Thursday, October 29, 2009

No tricks... just treats!

This is what I created this morning. Earlier in the week I was asked to bring a baked goodie to school for the teachers as a way for parents to express appreciation for what they do. Since I am unable to help out in the classroom anymore and I choose not to participate in the PTA, this is one thing I can do at home with all the kids.
I originally got this idea from Your Home Based Mom. I love her photography, recipes and ideas. It's a great website for inspiring creativity.

Here's the recipe. She got it from the Joy of Baking website.

Vanilla Cupcakes
1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 c. white sugar
3 large eggs (preferably from my chickens :) )
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lrg. lemon
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. of salt (if you use salted butter, leave this out!)
1/4 c. milk

For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 and spray the muffin liners with oil. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the lemon zest and the vanilla. Then add the baking powder and the salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour and the milk in three additions beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing. If you want flat topped cupcakes, then slice off the dome of each cupcake with a sharp knife before frosting. If you want to pipe the frosting, use a large Wilton 1M closed star decorating tip.
Yield: 12 cupcakes

Buttercream Frosting
2 c. powdered sugar sifted (if you have the time)
1/2 c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. half and half or cream
Assorted food colors (if desired)
With a mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. Add the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the milk and beat on high speed until the frost is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes) Add a little more milk or sugar if needed. Tint the frosting with desired food colors.

I really like how light and fluffy the frosting turned out. It was delicious and little red eagerly helped me lick a little from the spoon and clean up the leftovers from the bowl. I haven't heard how the teachers like the cupcakes, but I suspect they were good. Leigh Ann never posts a bad recipe.

Please... kick me while I'm down! Maybe it won't hurt as bad.

When it rains it pours! This is the sight that greets me now in my family room. These french door didn't even last 3 years!
About 33 months ago we replaced our old set of french doors for these new ones with the blinds built into the door. The thinking behind getting these is that I wouldn't have to clean the blinds and that the kids wouldn't destroy the blinds like they had done to all the other door coverings we had tried before. I was right with part one but obviously part two failed miserably. DRAT!
I reamed Steven for doing this. He kept pulling the blinds up and down and up and down several times. His whole thinking behind the destroyal of my blinds is that he wanted to attract Ethan's attention who was outside and trick him into coming inside. I had asked Steven to play with Ethan in the backyard on the trampoline, but he didn't want to do that. Steven's whole focus from the time that he got home yesterday was on playing video games. He will barely do the minimum to get the job done and then he immediately launches into requests to play Playstation 2. 11 year old boys are very single minded, I'm coming to realize.
We are having difficulty getting adjusted to living on less. I'm doing increased childcare to help supplement our income. It's makes for long days and even longer nights as I need to be on top of my housework and schedule to focus on meeting the children's needs.
Recently, I have come to realize that I am being taken advantage of. It hasn't been a fun realization, especially since I have been friends with the children's mother for over ten years now. We used to work together right after Peter and I moved here after we graduated from BYU.
I sat down with the mom yesterday to discuss our arrangements and came to the realization that I have been working under an incorrect assumption for over a year now. There is no loyalty, no consideration for our family or our friendship with this childcare arrangement. Obviously her needs are being met, but mine are barely being met. It is firmly based on the bottom line - money. Whoever comes in with the cheapest bid will watch her two small girls - 18 month old and an 9 week old. She doesn't want to contribute for anything she doesn't have to. What differing perspectives we both have when it comes to our children. After having grown up in several daycares and having heard what has gone on in some of them, I would rest better assurred knowing someone I knew and trusted was watching my children. That would be more important than strictly looking at the bottom line. But, hey, that's me maybe I'm just funny that way.
I get it. Finances and the economy have forced us to tighten up our belts. But, I am not going to continue to feel frustrated with our arrangement. She doesn't want to have any type of contract. She doesn't want to have to pay for the days her children are not watched, something I have agreed to up until now. And, they want to be able to pick up their kids up until 6 pm or after if need be all the while dropping their children off at 7 am every day.
We had a conversation about this yesterday. I don't like making demands. I don't like confrontations. I don't want to bankrupt anyone. I have always struggled with determining a fair price. I am not a business woman. I don't barter or dicker very well. I am up front and always consider the feelings and needs of others in my every action. I am generous to a fault and now I am realizing I may have been taken advantage of. It's not a nice realization and I feel hurt and betrayed and disappointed. I wouldn't just take care of anyone's child and treat them like they are my own. Well- actually I would because I genuinely love children.
In addition, she told me yesterday that she may be taking additional maternity time off and feels no compunction to pay me which would effectively leave my family high and dry. It was quite the wake up call. She reminded me several times that I am not licensed yet. I have the packet and need to send in a few things and get the ball rolling. My house complies with their regulations 90% of the way. Just a few changes are left to make. But, because I am not licensed, she feels that she shouldn't have to pay me a decent rate. I don't have any sick days. She has brought her sick kids here with no compunction for anyone's needs except her own. And she reminded me that most facilities are open until 6 p.m. So, as such we should just suck it up and deal with the crap that rolls downhill!
I have been feeling a little stressed out with my situation lately. I am home all day and all night with the kids with little or no opportunity to get out and visit. I am lonely. I rarely see or speak with any of my friends. I've been struggling with feeling out of control with my life as of late. All there are is the have to's which is a granted but there are very few and increasingly fewer get to's. There is no time for breaks. I'm on task and running balls out 100% of the time. It is a sure fire recipe for disaster and burn out and I'm starting to feel it's effects. I got sick this week, with no relief in sight. The day she came and dropped the kids off she noted how terrible I looked and I explained I was had a fever and had a case of the chills. All I merited from that conversation was that she hoped I felt better. They didn't show up to pick up the kids that day until 5:30 pm.
When we brought all this up to the mom yesterday she refused to budge on some of it. She reminded me repeatedly that I am not licensed and that if she went to another facility she could pick them up at 6 pm even. I have let her know that her daughter refuses to eat the food I'm serving and often feeds it to the dog, smears it all over hear head, or throws it on the floor. She feels she shouldn't have to contribute food for her daughter except for the newborn's milk. I'd be ok with it if her daughter wasn't so picky and physically shoves away 3/4's of my profers. I've started to let her go hungry after I offer 2 choices. I've let mom know of the situation. I refuse to feed an 18 month old tyrant chips, cookies and crackers all day every day. It is unhealthy and very costly.
So, here we sit. I am looking at my options. I am very much considering finding a night shift somewhere in order to avoid the cost of child care for my own kids. In some ways, I think it would be much preferable to my situation right now. I wouldn' t have to work almost 12 hours a day for $5.50 an hour at best! I could get out and be with other adults and have grown up conversations. It's obvious we need more income. This childcare situation isn't working. I don't mind getting licensed. There are quite a few hoops to jump through but right now the pay isn't working out that well. I also don't like having kids so late. My kids have soccer and scouts. I have doctor's appointments. We have needs. Most afternoons we have 8 kids here. My five and the 3 I watch. I think its time to shift directions!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gale Family Favorite - Potstickers the Gale way

