of tea for someone, that is love, is a personalized label! So every time I pull out my tea, I see Ashley's greeting and remember our lovely friendship.

Here is my River Shannon tea from Ashley, as well as my tiny little teapot she gave me this year for Christmas. It's perfect for making tea for two on a "regular" afternoon when I'd rather not pull out the china pot. I also love the fact that it has the little basket, so I don't have to pull out a strainer to strain the tea leaves. And it even came with a nifty little scoop. I don't know where she got this little pot, but I love it. Thanks, Ash! And it's PINK - the color of my soon-to-be scrapbook room!

Another thing that I love about Upton Tea is their catalog! Each one contains a "chapter" on the history of tea. Their catalogs come out quarterly and I love reading it from front to back. They also have great information for those of us who aren't well versed in the Art of Tea - like not to bring the water to a boil if you are making green, white, oolong, or jasmine teas, and information like that.

Here's my little tea caddy that I won at a Louisiana Family Forum silent auction a few years ago. I bid on it because I thought the girls would like it. My girls love "taking tea," although Brooke prefers to take her tea in jeans and boots rather than a dress and a hat.

For years, my experience with tea parties was limited to ones held in a tea room that sat in the middle of an enormous antique store in Baton Rouge. We would go there for girly family events, such as bridal showers and such. I had a bridesmaid tea there for one of my very best friends. Unfortunately, the tea room closed perhaps ten years ago.

Here's my little tea set my MIL gave me for either Christmas or a birthday a few years back. I would love to collect china teapots. But not while in this house - I don't have anywhere to put them! My MIL and SIL, Connie, both have a lovely collection of teapots. Oh - and, no, I do not use the little spoon with the flowers and pearls to stir my tea. :^D

So we had to learn to do it on our own. Our first "home made" tea party was held for the First Ginger of Steve's family - his aunt. (Yes, I'm the second Ginger C. - and we are both "officially" Virginias.) Aunt Ginger's tea party was a lovely affair at my SIL Connie's and got us really hooked. A few years later for my MIL's 65th birthday, we held another one. This one was really fun because Connie looked up all sorts of interesting trivia about the history of taking tea and everyone had a little card beneath their plate that they read at different times.

Look at that lovely, loose tea! It smells heavenly! While I have quite a collection of bagged tea, I really prefer the loose stuff. Whenever we have tea parties, we always use loose tea and there is quite the production in the kitchen of warming the pots, measuring the tea, steeping the tea, straining the tea, etc. Organized chaos and I love it!

One of my favorite stories is about the origin of afternoon tea. The credit goes to the Duchess of Bedford — one of Queen Victoria's Ladies in Waiting — who came up with the idea of a late afternoon meal of tea, thin sandwiches, and small cakes to overcome the "sinking feeling" she felt. The notion caught on, with Queen Victoria's enthusiastic support. Now the phrase, "I have that sinking feeling" is our way to say we need some tea and a snack in the middle of the day. It's become a "family-ism."

To make the perfect cup of tea, start with cold water in your kettle. Put some hot water in your teapot to warm the pot while the tea water is boiling. Right before the water reaches a boil, dump out the warming water in the pot, and add your tea - one teaspoon of loose tea per cup and, no, if you are using a properly warmed teapot, you don't need to add an extra scoop, as common lore suggests. Don't let the water in the kettle continue to boil - the minute it starts boiling, take it off and pour it into your pot.
One thing that bugs me here in America is when places advertise "High Tea" and it's at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. High Tea in the UK is later in the day and would be basically the American equivalent to "supper." But many tea rooms advertise their afternoon tea as a "high tea." I guess they think it sounds fancier than "low tea."
Let your tea steep for just a few minutes - my River Shannon suggests 3-4 minutes - I go for three minutes by the timer. When the timer goes off, I remove my little tea strainer basket. If you are using bags, pull them out, or strain your tea into another (warmed) pot before serving. Don't let the tea leaves/bags sit in the tea, as it will make a bitter brew. And that would be tragic indeed.

We also have had lots of tea parties with our Birthday Club. Those are ALWAYS fun. We will start with a four-course tea at noon and rarely do we have enough room for the fourth course! Of course, our noon tea is only the start of things - Birthday Club Meetings always last for 12 hours. Say, I think we have one coming up next month! Fun, fun, fun!

Shall I pour out?

