Friday, July 13, 2018

For Pip

Life is Good: even when we are hurting

It has been quite a long while since I've written anything on here. I have always wanted to use this website to document life for my kiddos but raising my kiddos has left me without much time to document it.
I'm hopping on here today to pay tribute to my dear friend, Heather, whom I lovingly called, "Pip". Heather passed away suddenly last week. Words can't describe the depth of my sadness. Life simply won't be the same without her. What I've written isn't as well-thought out or crafted as I would like. But honestly, I'm a bit of a mess right now and stringing words together, verbal or thought, is quite difficult. But I need to share just how very special my friend was.
If you pray, please send up some extra prayers for Heather's husband and two sons, who are also so very dear to me. 

About Heather...
Heather has been my best friend since I was 15. She was a fun teenager. I mean, FUNNN! But the adult she became was magnificent.

Please understand: if you knew Heather, everything you thought about her is true---she was an amazing person. She was adventurous and enthusiastic, kind-hearted and helpful. She was strong of character and deep in thought. She was utterly sophisticated and totally down to earth. She wore Hermes scarves while snorting at “Wedding Crashers”. Ohmygosh. I teased her so often---she was such a conniseuer of books but her tv and movie choices were so cheesy! She was so smart and so strong and had such a goofy sense of humor. She often thought she was being funny when it really wasn’t funny but it was so hilarious to me that she thought she was being so, so funny! And all that really mattered is that we were laughing. 

Heather was a great cook and had a strong faith. And she was happy. She, indeed, had so much happiness in her life. She had a smile a mile wide and her family was her biggest source of joy. She was such a great, invested, thoughtful, dedicated mother. And she was part of my family.

It’s a special thing for a friendship to last through so many years & life changes. We met as girls and bonded over big dreams & goals. We cheered for each other as we made big moves. We witnessed each other meet the men who would become our husbands, stood beside each other at our weddings, and regaled over our greatest joys and accomplishments—motherhood. And then there was the everyday—silly texts (oh, how she loved those iphone stickers!) and phone calls that always lasted longer than either of us planned or really had time for. We talked often and even if we had talked every day, the calls would have gone too long. There was always so much love present. And honesty. And so much laughter.

I’m so grateful that we told each other how we felt. I’m so glad for that last phone call. And that you can get back deleted voicemails on an iPhone.

If you’re lucky, you have several best friends in your life. If you’re lucky, your parents are your best friends. And your husband. And if you’re really lucky, your best girlfriends feel more like family than friends. And that was how I felt about Heather.

This is not a loss that I will get over. But I will get through it, I tell myself. I will hold on tightly to my faith. I will find comfort in my belief that my God is a loving, generous, forgiving, peace-granting God. Heather had an amazing squad of best friends who have accepted me on some kind of little sister status and I am so grateful for their consideration of me and our pact to preserve her memory, her happiness, her goodness. Staying connected with them makes me feel connected to her. And I will be comforted by that rich relationship Heather and I shared--full of memories, big and small, monumental and yes, sometimes ridiculous.

I have lost my best friend but Cal and William have lost their mother. So please, friends, please pray for their comfort and peace right now. And keep those prayers going.

These photos are from the last time we were together. It shows her wide grin, smiling eyes, and how much my children loved her. We spent a week together that trip and when she got home, I said, “We didn’t take a single photo together.” She said, “We will just have to take more the next time!” She was supposed to visit us in May, but it didn’t happen.

So take the photos and make the trip, friends. If you can’t make the trip, pick up the phone, text often, email, FaceTime & Skype. Kiss foreheads and hug tightly. Let it be and let go. Forgive, forget, say yes, say no, stop and look at the clouds. Be real, relax, eat the cake. Count your blessings and not the years. Call them smile lines and not wrinkles. Be grateful for each day and every chance and don’t put anything off. Say what you feel.

And if you made it this far, thank you for reading. Please pick up the phone to call, text, or email one somebody in your life who means the world to you and tell them just that.
And then please say another prayer for Jim and Cal and William.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Tastiest best side dish ever

Life is Good: we're keeping it spicy!

So yesterday I told you about our yummy lobster roll dinner. Today, I want to share with you my latest obsession: tator tots with avocado and sriracha!

