Monday, March 12, 2012

Oh right. I have a blog.

You know what I’ve discovered over the last five months of internet silence?

I like to write.

I’ve also discovered I have voices in my head.  They speak to me all the time, yammering on and on.  Sometimes quietly, sometimes insistently but definitely ALL.  THE.  TIME.  And they’re good, friendly voices.  In case you were wondering.  

I don’t know if other writers are like this (and I use the word “writer” very, very loosely here) but throughout the days - as I live my life - I have story lines going in my head.  That’s what the voices are all about.

(Actually, it’s just one voice and it sounds a lot like me but more narratorish.  Think Masterpiece Theater only more of a smart ass and with a lot of Nutella on board.  Kind of like that.)

If I blog regularly, The Voice is under control because I’m getting it all out.  But the last 5 months of not using my bloggy outlet for The Voice has left me with stories and Pulitzer Prize-winning pieces that are dying to be read.

Because let’s face it folks, my life is so fascinating that both of my readers DESERVE to hear about it.


Let’s go back in time, shall we?  Let’s try to figure out why Karenpie has been invisible.  And just to warn you - it’s not pretty.   And it’s all about me.  See up there where it says “Karenpie”?  That’s why I can do that.

Narcissism at it’s best, people.

Where was I?  Oh right . . . . it all started around 15 months ago with some personal disappointments.  It was like I had entered an alternate universe where nobody GOT me.  Actually, it was just a few people but it caused my self confidence to plummet.

Added to that was an injury to my Achilles - nothing that needed surgery but it sidelined me and I stopped exercising.  Fast forward a couple months and 15 pounds later and I was still using it as an excuse to not exercise.   And again with the plummeting self confidence.  Because when I don’t like the way I look it puts me in a bad mood.  Like constantly.  And when I’m in a bad mood I solve that problem with Cheetos.  Or Nutella.  Or anything with butter.

Oh, and we also had 5th grade homework which made me want to firebomb the school.  Fortunately I’m over that.

Summer rolled around, the rainy season was over and things started perking up.  I began exercising again, feeling better about myself and the personal misunderstandings were a thing of the past.

Then . . . . . our German exchange student arrived.

Let’s just pause for a few moments of silence.  Please feel free to pray for me while you’re being silent.

We entered our exchange experience - I’ll be honest here - without a lot of thought or prayer.  See, normal and mature people who are considering an action that will drastically affect their families usually do so with thought, with consideration. They would maybe take more than a day to make this decision. They may pray about it and ask others for input.

Not me.  Nope.  Uh-uh.  Nada.  My consideration went more along the lines of;

Me: “Hey (talking to the family in the car) what would you guys think about having an exchange student stay with us for the year?”

Everyone else:  “I don’t know.”

Me: “Dan and Jennifer did it and they loved Ruben.  I think we should do it.”

So we did.  And since August 17, 2011, our family has been hijacked by a 15 year-old German boy.

We expected a boy with maturity and self-control, who took pride in his schoolwork.  We didn’t expect perfection but we did expect the best of the best.  We expected someone who would positively represent his country, his exchange organization and his family. We hoped he would get involved in sports, school activities and youth group at church.  We expected him to be teachable.

My personal expectations of this experience were more emotional. I didn’t care about learning about another culture or language - I just wanted another kid.  How cool to have an instant teenager! I had fantasies that we’d all love him and he’d be a big brother to my kids. He would be a part of our family and we’d be part of his. I had visions of visiting him in Germany, that we’d keep in touch over his lifetime, going to Germany when he got married and rejoicing when he became a father. I had a secret hope that he’d call me Mom.

So far, none of that has happened.  Marius gets involved in sleeping, Legos and Nerf wars and doesn’t let us engage him in a personal way.  He gets involved in chores after we remind, request, nag and then come down hard on him.  He gets involved in schoolwork when I take away all of his electronics. He is never wrong and always excuses his behavior or blames someone else. We saw, almost immediately, a level of selfishness and immaturity that was surprising. He seems to be completely unaware of other people and how his actions affect them.

