Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mayflower: Captain's Log

The phrase "captain's log" in my mind is always followed by "star date..."
:)
ok, had to get the nerdiness out of the way.


This is Wesley's latest school project. Please notice how often these keep popping up!
This time he had to write a journal from the perspective of one of the explorers headed to the New World. He chose Columbus on the Mayflower which made research a whole lot easier :)


My first thought was that we would need some antiqued paper.


So I brewed some coffee and tea and soaked a ton of paper...






The drying rack added subtle lines that made it easier for Wesley to write in a straight line... most of the time :)




While our paper was aging several hundred years, Wesley researched in a modern way :)



As he drew his pictures for the journal, he got even more high tech. He looked up images and sketches of the Mayflower to draw from... on his iPod!


I have to say, I'm very impressed with the finished product!



The antiqued paper was well worth the effort... and smelled yummy, too!




A close-up shot of the binding...




The first entry (click the photo to enlarge)

A later entry:
(we found these dramatic facts HERE: )


Here is Wesley's rendering of the first meeting between the Taino Indians and Columbus :)


I am pleased with Wesley's work on this project, but I am praying we can take a break and maybe take tests or do vocab for a while :) We don't want any more craft projects for a while!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Well, it looks like I'm about to add another post about food...

What can I say? The changing weather makes me want to get into the kitchen!

Last week, our store didn't have any of my usual cinnamon raisin bagels in stock. Brad stepped in with his bread machine to rescue my breakfast!

He made our typical roll recipe and added 3 teaspoons of cinnamon and all the raisins we had in the house.

When they came out of the machine, the raisins weren't mixed in. They were sort of sprinkled all over the top so Brad rolled them in and kneaded the dough to spread them out.




The results were beautiful...

Needless to say, it was a little nicer getting my morning coffee and breakfast together last week. Every time I toasted my bread, I was reminded of my sweet hubby and all his hard work.   :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Bisque

This past weekend, I was graced with the presence of my Seester  (sister, for those not in the know).

And anytime Kim and I get together there is one key aspect we have to plan... FOOD!

If we're camping, food is still the key component.

At our parents' house... food must be planned.

At my house... well, you get the idea.

So with the cooler weather, I wanted to try my hand at a new soup. I had this particular soup at Cup of Hope, but thought I'd give it a try.


It calls for 2 cans of Fire Roasted Tomatoes, which I had never seen before. As you can see on the label, these also include garlic - I'm already planning future uses for these tomatoes:




Another new discovery was the act of roasting my own pepper. I googled How to Roast a Bell Pepper and followed the directions. It worked like a charm... was icky, gooey, and messy... but easy :)





I even put Kim to work while I was on pepper patrol.

After the soup was ready, I pureed with my fabulous immersion blender. I will say, I was a little timid with it because I was worried about scratching my non-stick pot so we wound up with a chunkier version than I would have liked.

I made some fresh bread and topped it with cheese to go with our soup.

As you can see, it was a delicious meal:

If you are planning to try this recipe, I have a few suggestions (based on my personal preferences)

Puree the soup more thoroughly. The chunks of tomato and pepper were yummy... the pieces of celery were not. I would also recommend cutting up the celery into tinier pieces because of this.

The tomatoes come with garlic, so I would probably only add 2 cloves instead of 4 next time... unless you're worried about a vampire invasion.

The consistency was a lot thinner than what I would call a bisque so next time I might use 2 cups of chicken broth instead of 5... I didn't have chicken stock so maybe that was the problem??

Our next plan is to freeze the leftover soup. When Fall finally arrives, I'm gonna thaw the soup, add chicken, sausage and okra... and serve it over rice. The flavor will be a perfect base to build a gumbo around. I'll let you know how it turns out :)



(You can see how much fun we have, right?)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Christmas Tree - Cookie Press Cookies

I know, I know...

It's only mid-September so there is NO reason to even mention Christmas cookies yet.

Except I am so ready for cooler weather!! Yesterday was a lovely 70 degrees and I just couldn't stand it any longer! I had to bake more cookies!

My mother-in-law and I actually talked about this urge to bake when Fall is approaching. Do you experience this? My mom and I do and Brad's mom does. Is it a mom thing or a woman thing?
We thought it might be related to a need to prepare for the winter. To stockpile food for the difficult months ahead. Since I am more interested in baking, I thought maybe it was a maternal need to fatten our kids up so they're ready for the leaner winter months.

Whatever the reason, I wanted to make cookies.

Specifically, CHRISTMAS cookies!

Good thing our church's choir is having a Christmas Musical preview party this Saturday so I don't seem completely loony.

I didn't feel like rolling dough and making frosting so I turned to my trusty Cookie Press (follow the link if you're unfamiliar with these.)

Normally, I use my mom's hand-me-down Betty Crocker recipe, but I thought I'd try the recipe on the box...
It starts with 2 1/2 sticks of butter!!


Somewhere out there, Paula Deen was having a very good day!

After I got my dough all mixed up, I was worried it was too stiff..

See what I mean:



I went ahead and filled my press, though, to see how it went and the texture was PERFECT. Not only that, it stayed the perfect texture through a 2 hour process of pressing, decorating, baking, refilling, pressing, decorating, baking, cooking dinner, eating dinner, pressing, giving up on ornaments and using sprinkles, baking, and so on. I was impressed!




