Friday, September 30, 2011

I Need Pile-oholics Anonymous

Stress.  Truth time.  I know where a lot of mine comes from... Piles of stuff surrounding me.  Some of this is my fault.  Some of it is lack of storage.

Wait.  If we don't have the storage, or place to keep things, we shouldn't have the things, so we're back to me... or at least the people here who are managed, taught, and raised by me.  Phew.  More stress.

Back to the piles.  It starts when I don't know what to do with something... Too good or important or official to throw away... so I start a neat little stack of things to deal with later.  But I don't have any better ideas later, and by then, the neat little stack becomes a bigger one, which eventually becomes less neat and morphs into the pile.  
It doesn't help that I have 2 desks, which allows 2 growing stacks, and moving piles from one place to the next.

I was recently very much enjoyed reading a book entitled Going Dutch by Katie Fforde, in which one of the heroines, Jo, deals with things similarly, so she provided a little insight...
She said she didn't like to clear things up, because it required decisions and she didn't like making them.  Her answer, at that moment in the book, was to grab a ribbon and put it around a pile of papers to make them look like they 'needed to be there.' 

Not only does dealing with paperwork require decisions, it requires follow-through... like filing.  When things get into files, they feel well-taken care of, and forever it seems.  
But it's not true.  The files get full and months turn into a new year and things need to move on to a new place.  What to keep?  What to toss?  What might we need?  The truth is, though, even though we have it, if we needed something, who could find it?  I have been lucky in being able to put my hands on things fairly readily, if not too conveniently... But that means I've been cluttering up my tired brain remembering in what odd place they're likely stashed.

Junk mail that didn't go straight to recycle
and was pulled out of the desk pile

I have done a pretty good job in cutting my prior piling problem by throwing away most junk mail as it arrives.  Instead of keeping odd catalogs I might want to look through, to keep the clutter and temptation reduced, the catalogs go directly to recycle.  (Some sneak through the system.)

The ever-growing pile of printed recipes and
often-used cookbooks that don't go back in place
because the shelf is a bit out of reach
Our entry: Drums from Prince Stoic's recent move into
a smaller apartment, chairs and ottomans waiting for the
garage addition, boxes of financial paperwork moved in
the recent carport clean out.  Aaaaargh!

Mugs and such overflowing their shelves
as people contribute their own personal additions
That step really helped, but it wasn't enough.  Multiply the propensity to hold onto things by 10 (people), and I've got a houseful that overwhelms me.   

Extra mattress we use for guests that has
no other home.  :(

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kale Chips... Hmmm (Yuck?)

Apparently, from the few minutes of internet reading I just did, I am behind on the craze.  I was first introduced to this healthy snack in Baked kale chips by Gena on A Bluebonnet in Beantown.  I've been waiting to make them ever since, and our first week's delivery from Full Circle Farm gave me the opportunity when a good-sized bunch of kale was in the box.

The ingredients are mostly the same from recipe to recipe, with a few suggested variations for spices.  The baking temperatures and times, though, vary widely from baking at 250 for 30 minutes to baking at 425 for 5 to 7 minutes.  I even saw mention of dehydrating, which, I'm guessing would take a couple of days.

I figured the result I wanted was crisp, but not burnt chips.  This indicates some drying time, so a lower temp for longer seemed reasonable. 

Baked Kale Chips
Adapted from the recipe in Baked kale chips on A Bluebonnet in Beantown

1 bunch (12 leaves or so) Kale, washed and dried, stems and center rib removed, then cut into chip-size pieces
1 - 1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt or other seasonings

Preheat oven.  I set mine at 260 degrees on Convection, since I could see I'd have more than one baking sheet of chips, and I was too impatient to do them one pan at a time.

 Note: Just in case you don't know, it's important that the kale is dry....that any food you want to brown or crisp nicely with the use of oil is dry.  I don't remember where I read it, but the explanation was that the oil will trap any wetness in, and the food will steam before it gets the chance to brown.  Reader, JC, says she lets her kale dry overnight.  I used my OXO Salad Spinner, and then spread on paper towels and blotted.

I put the chip-size pieces of fresh kale in a large bowl and tossed them with the olive oil using my hands. It seemed fastest and easiest, and least likely to bruise the kale any more than necessary.

I spread them in a single layer on baking sheets and sprinkled them very lightly with Kosher salt.   Gena and others mentioned using parchment paper, but also said it wasn't necessary.  Since the oiled kale couldn't create that much of a mess I elected to save my parchment for pizza making, where we really need it.

