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The Writing on the Wall

3 Nov

Whine: It was a multi-drive-thru kind of day. I’m not proud of it, but it just was.

Cheese: The dishes were pretty easy to do tonight. . .

Recently people have asked me how I do it all. As if I am an icon of productivity. Which, judging by the way my socks stick to the not-recently-mopped kitchen floor on my way to eat ice cream out of the carton while I watch reruns on the Disney channel, I am not.

But because on occasion I have churned out a cake or a blog post or a human or two (or three), people assume that I get lots of stuff done. And so I would like to take this opportunity to answer that question once and for all.

How do I do it?

I prioritize.

For the sake of clarity, here are a few examples of how I rate tasks on my priority scale.

CASE STUDY #1

Making a batch of Sneaky Snake Suckers with Big Sis for her to take for “S” day at school: HIGH to URGENT

Cleaning up resulting chocolate-covered floor/counter/walls: MODERATE to LOW

See? It was imperative that we make these.

CASE STUDY #2

Finishing that last chapter of whatever book I am trying to read: URGENT, URGENT, URGENT

Remembering that I have children and a family: WHAT?

At least it was a good book.

I would like you to use your best forensic work to notice several key elements to the above photo.

1) The Artwork. On the door. Signed by the artist.

2) The tell-tale ring of donut powder around someone’s mouth.

3) The unrepentant smirk beneath the donut powder peeking out from the defaced door.

CASE STUDY #3

Talking on the phone to my sister: MODERATE TO HIGH

Supervising the demon twins who are being eerily quiet: ALMOST NONEXISTENT AS A PRIORITY

Since we don't get a lot of autumn leaf piles around here. . .

And as you can see, our choices have consequences, both positive and negative. Although I do not have photographic evidence of the positive consequence of talking on the phone to my sister, as it she is not as destructive demonstrative as my daughters, I am sure it was worth it. To her. 😉

In this case, the other consequence of that conversation was that while I was chatting away in relative peace, Certain People were emptying my laundry baskets and my dresser drawers  and mixing together all the clean and dirty clothes. Ironically, neither of them were actually wearing any. I caught them carousing in the clothes pile and eating cupcakes. Actually, I didn’t catch them eating cupcakes, I just found the smudges of orange frosting on the carpet later on. Because of course if there was going to be frosting on my carpet it was going to be orange.

And so I think the moral of the story here (besides the fact that I am apparently a slow learner, seeing as how pictures 2 and 3 took place on consecutive days) is that I spend a lot of time paying the consequences for ignoring my kids. But then I get to eat the chocolate cheesecake with homemade chocolate and caramel drizzle that I made while they hid in their secret lair behind the chair and ate candy and giggled, and I figure it was worth it.

So worth it.

Also, here’s our Halloween scrapbook from this year. Thanks to Grandma Pam for the precious homemade fairy princess costumes.

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Five for Friday

9 Jul

Whine: Polishing silver is not as glamorous as it sounds.

Cheese: Unless, of course, as my friend Carah said, you have somebody do it for you. Which is why I have Mr. Dad.

You may be wondering what I am up to since the posting around here has slipped into a cycle as irregular as an antique washing machine. Or you may not be wondering, since you are just assuming that having another kid has put me in over my head, with little time for luxuries like blogging or opening the mail. You would be right.

But there’s another reason that I am in over my head. I am insane.

Which means that I do the same thing over and over (e.g., bite off more than I can chew) and expect a different result (e.g., to not lose my marbles and/or temper in the process).  Thankfully, this also usually means that Mr. Dad (and several other pitying souls) jump in and saves my bacon. Zebra cupcakes at 2am, anyone?

Here are pictures from my our latest episode adventure. Delicious treats for my friend Jen’s birthday soiree.

Mini Caramel-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Sea Salt

Got this recipe from Martha’s new Cupcake cookbook. The caramel was not as gooey as I was expecting, but let me tell you, sea salt can cover a multitude of ills.

Raspberry Cheesecake Lollipops with Fresh Raspberry Garnish

These are basically mini-cheesecakes on sticks, covered in chocolate. Take a bite and pop in a fresh raspberry. I’m sad they are all gone.

Croquembouche

And finally, the piece de resistance, my nemesis – – the croquembouche. Essentially a tower of cream puffs glued in place with caramel. After one and a half failed batches of the pastry, a few “choice” words and a swift kick to the cabinets, I almost gave up. Reason and Mr. Dad both told me it would be fine to use (gasp) store-bought cream puffs. But insanity and my friend Tina told me to forge ahead, and so, of course I sided with the crazy angel on my shoulder and kept filling those half-flattened puffs with the pastry cream whose directions I accidentally forgot to follow. Then I overcooked the glaze, rendering it unchewable for human teeth. Good thing I never got around to making those caramel apples last fall, cause we melted down those leftover Kraft caramels and started engineering our cream puff tower.  By then Brother Bear was howling, so I turned over the engineering to Mr. Dad. The results were quite tasty. A little hard to pull off the tower, but what’s a little effort when there are cream puffs involved?