Because I wanted to be all cute and festive, I used large circle-shaped sprinkles as ornaments on the trees.


My cookies wouldn't stick to the pan so I had to break them off {gently} and put them on the pan.
As such, I thought I'd bake a few upside down (see bottom right cookie in the next pic) to see which style turned out the best.




After pulling them from the oven, I decided the right-side-up cookies looked nicer... The one in the center on the left edge is an upside down cookie.



Using the ornament sprinkles was very time consuming so on the last batch I just whipped out the green sugar :) Even those turned out very festive. I loved how the sprinkles settled in the ridges created by the press. Sort of looks like garlands wrapped around each tree.


Normally, when I bake cookies I end up with far fewer than the recipe predicts it will yield.

With my usual sugar cookies I chalk it up to my large cookie cutters. With chocolate chip cookies I assume it's because I like big, cakey cookies.

With this recipe I was supposed to get 7 or 8 dozen cookies ... so around 90, right?

Oh no - I ended up with

144 cookies!


If the cookie press portions the dough for me, how on earth did I manage to make a GROSS of cookies?! Please explain this to me! I was so tired of being on my feet and babysitting the oven after the last pan, that I emptied my press of a small batch of dough and called it a night... So, technically I could have made 13 dozen cookies!!


Monday, September 12, 2011

Orange Danish Cookies


I spotted a cookie recipe recently at... of all places, Stephanie's Kitchen

Normally, I love baking, but I haven't taken the time to do it in quite a while. This recipe made me want to get back in touch with my long-lost mixer!

Since he was grounded from the tv, Wesley agreed to help.

He lasted long enough to measure the flour and have his picture taken... then he was off to bigger and better things!



While he measured the flour, I zested my orange - This was my first zesting experience and it was everything I thought it would be :) I happily zested along enjoying the sweet, orangey smells :)

Then, I added it to my sugar:

Before combining the zest and sugar

After

The dough came together easily and beautifully. It did take about 5 minutes longer to bake than the recipe said. Even then, there was barely any browning on the bottoms.

The glaze also came together beautifully and made decorating a breeze :)

They turned out looking and tasting more like Orange Danishes than "orange-glazed cookies" so I think that Orange Danish Cookies would be a more fitting name!

Don't you think?


Of course, I showed you the photo from the original recipe...

And my little glamour shot of the cookies.

Now for the more accurate portrayal of what you're getting into with these cookies!



You can tell where I held the bowl over the pan and it kept drip- drip- dripping in ONE PLACE!

I must confess, those cookies in the puddle were the BEST ONES!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Allergies

We had a doctor's appt this afternoon for Wesley to test him for allergies.


I've been looking forward to this test for a LONG time! Wes has always struggled with his allergies and he's on a bazillion medicines that aren't getting him any relief.

So. without further ado, his results:

In this picture you can see the grid pattern of all the yellow allergy goo they poked him with:


All the spots developed little bumps and redness similar to a mosquito bite. In order to know what a reaction looks like, they also did a control test with straight histamine on his shoulder: 



After a long, itchy 15 minutes, the results were in:




Trees, grass, and weeds all came back negative.... ONE type of tree made a tiny reaction (see the green arrow), but since I've never heard of Black Willows, I think we're fine :)

Dust Mites and Cats had severe reactions.
(Baylor will be glad to know that dogs caused no reaction)

Seriously, dust mites? He might as well be allergic to "being indoors"!!

ONE type of dust mite had such a strong reaction that it spread across his back and towards his chest (see below)


Based on this testing, Wesley is eligible for allergy shots which we'll start in 2 weeks. SOOOO... for the next 9 months we will be getting weekly shots. After that, he'll get shots every other week for about 3-4 months... Then he'll get shots once a month for about a year... and after that we will re-evaluate!

Pray for us in the coming year since I'm sure there are some weeks that will be tougher than others. And pray he doesn't have any bad reactions...

On a side note, Wesley was unfazed at the idea of weekly shots. He even watched them administer his booster shots last month without flinching! I marvel that he is related to me, Mrs. Needle-a-Phobe!

Afterwards, at my office a co-worker said to Wesley, "I hear you were very brave today when they poked you at the doctor's office..."  to which he replied, "It's not so much that I was brave. I just withstood pain and itchiness."  haha so clearly it was no big deal :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pueblo

It's that time again.

Time for School projects!

Wesley already completed a lovely poster about Vermont...



For his next project, he had to create an Indian dwelling.
Originally, he had his heart set on the Cliff-Dwelling Indians...


But that was a little more than we could handle...


So, next we suggested he build a pueblo:

Pueblo de Taos

After we convinced him it wasn't pronounced "pew-blow" he got on board :)

Brad remembered that his mom and sister built a pueblo out of floral foam so off to the craft store he went :)

This is the first stage:


While Brad prepared the outter coating for the foam, Wesley constructed the ladders:



I was so proud to watch him taking his time and being SO precise!


Brad painted the pueblo with his airbrush to create a nice, even coat... Here you can see Wesley happily supervising :)



I helped him coat the base with sand (from his sandbox!) and we added a sign to the front of the building.


 
I'd say it turned out well. What do you think?


The final step was to get Wesley prepared for his presentation.
 
After a few practice runs, I recorded this:
 
video