I baked the kale pieces for 20 minutes.  Besides over-salting, the most common error people among my internet search reported was over cooking, so I checked mine in 15 minutes.  They seemed crispy, but when I tried one, it had an intense kale flavor that told me it still had some 'life' left in it, and I put it back for the remaining 5 minutes, then took them out and put them to drain any excess oil on paper towels.  

The chips shrink a lot, so I won't be so careful about not crowding them next time.

Result?  Not so great.
I'm not sure if the type of kale may make a difference, or if, perhaps, I still didn't bake them long enough... or too long?  They have an appealing salty-crispness at first, but get a little tough and bitter at the finish.  Prince CuddleBunny says "The aftertaste tastes burnt."  I'm still not sure that they're overcooked, since they almost seem to rehydrate in my mouth.  Hard to describe.  Also, as light as I went on the salt, it needed to be lighter.

Since I had 3 pans in all, for the 3rd, I added a tiny bit of garlic powder and Parmesan cheese.  I also cooked them 5 minutes longer.  A little better, but I think it's because the cheese is overpowering the kale taste.

I don't think my kids are going to be running for these.  I wouldn't have any trouble believing they're kale, and would never believe they're potato chips.  Did I do something wrong?  Any suggestions? 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

The book Prince CuddleBunny and I are currently reading together.  I highly recommend it.  It's interesting to us both, and I don't see how it couldn't be inspiring to any kid, especially those with inventive tendencies.  I hope that all of my homeschooling kids, ages 11 to 17 read it when we're finished.

Link: The Wright Brothers (Landmark Books)

Such remarkable boys motivated and aided by an amazing mother who knew math, scientific principles, etc., and a dad who just knew that God had something very special planned for their lives.  Wow, did He!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

TKO Tuesday: Kitchen S: The "Before" and the Wishlist

For those of you who don't know, TKO means Totally Kitchen Obsessed, and I have to admit, I'm it.  I love being in the kitchen.  I love well-performing appliances.  
Lacanche Cluny Range
I love the design of appliances... OK, that's usually limited to cooking appliances, as ranges can be absolutely beautiful.  
SubZero Pro48
The look of refrigerators doesn't excite me much... Unless it's a very cool (pun-intended) Bio Fresh LiebHerr, or the glass-doored SubZero Pro48, even though I'm not sure I'm neat enough to have my fridge contents on display.  

I enjoy looking at kitchens, in person and in photos.  I appreciate a well-layed out kitchen, and like to see what I can improve about others.  Most of all, I love designing kitchen layouts.  It's like a brain-teaser puzzle, getting the best use and best functional layout of a space, and hopefully helping others get a fantastic kitchen they can truly love working in.

When a colleague of Hubby's recently asked for our help in planning a new kitchen remodel, I was thrilled to be of service.  We went to their house to measure, discuss the goals, and consider options.  Then I came home to my computer and the Chief Architect Software.

Current Layout....


Kitchen area:  


  •  - A kitchen sink doesn't have to be centered under the window, but when you have a garden window, and the sink is 90% under it and 10% past the side, that's just weird.  I would feel unbalanced and like someone really missed the mark every time I stood at the sink.  The owners did, too.
  •  - The dishwasher opens into the cooking area.
  •  - The kitchen is in a fairly tight space, although I've seen worse.  
  •  - It's quite a walk to the dining room...through a narrow hallway.
  •  - The family of 4 always eats at the peninsula, but with an overhang on only one side, 2 members of the family sit where they must position themselves sideways, because there is no room for legs and feet. 
  •  - The unused kitchen table crowds the peninsula seating, serves no function but to collect mail, etc., and the computer desk is jammed into the area, too.
  •  - The pantry is utilized, but the bifold doors haven't worked well in a long while.

Their goals/wishes:

  •  - Better situated sink and dishwasher.
  •  - Kitchen more open to dining room.
  •  - Seating for the family at, first choice, an island, or perhaps a redesigned peninsula.  I can see that an island would be very tight in this space, if at all possible.
  •  - A 2nd sink.
  •  - Upgraded counter, possibly quartz and/or granite.
  •  - Better use of the space where the table sits.
  •  - Repurpose an under-stair closet for a computer desk/mail collection area... Maybe that can be closed when not in use.
  •  - Replace builder's grade range and microwave hood with cooktop, better ventilation, and add a double wall oven.
  •  - All new flooring for the main floor.