All tea comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. Black tea consists of leaves that have been withered, rolled up to 6 times, then fully fermented. Green teas are produced by allowing the leaves to fully dry, then they are quickly heated to prevent fermentation. You aren't supposed to have milk or sweetener in a green tea, but I still add a bit of sweetener. Sometimes you just have to break the rules. White teas undergo the least amount of processing. The leaves are simply allowed to wither and then are roasted at a low temperature to remove most of their moisture. White teas have a very pale color and a delicate taste. I have a yummy tangerine white that is packaged in pyramidal silk bags. Very fancy. (I got this from Target - not so fancy.) There are also other types of processing that yields less common types of tea (such as oolong, lapsang souchong - Winston Churchill liked this kind - with scotch of all things - and pu'erh), but you'll have to read about those yourself. I can't do all the studying. ;^D

My cup of tea - no yak butter, thank you.

I like my tea with a little sugar (or Splenda or Stevia if I have some) and milk, never cream (cream brings out the astringency of tea). How do you take your tea? With milk or with lemon? With yak butter? (That's how they drink it in the Himalayas - I've not found yak butter at the grocery stores in Louisiana, so I skip that part.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Want S'More Brownies?

Tonight we had Lasagna. I've already posted my Lasagna recipe, but failed to include a picture. Here it is, hot out of the oven, and don't look at that dirty stove. I will admit it - I'm a messy cook. The tomato sauce spot in the back was from a big glob of meat that was trying to escape being sauced and seasoned. To punish him for his escape, I ate him. Anyway.....

When you make this Lasagna, let it sit for about 10 minutes before cutting into it. If you cut into it before letting it sit, it slides all over the place and instead of having a neat square of Lasagna on your plate, you'll have a jumbled mess.

I'm obviously NOT a patient person. I resolved to wait 10 minutes this time. That resolve lasted for about two minutes. Oh well. I tried.

Then we had dessert. I never make dessert, but tonight I wanted to make S'More Brownie Bites. I saw the recipe in Southern Lady magazine. Unfortunately, my MIL decided to go gallivanting around on this freezing, rainy day and I was unable to borrow her mini muffin pans. So instead of S'More Brownie Bites, I did a whole brownie. I think it'd be better as the bites. Here's the original recipe:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 egg white, slightly beaten

1 (15.5 oz) package brownie mix

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

3 tbsp water

24 Hershey Kisses

24 marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar. Add melted butter and egg white, stirring to combine. Press mixture on bottom and halfway up the sides of two (12 cup) mini cheesecake pans. Bake for 3 minutes; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine brownie mix, oil, egg, and water; stir to combine well. Evenly divide batter between prepared crusts. Bake for 30 minutes. Press Kisses, point side down, into the center of each brownie; bake for 2 minutes more. Remove from oven.

Preheat broiler.

Place 1 marshmallow horizontally on top of each brownie. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pans.

Makes 2 dozen.

Okay, since I didn't have the mini pans, I used an 8x8 pan. I followed the rest of the directions pretty much as they were. Two minutes had our marshmallows VERY toasted. :^) Cutting through melted marshmallows is a difficult task, but I stuck to it. (Stuck - melted marshmallows - get it - hehehehe.)

They were a little messy and Steve had marshmallow all stuck in his goatee, but we muddled through. These must be eaten with a glass of ice cold milk. Trust me on this one.

Joshua asked, "Did you blog your brownies yet?" Not yet, I told him. "Say they were AWESOME!!!" Okay, babe. I'll tell them. Glad you liked them.


I adore scones. Forget the fact that each one has a bazillion calories even BEFORE you slather them with cream and curd. They are just so scrumptious! Whenever our family has a tea, I always bring scones. I'm the Designated Scone Baker for Steve's Family. It's my official title. Really. So when we had a homeschool mother/daughter tea, what else would I bring?

These are Cream Scones, a very rich, cakelike scone. This is a pretty basic recipe and you could add seeds or nuts or dried fruits or whatever. It'd be good no matter what! We added very finely chopped walnuts because Morgan wanted to. :^) I tripled the recipe and the scones suffered no untoward effects.

Here's my recipe:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2" pieces

1 large egg, beaten

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Glaze: 1 large egg, beaten

1 tbsp heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with non-stick vegetable oil. (Or skip all this nonsense and just use a well-seasoned Pampered Chef round stone. That's what I do.) To make the glaze, mix together beaten egg with cream. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, two knives, or fingertips. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs. In a small measuring cup, combine whipping cream, beaten egg, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the liquid, stirring with a wooden spoon until the batter forms moist clumps. The batter will be sticky. Do not overmix.