We gave him weeks to settle in and get used to us, then the bottom fell out of his world - we started treating him like one of our kids. That’s when the frustration began mounting.  Let me tell you - the level of tension in our home has been unprecedented. It doesn’t matter how we try to teach, reason, explain - whatever - this boy won’t change his behavior.  If we teach him to do a chore, he conveniently “forgets” how to do it the next time, and the next time, and the next time.  If we explain how he is annoying one of the kids, Marius “does not understand” or says, “It was a joke”.  We repeat ourselves over and over, about the same issues, with no change in behavior.

I started wondering, is it us?  Are we the problem?  But (unfortunately) we heard the same frustration and concerns from teachers at school.  The behavior didn’t start/stop at the door to our home.

We reached our saturation point during Christmas break.  Three weeks of togetherness was about 21 days too long.  We knew we needed to do something so . . . lightbulb moment . . . . I called the family together - without Marius - and said,

“Guys, we have to be proactive.  We’re going to meet every evening, while Marius is in the shower, and pray together as a family.  We desperately need God’s help.  We know God gave us Mars for a reason and we’re supposed to be learning something. We don’t want to miss the lesson, right?  Also, what if Marius never changes?  We have to know - beyond a shadow of a doubt - that when we put him on the plane back to Germany we’ve done all we can and done it WELL.  With graciousness and patience and lovingkindness.  God is the only one who can do it.  We’ve been muscling along - forcing and straining and trying - and it’s gotten us nowhere.  Plus, the only way Mars is going to change is if he has Jesus as his Savior.”

So that’s what we’ve done. We meet together nightly and pray. It took 5 months of tension, strain and anxiety before I /we started doing the only thing that would help.

Can anyone give me a big, “DUH”?

Which just goes to show that you can be a person with a pretty strong faith and still have your head up your butt.  In case you were wondering.

Since that time, God has been faithful.  The tension is lessening. We have more peace in our home.  I no longer have chest pain and anxiety attacks.  And it’s not because Marius is changing - it’s because we are.  We’ve dialed down the expectations and are letting God shoulder that burden.

If you think about us, you can pray too.

We’re still highly aware that June 2nd is the day Marius’ returns to Germany but we’re not clinging to it anymore.

We’ve decided to cling to God instead.

So that’s the news from Karenpie land.  The reason for the disappearance and lack of communication wasn’t anything earth-shattering.  We’re all alive and healthy and for that, I am imminently grateful to God.  I’m glad that whatever He’s trying to do in our family, He’s using an exchange student from Germany - not cancer or death - to teach us.

We’re going to make it just fine.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dear Chicago

Dear Chicago,

My mom, my sister and I will be there on Thursday.  I just wanted to give you a heads up so you could  make sure your SWAT teams are in place. Also, could you tone down the wind?  My hair looks cute for a change and I’d like it to stay that way.

We plan on hanging out downtown.  The three of us are gonna do an “Occupy Magnificent Mile” all on our own.  If you need to find us, follow the trail of American Express transactions.

Please try to stock up on wine.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mice and Laundry Sex

Many years ago I used to get a monthly newsletter from Dr. James Dobson.  One month he shared a story about a young woman who had a problem with a mouse in her house.  She set a trap and finally caught it but unfortunately, this was a true trap. The kind that caught the mouse in a little cage. The kind that allowed the mouse to live.

The young lady freaked out. The trap had done it’s job but now it was up to her to kill the mouse and she couldn’t do it. It was too horrible. She also needed to go to work and she just couldn’t deal. So she devised a way of putting the mouse down without having to touch it or cause bloodshed - she drowned it. She submerged the cage in a bucket of water and high-tailed it out of the house for work, knowing when she came home the deed would be done.

When she arrived home some 9 or 10 hours later, expecting to find a dead, drowned mouse, she found something else - the mouse was still alive. 

