Tuesday, September 30, 2008

WFMW: Kitchen Organization by Computer

This week's edition of Works For Me Wednesday uses the theme of Kitchen Organization. I spent a few minutes racking my brain to come up with any way that you could call my kitchen organized. It's not the worst, I know where things are and can always find them. But I'm certainly not a model of efficiency and don't know that I could give anyone tips. But I did think of one kitchen-type area that I excel in: menu planning and grocery shopping.

I have always loved to plan menus, choose recipes, make grocery lists, etc. My downfall is the follow-through with shopping, chopping, and cooking. But I can plan with the best of them and always have things organized as to what we're having for dinner and what I need to buy at the grocery store. That way, even if I poop out on making dinner, at least there is a plan and all the ingredients. You know, in case my husband wants to take over. Which he sometimes does.

And to what do I owe my organization? My computer, of course. For my birthday a couple years ago I finally bought some recipe software to help me organize the tangle of 3x5 cards, computer files, torn-out magazine pages, and scrawled notes on scrap paper. There's a lot of software out there for this kind of thing, but after much research (and budget constrictions), I chose Home Cookin.

For only $30 I can keep all my recipes, plan menus by calendar, and keep a grocery list, complete with prices. There are also search features and intuitive navigation. My computer is steps away from my kitchen so I am constantly leaning over to add items to my grocery list. I've organized it to print out in order of the way I walk through my local grocery store. Which is very helpful and cuts down on shopping time. Saving time and being organized in the kitchen Works For Me!

My recent Works For Me Wednesday posts:
Teaching Your Children Through the Scriptures
Secret Ingredient: Cardamom
Belts Can Make an Outfit
Hip Baby or Not
How Many Push Ups Can You Do?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Scripture Mom Winner

It was wonderful to have 38 entries for the Adventures with the Word of God giveaway! Thanks again to Becky for writing this wonderful book, and for donating a copy for one of The Well-Rounded Woman readers.

The winner is Kim at
Scattered Stones! Who said she would even like to order it and recommend it to other parents at her church. Which is a wonderful idea - share the scripture love.

Remember, if you didn't win, Adventures with the Word of God can be purchased at
Seagull Book for under $12 for either the book or CD. The set is only $17. You can also find the book online here. Or the CD online here.

Thanks to random.org for helping me choose a winner.

Friday, September 26, 2008

AAA Saves the Day - Followed by my Bro-in-law

Early this month I was a little worried about my car. Every time I started it, it seemed a little sluggish turning over. So when I had the car in for a tire repair, I had the mechanic check it out. They said the battery and alternator were fine. And I believed them.

Then we had our three boys on a small roadtrip and when we stopped for a bathroom break... You guessed it - the car wouldn't start. We were at a gas station, at a casino, on an Indian reservation, in the middle of nowhere. But we have AAA and they were amazingly quick - getting there in less than 30 minutes. The jumped/recharged our battery and we were on our way.

The next morning I called my mechanics and complained a little. And they were a bit snarky. I think the guy said they don't have a crystal ball and don't know when my battery will die. Nice. Then they quoted me $130 for a new one. Installed.

I ran down to Auto Zone and the nice man there carried the battery to my car, after charging me only $80. My husband asked me why I didn't show a little more skin and get them to install it for me. I figured if the three little boys in tow didn't make them feel sorry for me, a little skin wouldn't have helped. And I admit, I was a little excited for a Do It Herself project.

Let me start by saying - this might not be a project everyone can do themselves. Or want to. First thing to do is pop your hood and see where your battery is located. If it at all hard to access, just take it in. Mine was right at the front, with nothing on top of it. Second, check your owners manual to see if there are any instructions about changing the battery. Mine didn't have anything. It had all the instructions for changing a bulb in your headlight, which I did earlier this year. But nothing on the battery.

However, I am brimming with confidence and started right in. It's easy to loosen the connections and pull them off. You just need a socket wrench of the right size. Then the entire connection lifts off. See the pictures below. But that battery - not so easy to pull off. Batteries are really heavy. And actually. Sometimes they are connected to the frame of your car. Too bad my owners manual couldn't have told me that. But eventually I found the screw that clamped that sucker down. And couldn't loosen it. I needed a socket wrench, which I had - but I couldn't fit it in the small space.

