Excavation 2012 – Day #39 – Iron Chef Training Starts Early

When I was a child, toys were not terribly elaborate. I kept it pretty simple. I had Barbies and My Little Ponies and Care Bears. I think my transformers were about as high tech as it got. Hell, even my first video games look downright childish compared to the games kids are playing these days. Poor ol’ Mario wouldn’t stand a chance against the bad boys from the latest Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 game…

Crazy how quickly things evolve.

When I wasn’t outside playing hide and seek or riding bikes with my friends, I remember spending a lot of hours playing with my little Fisher Price Magic Burner Kitchen set…

My sister and I had a ton of accessories–everything from the plates, cups and utensils to the pots, pans and assorted food items. I still remember filling the little orange pitcher with water and drinking it from the little yellow cups, and I loved eating my snacks off the little plates. I loved pretending that I was some sort of brilliant chef creating amazingly delicious meals and dazzling everyone who ate them.

It’s amazing where a little imagination will take you, and all the memories from my childhood came flooding back when I pulled my old kitchen toys out of one of the boxes in the basement.

While the old stove was a little stained and beat up, most of the old plastic accessories were still in really good shape. I washed everything thoroughly, and decided that, while the little magic stove will probably be finding a new home, Cadence would probably enjoy having some of the other accessories for the kitchen set she got for Christmas.

I have chosen…wisely.

Cadence’s kitchen is a kid’s gourmet dream next to my little Fisher Price cook stove, but she’s already having as much fun playing with her new accessories as I used to. She heads straight to her kitchen every morning when she wakes up, pulling plastic apples and cupcakes from the fridge and pretending to eat them while I get her real breakfast ready. And her new favorite thing is eating with her little plates and utensils and drinking “wah-wah” out of her little plastic cups. The best though, is when she stirs up crazy concoctions of plastic foods in her little saucepan and then brings them to Steven and I for a bite.

Best bite ever. Every time. What can I say? She’s a natural.

Excavation 2012 – Day #18 – The Thin Line Between Optimism and Delusion

Generally, I’m a glass half full kind of girl. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those Mary Sunshine, the-world-is-flawless-and-absolutely-perfect-place sort of people. That’s just asinine, because we all know that with people like the Lindsay Lohan and the cast of the Jersey Shore running around, the world is far from perfect.

Even so, I like to look on the bright side of things if I can, and I will usually hold onto a thin thread of hope a little longer than most people.

Take this blender for instance.

Steven and I got this Cuisinart SmartPower Duet Blender/Food Processor as a wedding gift back in 2007. We got some good use out of it–making smoothies and margaritas and grinding up Oreos and walnuts so I could make Oreo Balls and a salmon appetizer spread. I loved it for its versatility, and because it had so many functions. I don’t know if there was really much of a difference between ice crush, blend, chop or grind, but I made sure I tried it all, even pulsing.

I’m pretty sure it was the pulsing that killed it in the end, because one day, mid-smoothie, it up and died on us.

Sad thing is, Steven and I can’t even remember exactly when it died, though we are estimating it was somewhere around mid-2009. And the worst part was that we had to face the hard truth that we were no longer the proud owners of a blender…or a food processor.

Damn these two-in-one appliances! They seem like such a good idea, until they die, and then you are faced with the grim reality of having to replace two (or sometimes even three or four) appliances instead of just one.

The optimist in me held onto this waaaaaaay longer than I should have. I kept thinking that maybe it just overheated and needed to sit for awhile and recuperate. Or maybe it was just a defective model and Cuisinart would recall it. Or maybe I could just contact Cuisinart and let them know that my blender/food processor’s get up and go got up and went and they would reward my perseverence with a shiny new model delivered to my doorstep.

There is a fine line between optimism and delusion, my friends, and I was dancing dangerously on the edge.

