Things I Love Thursdays

A few happy Things I Love on this first Thursday of August…

Pengoloo

Penguins

 

A game I never mind playing!  Pengoloo is a memory game made of hysterical little penguins and their colored eggs.  The game is easy to understand, fun, and fast!  It is loved by all three of my kids.  And we’ve given it as a birthday present in the past and it has been well-received. Only negative? The eggs are a choking hazard so stick to playing with kids who are 3+.

Pumpkin Muffins (recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

I do admit that I am usually anti pumpkin food stuffs.  And it isn’t fall.  But these are easy (one bowl!) and tasty.  My kids adore them (because, really, like most muffins, they are basically cake).  Smitten Kitchen is brilliant – I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried (except the gingerbread, but I think that was more about me and less about the recipe, but I digress…)

Make these muffins.  I cut the sugar down to 1 cup, and eyeball the pumpkin amount.  I also eyeball the spices.  And the muffins are always great.  The recipe is really forgiving. I’m going to try making them with a 50/50 white/whole wheat flour mix in the next few days.  I bet they’ll still be great. Added bonus? These keep beautifully for a few days, unlike some muffins with fruit in them that get soggy on day 2.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (I usually just use cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
  • cinnamon sugar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 and put muffin tins in a 12-muffin pan.
  2. Whisk together the first 4 ingredients.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients except the cinnamon sugar and whisk ingredients together.
  4. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full.
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine are always done at 25).

Enjoy these August days – eat as much ice cream as possible and run in those sprinklers – it’ll be back to school soon enough!

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Leisure Time

Once a year my husband heads to Maine on a Friday morning with all three kids. This means that when I get home from work on Friday night, I get the house all to myself for a glorious 12-14 hours.  Sure, I’ll be sleeping for 7-8 of those hours but the other 5 or 6 hours?  I can do whatever I want!  And those sleeping hours?  They will be uninterrupted! (Except maybe by the confused cat, wondering where the rest of her noisy family is.) And the waking hours?  No one asking for anything (except maybe the hungry cat)! No one needing dressing, changing, wiping, feeding or any of my attention!  OH HAPPY DAY!

 

My mind spins with all of the possibilities!  I will make a plan!

THE PLAN:

I will…

… go to Target on the way home, or maybe Whole Foods, or maybe Trader Joe’s!  I never go to Trader Joe’s! I will get their margarita mix!  And some onion bhajis!  And croissants! And flowers!  And mango babka!

Image from Trader Joe's. Click on photo to go there!

Image from Trader Joe’s. Click on photo to go there!

… swing by Starbucks for an iced tea! That I won’t have to share!

… stop by my regular grocery store to pick up some items on my list! And wander slowly through the aisles, contentedly humming along to the piped-in grocery store music! And I won’t buy goldfish! Or yogurt in a tube!

… go home, preheat the oven and make this chocolate cake! While listening to 80’s hits and dancing around the kitchen!

Smitten Kitchen's Everyday Chocolate Cake. This is her photo - isn't it gorgeous?! Click on the link to visit her site - it is one of the very best!

Smitten Kitchen’s Everyday Chocolate Cake. This is her photo – isn’t it gorgeous?! Click on the link to visit her site – it is one of the very best!

… clear some toys from the toy room while the cake is baking!  Finally get around to moving the toys we are keeping into the newly-finished basement!  Prep some toys for donation! Good deeds! Tax write-offs! Less legos to step on!

… clear some of the 5,000 photos (I’m not joking) off of my phone!  Back everything up to the Cloud, my laptop, and my external drive!  Add photos to my family photo share site!

… figure out my Amazon Fire TV stick!

… unpack my suitcase from my Midwest trip! Do a load of cold delicates that is just mine!

… go out and get a steak or something decadent, and sit alone, sipping a cocktail (or two!) and reading!  No picking up pieces of cold, slimy mac & cheese off of the floor when I’m done! No rushing through dinner! No asking for the check when I order the entree!

Yes, please.

Yes, please.

… put on my PJs and watch a movie of my choosing, with an R rating, from the seat of my choosing, on my own couch! While eating cake!

… sleep a glorious 8 hours! Wake slowly! Drink an entire cup of coffee while it it still hot! Take a walk then a long shower using all the hot water I want! Eat a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast! No need to set a good example!

… swing by the farmer’s market for raspberries! And tomatoes! And veggies! And anything else that strikes my fancy!