And so my brother-in-law came to the rescue! He has a long extension for his socket wrench (must get one of those!) and that screw came right off. I was glad he was here though, because like I said, those batteries are heavy. But the actual detaching and reattaching the battery to the terminals was well within my scope.

Here is Uncle Stephen with his socket wrench extension. Thanks for your help! He even did much of the dirty work for me after that, although I could have done it myself. But someone had to take the pictures. My new battery came with some goo that we used to clean the terminals. And Stephen smeared it all over the connections once we were reconnected. It's just to help protect them from battery acid. That's why the old ones were all red and gross.

So, if you have a socket set with a long extension, really strong fingers and arms, and roomy access to the battery, then you can change a car battery yourself. If any of those things are lacking, you might want to get some help. And thanks to my helpers, I saved $50. And it took less than an hour. Not bad for a Do It Herself (with help) project.

This was also a Tackle It Tuesday project and is linked up here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Project Runway Take 11 - Singing to Another Designer's Beat

You could just see the disappointment in the designers eyes this week when they found out they would be designing for each other. Right after they picked out models and there was all the drama of Leanne choosing Suede's model. Wow - get over it. It's a competition and you have to do anything you can to win. Almost. Stealing models is nothing.

And when Tim threw in the additional theme of designing around a musical genre - that's when things got really interesting. Some of these designers seem more sheltered than I am about music. I mean, at least I watch So You Think You Can Dance and know what hip hop outfits are supposed to look like.

I was glad to see the contestants having a little fun, for once.

Kenley said her body wasn't as good as Jerrell was imagining it, but when she tried the outfit on - she was rockin' it! Or maybe I should say poppin' it. She has a better body than I imagined too. That's exactly what I want to look like eventually. She's a solid girl - not exactly slender or willowy. But her arms and legs were very toned and looked great. But I wish she talked great too. Why is she so rude to Tim? She doesn't deserve to continue on. Even though she thought she "nailed it." And during judging it looked like Nina was going to push her right off the runway. Kenley sure played the part of a spoiled little pop star well. She pouted, she rolled her eyes, she interrupted people who have been in the fashion industry for decades. She needs to go.

I did not like Leanne's country outfit, for Korto. The judges didn't seem as critical as I was, but she obviously wasn't getting the win.

Suede looked so great! (Except for the hair, even if it was punk.) Korto did a fabulous job with the whole thing. She's so going to Bryant Park. And I totally agreed with the judges about it being a great silhouette for Suede. If you just took away his hair and make-up, he looked way better in Korto's outfit than he usually does in his own.

Poor Suede on the other hand - Jerrell's outfit was fine, but pretty blah for rock and roll. It was nice to see him stick up for himself a little in judging, but he just doesn't seem to be able to compete with the other designers. I wonder what kind of stuff he does on his own. Did you hear him say he is a classically trained cellist of 14 years?

I can't believe Korto won the challenge, even though her outfit was great. She totally seemed like a close second to me again. I think the judges felt like she'd been beaten down long enough and since Jerrell had already won the last two challenges... I'm sure they're both going to Fashion Week though.

Funny that the two worst designers were standing there in front of the judges wearing the two best outfits. And I CAN NOT believe Kenley did not lose. Her outfit was tons worse than Suede's and she continues to treat everyone badly. Instead we say Auf Weidershen to sweet Suede. At least he was a gracious loser.

Left to right:
Jerrell, wearing Suede's rock 'n' roll design.
Kenley, wearing Jerrell's pop design.
Korto, wearing Leanne's country outfit.

Leanne, wearing Kenley's hip hop outfit.
Suede, wearing Korto's punk design.

Did you see the preview for next week? Looks like all four designers end up in tears. Gee, should be fun.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

I'm linking up to the 5 Minutes for Mom carnival, Wordless Wednesday, for the first time. This is my middle monkey boy. Let the wordlessness begin.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cookies For Nie Nie

Today is the cookie auction for Nie Nie, put together by Miss Landra Lynn at XO, Miss L2. And you should totally go there now to bid on my fabulous cookies! Go now.

What? You want proof? You want to know why you should bid? I'm here today to pimp out my offerings and drive the bidding up as high as possible.

My Background:
I come from a long line of super-bakers. Seriously. We've got experience. Too bad that's all on my mother's side and my genes came from my father's side. But really my few extra pounds should be further proof to you of my baking expertise. I have taste-tested all these recipes more times than I would care to admit. And they are stinkin' good! For reals.