In the meantime, we bought a new blender, and I found an old food processor that I’d forgotten I even owned buried in a box. So, after holding onto a broken appliance for over two years, boxing it up and moving it twice, it’s time to say goodbye and let it go.

365 Project – Day 257 – Cap’n Crunch French Toast

Looking back on all the picky-eating years during my childhood and adolescence, I can only wonder how many really amazing meals I missed. Then there were the years I battled an eating disorder and deprived myself of pretty much everything. Thank goodness I came to my senses and started cooking, eating, and really enjoying food.

These days, I’m an adventurous eater, and I love trying out new recipes. I don’t tend to follow them very closely. Instead, I go with my instincts and tweak everything as needed. So far, the end results have been pretty fabulous.

I first saw the recipe for Cap’n Crunch French Toast on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives when host Guy Fieri visited the Blue Moon Cafe in Baltimore, Maryland. I knew immediately I had to try this one for myself. Of course, I tweaked the recipe a bit, but the results were still amazing. I’ve made this at least two dozen times, and I fall a little more in love every time I do. Give it a try yourself, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Here is the original recipe with notes for my own personal changes. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup heavy cream (I use 1 or 1 1/2 cups)

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons sugar (I usually cut it down to 1 Tbsp)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 cups Cap’n Crunch cereal (I usually end up crushing up another cup or two)

8-10 slices thick cut french bread or Texas Toast (I buy 2 loaves of fresh French or Italian bread and cut them into thick slices)

Butter for cooking

 

Directions:

1. Mix the cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl and whisk until combined.

2. Put the cereal in a large Ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to crush until cereal resembles cracker meal. Transfer to a shallow dish.

3. Dip slices of bread into the cream mixture until soft but not completely soaked. Let excess liquid drip from the bread, then press into the cereal crumbs to coat evenly.

4. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat, add butter as needed and cook the bread until caramelized on both sides.

Toppings – the original Blue Moon Cafe recipe calls for homemade whipped cream and fresh berries. I use a dollop of Cool Whip, fresh berries (I like raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries best), and a drizzle of maple syrup. Top with whatever you want, and I’m sure it will still be delicious.

Unless, I am feeding a large crowd, this recipe usually yields leftovers. I simply wrap the individual pieces in saran wrap and freeze. That way, whenever I get a craving, all I have to do is pop a piece in the oven to reheat and enjoy. Mmmm….

Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to the good folks over at the Blue Moon Cafe for coming up with this amazing recipe and sharing it with the world. I’m anxious to do a little experimenting of my own and see how some of my other favorite cereals might work. My next experiment…Cinnamon Toast Crunch French Toast. Really, how could it go wrong?

365 Project – Day 221 – What About Me?

My About Me page has been sitting empty for…well…forever, or since the beginning of this blog at least. It was just one of those things that I kept putting off and neglecting and promising myself that I would do tomorrow.

I can’t even say that I just never had time for it, because I did, and I actually sat down to write it quite a few times, but I alway seemed to hit a roadblock, right about the time I pressed the tip of the pen against the paper, or sat with my fingers poised above the keyboard. Suddenly my brain would just implode on itself and I was left with nothing but a hollow empty void.

Damn.

I’m a writer, so I have a relatively intimate relationship with that beast known as Writer’s Block, but this was something else entirely. I just absolutely couldn’t think of anything to say about myself. Well, not anything interesting at least. I didn’t want my About Me page to be blah. What kind of impression would that make for someone stumbling across my blog? I mean, I know I’m not as interesting as say BrAngelina or the Kardashians or that Lady Gaga that all the kids are gaga for these days, but I didn’t necessarily want my About Me page to read like the repetitious introductions at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

“Hi, my name is Lori and I’m a blogger…”

So, tonight, I did a little brainstorming and I at least got something on the page. Something short and sweet. Something that should tide people over until I can come up with something better.