Possibilities they've considered:

  •  - Doors and windows can be moved, although they want to keep a door onto the back deck.  A double French door to replace the slider is the dream.
  •  - Powder room can move to laundry room (but that's also the garage entrance).
  •  - Laundry room can move to garage or upstairs.

Hubby pointed out that since the upstairs is cantilevered out 2 feet, they might be able to bring the kitchen wall out 2 feet so that the main floor is even with the upper floor.  This would require some foundation work, but wouldn't change the roofline.  So that was another option to think about.

Budget: $25,000.  This sounds like a lot to most people starting a remodel, but I know how fast things can add up.  This project would likely require 

  •  - demo and disposal
  •  - possible concrete and concrete work
  •  - new flooring (material and installation)
  •  - new appliances
  •  - new cabinets
  •  - new countertop, including material, fabrication, and install
  •  - backsplash
  •  - permits
  •  - electrical changes and fixtures
  •  - plumbing changes and fixtures
  •  - gas line move
  •  - carpentry
  •  - drywall
  •  - drywall finishing
  •  - paint and painting
  •  - window and door
  •  - possibly siding
...and I may not have gotten it all.

Depending, of course, on final plan and material/model selections, the cost could vary widely.  My first recommendation was that they investigate possible flooring and appliance options just to see how much of their budget those things would use.  I worked on some possible new layouts, which I will share in future posts.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I Think I Might Stick to Pizza

Note to self:  Don't talk about posting pictures of a project before you try you will have process and 'success' photos to share!

I told you in Pre-Stromboli Research I was going to try making single-serving Stromboli, or some RHome410 variation.  Sitting at Prince Inventive's tennis tournament, I was trying to envision how I would form them, and what shape might work best.  Without a clear conclusion, I decided to let Prince CuddleBunny, the one requesting Stromboli, weigh in.  I asked him if he wanted to have them turn out in a half circle (like Calzone, but personally sized and with sauce inside), or in the cylindrical shape, like we'd had from the mall.  He chose the half-circle.

So I started by dividing my 6-Quart Bucket of pizza dough into 4-ounce pieces, using, of course, my Escali Scale.  I began to form individual circles, the same as for pizza, but smaller.  
Classic pizza sauce and toppings
The soft dough made this difficult, especially when it came time to fold and move the item onto a piece of parchment that would fit on the pizza stone.  I could have formed it on the parchment, but if I wanted to fit 4 on each, I'd run out of room for spreading and filling.  It'd be a waste of time, oven energy, and parchment to do only 2 per batch.

I could tell that this method was going to be a struggle and take FOREVER.  So I came up with Plan B. For that I rolled out half the dough into a manageable rectangle, about 12" by 24".  I then sliced it down the center, lengthwise, and spread the fillings over the front half of each strip, staying a half inch or so back from the edge.  

I brought the back (emptier) half over and pressed it together along the front edge.  

I cut each stuffed tube into 4 pieces and stretched the dough over the ends to seal.  With this I experienced varying success with the soft dough, and each one ended up to be a slightly different shape,
 depending on what it took to feel I had the ends well sealed... So it was on to Plan C... Or maybe Plan B2.

I neglected to keep the filling to one side this time,
so I pulled the dough from both sides to seal on top.
These have the white garlic sauce and chicken filling.

For the remaining dough, I rolled it into the same 12" by 24" rectangle, and again sliced it down the center, lengthwise.  This time I divided the fillings into 4 sections along the strips, leaving space in between, 
so that when I divided each tube into 4 pastries, I had unadorned dough to work with to make a better, more consistent end seal, and shape.

They weren't pretty, but they were tasty.  
For some reason, they seemed to taste just a little different than pizza, so had a different appeal that I think the family may request from time to time.  Weekly, though, it will be much easier and faster to continue to make pizzas.  
If the family wants these again, I'll start with a stiffer/dryer dough, for easier handling, and hope I don't trade handling and appearance for the taste.

Previous related posts:

Pizza Crust....
The continuing quest for the best.
Pizza sauces...better late than never?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pre-Stromboli research

The Mall Stromboli
I think the name of the restaurant was Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen
Back when we were doing last minute wedding shopping, we stopped at a mall restaurant and bought what was labeled as "Stromboli" for the ride home.  The filling options were the same as their pizza toppings.                                                                                                                         
Prince CuddleBunny's had sauce, pepperoni, and cheese.  Princess Artiste and I opted for a combination that featured spinach and feta.  We were always going to try making some, and Prince CuddleBunny reminded me of that this week when, just a half hour before dinner time on Wednesday, he requested it for dinner.  Too late to try.