The Offerings:

Two Batches of Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies (Martha Stewart recipe)

Martha has never let me down yet with a recipe and this is one of my very favorites. If you love spicy gingerbread (the soft kind) and chocolate - these cookies will be your best friend. They are like little clouds of sugar coated heaven. They always remind me of fall and the holiday season.

Two Batches of Peanut Blossoms

My husband's aunt, Bev, makes the most fabulous peanut blossom cookies, which are those super soft peanut butter cookies with the Hershey's kiss on top. She brings these to every family gathering and they get eaten up lickety-split. So I told her about Nie Nie and asked her to bake a couple dozen. And being the sweet lady that she is - she agreed. I do have the recipe for these, but haven't made them much myself since Aunt Bev's are so delicious and we have a lot of family gatherings. :) You will love these! Please bid.

A Batch of Date Bars

I heart date bars and even wrote about how I was craving them right about my baby was born when I posted the recipe here. I will make a pan of them and send you a dozen big ones. These date bars have an oatmeal crust and topping and include lots of real butter and sugar. They may not make your scale or dentist happy - but they are so delicious and will make your tummy moan in happiness.

The sale starts at 8am AZ time so if you're reading this early, get set to bid. If you're reading this later, you better get your hungry little self over to Landra's blog to check out all the goodies. My cookies are so obviously the best thing there, but I'm sure the other cookies will be great as well so bid on anything that looks good to you. And pass the word along to your best cookie-monster friends. Thanks! And don't forget, all proceeds for the cookie sales go to Stephanie and Christian Nielson. Whom I wrote about here, in case you haven't heard of them. And whom I recently found out live less than a mile from me. Small world.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I am not a political person. I never watch the news. I am lucky to have a husband and close friends who let me know about news stories that might be applicable or interesting to me. I know this is an election year and I am working on educating myself on the various issues and candidates. I am not here to endorse a particular candidate. But I would like to state that I support marriage, between a man and a woman, as defined from the beginning by God.

I have not emphasized my religious affiliations and views on this blog, but I see this beginning to change. I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Last month the prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles issued a statement, The Divine Institution of Marriage, which includes the following:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has chosen to become involved, long with many other churches, organizations, and individuals, in defending the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman because it is a compelling moral issue of profound importance to our religion and to the future of our society.

In the fall of 1995, The Church issued The Family: A Proclamation to the World, part of which was quoted in The Divine Institution of Marriage.

We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children . . . The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.

There is much going on in our nation now, including changes in the way some people view the family unit. And those people are fighting the traditional view of marriage and family in the courts and through legislation. In Arizona (where I live), there will be a proposition on the November Ballet called Prop 102. The proposition simply says "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state."

I was up late a few nights ago reading about the Church's position on this issue and other issues being debated by political candidates right now. There was a lengthy interview of Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B. Wickman about same-gender attraction. It was very interesting to me and gave clear examples about how members of the church should respond to various situations. One of the parts that struck me the most was:

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: On the issue of a Constitutional amendment prohibiting same-gender marriage, there are some Latter-day Saints who are opposed to same-gender marriage, but who are not in favor of addressing this through a Constitutional amendment. Why did the Church feel that it had to step in that direction?
ELDER OAKS: Law has at least two roles: one is to define and regulate the limits of acceptable behavior. The other is to teach principles for individuals to make individual choices. The law declares unacceptable some things that are simply not enforceable, and there’s no prosecutor who tries to enforce them. We refer to that as the teaching function of the law. The time has come in our society when I see great wisdom and purpose in a United States Constitutional amendment declaring that marriage is between a man and a woman. There is nothing in that proposed amendment that requires a criminal prosecution or that directs the attorneys general to go out and round people up, but it declares a principle and it also creates a defensive barrier against those who would alter that traditional definition of marriage.

I have been thinking about this for the past several days. Sometimes even when you can't change laws, or actions, or consequences, it is necessary just to stand and declare. And that's what Proposition 102 does for the people of Arizona. It declares marriage a union of one man and one woman. That's all. And I will declare it too. Through my blog and through my vote.

If you live in Arizona and agree with the traditional definition of marriage, I urge you to support Prop 102. Please visit Yes For Marriage for more information on what you can do. I have created a button that links to Yes For Marriage and am displaying it on my sidebar. If you are interested in displaying the button too, just copy the code below.