Tonight I did NOT want to cook dinner. So, I went to the freezer and found the trusty bag of potstickers. Being not your average family, we have our quirks, we don't serve our potstickers the 'normal' way.
I serve our potstickers sauteed with a tasty homemade teriyaki sauce over rice of course and then we had some egg rolls fresh from the freezer. I don't make egg rolls or potstickers homemade, yet. I'm not that big of a food snob - yet.
The potstickers generally come out at Jonathon's begging and insistence or on a night I am desperately searching for something fast and easy. Gale style potstickers are one of Jonathon's favorite foods. He will eat the leftovers off of any and all plates on the table.
The potstickers I'm talking about are the ones that come in the big bag from Costco. The brand is Ling Ling. There is a sauce packet that comes with them, but my kids prefer the teriyaki sauce to the sauce provided in the bag. In fact, those same potstickers are on sale at Costco right now. It's on my to do list of things to buy once we get paid again on the 2nd of November. Generally we get paid on the 1st of every month, but this is one of the shell games the legislature is playing with our tax payer dollars. Gotta love it! But, again I digress. Back to the topic: potstickers.
I have tried many teriyaki brands and recipes. But this one I have found is my favorite. It is a slight variation of a recipe I discovered a couple years ago on Allrecipes. The original recipe is called Baked Teriyaki Chicken. But, what I do is double the sauce and use it with the potstickers. It's a marvelous all-purpose teriyaki sauce.

Teriyaki Sauce
2 Tbs. cornstarch
2 Tbs. cold water
1 c. white sugar
1 c. lite soy sauce
1/2 c. cider vinegar
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. black pepper

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the cornstarch, cold water, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger and ground black pepper. Let simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and bubbles.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Craft fair details

Here are the particulars I blogged about last night. If you live in the area, check it out. Come see me. I would love to see your smiling face and visit with you. I am trying to make the most of my opportunities to get out of the house.

If you don't live in the area and are interested in my jewelry, I will be posting some more designs to my Etsy store next week after the craft fair.

If you would like something custom designed, email separately and I will produce a one of a kind treasure for you. Really, all of my designs are one of a kind. I don't like to mass produce too much as it gets boring for me. That's the ADD in me. :)

I hope you like what you see. I welcome any and all feed back.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jewelry making frenzy

Copper Fires - set, originally uploaded by bonniemomof5.

This is what I have been doing in my spare moments. Besides playing nursemaid to my family who has been brought low by the flu ( I believe it was the swine flu but the doctors were afraid to utter those dreaded words).