The best part though, is that I started going through some old photos, looking for something to post. Boy, did I find some gems! So, for tonight’s 365 Project entry, I thought I would post some of the ideas that didn’t make it on my About Me page, along with some of the fun photos I found. There are a whole lot more where this came from, but I certainly didn’t want to overwhelm you all at once.

So, here are some things that you may, or may not, have known about me…

I hate purses and I refuse to own or carry one. This is probably the only photo you will ever see of me holding a purse, and it’s not even mine, it’s my sister Lindy’s. The only reason I am holding it in this photo is to complete the “ready-to-head-out-the-door-on-vacation” look we were going for in this photo. Lindy and I were all packed and ready to head to Dallas to visit Uncle Harry and Aunt Jean, but we were waiting on Mom and Dad. So, what better way to kill time than to waste some film and take dorky pictures of each other?

I’ve never been what you would call a fashionista, and the late-80’s early-90’s were definitely not kind to me. Here I am modeling my new Nebraska sweatpants and a headful of freshly crimped hair courtesy of my cousin Shelly’s new crimper. To round out the ensemble, please note the white high top sneakers, the black slouch socks, the ugly black and white sweatshirt and the pair of large, blue hand-me-down glasses. I’m too sexy!

I’ve worn noticeable makeup exactly eight times in my life–to my wedding, to a couple of proms, to a dance recital, once or twice in college, and here to a Christmas program in elementary school. If I remember correctly, this was the year the girls were supposed to look like dolls while the boys were dressed to resemble toy soldiers. As you can see, I am thrilled–probably just as much by the curly hair and the enormous bow on top of my head as all the makeup painted on my face. I’ve never felt comfortable in makeup, probably because even when I try to make it subtle, I end up looking like Tammy Faye Baker. So, I’ll stick to the natural look with just a touch of powder, thank you.

I showed sheep. This is one of those little known facts about me that completely baffles most of my non-Midwestern friends. To this day, my husband still doesn’t quite understand it. Unless you’ve actually been to a county fair or a 4-H event and watched any livestock shows, there is little I can do to explain it, but I will say those years of participating in 4-H in Bird City, Kansas were some of the best years of my life. I’ll always be a Go-Getter at heart! 🙂

I’m a drummer. I started playing in 3rd grade at Cheylin East Elementary School, and I loved every minute of it. By 6th grade, I had bought my very own drum set, and I played in the marching band, pep band, orchestra and jazz band all through high school. I even had a short stint in a band called The Dirty Green Apples in college. We played exactly one on-campus coffee house event. I love playing drums so much, I even married a drummer and named my daughter Cadence.

I’m adopted. Okay, so this one probably really isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows me. For anyone who didn’t know, it helps explain how I have three sets of parents and twelve siblings. Back in 2006, Woman’s World magazine even ran a story about my adoption and my reunion with my birthfamily. It is all one helluva story, and I’ve started writing a memoir about it. One of these days, I might even finish it.

I love water. Lakes, rivers, oceans, ponds, streams, swimming pools, rainstorms–you name it, I love it. As a child, I used to show up at the swimming pool when it opened and would stay until it closed for the night. I took swimming lessons and joined the swim team. When my family would go to the lake for vacations, I would spend the days either fishing, swimming or paddling around in one of the little boats in front of the cabin. One spring my sister Lindy and my cousins Tonya and Shelly and I all got in trouble for jumping in the lake and swimming with our clothes on. Ah, those were the days!

I’m a peace-loving cowgirl at heart. I’ve loved horses my entire life, and some of the best years of my childhood were the years that I showed horses in 4-H and barrel raced. This is Ginger, indulging my cousin Shelly and I for a ride at the Cheyenne County Fair in St. Francis, Kansas. Even if I never own another horse, I think they are some of the most majestic creatures God ever put on this earth, and just being around them soothes my soul.

