Friday, August 30, 2013

Food Friday: The Final Icebox Pie

When I promised icebox pie recipes for every Friday in August, I hadn't anticipated how often I would screw up my pies.  But that is exactly what I did.  Lemonade pie turned out best and my mom made that one.  Sigh.

We ate my failures and that included my final pie, a tribute to the Baskin Robbins jamocha fudge flavor.  This pie has coffee and chocolate, two of my favorite things.

The Ingredients
- a gallon of coffee or espresso chip ice cream, softened
- 2 cups whip cream
- jar of chocolate fudge sauce
-  1/4 cup sliced almonds
- chocolate crust (or homemade crust)

Place the softened ice cream in the crust and place in the freezer for at least 6 hours.  
Then spread slightly warmed fudge on top.
Note that I screwed that up again.  Freeze again and serve each slice with sliced almonds and a dollop of whip cream and a cherry on top.
Still want to make some icebox pies?  Internet, I let you down in August but other folks are making a success of icebox pies.  You should try these Southern Living recipes, which look awesome.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Your Weekly Bouquet

Each week, I pick myself some zinnias from the garden and make a fresh bouquet or two.  For the next few weeks, I'll be posting a picture of the week's bouquets.
 That's happy!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Space for all that Deodorant

In the event that you are running short on deodorant, roll on by our house and JT can hook you up.  He'll open his freshly painted closet door.
And a bevy of odor protection assistance will be yours.
His stash of stink guard is inexplicable, but at least he has a new closet with plenty of shelves on which to store it.
T was the designer and primary laborer for this project, which finds the boy with plenty of space to store his baseball gear, his shoes, his socks, and all the other detritus of adolescence (seriously, WTF with all the deodorant, kid?).

Monday, August 26, 2013


JT has a rather rich fantasy life centered on the activities Bigfoot so when T and I sighted this silhouette of Sasquatch, we knew it was an opportunity not to be missed.
At this point, the real question is when this item comes to live with us in the backyard.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Harvest Season

The garden is in full bloom these days, filled with lush green plants doing their thing.
I'm having my greatest success with cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.
And the zinnias, of course.  Each week I pick a new bouquet to enjoy for the week.
Though we are still two weeks from the arrival of students, school meetings start this week.  I can feel the summer fading away as schoolwork rises to the forefront of my concerns.  But I am determined to drag out the pleasures of the season.  So I take a walk through the garden each morning, breathing in the sights and the smells of summer.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Home Sweet Taco

Last weekend, JT returned home after a week in Iowa.   His taste-of-home supper was chicken tacos, of course.
He ate 8 of them and then said that he loved me.  I'll take it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Real Life Texts with KO: Identity Politics edition

Me:  Alarming discovery: I really like Katy Perry pop songs.  Feel cool driving around in my station wagon playing her songs too loud.  Somewhere in my head, I realize that this combination is anything but cool.  Sign of old age is that I do not care.

KO:   Her songs are very catchy.  And, hey, she kissed a girl and she liked it so it's almost like you're the same person.

Me:  Now that you mention it, we DO have a lot in common.  

If you need me, I'll be at Sephora stocking up on cherry chapstick.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Real Life Conversations with Tiger: Pecking Order edition

The backstory:  Tiger the cat is more dog than cat in that he spends a good deal of time glued to my side.  He will leave my side to nap, though only in the most inconvenient of locations.  

Me:  How about I change the sheets on the bed?

Tiger:  How about you leave me alone so I can rest?
I know when I am in the wrong.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Realization

As summer vacation beckons, the early morning sun helps inspire me to get moving for the last weeks of school in May and June.  Even when I am feeling exhausted, there is something about early morning light that lightens the load.  Then summer arrives and with it are dozens of unscheduled mornings.  In the summer, I often awaken early for a girl who doesn't have to go to work, usually around 7:15.  I love the quiet of the early morning, especially one that doesn't feature a requirement that I get moving to face the day.

On my last morning in California, I was up even earlier than usual for our flight home.  The horizon was dark at that hour and it wasn't until we settled in at the airport after 6 am that the sun began to rise.  As I watched the light fill the sky around the mountains, I realized that early back-to-school mornings are just around the corner.  I've grown accustomed to summer mornings featuring lovely light bathing my world.  But a quick check of the sunrise and sunset chart for September reveals a truth I know far too well: the daylight is shrinking and my back-to-school mornings will start in hazy darkness.

Though classes don't begin until September 9, as of last week I was making forays into work.  This week will feature the same; I was out of bed and drinking coffee outside by 6 am this morning.   I watered my flowers and the garden and stopped to watch the pink sun rise, a sight I never tire of admiring.  I am at work to get plans in place for my new Middle School responsibilities.  Next week, the rest of the faculty will be there to make it official: school is about to begin.  

Making plans helps to ease my anxious mind.  But there is a corner of me who wishes for my summer to last forever.  The thought of dark mornings ahead feels foreboding.  I suspect that I just need to get started in order to relieve my mind; to get into the swing of things to find both familiar comforts and new tasks that I enjoy.  And there is the consolation of sunrises to admire and enjoy.   Even so, it's a hard summer to let go.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Zinnia Season

It's August, and that means that the fresh-cut zinnia season is fully upon us.
The bouquet on the right is made in a milk bottle from Rosa Brothers Dairy, a Hanford, California, dairy that didn't get its deposit back on this bottle.  My sister gave it to me when I was in California because she knows how I like that sort of thing.  That's happy!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Coming Out of the Pink Closet

JT's bedroom has two closets and for a house as old as ours, they are fairly spacious.  That's the good news.  But both are painted a horrid shade of pink (the previous homeowners had two daughters and bad taste in paint colors).   It's a particularly virulent shade but as it's been kept behind closed doors, we had learned to live with it.
Over the years, this closet has been filled with nonsense, as closets often are.  There was a big clean-out when the bathroom was remodeled (originally, the bathroom plumbing was accessed via the door in the closet seen above).  But we never really took full advantage of the space.