Every once in a while, I give in and make "kids food". A couple of weeks ago, we grilled burgers and brats and I picked up a bag of tator tots for the rest of the fam. After I had plated everyone's food, I had some tots left over and out of nowhere, I decided to put some avocado and sriracha on them. Avocado and sriracha are a perfect pairing and I love to put them on turkey burgers. 

Best side dish ever

One bite and I was HOOKED. I mean, HOOKED! I think about eating tator tots with avocado & sriracha first thing in the morning, in the car, oh my. It's delicious! 

It's super easy--just bake the tator tots until crispy. While they're baking, cut open an avocado (cut lengthwise around the entire avocado and pull apart, stab a knife into the seed and pull it out), score it with a knife (kind of like a tic tac toe board) and scoop it out with a spoon, then smash it up in a bowl. When your tator tots are done, put them on a plate, scoop some avocado on top, and then lightly squirt out a few "lines" of sriracha over the top. Soooooo gooooood!

Let me know if you try it!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Best lobster roll recipe

Life is Good: let the good times (and lobster) roll!

Grant and I are suckers for seafood so it's not surprising that our kiddos are, too! Earlier this week, I surprised everyone with lobster rolls for dinner. It brought back some good memories from our trip last summer to Boston, Cape Ann (commonly known as "the other cape"), and Portland, ME. 

There are, essentially, two kinds of lobster rolls--with mayo and without. Mayo has eggs and our kids are allergic, so that is out. But, frankly, we just prefer the "without" version anyway. Grant and I have sampled our fair share of lobster rolls and as pedestrian as it sounds, the best "roll" is a high-quality hot dog bun. It's just the right amount of doughy goodness without overpowering the taste of lobster.

Here's how I made ours:

1. I started by steaming lobster tails. I use my Calphalon saucepan with steamer like this one (only mine is not non-stick). We got ours in a set for our wedding from Dillards and the set is still in great condition! I simply put a couple of cups of water in the saucepan (with about a teaspoon of pink himalayan sea salt) and then put the steamer on top. I bought a 6 ounce lobster tail for each person in our family. I layered the tails so that the shells touched the pan and then the top tails had the "meat" touching each other so that the shell is what you see when you lift the lid. That way, the lobster meat doesn't get too steamed and therefore, too mushy.

2. Let the water boil for about 10 minutes or until the shells are bright red. (Keep the lid on the pan!)

3. I let my lobster cool (but not get cold). Then I pull out the lobster meat. If some of it is hard to get, I use a knife and a fork to get the rest out. I put all of the lobster meat into a covered bowl and place in the refrigerator until dinner time. (I like to prep my dinners in the morning when the kids are eating breakfast. It makes dinner time less hectic & stressful for me.)

4. At dinner time, I cut the lobster into large chunks (I think you can taste the lobster better this way) and then melt two tablespoons of butter in a pan on low heat. I add the lobster meat once the butter is melted and saute it for about five minutes or until the lobster is warm (be careful not to overcook the meat---it will get tough). 

5. In a separate pan, I lightly toast the inside of hot dog buns. Like the "with mayo or without" debate, toasting the bun is also a preference that is individual as you are. You can spray the pan with Pam, melt more butter, or toast the bread without anything in the pan at all. 

6. Then it is time to plate your lobster rolls! Spoon the meat onto your bun, dividing evenly among your guests (if you can...or if you love lobster as much as I do, you will heap all of it on your one bun and then tell everyone you accidentally dropped it all on the floor and need to order pizza!). ANYWAY! You can eat your lobster roll just like this or if you prefer a more buttery taste, melt one tablespoon of butter per every 3-4 lobster rolls and spoon the butter over all of your lobster meat on the bun. This will make your bun a little more soppy, but many people like it that way. If you do this, I would definitely toast your bun for this version. 

7. Then it is time to eat! Ohmygosh. My mouth is watering!!! 

This week's dinner was especially lovely because we ate outside on our deck. The weather was reminiscent of Martha's Vineyard where Grant and I just might have had our first lobster roll together!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Red, White, and Blue Desserts for the Fourth of July

Life is Good: our forefathers made sure of it!

I love Independence Day. Maybe it's because it was my due date when I was in the womb? (I arrived a week late and my mom says that I have been trying to make up for it ever since!) Or maybe I'm just naturally patriotic. Either way, I love the holiday---warm sun on my face, pool or lake time, and...dessert! 

