Summer Manifesto?

I was poking around on the Internet, and stumbled on this blog post by Ali Edwards about a Summer manifesto. Which was then made into an awesome and creative book. That is way beyond my talent level. But inspiring nonetheless. (I secretly want to try art journaling but am too embarrassed.)

So for starters, I had to look up the word manifesto in the dictionary. It’s one of those words that I know a vague meaning of based on context. But, specifically speaking, I don’t know what the hell a manifesto actually is. “Public declaration of intent.” Okay.

Now then, what would make my Summer Manifesto?

1. Zoku! (I’m really excited to do some more of this.)

2. Take maximum advantage of the Harbor Market. (The harbor market is like an upscale, yuppie version of a farmers market down by the lake. It can get a little expensive, so I need to make sure I’m carving room in my grocery budget in order to be able to enjoy the local delights. I want to find the things there that are REALLY worth my money. And stop buying the steak tacos and 5 dollar juices, etc.)

3. Do some gardening. (I have whatever the opposite of a green thumb is. I SUCK. I have absolutely no natural aptitude, and usually even less time to bother. But I really want to have a handful of nice looking flowers and some veggies. That I don’t just let die because I’m so incompetent and uninterested.)

4. Try canning. (The only thing I’ve ever made is strawberry freezer jam like my grandma’s. It was really nice and I want to try some more canning. I am actively insisting to myself that I keep it simple and not try to get carried away so that it ends up becoming stressful. Just a few small batches for this year.)

5. Look nice sometimes. (I’m trying to practice body acceptance. And so rather than not ever buy any clothes because I’m too …whatever, I’m going to make an effort, SOME of the time at least, to really feel like I look nice. Buy some nice things for myself. Preferably at the thrift store for less than ten dollars!)

6. Make family outings happen! (We have such wonky schedules, that it can be really easy to let time slip away and never do anything special together as a whole family. So I have to prioritize and plan it. And make it happen now and then.)

7. Entertain friends and family at our home. (I don’t do this a lot. I get a little anxious about having huge groups over. And when I think about a smaller gathering, I worry that I’m boring and people don’t really want to hang out with me. But I really want to make it a priority to have various couples over for dinner and whatnot here and there.)

8. Show my parents how much I appreciate them. (I don’t really think they know. Expressing feelings is something that is difficult within my family dynamic. And I really worry sometimes that they don’t realize how much I appreciate them and all the little things they do for me and what they mean to my family. I want to try to find ways that I can show them how much I appreciate them. But I’m not sure what yet because I have no time and money. And I have that aforementioned weird complex where I don’t think anyone wants to spend time with me and I worry that I’m just bugging them. But I’m going to come up with some stuff here!)

Does eight seem like a good number? I like this list. I don’t know where the TIME is going to come from. But it’s good to have goals.

Maybe you want to make your own summer manifesto. It’s a good way to focus on the things you really want to spend your precious resources on.


Kids say the darnedest things

Funny things Lola said in the last 2 days:

– We were driving, and she pointed at some random lady out the window and said “That lady said Hi to me and I said Hi back.” (This didn’t happen.) Then, “She told me her name.” “Oh really, Honey? What is it?” “Hortatoria. I never said that name before and now I said it. She’s gonna be my friend. She has a real nice family.”
It was the wackiest damn thing, lol.

– I was using the bathroom, which all moms know never happens alone anymore, and she came in to chat. She sat on the tub in front of me and said, in a very serious and rule-setting tone, “We never drink pee.” “Well, that’s true Honey. We should never drink pee.” Then she told me “It will make us dead.” Which for some odd reason, I felt the need to correct. I mean, life would probably be easier if she thought drinking pee would make her dead, but I just couldn’t let her believe something so scientifically untrue.

– Last night I was tucking her in and gave her a hug, and I lingered a little extra long (who can resist?) and she told me, matter of factly, “Mommy, we can’t just hug forever.” Which of course made me think well why the hell not?

There it is, just a few things that made me laugh lately.