I am a bookaholic. So here’s another one that should not really surprise anyone who knows me. My book addiction started early, as you can see, and it’s a habit I doubt I’ll ever be able to kick. I own hundreds and hundreds of books, and I can’t really bring myself to part with any of them because I’m one of those people who can read a book over and over and over again without getting tired of it. My incessant reading has slowed down quite a bit since my daughter was born, but we are finally getting into a good routine that should allow me to read a bit more…well, read or write, and as long as I am doing one of those things, I am perfectly content.

I sleep with my eyes half-open. I’ve done it since I was a child. The photo here may be a bit too small for you to actually see it, but this is one of the things about me that thoroughly creeps other people out when they notice it. Obviously it’s genetic because my daughter does the same thing. I also talk in my sleep and sleepwalk on occassion. My husband, on the other hand, has alien dreams and screams himself awake on occassion. Let’s hope Cadence doesn’t follow in those footsteps too, or no one in this house is going to be well-rested at all.

I love to cook. Honestly, it’s not really even like work to me (well, except the doing the dishes part afterward, but Steven is usually really good to clean if I do the cooking). In fact, cooking is my favorite type of meditation. I’ve never been able to sit in a dark room with a candle and chant and clear my mind the way many people do when they meditate. For me, it is more about being mindful, being in the moment and being intently focused. Cooking does that for me. The chopping, the measuring, the tasting, the improvising, the dishing up and plating the final product is good as any therapy. And who needs recipes? I am the Queen of throwing things together and seeing how they work. So far, I have a pretty high success rate in the kitchen.

I believe in love at first sight. I know, corny right? But in all seriousness, I thought the whole concept of love at first sight was completely bogus, until I saw Steven. I’m not lying when I say I would have married him, right then, if he’d asked me. Instead, he was too busy hamming it up as the emcee of the Concordia College Freshman Orientation entertainment and picking on a kid named Josh Reiker who was sitting right behind me in the crowd. It may have taken us five years to start dating, another 2 1/2 years to get engaged, and another 2 years to finally get married, but I wouldn’t change a moment of it, because we’ve ended up exactly where we were supposed to. There aren’t many people who can honestly say they are married to their best friends, but I am proud to be one of them.

I love being a Mom. Sure there are days when this adorable little girl tries my patience and manages to get on every last nerve (you know, the days when she is super tired and crabby but refuses to nap or let me venture more than six inches away from her without screaming at the top of her lungs), but I wouldn’t trade any of it. It is still pretty bizzarre sometimes, being followed around by this little Mini-Me, and getting flashes of deja vu when I look at her. These days, it’s getting hard to remember what life was like without her. I imagine it must have been pretty dull.

Not a whole lot about me has really changed since high school. Okay, so I’ve gotten little older, a little wiser, and a little less tolerant of a lot of the BS running rampant in our society, but honestly, I’m very much the same girl I’ve always been. I love to joke around, and I think I’ve got a pretty good sense of humor. I’m laidback and easygoing and I don’t let a whole lot bother me. I don’t really fit into one clearly defined group, instead I have a diverse group of friends and acquaintances that I love and appreciate for who they are. I’m a bit on the quiet/shy side and I hate big crowds, but I’m friendly and easy to talk to (to the point that my husband is baffled on a daily basis at how total strangers will be telling me their life stories within 5 minutes of meeting me). I love music and movies and reading and writing and I still dream of one day having a house where I can have both a library/office and a studio complete with photography equipment and a pottery wheel because, let’s face it, who doesn’t need a pottery wheel?

I could go on forever. I’m a writer. That’s what we do. And I’m sure I’ve already lost a few readers somewhere around the middle of this post when they started to think that all of this wasn’t really going anywhere. So, now you see my dilemma with this damn About Me page. There are a million little things that make me me, a million things that set me apart, that make me unique. We haven’t even scratched the surface. So, for now, I guess I’ll just keep it simple, and if someone really wants to get to know me better and to get a glimpse of what else lies beneath the surface, then I guess he/she will just have to keep reading. And I will, as always, keep writing…keep writing…keep writing…