Since our usual pizza night was substituted by a staff "Tailgate Party" (barbecue) at the high school football game, I thought Saturday night could be "Stromboli Saturday" this week, using the dough I didn't use on Friday.  That meant that I had a little investigating to do during the day Friday to see if I could get an idea of what I needed to do and have on hand to make that happen.

Image from Wikipedia...
Which also tells me
Stromboli is of American origin
According to my internet research Stromboli is actually a little different than what we'd had.  It's supposed to be pizza dough rolled into a square, topped with sauce, meats, and cheese, then rolled into a log... So when sliced it looks sort of like a cinnamon roll with the crust spiraling through it.  The ones we had from the mall (shocked to learn that mall food might not be culturally authentic) were surrounded in crust, but had only the fillings inside.  I wanted to stick with that idea, as I didn't want a dinner item that was such a high percentage of bread.

Calzone image from

I wondered if maybe what I wanted to make, then, was Calzone.  I thought that a Calzone was pizza toppings enclosed when half the crust was folded over the other side and sealed on the edges.  I was partially correct.  I had the folding and sealing part right, and the fillings can be the same as tops pizza.  But the sauce is served beside or on top after baking, not included inside.

Some of you with Italian backgrounds or in areas where Italian foods are readily available are probably amused that this was all news to me.  But maybe I have some readers that are in my same boat.  I think what I'm probably going to make is more of a "Pizza Pocket."  I will show you...whatever it ends up to be.

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Two (New) Sons: #2

Let me be clear, in case anyone might take the opportunity to give him a bad time about it, I've only labeled Prince Helium as New Son #2, certainly not as any kind of ranking, but because he is the 2nd son-in-law we gained... Of course, through this summer's Wedding #2. 

About to graduate with her degree in Theology in spring of 2010, Princess Bossy was excited to be chosen as the first intern for the campus ministry program with the Presbyterian Church in Tulsa.  Her job started in August, but she was invited for a special weekend event in April.  She came home thrilled with her experience there, and happy with the welcome she'd received from so many great people.  But one young man seemed to make a distinctive impression...

We heard a lot about this handsome guy, athletic and smart, who was finishing his Master's Degree in Finance, and hoping to start law school the next year.   She joked that when she returned to Tulsa in August she and this particular guy might build a friendship... and eventually date and get married.  
A group retreat in early fall... Were they really
paying attention to anyone else?!  ;)

--It wasn't really a joke, and, although they were both cautious and prayerful about it as things developed, it couldn't have turned out closer to her wish!  

Playful banter

When Princess Bossy returned to Tulsa and their relationship developed over the weeks, all of her phone calls and Skype visits were filled with stories of the prince, accompanied by unbridled smiles, and exclamations of how great he is, and how happy she felt.  
Since he seemed to keep her floating on air, Helium seemed an appropriate princely moniker. 

The 6-foot tall prince came into the world at 1 pound 13 ounces, the smallest of 4 boys born within moments of each other to their Dutch immigrant, now US citizen, parents.  --In 1980 their father accepted a 2-year job assignment in Texas, and they thought it would be a fun, temporary adventure.  His mother jokes, "It's been a long 2 years!"  
Helium's footprints are at the top right

The prince's mom has many stories about the challenges of raising 4 such ingenious and sometimes rambunctious boys, who learned the concept of teamwork early on and could accomplish some amazing feats by the time they were toddlers.                                                                                                                                                                                                  
She was gracious in allowing me to share their birth announcement with you... Showing their tiny footprints and the bilingual message inside.

Telling his 'best joke'
When we all think of Prince Helium, although he has many other stellar qualities, we immediately think of his sparkling eyes in attempt at rapier wit.  We are well-used to his particular brand of humor, as it's almost identical to Hubby's, and we respond similarly... Good-humored eye-rolling and groans intermixed with the laughter.  --But not too much laughter lest either of them think too much of their cleverness.  ;-)  He has now figured out the response pattern, takes it all in stride, and doesn't let it curtail his good nature.  We are thankful for that, and we truly miss his fun contribution to the household.

This year the prince is in his second year of law school, doing quite well in the upper section of his class.  He also has a strong Christian faith that he exhibits in his daily walk, which guides his decisions and demeanor.  He is traditional  and conservative in morals and lifestyle, while recognizing and appreciating the strengths and talents of his head-strong and intelligent wife.  
He allows her to be the capable and independent-thinking woman and partner she is... also her need to debate and argue... But he also gives her the assurance that she has someone on her side who provides a soft place to land; someone to rely on when she needs it.  As a couple they put their faith in God and His plan for their lives.