Now, after a week and a half we all seem to be on the mend. Here is just one example of my work. I've posted more on Flickr and my Facebook page.

This next Thursday I will be at a craft boutique. I'll post more pics with all the particulars soon. If you live in Rancho, I would love to see you. Come by and get some Christmas shopping done!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Weekend visit

This last weekend, we travelled up to my grandfather's house. He's 88 and lives up in Sacramento. He lives in Sutter Creek, a suburb 1 hour outside of Sacramento. Driving up there makes for a short weekend visit, but it was well worth the effort. We left Friday afternoon and arrived home LATE Sunday night.
I always dread the drive up there, but once we get there it's a return to home. I love the rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. The grass. The trees. The cattle. It's peaceful. It's where I grew up. Plus I get to see one of my favorite people- my Grampa.
Growing up, he was one of my best friends. I remember when I was 6, I would sit on our big chest freezer downstairs and help him fold laundry. I got to live with my grandparents my first grade year in elementary school and part of second grade. My Grampa would read to me at night. On the weekend, we would go on bike rides up the hill. We would go fishing on his boat. It was great fun. One of the things I loved best about that time is that we lived so close to the beach. Several times a week, I would take a walk along the shore. It was restful, relaxing, and fun. That's where I get my love of the ocean and beach. So, now you can see why visiting my grampa is always a treat. I love our talks. I love being able to cook for him and our big family meals. I always make a special effort. We all enjoy it. I treasure those times!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Utterly exhausted

This is how I feel today. I feel completely paralyzed by exhaustion. Just getting out of bed and caring for the kids was a major undertaking and accomplishment. I guess I overworked myself this week. Then, as a result today, I've done nothing. :( Not so good. Oh well, not everyday can be a day of frenetic activity.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Evil garden bug

Wednesday afternoon I found this big bad bug on my tomato plant as I was cleaning off some dead leaves. At first I thought it was just a curled up leaf until I touched it and then I screamed like a girl! Oh, wait I am one. Ha ha.
As soon as I touched it I realized it wasn't a leaf. And, it wasn't until I looked closely that I realized what it was. This obese tomato bug has great survival instincts. It "played" dead. It didn't move the whole time I pulled the branch off, set it on the table and took pictures of it.
It was only when, I took my revenge on it that it moved. It is now chicken fodder.
This fat bug feasted on my last beautiful tomato. I went out to pluck the tomato from the vine when I looked at it and realized that my tomato had been slaughtered. No more beautiful tomato.
So, the bug and the tomato got fed to the chickens. So there! Take that obese bug!
The chickens fought as usual over who would get to devour the bug. I didn't hang around to see it. I had to take Steven to his Boy Scout meeting. But, Peter and Steven thought it great fun to watch the big bad bug meet it's just fate.

I think I've gone bananas!

I tried this new recipe on this cool blog I recently found. It is called: Vintage Victuals. I like it because it focuses on down home foods using basic elements you find in your kitchen. The results were great.

Banana Pudding

1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup flour
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups milk
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 a pinch of nutmeg
30-40 vanilla wafers
4 bananas, sliced
4 egg whites
2 tablespoons sugar

To make the custard, mix together the 1/2 cup of sugar, the flour, and the salt. Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan and add the dry ingredients. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat. Beat the egg yolks lightly with a whisk. Pour a little bit of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking together. Then add the egg mixture to the saucepan. Bring the custard to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly, and cook until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and nutmeg. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

Line the bottom and sides of an 8x8-inch baking dish with vanilla wafers. Next, line it with a layer of banana slices. Repeat, alternating layers of wafers and bananas until you have used them all.
Then pour over the custard so that it completely covers the bananas and the wafers.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Spread the meringue fully over the top of the pudding, so that it touches the edges of the baking dish.

Bake until lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes. You may serve the pudding warm or chilled. Serves 6-8.

Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake - THE BEST EVER!

Tonight I made this recipe for a Relief Society craft night (a church activity). Everyone loved it. Someone even said it was the best sheet cake they have had. Thanks Ree Drummond. I grabbed this recipe off her website The Pioneer Woman. It is wonderfully easy with wonderful results.

Pioneer Woman Chocolate Sheet Cake
Combine in a mixing bowl:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan, melt:
2 sticks butter
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa. Stir together.
1 cup boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In measuring cup, pour 1/2 cup buttermilk.
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes.

While cake is baking, make icing:
1/2 cup pecans finely.
1 3/4 sticks butter in a saucepan.
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat.
6 tablespoons milk (I used half and half)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb minus 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Stir together.
Add pecans, stir together, and pour over warm cake.

Cut into squares, eat, and totally wig out over the fact that you’ve just made the best chocolate sheet cake. Ever.