The Spread

I hosted the party with my friend Roxanne, whose culinary exploits make croqembouche seem like a grilled cheese sandwich. There are not words for her level of fancitude, which is why I just made one up. Delicious rosemary skewers, biscuits with pecan cheddar spread, tiny stuffed tomatoes and a cheese plate (you know how I feel about cheese plates. . .).  Her silver was all polished and her signature cocktails rocked the house. I’d throw a party with her any day.

The Birthday Girl

And finally, the birthday girl. My very beautiful friend Jen. Whose ridiculous good looks only serve as a vehicle for her awesomeness as a person. She once cleaned my kitchen when I was too sick to move, and let me tell you, that is a good friend, because that was before my “do the dishes every day” phase of life.

This Five for Friday would not have been possible without LOTS of help. So here are a few gold stars to my helpers.

Gold Stars

Mr. Dad: For baking tiny cupcakes, rolling lots of cheesecake lollipops without sampling too much of the goods, stacking the croquembouce you told me I didn’t have time to make and (drum roll, please) cleaning up the kitchen. You leave me speechless.

Roxanne: For letting me ride your rockstar hostess coattails.

Tina: For enabling cheering me on, then washing my dishes. (No, washing my dishes is not a requirement for friendship with me. It just keeps happening.) Also for taking those exquisite pictures of the party.

Rachelle: For making emergency flower arrangements after I dropped the stuff off at the last minute on your doorstep.

Everyone Else: For listening, ad nauseum, to the tale of the croquembouche and not looking visibly bored. Also for lots of help and suggestions and withholding judgement when you know I’m in over my head.

NOTE: Please stop by Monday for the first installment of the What I Did on Summer Vacation series. There will be multiple posts, all in one week. Insane? Impossible? You’d better believe it.

Five for Friday

27 May

Whine: Constructing zebra cupcakes takes longer than one might think. I didn’t realize this until I was two hours in and only halfway done. At midnight. A 2 am bedtime makes for one sleepy mommy.

Cheese: Zebra cupcakes require black licorice. And since I’m the only one in the house who likes it, I don’t have to share the leftovers.

This new baby thing is finally catching up with me.

My house is hovering at a mess-level somewhere between ‘hovel’ and ‘Hurricane Rita.’ The other day I was in such a hurry that I ate peanut m&ms and a slice of bread for breakfast. Showering every single day seems like a waste of precious alone time.

And so my dear, sweet little blog has gotten shoved to the side along with that stack of overdue library books and unopened mail.

I miss my blog. It’s one of the few ways I’ve found to deal with the incredible weirdness that is my life. My brain feels cluttered by the stack of unwritten posts. Just because I don’t have time to write doesn’t mean they don’t have time to give me more “material.”

It’s late now and I’m nursing a serious overachiever hangover from making all those zebras, so for today’s post you will get five pictures of my most recent baking adventures.

Don't you love the little chocolate bees? I know I did.

Honeybee Pie: Big Sis and I made this together a few months ago. It’s a cookie tart crust with lemon chiffon filling with an apricot glaze. The beehive effect is achieved through. . .bubble wrap! And I was so obsessed with doing it just perfectly that I hand shaved the almonds to make the wings on those chocolate bees. (Recipe from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, whom I adore.)

Fancy schmancy.

Apple Tarts: Apples filled with butter, cinnamon and sugar then covered in pastry and brushed with, you guessed it, butter cinnamon and sugar. Seems a little redundant, but I promise you, it’s not. I made these for our romantic Valentine’s Day dinner. (Recipe again courtesy of RLB’s Pie and Pastry Bible. I so want to be her when I grow up.)

E-I-E-I-O

Barnyard Cake: My lil’ sis and I made this for Lil’ Sis’ birthday. She liked it so much she kept singing “e-i-o moo moo dere.” My favorites are the little mini-cupcake chicks. (Recipe from Betty Crocker, design from Family Fun magazine.)

That's cake sushi on the top, which is my favorite kind.

Cherry Blossom Sushi Cake: This is a golden almond cake (also RLB’s recipe from The Cake Bible) with a rasberry buttercream between the layers and a vanilla buttercream on the top. And I hand piped all 40 of those cherry blossoms (and a few hundred more, actually), then ate the remaining icing. I designed it myself for my friend Ted’s sushi-inspired birthday soirĂ©e.

I stayed up until 2am for this? Totally worth it.

Zebra Cupcakes: I made these for Sophie’s last day of preschool. Her class this year was the Zebra class, so I thought it’d be fun. At midnight when I was only halfway done, Mr. Dad took pity on me and offered his zebra-making expertise. Now THAT is a good husband. (Cake made from a box, designed by me. Photo courtesy of my friend Tina.)

I hope this post didn’t make you as hungry for buttercream icing and black licorice as it did me because I’m not sharing.