Princess Bossy is fiercely interested in learning, reading, and discussing art, politics, faith, and all sorts of heady subjects.  She is also quite the sports fan and outdoors-woman, who could only admire a 'manly man,' who is physically active and has manual skills.  This always proved a hard combination for her to find... But Prince Helium is the whole package.  He loves learning, and likes to read and discuss.  
He's also very active, loving soccer, bicycling, gym workouts, and bouldering.  They camp, enjoy walks or long runs together, and while she loves to cook, he loves to help out, and, of course, eat the results!  

He is also an excellent brother to his younger siblings-in-law, joining in outdoor family games, and coaching Prince CuddleBunny on the finer points of soccer and helping him with a practice schedule.  He's of the stuff that fine husbands are made, and will also, we're sure, be an involved, active, and loving dad some day.

Our sons-in-law are the answers to years of prayer... Prayers that God would save and send His own carefully chosen lifelong partners for our daughters... Men with a heart for God, very especially for our girls, and for committing themselves to being the best husbands and fathers.  We feel greatly blessed.

2 down, and 6 to go!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Two (New) Sons: #1

It's been pointed out that I haven't added the princes-in-law to the My Family page yet.  To give them the proper attention, I thought I'd introduce the boys here, then add their descriptions to the other page.

They both call me "Mom," hug me and tell me they love me, which means more than I can say.  I love them both so much.  They're amazing young men, and I know I've said it before, and will undoubtedly say it again, we are SO proud to have the Princes Steadfast and Helium in our family.

From years past...
But already looking at her the way
he does now.
Prince Steadfast was officially in the family first, via this summer's Wedding #1, and we've known him longest.  He and Princess Sassy caught each other's eye during meetings of the junior high youth group at our church.  They became friends and developed their relationship over time.  The two of them looked around at their peers, and made a conscious decision not to date until they were ready to take a relationship seriously, and they really meant it...Once they started dating, they decided to marry in just a few months.  They seemed to know very early on that their relationship was meant to build a lifetime on, and worked to make sure that wasn't ruined by immaturity.  

Their friendship had close times and distant times, as they knew sometimes that staying apart and away from temptation was healthier for the long run.  Their deep devotion and feelings for each other never wavered.  He'd go out of our lives for awhile, but come back, always more sure of his ultimate intentions toward, and feelings for, Sassy each time.  
That's what earned him his princely name.  These two truly face life, side-by-side, hand-in-hand, always looking to the Lord's guidance...and with smiles that show the world how happy they are to be together.

Prince Steadfast is the baby in his family, but they've said he is one of those people who was 'born old,' always mature beyond his years.  He is moral, serious, responsible, and thoughtful. --Pretty darn cute, too, with such a look of love in his eyes whenever he looks at our daughter.  He doesn't share the characteristics, but understands and respects her more impetuous, emotional approach to life.  They balance each other well.

Reading to one of
Princess Sassy's 'sweeties',
from nannying days
His father-in-law and I are in awe of the spiritual maturity he exhibits daily through his Christian faith.  He lives what he believes.  He is dedicated at work and in his college studies toward a degree in engineering.  But he's certainly not all work and no play.  The prince has an easy-to-get-along with way about him and a fun sense of humor.  He's always ready to join siblings-in-law outside for rousing game of soccer or on the couch for a competitive video game contest. Really fitting in as a brother, he does loving things like accompanying the younger kids on a road run at their respective paces. 

Steadfast competed in wrestling during junior high and high school, finishing 3rd in state as a senior.  Now he helps coach the high school team.  
He appreciates home-made bread and granola, so obviously has good taste and a discerning palate...  ;-)   He loves rock-climbing, rafting, camping, and watching movies with his wife.  
He's already proving to be a wonderful husband and will be a tremendous dad someday.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Spawning salmon can be
pretty gruesome looking.
Image from
Coho are the smallest, so
this scale is not correct.
The chum are running, so in addition to his own long-distance running, Prince Go-for-It has been dying to get his line in the water.  

The hope is to also catch some Coho and Chinook salmon, but the chum are more plentiful coming up the creek near us. 

The prince has developed his own favorite recipe for the brine and knows how to smoke them, as that's all the fish are good for that he'll be catching.

We're all looking forward to eating his results!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...