He had climbed up as far as he could and - reaching, straining, up on his toes - managed to find a way to get the very tip of his nose above water to keep from drowning.  For 9 or 10 hours this tiny mouse stood on aching toes with just barely the height to breathe through his nose. 

I feel like the mouse.  

There is so much stuff swimming in my brain, so many items on my to-do list that I feel like I am up on aching toes, reaching and straining to stay alive because if I relax for just a couple of minutes I’ll go under and never come up.

Yesterday I found myself standing over my kitchen sink, hands shaking, stomach churning, mind racing.

Why, you ask?  Because there were dirty dishes in the sink.  And the floor needed to be mopped.  Our cat was alternately whining for food and chewing the fur off of his legs, belly, arms - anywhere he can reach - because he’s allergic to fleas and I needed to give him medicine.

I looked out the kitchen window to my formerly beautiful dahlias that I haven’t dead-headed in a month and which have been attacked by spider mites no matter how much poison I spray on them.  Then my racing mind skipped over to the garden where I think there are beans going to seed but since I haven’t actually looked at the garden in a couple of weeks that may or may not be true.

Then I glanced down at the patio which was currently displaying one of the cat’s most recent trophies - a mixture of bunny fur and guts.  There was also a dead mouse in the mix.

There was a sick kid upstairs.  I needed to go grocery shopping.  I was 3 days behind with Bible study. I hadn’t blogged in almost a month.  I’ve put on weight, homework projects were piling up on the kitchen table and don’t even get me started on the laundry.  I had one load mildewing in the washer and the dryer was on it’s 3rd fluff cycle because I couldn’t get around to folding the clothes.

Then, as so often happens when I’m simultaneously having a pity-party AND a brain meltdown I made an honest-to-God scientific discovery. I’m surprised the rocket scientists out there don’t know this because it. is. seriously. genius.

Here is my discovery - ready?

Laundry, if you give it enough privacy and space will spontaneously turn into it’s own life form and start regenerating.  It will multiply.  It’s like all the dirty clothes, hanging out there in the dark, start getting ideas.  They look at each other and say, “Hey baby, how you doin’?”  and then they start making babies.  The problem is they only make socks that don’t match.

You’d think, if dirty laundry is going to be allowed to have sex, it would be considerate enough to have identical twins in socks.

I think my brain just exploded.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fat Friday: Baked Penne with Sausage

Question:  Is there ever a sweeter, more thoughtful gift than someone bringing you dinner?  I remember when I had newborns, volunteers from our church would bring a meal.  I returned the favor over and over because it was so very helpful.  

I like to take meals to people.  Families who have just moved into a new house. People who are sick or who have had surgery.  Moms who just had a baby and can’t put their babies down long enough to cook.  What can I say?  I like to feed people.    

Many months ago, my sweet friend Susie gifted our family with dinner and she did it for no reason at all.  She’s a busy mom herself, with three kids, so this was especially sweet.

Seriously folks - as much as I like to cook, I LOVE it when somebody cooks for me and yes, this is an open invitation.  You may bring me dinner anytime from now until eternity.  It will give me more time to play Plants vs. Zombies.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, Susie brought our family this pasta dish and guess what? EVERYONE LOVED IT.  It was a miracle.  So naturally I’ve made it a part of our family’s repertoire.  It’s easy, tasty and kid-friendly.  It’s perfect!  Also, you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry.

Let’s get movin’ . . .

Break up a pound of Italian sausage in a large saucepan and begin cooking it.  Use your nifty mixer/chopper thingie.  While that starts to cook, chop up an onion.

If you’re lucky enough to own a NEW! CUTCO! SANTOKU! you should probably use it only be careful because new knives have an uncanny ability to amputate fingers.

Add the onion to the meat and cook until soft and translucent.

While the sausage/onion mixture is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and begin cooking the pasta.  The original recipe called for ziti but I couldn’t find any at the store so I got this.  I think any tubular pasta will work.