… pack my bag for the journey up to Maine! Listen to podcasts on the way! Stop at my favorite outlet in Kittery! Make it up to see the kids at lunch, feeling fulfilled and refreshed!

THE REALITY:

I will go home, put on my PJs, and order Thai take out.

I will then realize I have to get dressed to get the Thai food, throw on a sweatshirt (in July), and hope I don’t run into anyone I know who is out and being social and fun on a Friday night.

On the way out, I will realize we are out of cat food but skip the grocery store, lest I run into one of those social, fun, productive acquaintances. This means I will have to listen to the cat loudly lament the terribleness that is dry food (disgusting death nuggets, stupid human!) for the rest of the evening.

I will half watch The Great British Bake Off (go Ian!) while playing Plants v. Zombies until my eyelids droop at 9pm.

I will wake up to pee twice, and to a meowing cat three times.  And I will wake up three more times for no good reason, other than that I’m really used to sleeping next to my husband.

I will leave early to go to Maine, because I’m inexplicably up at 5:30am and have no coffee or half and half in the house, because I anti-socially skipped the grocery store.

And I’ll drive straight through, because I should.  And because Maine is awesome.  And so are my kids and my husband.

And lobster.

 

Things I Love Thursdays

A few little gems from my corner of the internet… or refrigerator.

Dolly.  Is there anyone who doesn’t love Dolly?  If there is, I haven’t met them.  This nifty little print by GoodSouth (on Etsy) tickled me.  What would Dolly do?  I bet whatever it was, it was funny, loyal, kind and sassy – like Miss Dolly herself.

WWDD?

WWDD?

 

I have no tattoos.  They’re just so… permanent. (Queen of the Obvious here, I know.)  But considering my aversion to inking myself I sure do pin a lot of tattoos on my Pinterest boards, and follow a lot of sweet tattoo shops and artists on Instagram.  I guess I like the medium.  I like to see what people do commit to having on their bodies forever, and I love the artistry.  So the temporary tattoos at Tattly are speaking to me.  A little weird, a little random, a little tongue-in-cheek, and a lot temporary.

 

Animals in clothes!  I die! I must have the Sea Otter wearing a bowler!

Animals in clothes! I die! I must have the Sea Otter wearing a bowler!

 

My children adore temporary tattoos.  At one count, my son had 14 "How to Train Your Dragon" tattoos on his body at one time.  I think I would have preferred these little monsters.  So cute.

My children adore temporary tattoos. At one count, my son had 14 “How to Train Your Dragon” tattoos on his body at one time. I think I would have preferred these little monsters. So cute.

 

What kind of message does a rabbit-smoking-a-pipe tattoo send to the world?  I have no idea.  But I like it.

What kind of message does a rabbit-smoking-a-pipe tattoo send to the world? I have no idea. But I like it.

 

A few months ago, I bought a bottle of this iced tea concentrate at Stonewall Kitchen and loved it!  While I typically drink my iced tea unsweetened, this tea is great, even though there is some cane sugar involved.  Finest Kind (out of Maine) makes four “Mixers & Modifiers” as they call them.  I’m looking forward to trying them, and perhaps some of the cocktail recipes they list on their site. Bonus? The bottle lasted a very, very long time.

Forget tea for 2, I'm keeping this all for myself!

Forget tea for two, I’m keeping this all for myself!

 

Enjoy the long weekend!  And remember, no affiliate links here, just stuff I like.

Brownie Paradise. Best Ever.

I like brownies made from a box. I do. They are moist, chocolatey goodness that makes an appearance at every potluck and picnic. But a few months ago, one of the recipes that showed up in my Google Reader (R.I.P) was Julia Child’s Best-Ever Brownies, as posted by The Naptime Chef. I like recipes with “Best Ever” in the title, and I like recipes by Julia Child. So, I gave them a go.

(When I was a wee lass of 3 or 4 I would creep downstairs early in the morning, and switch on the TV – much easier in those days – and watch PBS reruns of Ju-Ju [as I called her]. So we go way back.)

I’m pretty sure this is, indeed, the best brownie recipe ever.  Halfway through making these for the first time I became annoyed by the seemingly extra step of whipping half (?!) of the egg mixture before incorporating it into the rest of the ingredients.  But now that I’ve made these a few times I’m pretty sure that step is what makes these amazing.

Brownies (adapted ever so slightly from The Naptime Chef, but originally from Julia Child)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 C. flour
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 2 sticks butter (unsalted, but I use salted and still loved them)
  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (chop it if you want it to melt better)
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate (same thing with the chopping)
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla (the good stuff, people)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Stir together the flour and salt and set bowl aside.