Gather dough together with your hands and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Gently knead for about 10 seconds until dough forms a ball and is smooth. Pat dough into a 7" circle that is 1" thick. Using a sharp knife (or a Pampered Chef pizza cutter. That's what I do.), cut circle into 8 triangular sections. With a pastry brush, brush off excess flour from scones, and place scones on prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops of scones with the glaze and sprinkle lightly with sugar if desired. (I didn't desire. I never do this.)

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until lightly browned, or a toothpick inserted in the middle of the scone comes out clean. Remove from oven. Transfer to wire rack to cool. I dare you to wait until they cool to taste one. :^) I generally burn my fingers and tongue eating one hot out of the oven. My children do, too. We're impatient.

When serving, top with Mock Devonshire Cream and curd - lemon is easiest to find, although if you are industrious, you can make your own. I wasn't. I was very surprised to find lemon curd in this redneck parish in which I live. I wasn't going to push it asking for lime or raspberry.

REAL Devonshire cream is a rich, thick cream that is produced by skimming the thick cream that forms on the top of unpasteurized whole milk when heated. I've never actually eaten the real thing. But I do have a recipe for Mock Devonshire Cream that is completely yummy to the uninitiated like me. Perhaps Dorothy will say otherwise.

1/2 cup mascarpone (or cream cheese)

1/2 cup whipping cream

2 tbsp confectioner's sugar

Place mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 10 minutes. Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few hours. The recipe says this cream doesn't hold very well and suggests rewhipping before serving if you need to refrigerate it for any length of time. Perhaps because I simply use cream cheese, I've never had a problem with it "holding." Even until the next day.

Attendance was low for the tea. But that was fine with us. Scones for breakfast! Hurray!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cosette's Turn

I, Cosette, am so excited! Mommy said I could be in charge of the blog today! I can't wait to take you on an exciting adventure. Open the bathroom door, Mommy, and let's get out of here!

Waddaya mean we are staying in the bathroom? That's not fun! What???? A bath?

I *am* a Poodle, you know. The word POODLE means "to splash in water." NOT bath water. OUTSIDE water. I was only doing what I'm 'sposed to.

Aww, Mommy, you say "muddy" and "smelly" like those are bad things. And waddaya mean I have very dirty bath water? What's wrong with that? The water I've been playing in was MUCH dirtier than this ol' bath water.

Here I am after my bath. It took much rinsing for Mommy to get off all that stinky shampoo and conditioner. Whoever heard of a Poodle smelling like Australian Tea Tree Oil anyway? Baths aren't really THAT bad. I like them better than Abrial does.

After one hour of blow drying. One side dry.

One side still wet. See my poodley ringlets? Mommy said my hair was about 3" long. That's pretty long, especially when your hair is as thick and curly as mine is. My hair is thicker and curlier than Abrial's or Delilah's. Mommy says it takes much longer to blow me dry than it does to dry them. That must make me Special!

I get tired while Mommy blows me dry. It takes at least two hours to blow me dry when my hair is this long. If Mommy lets me lie down, I rest my head on her leg. "Look how cute I am," I told her, "Take my picture." When Mommy needs me to stand up and get dried, I rest my head on her shoulder and fall asleep. That's cute, too. I told Mommy to take a picture of that, but she said no. What's an oct-oh-puss? Anyway, Mommy said she wasn't one of those.

ROAR!!! I'm a scary lion coming to eat you!

Not really! It's just me - Cosette - show them, Mommy! Don't be afraid - I won't really eat you!

We start the clipping part on this back part. No sniffing. It's rude. Mommy says so. I don't know why she says that.

Here's my furry paw. Inside here are some fun things, like leftover twigs and even some horse poop. Just kidding. There not really horse poop in there. But that would be great if there were! Anyway, Mommy doesn't like furry paws. She likes "pretty feet," as she calls them.

Here's "pretty feet." Which do you like better? You can't hide horse poop and twigs in "pretty feet." Maybe that why Mommy likes them. She's weird that way.

Mommy is now doing my face. She's only part way done. I call this....


of the...

Poodle-Opera! Muhahahaha! (That's scary laughing, in case you didn't know.)

I'm all done now! Aren't I a pretty girl?

Look at all that hair! It has filled the bathtub!

Well, except for what stuck on Mommy's pants!

It's only taken four and a half hours for me to be groomed. I'm exhausted. I think my groomer is pretty tired, too.

Now let's go outside! There's more mud to play in and rain in the forecast! Hurray for Poodles!