Bread Sticks

Soft, chewy, buttery breadsticks are a hit at this house, and something easy, cheap and filling to make for the evenings we have friends over and a snack is necessary.

I put these ingredients in my breadmaker (I have a Zojirushi Breadmaker):

1 cup warm water
1/4 cup oil
3 cups of bread flour
1 tsp. salt
3 TBS brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

Once the dough cycle is finished, I roll the dough onto a 10 x 12 lightly buttered cookie sheet.
Using a pizza cutter, I cut the bread sticks into 24 pieces.
Let rise for about an hour.

Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes.

When breadsticks come out of oven, I drizzle this mixture on top:
4 TBS melted butter
1/2 tsp garlic salt

Then I sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve with pizza sauce for dipping.


Catching Up

Before June is over, I need to post a few memorable events:

Abbey "graduated" from her second year of sewing class.  Her lovely teacher has a fashion show with all her students at her home.  Abbey modeled the last item she made, a dress that I adore:

Her teacher makes these little tea cookies, and Abbey craved them all year:

Our normal regular everyday days, consist of bike rides, mostly after-dinner bike rides.  Riding my bike with a baby on the back is my favorite thing to do in the whole world.  What will happen when I can't jam Patrick into this seat anymore?  And trust me on this one, he is really stuck in there.

This year we joined the city pool, which is just blocks from our house.  The older kids can ride their bikes and go on their own, and Patrick and Andrew love all the action, unlike me who leaves with a sun/noise headache every time.  (I'm not complaining...it is a bargain for sure, and we are lucky to have such a nice, convenient, neighborhood pool.)

We went to the strawberry fields and came home with 3 buckets full.  I froze a bag for my morning smoothies, but made sure to leave enough for us to stuff ourselves with in the coming days.  No fancy desserts, or cute jam jars for me this year.  I know my limitations.

And the week after school let out we hit a big amusement park, and it was a long fun day.  The kids dragged me on all the roller coasters, even Andrew, who just made the size cut off by one tiny hair on his head, no joke.  That kid...he went on ALL of it.  Nothing was too scary, tall, fast, upside-downish.  He sat with me on the tallest roller coaster, and we were both sort of crying on the way up, but on the way down he was sending out whoops of joy.  I wasn't really crying but thinking, "I am way too old for this, really, what am I doing to my poor body?"

Andrew was a good enough sport to come down to Patrick's level for a little while.  Patrick was adorable of course, and was crazy about it all.  He would sit on these little kid rides, and point at the big coasters, and huge upside down twirly things and say, "Me go on those!"

I had my back re-aligned on this little kid's coaster about a half dozen times.  It took me about 4 days till I could properly turn my head, really.  

By about 7 in the evening, I called it a day for myself. I begged off any more participation in the fun, and decided I would just stand on the side lines and snap photos of Abbey regretting letting her brother talk her into this crazy ride.

No more 'fun mom' for me. I have to draw the line somewhere, and there it is, straight up in the air.

On to July...
the 4th of course
Cape Cod
college visits
more bike rides
the pool
raspberries, blueberries, blackberries
school supplies before everyone else takes the good stuff...


Summer Reading

Abbey and I have big expectations this summer.  Hers is the higher stack!  I started out with a little disappointment, but I'm on a roll now.

I read this entire book (Same Kind of Different As Me), but only because I felt I had to finish it.  I didn't like it at all...it didn't seem genuine to me.  Way too much drama I think?  I can't pinpoint the WHY but the love just wasn't there:

I read about 3 or 4 chapters of this book (Cutting for Stone), maybe a little more.  Too raw (crude?) for me.  You can tell me to stick with it and I will give it another chance:

Gave up probably too quickly:

Now things started getting better.  I loved The Space Between Us :

And The Hand That First Held Mine.  Beautifully written, SO good.  The book has a surprising little twist to it, and Maggie O'Farrell has a way of expressing emotion so thouroughly.  One of the characters just gave birth to her first, and the way she describes all the feelings, experiences, emotions and struggles is spot on.
 Here is an excerpt I adored from the book and read over and over again:
We change shape, she continued, we buy low-heeled shoes, we cut off our long hair.  We begin to carry in our bags half-eaten rusks, a small tractor, a shred of beloved fabric, a plastic doll.  We lose muscle tone, sleep, reason, perspective.  Our hearts begin to live outside our bodies.  They breath, they eat, they crawl and-look!-they walk, they begin to speak to us.  We learn that we sometimes walk an inch at a time, to stop and examine every stick, every stone, every squashed tin along the way.  We get used to not going where we were going.  We learn to darn, perhaps to cook, to patch the knees of dungarees.  We get used to living with a love that suffuses us, suffocates us, blinds us, controls us.  We live. We contemplate our bodies, our stretched skin, those threads of silver around our brows, our strangely enlarged feet.  We learn to look less in the mirror.  We put our dry-clean only clothes in the back of the wardrobe.  Eventually, we throw them away.  We school ourselves to stop saying 'shit' and 'damn' and learn to say 'my goodness' and 'heavens above'. We give up smoking, we colour our hair, we search the vistas of parks, swimming pools, libraries, cafes for others of our kind.  We know each other by our pushchairs, our sleepless gazes, the beakers we carry.  We learn how to cool a fever, ease a cough, the four indicators of meningitis, that one must sometimes push a swing for two hours.  We buy biscuit cutters, washable pains, aprons, plastic bowls.  We no longer tolerate delayed buses, fighting in the street, smoking in restaurants, sex after midnight, inconsistency, laziness, being cold.  We contemplate younger women as they pass us in the street, with their cigarettes, their makeup, their tight-seemed dresses, their tiny handbags, their smooth, washed hair, and we turn away, we put down our heads, we keep on pushing the pram up the hill.
Maggie O'Farrell, The Hand That First Held Mine