Do you know how to pronounce the word “penne”?  It’s PEN-NAY. Just like “pen” as in ball point or ink pen.   It’s not pronounced - under any circumstances - PAY-NAY. You want to ask me how I know this?  Really.  Ask me.  It’s not embarrassing at all.  Anymore.

Many years ago, my friend Anna invited me to dinner.  She and her boyfriend, Mark, were making homemade pizza and - joy of joys! - wanted to share it with me.  It was an excellent meal - a simple, homemade pizza crust with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil.  Yummo.  As we ate, we talked about Italian food and what our personal favorites were.  I shared with both Anna and Mark that I was a sucker for pasta - any kind of pasta - but my favorite was penne.  I called it PAY-NAY.

“I love PAY-NAY!  It’s my favorite of all!” I then proceeded to say PAY-NAY about 60 more times.

Do you know what PAY-NAY means in Italian?  Go on and guess.  I can wait.

It means “penis”.

I had just told my friend and her boyfriend that I loved penis and it was my favorite.  Oh, and did I mention that Mark was Italian?  Did I mention he was fluent in Italian?  And was getting his doctorate in Italian at IU?  Mark very gently, graciously and quickly corrected me.

The next time you think you’re a big dork just remember this story. I think we’ll all agree - I win.

Let’s get back to the food.  I’m assuming you still have an appetite.

When the meat and onion are cooked through, drain off the fat.  Or not.  You’ll have plenty of time to schedule that angioplasty after dinner.

 Mince a couple of cloves of garlic and add to the meat mixture.

Stir in the salt, oregano, basil and pepper and let them cook for a couple of minutes. . .

Then add a can of diced tomatoes and a large can of crushed tomatoes.  Sometimes I just put in some tomato sauce instead of the diced tomatoes.  It makes my kids happy.

Let this sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, until it’s thickened to your liking.  This would be great on spaghetti, too!

 Pour the red sauce over the cooked pasta . . .

 . . . and stir it all together.

Next you’re going to need 2 c. shredded mozzarella.  I had some fresh mozzarella in the fridge and used that but it was hard to grate because it’s so soft.

Grab your cheese grater and go to work on ¼ c. of Parmesan cheese.  My cheese grater is looking especially handsome today, isn’t he?  Such a sweetie . . .

Pour half of the pasta mixture into a 9x13 pan.  Top with half of the cheeses.  Pour the rest of the pasta mixture on top and finish with the rest of the cheeses.

I ended up slicing the fresh mozzarella and laying it on top.  I love, love, LOVE using fresh mozzarella cheese!

Bake about 20 minutes at 400 F.  Let it sit about 5 minutes before serving it.  Honestly - we just dug in. It was a bit soupy but we totally didn’t care.

Printable recipe here.

Whip up a green salad and open a bottle of wine.

If you’re drinking wine, we’ll excuse you from mispronouncing Italian words.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fat Friday: 5-Minute Homemade Ice Cream. No lie.

In the Karenpie household, we’re serious about our homemade ice cream. There’s a certain way you make it and the perfect recipe to use. We don’t just slap something together, freeze it and call it ice cream.


Because we are experts - connoisseurs if you will - and there’s no fooling us.

Now sit back, I feel a story coming on.

When Duane was growing up he had 2 uncles that were dairy farmers, Uncle Dean and Uncle Jerry. There are no longer any working dairy farms in the family, but back when they were milking? And they had an ever ready supply of fresh cream and whole milk? Oh boy did the family know how to make ice cream.

Whenever there was a family event, out would come the ice cream freezers. The aunts would assign the flavors - vanilla, chocolate and strawberry - and each family would bring a freezer full of ice cream to the party.