If you live in California, please visit Protect Marriage, Yes on 8.
They provided the code for their button on their website, choose or 150 or 250 pixels wide.

residents please visit Yes 2 Marriage.

Friday, September 19, 2008

My Oven's On Fire!

Last weekend, in addition to a dead battery stranding us on the side of the road, we had an oven incident. I preheated the oven while I was mixing up my cookie dough and all of a sudden I saw flashing out of the corner of my eye. The oven was shooting sparks like a roman candle! It wasn't quite on fire, but practically, and I screamed for my husband to come look. Thank goodness it was all contained because it lasted for a full ten seconds and I hate to imagine what kind of damage could have done if it was the stovetop. All the sparking came from one spot, on the baking element. And when the excitement was over, the element was broken in half.

The good news is: this is an easy fix and perfect for a Do It Herself project. I hope this never happens to you, but if it does you can save yourself a bunch of money by fixing it yourself rather than paying for a service call.

The bad news is: my little project turned into a major headache & fiasco due to my own timidness (I swear I was - for once), and circumstances beyond my control.

The best news is: now that you have the benefit of my experience, this project will be quick and easy for you! Hey, what are friends for?

To Start: locate the model number of your oven and find an appliance parts store. There are many online if you are willing to wait for the element to be shipped. I called my favorite appliance store and they recommended a parts store.

My adventure: When I called they parts store they were located 45 minutes away. There is one in my city, but they are in the middle of moving locations. The very nice man at the far location called them for me to find out if they have my element, if they can find it, and where they were, old or new store. So I loaded up the three boys and drove there, unloaded them, and hauled them in the store. It was chaos in there, as new businesses are, but they were great to me and found my part right away.

Beyond my control: their credit card machine wasn't up yet and they could only take cash.

Good news
: the element was only $30.

Bad news: I only had $20. The hour and a half that followed can only be described as bad luck and involved a cancelled debit card (due to bank's compromised numbers), two stores, an ATM, and a bank branch. Needless to say I just left the kids in the car when I finally made it back to get my element. What? I left the car and A/C running and they were parked right in front of the door, 10 feet away with no other parked cars for 50 yards. Fine, I'm a bad mom and had been crying.

The Easy Part: Turn off power to your oven/range by flipping the breaker in your breaker box to the off position. Hopefully you know where your breaker box is and have the switches labeled. But you will know if you got it right because your oven won't work anymore. The digital display and interior light, I mean. Aren't all ovens pretty much digital now?

Remove the oven racks. I also saw in my users manual that the oven door just lifts right off. It took two seconds and was tons easier to reach the back of my oven. The element is attached to the back of the oven with screws, usually hex screws that require a socket to remove. I pulled out my trusty socket set, found a socket that matched the screws, then spent twenty minutes looking for the screwdriver and wrachet that went with it. Lesson learned: keep all your tools together and always put them back in the same place. Do not leave a tool out with a project you are working on that you think you will finish soon. It will be a year later and you will spend time looking for something when you really need it so you can bake cookies!

Once the screws on the element bracket are out, the whole thing will pull out, exposing the wires and electrical connections. Pull them out gently, just far enough to give room to work. According to all the tutorials I found online for replacing your element, you just detach the old element from the wires. This is usually done by unscrewing a small screw, just like the picture above. But not my model. See the picture below, which I zoomed in on as much as possible for you.

My big problem: My old element (and my new) looked just like the illustration above, but there was no screw. I tried to pull it apart gently, but it wouldn't budge. It looked like the metal part at the end of the oven wires were crimped over my element. Bad. You need special tools for stuff like that. I used a screwdriver to try to loosen the round parts. I got a teeny tiny wiggle. I cried some more. I neglected my children while I spent over an hour looking online for this type of connector. A close-up pictures is to the right. Ironically it's called a quick-connect. Hah. I finally called my Dad to ask for help, and he promised to stop by after work. When he finally made it over at 9pm (not his fault) he looked at it and said, "Tara, you just pull them apart." Which he did immediately. I felt like an idiot. I wasn't pulling hard enough because I just didn't know where to pull and was afraid to break something. The connection for the new element slid right in and my Dad was out the door three minutes later. Thanks, Dad!