Summer Memories

One of my earliest summer memories is riding in the back of my Dad's VW Bug with my 2 sisters and my mom and dad up front.  We would take a little Sunday drive to the soft serve ice cream store.  The leather seats just have a certain smell that bring all those memories flooding back.

My Dad has owned probably a dozen of these little cars (and they all smell the same inside!)  Last time I was visiting home, out of the garage came the bright yellow one he has been working on, and my kids all had to have a turn inside.  Isaac can't drive stick, and he certainly wasn't going to learn on this car, but he would have loved to take it for a spin.  

My mom tells me to announce on my blog that it's for sale.  I'm not so sure why she is eager to get rid of this one, because she must know that there is another right around the corner that needs some TLC from a certain grandpa that knows them like the back of his hand. 

Both Isaac and Abbey were adding up their savings in their heads so they could make an offer to Grampy.

(Matt is missing in this photo shoot-I think he was having more fun at target practice with his BB gun.)


Soft Pretzels

I made hot pretzels the other day and they disappeared in minutes.  I found this recipe at allrecipes.com.

1 pkg active dry yeast (or 2 1/2 tsp.)
2 TBS brown sugar
1 1/8 tsp sat
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 TBS. baking soda
5 TBS melted butter
2 TBS coarse kosher salt
parchment paper

I used my kitchenaid mixer for this part:
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast, brown sugar and salt in a 1 1/2 cups warm water.  Stir in flour, and knead dough (on a floured surface or in your mixer using kneading paddle) for about 8 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, and turn to coat the surface.  Cover, and let rise for one hour.

Combine 2 cups warm water and baking soda in an 8" square pan.

After dough has risen, cut into 12 pieces.  Roll each piece into a 3 foot rope, pencil thin or thinner.  Twist into a pretzel shape and dip into the baking soda solution pan.  Place on parchment covered cookie sheets, and let rise for 20 minutes.

Bake at 450 for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.  Brush (I dipped top surface into a bowl of melted butter) and sprinkle with coarse salt, garlic salt or cinnamon sugar.



Beach Withdrawal

We arrived back from a summer vacation to Seaside, Florida very very late Saturday night, and we are all experiencing some pangs of readjustment.


Salad Dressing Recipe

Once you make home made salad dressing, you are biased against store-bought forever.  There is such a difference!

Here's my favorite recipe I make just about every week in some way, shape or form.  I have forgotten ingredients, used more of one, less of another, substituted, omitted, you name it and it always turns out delicious.

1 cup olive oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
2 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 1/2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard

Mix together and shake well.  Store at room temperature tightly covered.


Peace From Within

Each one has to find his peace from within. 
And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances. 
- Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi


Personalized Place Mats: A Tutorial

I am always on the look out for cute place mats.  I just cannot use cloth mats!  I would have to wash them every day and I do not want to add to my laundry load.

The plastic ones I find always seem boring and outdated so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Using Picasa, I made a collage for each member of my family.  I selected a bunch of different photos of each of the children...great vacation memories, baby pics, funny faces, etc...created a collage, and then using the Text feature, wrote their names on them.  The kids love these place mats!  Each photo seems to bring up a topic of conversation at the dinner table.  "Remember when Dad made us hike up that mountain?"  or "We had so much fun at that reunion!"

You have heard me talk about using the collage feature of Picasa before...it is the same method I use for making my blog headers and my scrapbook pages.  It is so fun, easy and best of all free.   For a tutorial on how to make a collage you can go here, or here for a step-by-step easy video tutorial from Persnickety Prints.  You can also use a different program (i.e.Photoshop), OR just use a single picture if you don't want to bother with fancy digital stuff.  If you want to make it even easier, you could pick up a few 11 x 17 size papers, and have your children make their own drawings.

I called my local printer and decided to go with an 11 x 17 size.  That seemed to be a good size for a place mat, and it was easy and cheap for them to make color copies and laminate those color copies because it is a standard size.  The color copies were $1 each, and then to laminate each of them was $3.  $4 for custom place mats!  Not bad!  They also told me I could just email the collages to them, which made the whole process extra easy.

I did this about 5 years ago (using just a single picture that I brought in to be photocopied, before I was familiar with photo editing software) and the place mats held up for a good 3 years.  They are easy to wipe off with soap and water.  The copy place told me that they use 5mil laminate which makes them durable and sturdy.