Doesn't that sound fun? I'm going to cultivate friends who have ice cream makers and plan a ginormous party! We'll all bring a different flavor and there will be brownies and cookies - in case you want to make a sundae or an ice cream sandwich. There will be caramel, chocolate and butterscotch syrups. And there will be sprinkles! Lots and lots of sprinkles.
Sprinkles make people happy. I'm pretty sure most of the world's problems could be solved with sprinkles which leads me to another tangent . . . how come I haven't been appointed the ambassador to somewhere? I think I've made my political savvy and skill pretty evident in this post alone.

Back to the story of making homemade ice cream.

Now these were not the easy, electric, no-sweat-inducing ice cream freezers we have now. We’re talkin’ hand cranking, baby. There would be a kid cranking and a kid sitting on top of the freezer to keep it in place. If little arms got tired, they either switched arms or called for help. The ice cream was done when it was too hard to crank anymore. Once Duane hit Junior High (that's 1970's code for "middle school") the family had purchased an electric freezer and his days of turning that dasher by hand were over.

So I hope you can understand, with this kind of history in the family, that our homemade ice cream is nothing to tinker with.

Until now.

During both of the boys’ 4th-grade years when they were studying science, they came home with this recipe and both times I blew it off. It looked intriguing but I wasn’t ever in the mood for such a tiny amount of homemade ice cream.

I usually prefer the bucket-o’-ice cream size.

Nevertheless, it was always there in the back of my mind and one beautiful night this summer I decided to give it a try. Plus, I was all for the kids working for their after-dinner treat. Hey - aerobics AND dessert - what a winning combo! Of course that only works when you’re 8 or 10 or 12. I wouldn’t put up with that nonsense now.

Want to see how to do it? We’ve got a holiday weekend coming up and it’s a perfect activity for the kids - any size kid!

Here we go . . . .

For each serving you’ll need:

½ c. milk or half-&-half
1 T. sugar
½ t. vanilla
4 c. ice cubes
¼ c. rock salt
2 sandwich-size ziplock bags
1 gallon-size ziplock bag

If you decide to take pictures of the process, you may also need a goofball kid in the background. If you’re low on those, call me. I have extra.

Pour the milk or half-& half, sugar and vanilla into one of the sandwich-size ziplocks. Since we were making 4 servings, I used a muffin tin to hold the baggies. If you own a jumbo muffin tin, use that. The regular size tin I have worked but wasn’t quite big enough.

Here, our experts are adding vanilla. When you’re finished making the mixture, seal it up and carefully try to squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible.

Put this bag into the 2nd sandwich-size ziplock and seal it up.

Then, take the entire operation outside. This part gets a little messy!

Put the 4 c. of ice and 1/4 c. rock salt in the gallon-size ziplock.

Add your double-bagged ice cream mixture and seal it up.

And now it's time for aerobics. Put on Jane Fonda, dig out some lycra and leg warmers and go for it. For five minutes the bags must be shaken, squeezed, massaged and agitated. Hands will get very, very cold - you may want to pull out some mittens for this part.

Your budding ice cream makers may want to dance with their bags. Or do cheerleading routines.

They may decide to kick a soccer ball around . . .

Or do some soccer drills. Whatever you do, just keep shaking your bootie, er . . . the bag.

When the ice cream stiffens up, pull the small bag out of the larger bag. Quickly remove the inside bag holding the ice cream, being careful not to get salty water on it.

I wasn’t smart enough to double bag the mixture when we did this so we had to rinse off the bags outside. This made it melt a bit.

Please note the one child up there, operating the hose, who is wearing his socks in the puddle of salty water. Because my laundry pile is so trivial and small he was actually doing me a favor by adding to it.

Dump the ice cream into a bowl or you can eat right out of the bag and save yourself some dirty dishes!

Add some toppings and suddenly . . . . it’s quiet in the house. No sound but the clinking of spoons against the bowl.

This ice cream doesn’t get hard - it’s more of a really thick milkshake consistency. Which is also delish!

I think using chocolate milk might work, too. You know the chocolate milk they sell at Costco? The kind that’s part cream and has a bazillion grams of fat per serving? That would be perfect. This would also be a fun activity for a kid’s birthday party.