3. Microwave butter and chocolate on low, stirring often, until just melted. Add 1 C. of the sugar and stir, then add the vanilla. Pour this mixture into a large bowl, if it isn’t already in one.

4. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and remaining 1 C. of sugar. Pour half of this sugar/egg mixture into the chocolate and stir well. Whip the remaining sugar/egg mixture until it is thick, pale yellow, and doubled in volume.

5. Carefully fold the whipped egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, only until it is just combined. Then carefully fold in the dry ingredients.

6. Pour the batter into lightly greased (or better, buttered, per Julia!) 9-inch square pan. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick has only a few moist crumbs attached.  (My brownies required a few more minutes than that, but that could be my oven.)

Timer Tick Tock

PS – Yes, I am aware that two of my recipe posts – of which there are few – are brownie recipes.  Shut up.

Soupish Delish

I haven’t added a recipe in a while, so I figured it was time.

Lovely Ladle

I did a crock pot recipe about this time last year, too.  That is just about the right frequency for me.

I don’t love crock pot recipes.  I want to.  I am lured in by the promise of easy, warm, filling meals.  But I usually find them to be not all that easy, overcooked, and tasting a lot like beef stew.

But this recipe?  I like it.  It is a mish mash of bunches of recipes I found.  It is flavorful and easy (really!). And it is relatively good for you.  The first time I made it, I added the kielbasa at the beginning, which didn’t work as well.  Also, you could replace the spinach with kale if you were so inclined.

Crock pot for the win!

White Bean and Kielbasa Soupish (meaning, thicker than soup and thinner than stew)

  • 1 lb dry, small white beans
  • 4 C. chicken broth
  • 1 C. water (plus more as needed)
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, your favorite herbs
  • 1 kielbasa, cut into 1/2 inch half-moons
  • 1 bag/box fresh baby spinach

Add all ingredients to the crock pot, stir and set on low.  Leave it alone for 6 hours.  Check it, and add more water if it looks too thick; there should be a little soupy broth floating around. (When I made this, I added about an extra 1/2 C. of water.)  Add the kielbasa pieces. Continue to cook on low for approximately 1.5 hours.  Taste it to make sure the beans are cooked, and add any salt or pepper you think it needs. Add the entire box of spinach to the hot soup, and stir it in so the spinach wilts.  Eat.  With crusty bread if you’ve got it.  And enjoy it for lunch the next day. And feed it to your 10-month old; she’ll love it.

Thanks! The Grand Finale!

50 Days of Gratitude

Days 41 through, er, 49

Okay, so clearly calculating calendar dates isn’t my strong suit (even when I use a nifty online date calculator).  What was supposed to be 50 days of gratitude turned into 49 days of gratitude.  I am not less grateful, I am simply less accurate.  I consider it a happy accident, because my very favorite number in the world is 49.  It really is.  Think about it – it looks random and odd, but it is a square!  And the 4 and the 9?  They are both squares too!  Joy joy!  (Yes, perhaps I do have some quirks.)

Back to the list…

188. Lounge wear – Now that I am “out” in the blogosphere – meaning that my family, friends and boss(es) now know about this once-secret blog – I feel a bit constrained.  I feel a bit like I can’t say what I want to say, like here, where I want to write, “When I get home for the day I love my lounge wear because I don’t really like to wear pants.”

189. Feeling rested – Someday I will achieve this again, I just know it. 

190. ShortbreadOh no! I just linked to the Panera Nutrition Calculator! Don’t click on it.  No, really don’t.  But I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that the nutritional info ain’t so pretty when a food is made up of butter, with some butter added. I may attempt to make a copycat using this recipe here

191. Darn Tough socks – These are so great I wrote an entire post about them. Really.

192. Art – Of all kinds… including this kind…

193. Dumplings

194. Lap cats

195. Ice cream – Some ideas for new flavors: raspberry square (oatmeal cookie and raspberry swirl in vanilla ice cream) and trifle (vanilla rum ice cream with yellow cake pieces and custard and jam swirls)

196. Maple trees

197. The smell of the heavy Sunday Times

198. Good bolognese – Having no Italian blood in me whatsoever, I have to turn to my favorite recipe source, Cooks Illustrated.

