Discovering snow (again)

comments 20
#iPPP

Stage One: Wut?

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Stage Two: DAFUQ MOM?!

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Stage Three: There’s stuff on the glass! I can’t see the street! Hey! HEY!

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Stage Four: Clean it up. 

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Stage Five: I not like it, Mama. I not. I hungry. Bacon? Applesauce? 

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Maybe we’ll go out and actually play in it once it stops blowing around. Or not. Not sounds more fun. 

 

In the Kitchen: Divinity

comments 12
Noms

When I think of my great-grandmother, Grandma “Bridge City,” I think of the color red. I think of the blessings she had in the form of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren who she got to meet. And at Christmastime, I think about her candy making. I remember standing in her kitchen – a kitchen that would one day be my own – and watching her set out plates of divinity, fudge and bon bons that we would portion out into little tins to give away.

Food is a love language in my family, one that we all speak fluently, one that clearly communicates across the generations. We’ve passed down techniques and recipes to use for pork roasts, gumbo, and even a “birthday cake” for baby Jesus. And although the family is split into two factions over how dumplins should be made (Flat! NO! Puffy!) we still unite in our love for all things foodie.

This year I thought I’d resurrect my great-grandmother’s Christmas candy craze and try my hand at making divinity. It’s basically a cross between a pure puff of sugar and a meringue. Some people put nuts in theirs, some like to add food coloring to make a pretty pastel presentation. Either way, divinity should be smooth and melt in your mouth. It might be one of the most delightful things you could eat for the holidays.

It’s also one of the most dreadfully difficult things to make just right.

I mean, sure, there’s a recipe. Recipes are fail-proof, right? Just follow the directions. Pffffttthhht. Not with divinity.

With divinity, you have to get lucky. You have to be blessed. You can’t make it on a humid day. You have to beat it just right. Otherwise, you just end up with polar bear poop.

Sadly, I was neither lucky nor blessed at my first divinity attempt. I followed Paula Deens’ recipe, cooked the sugar to 248 degrees, beat the sugar and egg whites until glossy and…plop.

Paula Deen, you are drunk.

According to the rest of the internet food world, there is no way your recipe will work because A) the sugar never got hot enough and B) you’re supposed to beat the cooked sugar and whipped egg whites until they STOP being glossy. You beat them like a redheaded stepchild. You beat them until your stand mixer begs you to stop.

I had better luck with my second try – cooking the sugar mixture to 260 degrees and beating the ever-loving hell out of the cooked sugar and whipped egg whites. When the candies set up and cooled and took a nibble off of the end of one and was instantly transported back to my great-grandmother’s kitchen. They were perfect, and I felt triumphant and somewhat redeemed.

Christmas Divinity

2 1/2 cups white granulated sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup 

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp salt

2 egg whites, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

nuts (optional)

food coloring (optional)

There are a few really important techniques to remember when making divinity. First, make sure all bowls and utensils are clean, dry and free of any debris. Second, don’t make this on a rainy day or if you live in Florida. Humidity equals polar bear poop. Third, make sure your eggs are at room temperature. Fourth, get a candy thermometer. Don’t even try to eyeball this.

Clip your candy thermometer to the side of a saucepan and boil the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt to 260 degrees. It will look like boiling glass.

While you are waiting for the sugar to boil, beat the egg whites in your mixer until they begin to form stiff peaks.

Once the sugar has reached 260 degrees, slowly stream it down the side of the bowl into the egg whites while the mixer is on high. Continue to beat the mixture until oh, about Tuesday. Seriously, beat it forever. I’m not going to give you an exact amount of time, just leave that sucker on high and go paint your toenails.

Ok, maybe not that long, but you get the drift. When the mixture starts to become a little less shiny, turn it off and lift up the beater. The candy should form a column from beater to bowl on its own. If it drizzles back down into the bowl, it’s not ready. Beat it some more. Read a magazine. Take the dog for a walk.

WAIT. STOP. IT’S READY.