So, let the ice cream-making begin! And have a fabulous Labor Day weekend!


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Catching Up: Birthdays Part 1

You know, I would love to share with you about this week and all of the preparations for today, the first day of school. I would tell you about shopping at Walmart and how - miracles of miracles - I did NOT intimidate any nice, old ladies this year.

I would share about shopping for 4 children instead of 3 and I don't care what anyone says, a fifteen-year-old boy still qualifies as a child in my house.

I would share - with great humor and hardly any cussing - about our school's Orientation Day which happened last Monday. This is the day my kids and I - along with 917,384 other students, parents and siblings - all show up at school at the same time.

We bring our school supplies. We find our new classrooms and desks. We practice opening the combination lock on the locker 847 times. We meet our new teachers and new classmates. We see old friends and goof around with them instead of paying attention to the teachers, who are trying like crazy to help everyone understand the confusion of schedule changes and rotating classrooms.

We see tons of people and:
1. Lament the end of summer (parents and kids)
2. Lament the start of school (kids)
3. Lament the eminent arrival of homework (parents - the kids haven't thought that far ahead)

It's a great way to start out the school year - to figure out the basics like where your desk is and how to organize it BEFORE the first day of school.

It's also crowded, loud, busy, chaotic and stressful.

Stressful because I want to help all the kids but alas, I can't help the 10th-grader figure out his locker combination AND help the 6th-grader/new middle-schooler figure out where all of his classes are. I can't help the 3rd-grader put her supplies away in her desk AND help the 5th-grader do the same.

I end up going from classroom to classroom, trying to do little bits at a time. Fortunately, Daniel and Katie are completely self-sufficient and don't need my help at all. In fact, Katie is so independent and organized, she'll probably be running the classroom by the end of September. No joke.

By the time we're finished, 31/2 hours later, my brain has exploded, I'm squinting at people and I've developed a tic in my left eyelid that makes me look like I'm winking at everyone. Worst of all - my hair is flat.

So I invented vodka slushies. I'm pretty sure there's a market.

Anyway, I'd love to share all of this - especially the pictures of the kids in their first-day-of-school finery but guess what? I lost my card-reader AGAIN. I should buy stock in that company. Dang it.

So, being the flexible, easy-going, go-with-the-flow kinda gal I am *snort*, we'll work with what we've got which is - pictures from this summer! Let's start with last June, shall we? I believe I promised you birthdays at some point. And we all know you've been waiting, wondering and sobbing uncontrollably over the lack of information. Here we go . . .

Matthew celebrated his birthday with - shocker - a Lego party! He invited . . .

. . . several other goofballs/lego lovers . . .

. . . and they went crazy.

We were at Luke’s Lego-cy Carnival for the evening. It’s a Leukemia Foundation fundraiser and is held in honor of a local boy who lost his fight with leukemia a year ago. It was a fabulously successful, joy-filled event.

Aaaaaaand . . . . I posted this picture because lately, it’s typical of my photography skills. Please note:

1. Five boys, only 2 of which are smiling and posing for the camera
2. Matthew, who isn’t paying attention
3. Half of a boy on the left.
4. A complete stranger, whose rather large back is in the picture and is almost obscuring the birthday boy plus the other 3 boys.

Can anyone say “Pulitzer Prize”?

So, my first-born turned 12. My sweet, no-longer-little, baby boy is closing in on being a teenager. I am so proud of him. He’s a thoughtful, funny, sweet-natured young man. And he still likes cuddling with me.

I think I’ll keep him.

Next up - birthday #2. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Someday . . . .

Someday, in the year 2023, my kids will look over this blog thingie and ask me,

"Hey Mom, did we do anything the summer of 2011? You didn't write anything. Were we - gasp! - boring?"