Yesterday I shared my yummy-tasty-easy-I mean eeeeeeasy-recipe for eggless individual banana cream pies so today, as promised, I'm sharing how I made red, white, and blue Rice Krispies treats (with all due credit for the idea to our Big Kid--I'm glad he's learning something from me! Party, party!). 

Very important to remember: you will need the ingredients for THREE full recipes of the traditional Rice Krispies treats. 
The recipe for one quantity is:
3 T. butter
1 pkg (10 ounces or 4 cups) mini marshmallows
6 c. Rice Krispies cereal
(So you will need three times everything above to make the Star Spangled Rice Krispies Treats.)

1. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat.
2. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. 
3. Remove from heat. 
4. Add cereal and stir until well coated.

To make Susie's Star Spangled Rice Krispies treats:
1. Make one quantity of Rice Krispies treats.
2. Before you add the cereal, add five drops of blue food coloring to the melted marshmallows.
3. Add cereal and mix.
4. Spray a spatula with Pam spray and fold the blue treats mixture into a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish. Use the spatula to flatten the treats into the dish.

Here is a pic of the first layer. (I did mine backwards---red, white, blue instead of blue, white, red.) I kind of looks like raw meat. I promise it tasted better than that!

5. Make a second quantity of Rice Krispies treats following the traditional recipe.
6. Using your sprayed spatula, add the treats recipe atop the blue layer. (This is your "white" layer.)
7. Make a third quantity of Rice Krispies treats. Before adding the cereal, add five drops of red food coloring to the mixture.
8. Mix in the cereal. 
9. Using the spatula, flatten the red mixture atop the plain (white) treats layer.
10. Allow to cool a few hours.
11. Cut into desired sized pieces. 
12. Marvel at how crafty you are!
13. Enjoy!

Happy Independence Day!


Friday, June 23, 2017

Red, White, and Blue Desserts for Memorial Day or Fourth of July

Life is Good: dig in!

If you're starting to think about Fourth of July desserts, then my recipe from Memorial Day is just what you're looking for!

We had such a fun Memorial Day weekend this year--a little rest & a lot of fun. Part of that fun was spending a day with our Goddaughter (age 10) and her family. We had great weather that was perfect for dads vs. kids baseball and rolling around in the grass. 

We grilled out and had the uber holiday weekend menu--burgers, brats, corn on the cob...super traditional and low key. "Casual" was the name of the game, and that called for an easy but fun dessert.

Our Big Kid informed me that he had THE best idea for dessert: red, white, and blue Rice Krispies treats. I had to give it to him...that was simply brilliant! And I knew the kids would love it. But I wanted something a little more grown up, too, so I decided to make (eggless, of course) individual red, white, and blue banana cream pies, too. Turns out, everybody wanted one of each. Success!

Susie's Red, White, & Blue Individual (Eggless) Banana Cream Pies
Filling Ingredients:
2/3 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt (I use pink Himalayan)
1 2/3 c. milk
1 t. vanilla (I use Madagascar)
3 T. cornstarch
2 T. butter

1. Cook the first four ingredients over low heat until smooth. 
2. Slowly, add three Tablespoons of cornstarch--one at a time-- to the mixture, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
3. Increase your flame to medium and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens.
4. When thick, add butter and whisk as it melts. 
5. Turn off the flame and slice two bananas into the thickened mixture.
6. Gently fold the banana slices into the mixture and allow to cool, but not completely.
7. Transfer cooled mixture into individual serving dishes, layering blueberries then the banana pie mixture, then sliced strawberries for a "red, white & blue" effect.
8. Place in refrigerator to cool completely until ready to serve.

For my Memorial Day banana cream pies, I rolled out pre-made pie crust and used a cookie cutter to cut out stars. I baked them for about 15 minutes (every oven is different, so watch your stars closely) and added them to my cooled "pies" right before I served them. red, white, & blue Rice Krispies treats recipe!


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Giant Samoa Cookie: Father's Day Dessert

Life is Good: and we're celebrating! April, a Facebook friend of mine (thanks, Joanna!) posted this awesome video of a giant Samoa Girl Scouts cookie and I knew that I had to make it for Grant's birthday. Samoas are his favvvvvvve cookie!