Add your vanilla. Stir it in along with any food coloring or nuts you want to add. Quickly, take the beater out and set the bowl down next to some non-stick foil or wax paper. Dip a spoon in cold water and scoop out some of the mixture. The texture will be unlike anything else you’ve ever scooped – sort of marshmallowy, kind of souffle-ish. You can make messy little dollops, or you can try to make them pretty by placing a pecan on top.

Let the divinity sit out and dry until you can handle it without it sticking to your fingers. Now, you can box it up and share it, or you can store it in an air-tight container in your nightstand where Santa can’t get his fat fingers on it.

 

Santa, no. Trains, yes!

comments 10
Family / Kansas City / Monkey

Union Station is one of my favorite places in Kansas City, especially during the holidays. Every year we go downtown to see the model train display and marvel at the Christmas decorations. The majestic architecture of the train station is beautifully complimented by the brightly lit trees and sparkling snowflakes hanging from the ceiling.

This year we figured Monkey was old enough to enjoy the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express, a train “unlike any other train in the world, with its smiling engine “Rudy”, gingerbread boxcar, flatcar carrying Santa’s sleigh, reindeer and a miniature village, snow covered stall filled with model train displays, the elves’ workshop and even a little red caboose.”

If you want to catch the Holiday Express, you have the option of standing in a three-hour-long line OR, if you’re quick with the internet skills, reserving VIP tickets online so you can enjoy the not-so-cheerful glares of others as you skip ahead to the front. We got lucky this year and snagged reservations before they ran out.

We did not get so lucky with the Santa picture.

My son HATES Santa. HATES HIM.

But he loves trains, and so through the Holiday Express we went.

At the end, Monkey received a big red bag of candy which he later enjoyed, minus the parental chocolate tax. We posed for a quick picture in front of Rudy the locomotive, checked out a few Extreme Gingerbread Home Makeover Prize Winners and got home in time for dinner and snuggles and (unfortunately) another football game on tv.

Next weekend, Texas invades Missouri and we’re looking forward to the house full of chaos with my mom, sister and our nephews. Our chances of a white Christmas are slim, but no matter the weather we’re expecting a festive holiday full of food, friends and family. We wish you all the same!

In the Kitchen: “Still Thankful” Turkey Salad

comments 5
Noms

Next-day turkey is kind of sad. It’s pretty dry at the point, white and bland and just sort of there in your fridge.

You could put it on some bread and make a sandwich, but no matter how many toppings you pile on, you’re still going to have this bite of cardboard poultry in there.

The turkey, it needs the salad treatment.

Most turkey salad recipes want you to put fruit in them. My husband won’t touch fruit, ever. If given the choice between eating an apple or giving up football, he’d happily sell his jerseys and his copies of Madden, and begin researching jai alai.

So I had to come up with my own salad recipe this morning, and it was pretty fantastic. Not even gonna fake modesty here, people.

(But there is a little bit of fruit juice in here. Shhhhhh.)

Mamamash’s “Still Thankful” Turkey Salad
(Makes 2 sandwiches)

½ cup mayonnaise
juice of ½ a lemon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp greek seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
¼ red onion, diced small
1 celery rib, diced small
1 cup chopped turkey, mixed white/dark (I like to finely shred the dark meat in the food processor and then leave the white meat in larger chunks.)

In a glass bowl, whisk together mayo, mustard, lemon juice and seasonings.

 

Fold in chopped veggies.

Pile on the meat, then give it a few more stirs.

Cover with plastic and let sit for at least an hour before serving.

Chick O Cheat

comments 10
Friends / Kansas City / Monkey

I gotta tell you, the last thing this mama wanted to do tonight was go trick or treating. I was barely getting by on the three hours of sleep I’d gotten after last night’s Madonna concert and still being waterboarded by my own snot thanks to this lingering cold.

For some reason, my husband was determined that we go, so after a short nap I dragged myself out to the truck to head over to our friends’ neighborhood for what ended up being probably one of the best Halloween evenings ever.

Last year, Monkey dressed as a gnome and rode around in the wagon for most of the night. His dad would carry him up to each house for treats and he’d just stare at all the happy, friendly candy pushers.