199. The comfort of my own bed

200. Big band classics

201. Raspberries – These little sweeties are always in my top 3 of favorite foods ever ever.

202. Wildflowers in the median strip and other examples of beauty in unlikely places

203. Museums

204. Relaxation

205. College – Oh sweet nostalgia. It appears have finally reached the age where I can safely say, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Bonus? I can also say: “Get off my lawn!” 

206. New crayons – Is there anything that says “anything is possible!” like a new box of crayons? (Well, maybe a lottery win, but you catch my drift.)

207. My left-handedness

208. My husband – for too many reasons to list

209. EZ Pass – I used to pay the tolls with tokens! TOKENS!  I am that old.

210. NEW COMPUTERS! – Sure, my husband will probably try to get many many miles out of this push present/birthday present/anniversary present but I don’t care!  It’s mine, all mine!

211. Baby bath time

212. Coconut cake – One time, on a rare trip to my parents’ cellar – a dark, scary, dirt-floored, spider haven – I found a half-eaten coconut cake on the bench. What a mystery!  It turns out, my father was sneaking down to the cellar to eat coconut cake out of the view of me and my mother who were on diets.  It has become a family joke. And coconut cake is still a favorite.  Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a Smith Island Coconut cake – they are incredible. 

213. Maps

214. Whimsy

215. Sunglasses

216. Long weekends

217. Belly laughs

218. Lemonade

219. Those potette travel potty things – Yes. It’s true. I’m thankful for a travel potty.  But seriously, when your 2.5 year old says, “It’s time!” That means IT.IS.TIME.  Our trip back and forth to New York City was made infinitely easier because we had one of these along. 

220. The Majestic – A magical view of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade from our 4th floor perch above the crowds.  I’m pretty sure I was more excited than my too-small-to-remember children.  It was awesome.

Pickle and Spidey

221. Kids who travel well

222. King sized beds

223. Cherries

224. My family

Central Park – Late Afternoon

225. My friends

226. Love

227. Hope

228. Peace

229. Kindnesses

230. Humor

I have all of my teeth, so…

Two front teeth? Check!

With that checked off of the list, I’m feeling free to put some other crave-worthy items on my Chrimbo list.  Chrimbo.  That is the abbreviated version of Christmas I heard my friends from Down Under use on several occasions.  Those crazy Aussies (and Kiwis too, to some extent) just love to shorten their words and make ’em cute.  Australian? Aussie. Breakfast? Brekkie.  Presents? Prezzies. Barbecue? Barbie. Christmas? Chrimbo.  I always felt like that last one was a stretch.

Here are a few items that are on my list this year. Nothing crazy and exciting. I’m hoping I’ve been more nice than naughty this year.  I do admit that as I spoke stern words to Pickle the other day (just put yer dang pants on!) he said, “BE NICE, MAMA!”  I’m hoping Santa didn’t hear him.

(Click on the photos for links to the items.)

LL Bean Washable Wool Plaid Blanket in Rustic Purple – Not sure why this speaks to me but it does.  I picture picnics, 4th of July Fireworks, campfires (not that I camp), and passing this down to grand-kids.

LL Bean’s Washable Wool Blanket in Rustic Purple

 

Sonia Kashuk Make Up Brushes – I don’t have any makeup brushes.  Okay, to be honest, I don’t get too far past running a regular brush through my hair most days.  But my sister has lovely makeup brushes, and they make applying makeup so much easier.  I like the curve of these, and the price!

Sonia Kashuk Tools Limited Edition Starter Set

Rubio Balsamic Vinegar – It is Chrimbo! The one time of year when asking for a $32 bottle of vinegar doesn’t seem totally crazy.  I love this stuff. I can make a bottle last (almost) a year.

Rubio Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Salumeria Italiana

Crate and Barrel Parker Nesting Bowls – I have a set and I’m wearing them out!  Time for a new set in some great colors before my first set bites the dust.

Crate and Barrel’s Parker Nesting Bowls

UncommonGoods Felt Birdhouse – I love cute and interesting and useful all rolled into one.  And I love felt.  Something about these cute little bird houses just speaks to me. UncommonGoods is great for a browse on a lunch hour.  Interesting products that you won’t find elsewhere.  It’s like a cool little boutique!

Felt Birdhouse by UncommonGoods

Part of me wants to ask for a good vacuum (we really need one) but I fear if I ask, I might actually get one!  And who wants a new vacuum for Chrimbo?  (She says, sheepishly raising her hand.)  Honorable mentions go to gift certificates of any kind, housekeeping services, a new pepper mill and perhaps a set of mittens with a hat.

What’s on your list?