The lesson for you: pull harder. My Dad used a pair of pliers the hold the connection while he pulled on the old element. Here's a close-up. Place your pliers where the yellow lines are. Pull hard.

The end: Push the wires gently back into the holes, guide the new element into place, and replace the hex screws to secure it. Turn the power back on and test. Replace the door.

How to Replace an Oven Element, the Quick & Easy Steps

1. Get a new element
2. Turn off the power
3. Remove the old element by detaching mounting screws and uncoupling electrical connections.
4. Attach new element.
5. Remount new element.
6. Restore power.

See how easy it could be. It's hard to imagine it could be as adventurous for you as it was for me. But thanks to my Dad, I learned something and still got the project done. The cookies were delicious.

If my enlightening post wasn't enough for you, I found lots of good tutorials online. Check out How Stuff Works, eHow, Home Envy, or Lowes. None of these have the same pizzazz as mine, although the Home Envy one was written by a woman and has a cool story about electrons. Thanks for reading!

Thanks to my big helper, Ro Ro. I pulled his chair right up behind me and he cheered me on very vocally the entire time. If you have young children & want to teach them well, check out my current giveaway.

This post is linked up to Tackle It Tuesday at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Teaching Your Children Through the Scriptures: Adventures With the Word of God GIVEAWAY

As a parent, one of my most important jobs is teaching my children. I love these verses from Deuteronomy 6:6-7.

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And
thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them
when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walked by the way, and when
thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

It has been wonderful watching my four year old learn his letters & numbers. And my two year old loves to sing songs and can sing the alphabet and count to 13. But as fun as these things are - my bigger responsibility is teaching my children who they are, where they came from, and what to do to have a happy and fulfilling life. Emmett's favorite song is I Am a Child of God.

I am a child of God
And He has sent me here.
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.

Lead me, guide me, walk beside me
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To Live with Him someday.

My husband and I take our children to church and they attend primary classes for kids. We pray together as a family and assist the boys in saying their own prayers. We talk daily about gospel principles and how we can make good choices. We try to have a weekly family night, including a lesson geared towards young ones. But reading scriptures with them... we haven't had much luck.

It is hard for me to read, understand, and apply the scriptures in my own life, and for the boys it seems even harder. We have tried scripture books for children, with illustrated pictures, and those are great, but don't encourage us to read daily. And that is a habit I really want to establish for my sons.

Last month I was approached by my mother's neighbor and asked to review her new book, Adventures with the Word of God. I didn't know Becky Irvine before, but received a glowing recommendation from my mom and a few other friends we have in common. She brought me a copy of the book to giveaway, and the e-book (which I'm keeping). It's all about reading the scriptures with your children and looks like it will be successful for even my small children. We have been doing it for about a month now. We don't always do it every day, but much more often than before and pretty regularly.

Becky's concept is to make scripture reading visual, thematic, interactive, and fun for children. Each month features a theme and poster or display that includes small pieces for the kids to choose a daily scripture. My boys fight over who's turn it is, so we always do two. The book gives twelve theme ideas, one for each month of the year. Okay, actually eleven - August & September were combined for one theme that was a bit longer. We started with that one so we could go chronologically & I spent a little time making our cute poster, which I even laminated. Here's a picture of my boys with our little beehive. Next month starts a "fall" theme, with leaves coming off the tree and into little piles. Can't wait! (I actually better get started on the poster.)

You could totally come up with these ideas on your own, but I would never have done it. Becky has done all the hard work for you, including the illustrations, background, and scriptures. To me the best part is that this book could grow with your children. As they get older there are tons of ways to make the scripture reading more meaningful and use this daily program as a spring board into some great family discussions. I love the monthly theme idea too, and we have been trying to tailor our family night lessons to match part of the theme.

You can win your very own copy of Adventures With the Word of God. Just leave a comment on this post and I will choose someone at random. Please leave an e-mail address if it is not public on your blog. The contest is open through Sunday, Sept. 28th. If you don't win this great book, you can buy it here and the CD here.

Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks in my Dryer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Project Runway Take 10 - Transformation

And then there were six! I'm organizing by designer this week, as they were challenged to do a head to toe makeover for a recent college grad. It was fun to watch the transformations. Real models are cool to watch, but real people are so much more interesting. And the winner gets a spread in Elle magazine - serious bonus!