This year, he quickly figured out what an awesome deal this whole Halloween thing was.

You mean, I just wear some silly outfit?

And I get to pull the wagon around in the street?

And if I walk up to a house and yell, “Chick O Cheat” they’ll give me candy? (Don’t forget to say thank you! See you later!)

And Mama will let me eat my weight in M&Ms as long as I turn over all these orange square things?

So up and down the sidewalks we went through a neighborhood full of clowns and witches, fairy princesses and well-muscled super heroes. The dads toted small coolers full of autumnal brews while the big kids filled pillowcases with sugar-laden treats to be bartered for extended bedtimes later.

The moms wheeled the smaller kids around in wagons and strollers, stashing the good chocolate in their pockets when no one was looking. Ok, so maybe just one mom did that. Shut up.

After we’d filled the buckets and baskets, we headed back to our friends’ house for some pizza and warmth while the kids sorted their candy and the men chilled on the porch with their drinks and cigars.

On the way home, Monkey was asleep before we hit the highway. His father slipped him quietly into pajamas and under the covers before stretching out to gently snore on the couch.

And Mama is tired, and still feeling under the weather. But she is also round and content and grateful to be able to live such a beautiful, simple life with some truly excellent people.

Pop the Patriarch turns 80

comments 15
Family

Sometimes when things come together, it’s luck – like my husband needing to go to Texas for work at the same time I needed to go to Texas for a family gathering. He didn’t have to use any vacation days and I didn’t have to drive myself!

But most of the time when things come together it’s because a bunch of people worked their asses off to get it done.

My grandfather’s 80th birthday was last week and my entire family worked closely together to plan a fantastic celebration. From compiling a guest list and sending out invitations and request for letters detailing memories from my grandfather’s past to buying, prepping and cooking enough food for a gaggle of people to providing technical support – we all pitched in.

And what a success! Even with the snags along the way (food warmers that didn’t work, obnoxious building personnel) the party was a happy, sentimental affair.

Folks from all over the country sent in letters for my grandfather telling him about their favorite memory of him. His high school class was very helpful with this. They’re such a close bunch and that makes me happy.

We had guests attend from near and far, and we were so grateful for them all for making the trip.

There had been talk of getting a recliner for my grandfather to sit in to receive guests, but I don’t think his rear end touched even a plastic chair once that day. He went from table to table, from crowd to crowd visiting with his well-wishers and it made my heart grow about 10 times to see the smile on his face the entire day. (And of course I cried when I presented him with the stack of letters. I’ll blame it on pregnancy hormones.)

And although the joy of seeing all these smiling faces was pretty much just indescribable, my favorite part of the afternoon was when everyone was getting ready to leave and several of us stayed back to clean.

Without even being asked, my cousins jumped in to clear tables, put away food and mop the floor. My husband threw knives to pop balloons that had gotten stuck up too high for us to retrieve them. (This was quite the spectacle to behold.) In less than an hour, we had the venue back to its original form. We laughed and cut up along the way, and I was just so in love with my family right then.

Sometimes I worry about my generation of our family – that we’ll lose touch as the older generations pass on. But after Saturday I don’t see that happening. We work together so well and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. I love these guys and look forward to the day when we can get together much more often.

The nostalgia of clean sheets #iPPP

comments 39
#iPPP / Monkey / Parenting

Growing up, my most and least favorite day was cleaning day. Usually on a Saturday we’d wake up to the sounds of our mom scrubbing either the kitchen or the bathroom. We’d haul our dirty clothes out to the hallway and sort them into piles. We’d dust and vacuum and declutter.

When you’re a kid, cleaning sucks. But there was always something so lovely about resting on the couch under the ceiling fan afterward, surrounded by the smells of Clorox and Pledge. There was a peace to the clean house.

When it came time to strip and remake the beds, my sister and I would play a game with our mother. She would go to spread the new fitted sheet over the mattress and we’d climb underneath before she could get it secured. Then she’d continue to make the bed over us and we’d crawl out one corner, fixing it behind us.