And I will tell them;

"Kids, our family is never boring - don't you worry your pretty little heads about that (I'm sure those are the exact words I'll use). We had a lot of fun the summer of 2011 - trips to the beach, a vacation in Montana and Yellowstone, parties in our backyard, Wii night - the usual whirlwind of summer activities. Go get the CF card out of my camera and download the pictures. They're probably still on there."

Because I'm all about making my kids self-sufficient and teaching them to find their own answers. And their own shoes. Twelve years from now I'm positive they'll know how to download pictures from a CF card. We can only hope they'll be able to find their own shoes.

I'm not holding my breath.

How many pairs of cleats do two boys need, anyway? Just curious.

So anyway, back to me.

We've been extraordinarily busy this summer - I think the busiest summer since we've had kids. Yes, it's been busy - but fun! - which I will share with you over the next few days because my OCD demands that I keep up with things.

(You didn't really think I'd leave a memory card in my camera for 12 years did you? Think about it - look at the above shoe picture and ask yourself, could the person who asks their children to put their shoes away like this, leave out 3 months of activity from her family's virtual scrapbook?)

I think not. Unfortunately my OCD isn't bad enough to make me blog regularly. Which brings me to a question; can I take meds to make it stronger? Seriously, if I'm going to claim I'm OCD, I SHOULD GIVE IT 100%.

So anyway, back to me. Oh right- we were already there. Okay, in the very near future I'll tell you about the birthdays, surprises, trips, visitors and the usual Karenpie dorkiness but first I have to tell you about the recent addition to our family.

Meet Marius Jäger, our exchange student from Germany!

Marius, or Mars as he likes to be called, arrived last Saturday and will live with us for the school year. He's 15 and will attend the same school as our kids. Mars loves cookies, shopping, dogs and soccer. He loves Hollister and Abercrombie and Tommy Hilfiger. Fortunately he has his own spending money because HOLY SCHNIKES we went shopping today and for a mere $120 and change he got 4 things.


It was a real eye-opener for me. So far, my kids don't have a choice. They like Nike, Walmart and whatever hand-me-downs they get from the Bonners.

So . . . instant teenager in the house. Instant need for hair products, name-brand clothing and an endless supply of cookies.

We're just getting started and it's going to be a BLAST!

But you can pray for me anyway.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Poem for You

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Today I was going to do a yummy Fat Friday recipe that I got from Patti but I decided to go to the beach instead.

The End.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Two of these things are not like the other . . .

Got a little quiz for you.

I'm going to show you a picture of five children. Three of them are mine and two have been visiting for the last week. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to pick the two that don't belong to me.

Ready? Here's the picture -

I know it's tough but think hard. Which two do not share my gene pool?

If you guessed the two boys with flags on their shirts you'd be RIGHT. Let me introduce you to a couple of sweeties - Hao Jun Ye and Pei Yu Chen! They're part of a short-term exchange group and have been with us since last Saturday.
These two sweet boys chose American names for themselves - Charlie and Jack - which completely saved my life because they've been with us for 7 days and I still can't pronounce their Chinese names.

I asked them to give me a Chinese name and they began whispering and laughing with each other. I suggested a Chinese word that meant "Goddess of everything good and beautiful" but they didn't take the hint. They're still trying to figure it out. I'll probably end up with a name that means "bonehead" in Chinese and I'll be the only one who doesn't know it. I will very confidently approach Asian people and tell them:

(Hi! My name is Bonehead! It's very nice to meet you."
We've had an interesting time trying to communicate. Their English is very poor and my Chinese is nonexistent. It's been especially hard at mealtimes. They aren't very impressed with American food.
I tried to impress upon them that I'm a very influential, famous food blogger and they were doing serious damage to my self-confidence with their refusal to eat the food I cooked.
I take that back. Charlie, the taller of the two boys, eats the food - actually cleans his plate! - while I look on approvingly. When I smile and ask, "You like it?", expecting him to ask for seconds, he shakes his head "no".
Jack, the little one, picks at the food and pushes it around his plate. About the only thing he likes are chocolate chip Eggos.It's a real blow to my ego, I tell you.
However, there is something they understand very well . .