These girls mostly know what they want, even though they look young. I loved Leanne's comment about how her girl couldn't be a college grad because she looked twelve. Funny, since Leanne only looks about eighteen to me. She's 27. When they showed old pictures of the designers when they talked about their first jobs, Leanne looked EXACTLY the same(k, fatter cheeks), except in ugly clothes. The judges hated Leanne's jacket, but liked the dress underneath. It was obvious she wasn't going anywhere, despite being in the bottom three. I didn't love her jacket, but was glad she thought to cover her grade-school teacher up a bit. There is no modesty left in the world.

Did you see Joe's old photo? Holy cow, he was looking good! Mr. GQ in a suit. With 80s hair. Too bad he couldn't get over that suit and design something else for his 21 year old graphic designer living in 2008. I was wondering why they didn't show a picture of his daughters during the emotional, I-miss-my-family part, but I'm pretty sure it was because he got auf'd. His suit was pretty bad - especially the shirt. It was so ill-fitting and she looked like she wasn't wearing a bra - awful! Ralph Lauren can pull off a suit like this, but Joe Faris can not.

Has anyone else ever noticed that Jerrell is very attractive? From the neck up. (Yes, I know he's an "inventive" dresser & queer as a three dollar bill.) He had a ton of close-up shots as they were bringing out the moms and recent college grads - and he is way cute. I love his hair and he has a great smile and nice profile. He just looks happy. Probably fake, I know. But I was struck by it. And he was the only one who didn't have a "fashion" job for his first - he worked at McDonalds. But what was up with the feathers on his head during judging? Good thing he didn't do something crazy like that for his outfit, because it turned out so well! I'm glad he won the challenge - his look was sophisticated but age-appropriate. It was a major transformation for his model. The cardigan was a cool touch. This picture doesn't do it justice though - we'll have to look for the Elle magazine photos. Congrats, Jerrell!

Kenley is always so confident - even when her outfit kind of sucks (like last week). It gets a bit annoying. But none of the designers seem to be impressed with the others, it's like they think there is no possible way they couldn't win the challenge every week. I was glad to see Kenley keep her mouth shut during the judges comments (besides laughing out loud at Joe) - although that's a lot easier to do when they are saying good things. She looked crushed when she didn't win. It was a great look but Kenley sure hasn't shown much range. She lucked into getting a "mini-me" as a client this week.

One of the reasons I like Suede (as a person, not necessarily as a designer) is because he is humble. He seems sweet and somehow unpretentious, despite the third person usage. He has grown on me but doesn't have a chance to make it to the final three. He doesn't have as much talent as some of the others, but he has done some good stuff. I liked his dress a lot tonight- just the jacket was hideous.

Poor Korto - she is an amazing designer but can't seem to win a challenge. Her outfit was superfab and the most young & hip looking. Wait, I swear I said that exact same thing about her look two weeks ago. Yes, I did. Hmmm, a trend. I feel confident that she'll make it to Bryant Park and we'll get to see more of her. I loved her jacket this week, except for the closures - a little weird to me. The dress was very cute but seemed like it needed a few more inches of length.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Secret Ingredient: Cardamom

I love Works for Me Wednesdays! My tip for everyone today is for the kitchen - learn to use cardamom in you baking & cooking. Cardamom can be used as a substitute for cinnamon, although use less because it is stronger. Cardamom also goes very well with cinnamon, like in this recipe for Viking Cookies below, from the author of the Hannah Swensen culinary mystery series. I usually make a few modifications though. They are very sweet, even for me, so I cut each of the sugars by 1/4 cup. I use half white & half semi-sweet chocolate chips - this cuts the sweetness a little too. Viking cookies are also great with a handful of coconut thrown in.

If you love cookies & you love Nie Nie (who doesn't) - click over to Landra Lynn's blog. She is hosting a cookie auction on Monday, Sept. 22nd. You can bake some or buy some.

I also love a sprinkle of cardamom on top of my powdered hot chocolate mix, before I add the water. Check out some recipes featuring cardamom from Allrecipes. After the cookie recipe I added some excerpts about cardamom.