Also, here is a picture that Brian texted me yesterday of him and Corbin all ready for NFL draft day, and it warmed my heart.

Everyone loved these cupcakes

Everyone loved these cupcakes
My nephews’ birthday party was this past weekend. And my sister got cute, monster themed cupcakes for all the kids. (Monster is a cute theme! I’m going to have to keep that one in mind.) But I volunteered to make some cupcakes for the grownups. I was in a cupcake baking kind of mood.

I love to spend time thinking about just what I want to bake. I’m notoriously bad with generally refusing to honor specific requests. I like to bake whatever I feel like. So I decided I wanted to make white cupcakes (I’m still working on nailing down the best white cupcake recipe) with chocolate ganache filling and Baileys frosting. Sounds good, right!? But I couldn’t find a little bottle of baileys anywhere. So I had to change it up a little.

Chocolate filled white cupcakes with Godiva liqueur frosting

In trying many recipes for white cupcakes, I’ve definitely decided that Martha Stewart’s, from her cupcake book, is one of my favorites. It’s a little fussy, and not my official favorite yet. But it’s reliably very good. Soft and fluffy.

White Cupcakes

3 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising) (note from Cakes: I HATE the variations in measuring flour! And the mess. I used 130grams here.)
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk (another note: I really think you can just go with 1 1/4 cup here. Her recipe isn’t super moist anyway.)
1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir vanilla into milk.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter until smooth. Gradually add sugar, beating until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until just combined after each.

3. In another bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form (do not overmix). Fold one third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Gently fold the remaining whites in two batches.

4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Firmly tap the tins once on the countertop to release any air bubbles. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozn up to 2 months in airtight containers.

Don’t overfill your liners like I did and get flat muffin-y tops. It’s not so pretty and made me sad.
Now then, I’m going to tell you a secret. And by you, of course, I mean JUST you, and not the other people reading this. Shhh. I was going to make chocolate frosting for the filling and didn’t feel like it. So I bought a can of Duncan Hines. And whipped it with my mixer to improve the texture. But really, that was NO simpler than just making some quick ganache and then whipping it. So do that if you want these to be even better.
I actually use my apple corer to put holes in them, and then I pipe in the filling. Lola and I took turns popping the removed portions (cupcake holes?) into our mouths. 🙂

For the frosting on top:
When I couldn’t find any Baileys, I was kinda bummed. But what I did find was Godiva White Chocolate liqueur.

Everyone gets upset with me because I almost never follow frosting recipes or measure anything; I just add stuff until it tastes right and seems like the right consistency. For this one, I can get you pretty close. But just to warn you, I hate measuring powdered sugar like a thousand times more than I hate measuring flour even.

1/2 brick cream cheese (4oz)
1 1/2 sticks butter, soft
1 little minibar bottle of liqueur
About 3-4 cups powdered sugar? I used about half of a two pound bag.maybe a little less.

– whip the cream cheese and butter with your mixer until very soft and fluffy. Dump in the bottle of booze and whip some more. Add powdered sugar until it has the right consistency and doesn’t taste like straight up butter. This is a “to taste” thing.

This particular frosting was a little denser and butterier than my usual. And I personally think this liqueur was a little mild to really come through taste wise. BUT! I got a crazy amount of compliments. So, it must have been pretty good. I normally like to pipe a big mound of fluffy frosting on my cupcakes, but this was so rich, plus they were filled, so I went with a more modest coating.
They looked a little boring, so I wanted to jazz em up a little bit. I sifted, of all things, some hot cocoa mix on top. But you could also use just cocoa powder or chocolate sprinkles or whatever you’d prefer.

And there you have it. I had at least three guys tell me afterwards, “I ate like three of those cupcakes.” And one even told me they were his favorite ever. That seems like a stretch. But suffice it to say they were pretty delicious. Bake and enjoy. 🙂

Just a little update

Yay! I can access my blog again! I hope it sticks; I was panicking!