. . . they speak the universal language of Nerf,

and Slip 'N Slides,

and fireworks!

We examined the possibility that we'd be sitting around staring at each other in silence for 10 days.

Fortunately for all of us, the language barrier came down quickly.

Nerf and Slip 'N Slides - the new ambassadors for America.

They leave on Monday and we'll be sad to see them go.

What a couple of sweeties.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fat Friday: Oreo-Brownie-Chocolate Chip Bars

There is only one word that can adequately describe these bars:


When I first saw them here at Kevin and Amanda's, my first thought was, "Oh my sweet Lord are those real?" Because . . . GENIUS. Chocolate chip cookies PLUS Oreos PLUS brownies?


My kids have been begging me to make them for weeks and since I'm never one to say no to my kids (ahem), here they are in all their glory.

Here's whatcha need:

Your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe - a full batch
1 package of Double Stuf Oreos
1 brownie mix (or your own homemade brownies) for a 9x13 pan

My favorite chocolate chip cookies are called "Neiman Marcus Cookies". Remember the old urban legend that was all the rage back in the '80's? If you weren't around in the '80's then google it. It also goes by other, famous department store names but the basic story is the same;

A woman eats at the famous department store's tearoom or cafe and gets a cookie for dessert. She's so impressed by the cookie she requests the recipe and is informed by her server that it will cost her two-fifty. The woman thinks "No problemo" until she gets her credit card bill and there's a charge, not for $2.50, as she assumed, but for $250.00 for the recipe. She complains to the store and gets no satisfaction so she proceeds to exact her revenge by giving the recipe out to anyone who wants it.

Isn't it a great story? Too bad it's an urban legend and isn't true. But either way, I got the recipe for free and it's my all time favorite! It uses half flour and half ground up oatmeal. It gives the cookie extra chewiness and structure. Plus it's healthy.

Because that's what impresses me in a cookie - healthiness.

Here's the printable recipe for my chocolate chip cookies AND I have tips for you!

Tip #1:
The recipe calls for 2-1/2 c. of blended oatmeal. I take this to mean 2-1/2 c of measured oatmeal, blended into a fine powder, NOT oatmeal blended up until you get 2-1/2 c. There's a difference in volume.

Here's what it looks like after it's time in the blender. It's like flour with just a few small oatmeal chunks. Perfect.

Tip #2:
My recipe calls for creaming the butter and sugars. The above picture is not what you want.

This is what you want. You'll get a better cookie if the butter and sugar are creamed long enough. I promise.

After you make your chocolate chip cookie dough, put it in a 9x13 pan. I lined mine with greased parchment paper and I was not sorry. When they were done baking and cooling I lifted the entire thing out of the pan.


Next you need these - almost the entire package. I say almost because my helper . . .

. . . who got braces this week, needed a cookie to make her feel better. The braces make her teeth hurt and we all know and appreciate the medicinal value of Oreos.

Place the Oreos on top of the raw cookie dough, pressing them down lightly.

Mix up your brownie mix and spread it over the Oreos. Bake 45-55 minutes at 350F. In my oven I let it go the full 55 minutes and I should have taken them out around 47 - 50 minutes. They got a bit dry.

Also, it seemed like there wasn't enough brownie batter - it was pretty thin over the Oreos and I hoped the brownie part would puff up more.

Alas, the brownie layer - my favorite part - remained thin. They still tasted amazing but I'd like to tweak it a bit. Maybe put the brownie layer on the bottom of the pan next time. I'm not sure about doubling the brownie recipe - the pan was pretty darn full by the end of baking!

Click here for printable.

You should probably go make these immediately and then weigh in with your opinion. I mean it - go do it now. Your family will thank you by worshipping at your feet. They may even erect a statue in your honor.

Because these bars are INSANE.

I'm not even sure they're legal.