Viking Cookies
Joanne Fluke @ Murder She Baked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2 cups butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom (nutmeg will also work, but cardalmom is better!)
4 1/2 cups flour
3 cups white chocolate chips
3 cups quick oats

Melt the butter and let it cool. Mix in the white and brown sugars. Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, eggs, vanilla, and spices. Make sure it's all mixed in thoroughly.
Add the flour in half-cup increments, mixing after each addition. Then add the chocolate chips and stir thoroughly. Add the oatmeal and mix. the dough will be quite stiff.
Drop by teaspoons onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 11-13 minutes.
Yield, 6-10 dozen cookies, depending on size.

Confessions of a Cardamom Addict - a food blog with some fun cardamom recipes on the sidebar

McCormick Enspicelopedia - check out the bottom of McCormick's page for a link to more recipes. Cardamom is used in Danish pastries, Saudi Arabian, North African, Asian, and Indian cooking and in spice blends such as garam masala, curry powder, and berbere. Throughout the Arab world, Cardamom is one of the most popular spices, with Cardamom coffee being a symbol of hospitality and prestige. The spice is also very popular in the Scandinavian countries where it is used more extensively than cinnamon.

Wikipedia - Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic fragrance. Black cardamom has a distinctly more astringent aroma, though not bitter, with a coolness similar to mint, though with a different aroma. It is a common ingredient in Indian cooking, and is often used in baking in Nordic countries, such as in the Finnish sweet-bread pulla. It is one of the most expensive spices by weight, and little is needed to impart the flavor.

My Recent Works For Me Wednesday posts:

Brillante Award

My IRL friend, Susan, gave me the 2008 Brillante Weblog Award on her fabulous Bloggin' 'Bout Books. I've never gotten a blog award before, and seen them floating everywhere, so I was glad to know someone even reads my blog, much less enjoys it. Of course, Susan knows me in person, so there's no guarantees she actually reads. But let's pretend. Thanks, Susan! I'm pretty sure Susan & her husband keep tolerating me because I introduced them to Dick & Jane in real life.

The rules of the Brillante award say you should pass it along to five of your favorite blogs and, of course, let them know about it. So pretty much like a chain letter. I've been thinking about it for a while and decided to use this as a chance to highlight some new blogs I've been reading. I don't really know any of these people & have maybe never even made a comment on their blog. Yes, I'm a stalker. Or lurker. Whatever. But I'm coming out of the closet! That doesn't mean I'll have enough courage to actually tell these people I like them. So if you happen to be a close personal friend of any of them, or just click over from their link below, or are afraid for the survival of the Brillante chain award - feel free to let them know.

The Jolly Porter - This guy, Topher, is the brother of NieNie & is seriously hilarious. Don't miss this post: a secret crush. Funny & sweet.

Jaimee Rose Blog - Jaimee writes for The Arizona Republic, which my husbands reads daily - but I only read the Yes mini-mag on Fridays. Jaimee writes about entertaining, fashion, food, & fab finds - all here in the Valley of the Sun. There is loads of great stuff even if you don't live here.

A Print a Day - I found this blog just a couple weeks ago & Yasmine is an amazingly talented graphic artist. And she puts up tons of beautiful designs for all us untalented people to enjoy & use. She even throws up free downloads sometimes - high resolution pdf files. This blue butterfly has been my desktop wallpaper since the night I found her blog. (After I stayed up for three hours reading her entire archive.)

How About Orange - Jessica Jones has a fun blog with cool finds & ideas and marvelous fabrics, which she designs. She only started sewing a few years ago and makes me think maybe I could do it too. Check out the tutorials & DIY projects.

Metremade - Australian designers Liz & Tess post supercool prints meant to be used as backgrounds and wallpapers. Back when I found them I was changing my wallpaper daily & driving my husband crazy. I love this new red & blue one.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Beautiful Baby

My Monday post is supposed to be about Beauty on a Budget. Well, I have some beautiful stuff for you today and it will definitely be within your budget. These baby pictures are absolutely lovely and they free for you to enjoy!

My dear friend, Lindsay, recently gave birth to her third gorgeous girl. She is lucky enough to have a budding photographer for a friend and they put together a photo shoot that made me smile, sigh, swoon, and ahhh. It helps that Lindsay lives in an amazing three story colonial home with beautiful grounds and a writer's retreat cottage in the back. Let's see if I can find a picture from last fall when I went to visit. Ah, here it is. Nice, huh?

Here are a few of the hundreds of fantastic shots of the baby. I'm not sure how they will choose ones to print. Maybe they will make collages and wallpaper their house with them. I would.