It was silly, really, but it’s one of my favorite memories. The breeze of the snapped sheet over your head, the scent of the detergent it gave off.

The giggles as we lay trapped underneath the bedding for just a moment. The feeling that there wasn’t anything else going on in the world at that moment, just us in the bedroom, being together.

It was all part of the magic of childhood, the magic that fades for awhile but is renewed later when you get to be a parent yourself.

Yesterday I was making the bed when Monkey let out a loud squeal and leapt up onto it. He squirmed his way under the half of the sheet I’d already fitted to the mattress.

“I help,” he insisted.

He wasn’t much help, of course. He’d wrap himself up in the sheets, toss the pillows at me, and yank the comforter away each time I’d try to place it.

I would have gotten exasperated with him, but there was this moment. This moment when he was between the sheets, sitting on top of the fitted one I’d finally gotten tucked in, the flat sheet snapped out above his head, floating down in his face.

His face that was lit up from within with happiness at this moment.

Could he smell it, I wondered? The detergent, would he remember its scent years later? Would the softness of that clean sheet always be a comfort to him?

He had no idea of the bridge to my childhood he’d built in those few seconds, of how quickly I was taken back to those essentially carefree days. How for that moment, there wasn’t anything else going on in the world but us in the bedroom, being together.

Did you photograph a special moment with your phone this week? Link up your post with us!



Mamamash
<div align="center"><a href="http://www.mamamash.com" title="Mamamash"><img src="http://mamamash.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/ippp-polaroid-125-x-125.jpg" alt="Mamamash" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

Pursued

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How was YOUR day? / Monkey / Parenting

She wasn’t sure she was going to make it.

The split second she needed to gauge the footsteps – the leaps that would take her further from her pursuer and closer to an escape – that fraction of time might have made the difference.

Her pulse was throbbing in her ears. Could he hear it?

He would catch her again, this she knew.

She could hear his short, shallow breaths just feet away. He wasn’t watching. Not yet. But if she moved, if she made any effort to change her position, he’d be there in a flash.

She decided to go for it.

Uncrossing her legs, she leaned quickly to the left and sprinted up the stairs. Three, four, five steps to make it on the landing, then a quick juke to the left. Through the doorway – there it was! Freedom!

A door slam away.

She twirled around, grabbed the handle. Began to propel the door forward, but too late. Too late.

He was with her, grinning maniacally. He knew he’d beaten her, he knew she was caught.

As did she, so she sat down to pee, defeated, and handed the toddler a roll of toilet paper to unravel, resigned to her fate.

In the Kitchen: Copycat 54th Street Gringo Dip

comments 32
#iPPP / Noms

WHOA. Where’d all you folks come from? I mothballed this site awhile back and just left up the recipes, so I was surprised to see a huge uptick in visits this week. Can someone tell me what kind person sent you?

One of my favorite appetizers here in Kansas City is 54th Street’s Gringo Dip – a white cheese dip loaded with veggies and spice. They serve it with chips or waffle fries and it’s so good that when my sister comes to visit, we have to go eat there at least twice.

I’ve been wanting to make it at home for awhile, but never got around to it until the other day when my husband begged me to.

I peeked around the Internet for awhile and found a couple of efforts to replicate the dip, with one sit actually claiming to have the “recipe from the corporate cookbook.”

Haha, yeah. Right.

None of them were exactly what I was envisioned, mostly because they had too many ingredients or were too complicated in prep.

Anyway, this is my version. It’s not authentic, of course, but close, real close. It makes a lot bigger serving that you’d get at the restaurant, so it’s perfect for the upcoming football season. It requires almost no prep, since you buy everything prepackaged. Also, it has veggies. Sneaky, sneaky.

Gringo-ish Dip

1 lb Velveeta Queso Blanco, cubed
1 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
½ cup shredded parmesan
16 oz container pico de gallo
1 cup milk
1 tsp cayenne
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

In a saucepan, warm the cheeses, pico, milk and cayenne. Stir well until completely melted.

Add the spinach, taking care to separate the leaves.