Here are some tips and ideas:
1. I made a collage using the automatic "Mosaic" feature...that throws all your selected photos together into a collage automatically. (I chose plain white for my collage background.)  Once that collage was created, (after you hit the Create Collage button) I selected that collage, and also selected a scrapbook paper, pressed Collage again, and using the Picture Pile feature, centered the finished collage on the scrapbook paper.  That is how I got the scrapbook paper edge around the collage.

2. Sometimes the copier will cut off a small bit around the edges...ask!!!  The copy lady told me I would lose about 1/4"...it didn't matter because I had the scrapbook paper behind my collage, but without it, it might have.  Keep that in mind.

3. Remember in Picasa you can select your own custom collage size.  You just type in your dimensions.  (Horizontal size first.)  Again, I used 17 x 11 because it was cheap and easy.

4. I think for this size, I could have used less pictures.  I overloaded my own placemat and some of the pictures are tiny.  The ones that turned out best are the ones were I selected not more than 30 pictures.

5. And of course, the possibilities are endless.  Wouldn't it be cute to type in manner reminders?  Or the family dinner blessing?  You could make seasonal place mats also, with fun summer or fall colors, or a holiday theme.

Update-2015 and we still use these almost daily!  They look great and have held up well.


An Interview With Andrew, As He Graduates From First Grade

I am really good at: Math
I like to: Play
My favorite thing to learn at school: Problems
1 person who make me laugh: Jake S. 
One word that describes me: Happy
I am really happy when: I get to watch TV.
I am really sad when: Patrick hurts me.
My favorite book: Captain Underpants.
My favorite TV show:  Sponge Bob
My favorite vacation:  Seaside, FL
I like school when: It's recess.
I don't like school when: I lose at recess tetherball.
My favorite season:  Summer
My favorite toy: Uno.
My worst nightmare: When I got attacked by a tree.
Things that make me mad: When Patrick gets mad at me.
Favorite sport:  Soccer.
I like my Dad because: He plays Uno with me.
I like my Mom because: She makes me lunch for school.
I like my family because: They play with me.


The Sunny Side

Lisa Leonard, in addition to her beautiful and popular jewelry designs, (I wear this necklace all the time), came out with a decor line.  These beautiful things are so perfect for gifts...magnets, bowls, baby spoons, wall hangings and more, all personalized with whatever words/names you want to add.

Here is what I gave Abbey for her 8th grade graduation.  We have a favorite song called "Keep on the Sunny Side" and I thought she would love a little daily reminder hanging in her room.


And It's Over

It's officially summer.  The school year has come and gone so quickly.

The last day of school was All School Mass and the award ceremony. Matt must have been tired from all the walking up and back to get his accolades.  Even Andrew received an award...not the one he wanted but I like his competitive spirit.  The award was a Fitness Award, and he earned the second tier...no doubt he will be practicing his chin-ups and push-ups this summer.

We are saying good-bye to a priest at our parish who is leaving to be a pastor somewhere else.  The kids have LOVED him and he has made a huge difference in the school community.  He interacts with each of the kids and they feel comfortable enough to talk to him and joke with him...such a great thing in the junior high years especially.  Each class, Preschool-8th, presented him with a gift.  I don't know how he held it together, because I was dabbing my eyes.

Abbey had me read this card that her Spanish teacher gave her.  The teacher wrote out a personal thank you to each and every student.  And here I am dabbing again.  There is nothing like a good teacher, honestly.  

Abbey and her class spent the last hour of 8th grade bawling their eyes out.  I don't know why I find that funny but I just do.  Trust me, if I was there, I would have been also...there is something about teenagers crying that makes me immediately cry also.  I have no idea why.  Anyways, her poor 8th grade homeroom teacher...I guess her classroom was in shambles-she had planned on having them straighten it up before they left and she decided to just say "the heck with it" because everyone was losing it and bawling everywhere.  (No, none of the boys cried, of course, but I bet they wanted to.)

Somehow, at sometime, somewhere, I had agreed to a party that last day.  For the entire class.  Honestly, I don't know how that happened.  Do you ever have moments like that?  I must have been distracted and just kept answering, "Sure!" to whatever anyone asked me, without paying attention.  So with one day warning, we had a graduation party.

I don't know how these kids keep track of their phones.  Isn't it funny how they are apt to misplace just about anything else but these?

Ummm...no way!  Could you imagine?  That would get scary. We compromised and he had a sip of orange bad boy juice, and was in heaven...

...because he went from one pretty girl to another the little traitor.

Andrew was overjoyed because he has what no other first grader could possibly acquire...autographs of the graduating class of 2011.  He hit up every kid, and they wrote the sweetest things.  He carried his year book with him to bed.

 One of the boys brought his guitar...

..and after awhile all their parents picked them up and they were all gone, and hugging and yelling "Good-bye!" like they would never see each other again.  It was the easiest party ever, and so enjoyable.  Mostly because, like I have said 1000 times before, these are the nicest, most polite, well-mannered kids ever.  Not ONE problem, not ONE issue.

Endings and beginnings...so exciting, and bittersweet, and scary and fun all at the same time.  It never stops feeling that way I don't think, for the rest of our lives, whether we're 14 or 42.