The video looks both totally easy and daunting at the same time. It was several steps, but that was the most complicated (and not really complicated) part of the entire endeavor. The results were keep-this-thing-away-from-me-if-I-ever-want-to-wear-a-swimsuit-again-delicious!

I skipped the video's cookie recipe and used my own sugar cookie recipe because I knew that it is a solid recipe.
To make the Giant Samoa Cookie, first you need to make the sugar cookie recipe:

Elsie's Eggless Sugar Cookies
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
1 c. butter, softened
4 - 4 1/2 c. flour (use 4 first and add in the last half cups slowly if your dough doesn't seem stiff enough)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cream of tartar
2 T. vanilla (I use Madagascar)
1 T. arrowroot

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix all ingredients together and allow to cool in refrigerator for at least one hour.
3. Roll out dough in between two pieces of waxed paper and then use a plate to cut the dough into a big circle. 

4. Use a coffee cup, placed in the center of your big circle, to trace out the center circle and removed that dough. Use a fork to much a few light holes all over the cookie.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. (All ovens work a little differently, so start watching your big cookie at 15 minutes to make sure that it doesn't scorch.
6. Allow to cool completely.

While you're baking your big cookie, crisp up 3 cups of shredded coconut (I used unsweetened, but the video calls for sweetened) on the lower rack in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 min. 

Once your big cookie has completely cooled, remove it from your cookie sheet and turn it over so that the flattest side is up.

Next, melt a bag of Enjoy Life (allergy friendly!) chocolate chips in the microwave. (Every microwave heats differently. I think I ended up melting mine (30 seconds at a time to make sure that it didn't scorch) for about two minutes. (This is more chocolate than the recipe calls for in the video. It barely covered my cookie and also, who doesn't want more chocolate?!?!) Pour the melted chocolate over your cookie and use a knife to distribute it evenly across the cookie. Any butter knife will do but these icing spatulas are great to have. When the chocolate is covering the entire cookie, place it in the freezer to make the chocolate harden.

While the chocolate is hardening, melt a bag of Brach's caramels (14 ounces) over low heat with 3 tablespoons of milk & a dash of salt, whisking constantly. 

Pull the cookie out of the freezer and turn it over onto your serving plate/platter so that the (frozen) chocolate side is on the bottom. Spread about 1/3 cup of the melted caramel mixture onto the top of the cookie. 

Then, put all of your toasted coconut into the remaining caramel mixture & stir. Smooth that mixture onto the top of the cookie with a knife.

Finally, melt another cup of chocolate chips in the microwave and then drizzle that melted chocolate on top of your Giant Samoa Cookie. 

Drizzling methods are as unique as the cook or baker doing them. You can use a knife loaded with melted chocolate or a fork or whisk. If you like to have a lot of control over your drizzle, you can buy a condiments squeeze container to use as your drizzler. 

And then it's time to cut a slice and dig in!!! I often question how "simple" online video recipes really are, but this one did not disappoint. And so yummy. 

I made this for Grant's birthday, but it would be a perfect Father's Day surprise! 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

What to do when your kids are bored this summer

Life is Good: so good, it's super!

One of my biggest struggles as a mom is allowing my kids to be bored. I'm an idea person--by trade and by nature. And I love brainstorming ideas with my kids. But I know the value in uninterrupted free time and letting your mind wander. So this summer, one of my goals is to give my kids the opportunity to be "bored" a little bit. 

So far, we are just under a week into summer and the Big Kid and Little Kid haven't been too bored because they've been doing a theatre camp each morning. Afternoons are spent outside (ahhh, sunshine!) until our Little One takes his (mid-afternoon) nap. Then I get some nice quality time with the older kids without the constant interruption of a two-year old. (In his defense, it is important that I repeat every single word in his vocabulary back to him. Twice. Every minute of the hour. Sigh.) But once the Little One is napping and a quieter time begins, I have disappeared (ever so quietly & carefully) here & there so that I am not an open encyclopedia of ideas. The results have made me squee with delight. The Big Kid devoured The Hobbit. The Little Kid read Bird & Squirrel again. Lego creations were devised and constructed. The Little Kid hosted us at his (pretend) cafe. More than once, I found them playing together, laughing together, reading on the Big Kid's bed together. And this...

Out of a bin of construction paper in our mudroom closet and with the aid of a glue stick, scissors, and an ink pen, Superman emerged. 
Happy (not boring) Summer!