Serve with chips, on nachos, or with waffle fries.

*Welcome Pinteresters!  For more tasty noms, try my Chicken Spaghetti. It’s a failproof kid pleaser. Or my Cheesy Chicken and Spinach Lasagna, guaranteed to get as much cheese in your mouth as possible. Wash it all down with my Mama’s Amaretto Slush for a frosty adult treat. Thanks for visiting!

Kansas City, let’s go steady

comments 18
#BloomWhereYourePlanted / Kansas City

I’m from Texas. Part of my heart will always belong to the Lone Star State. But I have a confession.

I’ve been having an affair with Kansas City, and it might be getting serious.

I’ve written before of my love/hate relationship with the place I’ve called home for going on four years. There’s plenty to do, but the weather aggravates me. The Kansas Prairie has given me a best friend whom I love like a sister, but I’ve also met some really craptastic people. The BBQ is amazing, but there’s no Wienerschnitzel.

There’ve been many, many moments over the years that I’ve wanted to throw my hands up in the air, burn down the house and move back to Texas. I pine for my family sometimes. There are occasions where I’d like to climb to the top of the Liberty Memorial and shoot the whole city the finger.

But there are also times like these.

Times where I see how beautiful the city can be when it struggles to experience a rebirth. Times where I drive down one of our scenic highways and breathe deeply of the clean air. Times where it seems like the city unites into a family against a common enemy. (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Robinson Cano.)

This weekend, I expected to be bummed and depressed. I expected to be missing my family now that they had gone back to Texas and to be worried sick about their recovery after the accident.

And on Friday night, I was. I wallowed a bit.

But then my husband came home with two tickets for the All Star Game Fan Fest, and…I wallowed ever harder.

“Man, eff baseball,” I thought. “I don’t even like it that much. And the Royals are terrible.”

But I went, mostly because of the shining joy in my husband’s eyes when he talked about who and what would be there. And I had a surprisingly great time.

We took lots of silly pictures, got to see a few of the women who played ball during WWII – I totally teared up during this, those women are amazing – and hubs got to test drive a Chevy Volt.

We ended up with bags of swag (that word makes me laugh) and my husband got a new hat and had fancy ASG logos put on it right then and there. He was on cloud nine, and I was thrilled to see him so happy.

The Monkey had a pretty great time too.

Then today while hubs was at work Monkey and I met some friends at the zoo who we hadn’t seen in over a month. The weather had finally cooled off and the clouds gave welcome relief from the sun. As I walked the miles between the cages and enclosures, I felt like I belonged.

No, not at the zoo, smartass.

I felt like I was at my zoo. In my city. That I wasn’t just a tourist. I wasn’t just passing through.

I felt a feeling of permanence, and it didn’t make me go running for the closest exit.

Later that day, I got the good news that a Freebirds was finally open in our area. It was just a “preview” opening, but for a $5 donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, you could get an entrée and drink.

We had to wait in line, of course, but the whole experience was a freakin’ blast. It was breezy, everyone was in a great mood, and the atmosphere inside the restaurant was as one would expect at a Freebirds – funky and fun.

When we got home to eat our burritos, we sat down to watch the Home Run Derby on TV. There was quite a bit of controversy concerning Cano and his remarks about choosing Billy Butler to hit for the AL, then not choosing him after all. Then he made a comment about loving to come to KC because there were always more Yankees fans in the stadium than KC fans.

And that pissed me right off.

I wasn’t the only one either. A sea of powder and royal blue booed Cano as he stepped up to the plate and hit ZERO home runs during the derby. They cheered every time a hit fell short.

And yeah, it was rude of them to do that. But they were rallying around something important – not just a sporting event.

People here are proud of their city. Sure, they bitch about it from time to time. They fight and make up with it, just like family – and nobody talks shit about your family.

I was proud of KC tonight. I was proud that they didn’t just sit there and twiddle their thumbs and put up with yet another insult. I was proud that they had a little fire in ‘em, a little attitude.

I’m proud to be one of them. I’m proud to be a Kansas Citian.

More KC love here.