Corbin’s ear tube surgery went like this:

His surgery was done at the hospital where I work. But I had never been to the pediatric inpatient department. It’s an odd mix of adorable and disconcerting. Little hospital gowns with spaceships on them! Teeny tiny blood pressure cuff! Adorable! They even had little tiny versions of the non-skid hospital slipper socks. I joked that his stuff should all be yellow (for fall risk patients) because he definitely has a history of falls. Hee hee, hospital humor.
But at the same time, little kids + all this medical stuff = disconcerting. I was very glad we were just there for a simple, voluntary procedure.

It was a long morning, and he was not a happy camper coming out of anesthesia. But by that afternoon he was back to his usual self. I think he is definitely hearing better. Hoping to make some progress on the speech before too long. 🙂

Having Lola gone to Florida went like this:

(Imagine a photo of me sobbing uncontrollably. I was too upset to take pictures.) Though, right about when she was getting ready to come home, I was calming down and getting used to it and remembering how easy it was to have only one kid. I was glad to have her back, though.

You know who else is glad to have her back?

Or, well, he’s SOMETIMES glad.

Here are a couple more photos that I took yesterday:
Crystal Light and generic Apple Jacks is a totally nutritious snack, right? :

I had set Lola up with some stickers and markers and stuff, and she seemed to be enjoying her independent craft time while I did some cleaning. And I was feeling pretty pleased about how it was what I imagine the “good” households are like. And then I walked back into the kitchen to find this:

Is it inappropriate that I smiled and took pictures instead of disciplining? They’re washable markers. Except, for some reason they didn’t wash off of her belly that well. Leading Brian to panic a little when dressing her for bed that night. Which, really Baby? You thought she had some sort of condition that caused a faded purple spiral doodle to appear on her belly?

Here is one of my favorite parts of every week:
Lola getting all excited while helping with the groceries. “NEW PRETZELS!?!”

Lastly, here is my confession for the day:
I was cleaning under the couch (a VERY frustrating, never ending chore. Stupid hardwood floors.) and found a ball (they ALL end up under there!) that belongs to a toy set that I had packed away in the basement. And instead of reuniting it with its toy family, I just rolled it far enough under the couch that no one would ever see it. Hey, it’s better than when I eat the old, found fruit loop. What, too far?

Something of a Personal Hero

I got a bunch of messages yesterday as the news about Roger Ebert got around. The only response I could come up with was “sad face!” I was speechless yesterday. I’m not much more articulate today, but I want to say something anyway. Roger Ebert is something of a personal hero.

He was an excellent writer. And really, if that’s all I could say about him (it’s not,) that would be reason enough for admiration. Really good writing is not easy to come by. I LOVED reading his movie reviews because they did so much more than tell me whether he thought a movie was good or bad. They explained things. They put things in a new way. They were always filled with well turned phrases. They made me realize WHAT was so good about a movie. They contained so much wit and wisdom. Imagine, movie reviews making me feel! In many cases, his writing was better than the movie itself. I linked to a bunch of them in these posts.

Roger Ebert was also really inspiring to me on a personal level.
For starters, even though he was clearly a cut above the rest in many regards, he was not snobby. You know film snobs. They’re self important and act like good ol entertainment is something for lesser people. Not Ebert.
I always got the impression from Ebert’s writing that he could empathize with the downtrodden. With basically decent people who do bad things or make bad decisions. He seemed to appreciate humanity, in all it’s good and bad.
He wasn’t afraid to ENJOY things. I feel like some people think art and literature have to be depressing to be considered great. I reject that. And I think Ebert did too. On a related note, I feel like some people are too cool to embrace things like simple joy. Roger Ebert wasn’t a too cool guy; he embraced everything life offered. And then wrote about it so that I could take in some of the wisdom that came from his life well lived.

There are going to be so many things written about Roger Ebert in the near future. Most of them are going to be much better written than this. But I wanted to say something anyway.

Mostly, I am just going to miss the hell outta reading his stuff. I’m a big fan.