This past week, while JT was away, T and I sought to remedy the situation.  Our goal was to make the closet more useful, with space for JT's athletic gear and baseball card collection.  And we decided to eradicate the pink, if only to ease the horror associated with opening the closet.  Paint coat 1 found the closet a pale pink.
Two coats made for a vast improvement.  
This was a more annoying painting project than T and I anticipated because of the sheer volume of pink paint (even the ceiling was pink) and the tight spaces, which meant that only one person could paint at a time.  We also updated the white woodwork trim in the room and refreshed the door while we were at it, so painting took most of Sunday.

That job complete, we turned ourselves to the fun part of this task: organizing the now sparkling closet space.  Lots of shelves and a sturdy hook were added.

Then,  JT's things were loaded on the empty shelves.  Pictures were made, of course.  And that's a post for another day.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Late Summer

My August visits to California always ensure that I have a chance to envy the growing climate of the state.  My Dad's citrus crops are impressive.
The crape myrtle trees that bloom everywhere (this one is in my sister's front yard) are lovely.
Both are plants that would not flourish in New Jersey.  The Garden State has compensating virtues in the form of beautiful woods and lush green yards.   But August trips usually means that I return to a slightly dried out New Jersey, with grass less lush thanks to the heat, which has typically worn out the good will of growing things.  This year has been a notable exception, with lots of rain and patches of moderate temperatures that have made for a lovely summer.  I cut my thick green grass last night after an incredibly beautiful day.  The late afternoon light, moderate temperatures, and  blue skies were accompanied by a breeze that made me wish that summer would never end.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


My cats are litter mates and though Tiger is quite a bit larger than the petite Lucy, they look alike.  The similarities are only fur-deep, as these two have very different personalities.  Among the differences is the degree to which they miss us when we are away from home.  Lucy seems not to care one iota.  But Tiger clearly struggles when we are away because when we return, he promptly glues himself to my side.  Here he is on the table next to my electronics, throwing caution to the wind despite the fact that I have a spray bottle of water to keep him off the table.
At night, when I tuck into bed, Tiger joins me, making himself a little nest right next to me.
Mostly, I don't mind.  That's a good thing, as he's not to be deterred.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Which Is It?

In California, these small watermelons were billed as "personal-sized watermelons."  This fruit is mine, all mine!
In New Jersey, they are "mini watermelons" which I suspect means I must share my fruit.  I confess that I am a tad surprised that New Jerseyans are so willing to share.  I guess they need to cover that extra 50 cents.
I feel this is commentary on the larger differences between the left and right coast, though I am not sure what is being said.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


After yesterday's post, my sister texted me with a reminder that a cookie-based crust for an icebox pie can also be be made by hand.  She's right.  The process is pretty easy, though in some instances I think the crust is more solid if it's baked, a consideration for me in the summer.  For those of you who object to pre-made crusts (hi, KO), here are a few crust recipes that are more of the handmade variety (they use packaged cookies, so they aren't completely homemade).

For a chocolate crust made with Oreos, you can crush a couple rows of cookies (you want about 2 cups worth) and then mix the crushed mixture with 1/4 cup of melted butter.  Press it into your pie pan or casserole dish and then fill it with the ice cream of your choice.

For a graham cracker, vanilla wafer, or gingersnap crust, crush enough cookies for two cups worth of finely crumbed cookies.  Mix with 1/4 cup of melted butter, press into the pie pan or casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees (325 if your oven runs to the hot) for about 5 minutes (the goal is a toasted crust….you may need a few more minutes; keep on eye on this process).  Let the crust cool and then fill accordingly. 

However you make it, I think we can all agree: make an icebox pie this month.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Food Friday: Eating My Failure

I promised icebox pies for Fridays in August and yesterday I set out to make an ice cream pie.  Things started out well for this pie: there was a chocolate crust, creamy mint chocolate chip ice cream, fudge, whipped cream and cherries.
The softened ice cream was easily spread on the crust.
And then I overheated the fudge and made one hell of a mess.  T announced that we must "eat our failures" and this pie went into the freezer overnight to make it more manageable.
It's rather a disaster to look at, but I suspect that with a base alloy of ice cream and hot fudge it will still taste terrific.  Later today, I will cut slices, top them with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and a cherry and then we will eat my very yummy failure.

To make your own ice cream pie, you need:

- 1 prepared crust (chocolate or graham cracker)
- 1 tub of ice cream, softened
- 1 jar ice cream topping (I used hot fudge)
- freshly whipped cream
- cherries

Scoop the softened ice cream into the crust and then place in the freezer for a few hours.  Once the ice cream is solidly frozen, spread slightly warmed topping on the ice cream.  Put the pie into the freezer for at least six hours.  Serve with whipped cream and a cherry on each slice.  My pie was mint chocolate chip with hot fudge, but any number of combinations are an option.  Consider:
- butter pecan ice cream with caramel topping
- vanilla ice cream with caramel and chocolate
- strawberry ice cream with chocolate (or strawberry topping)

Really, the sky is the limit.  Rarely does failure taste so sweet.
Updated to reflect KO's reminder to freeze the ice cream before spreading on the warmed topping.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Boys

I made several efforts to make a picture of JT with his cousins during our visit.  The boys complained about these efforts, as if it would detract from their busy schedule of watching the telly, playing video games, eating truckloads of food, or swimming in the pool at KO's house.
Since they were born eight weeks apart thirteen years ago, we have referred to JT and S as the "little boys" (to be distinguished from C, the two-years-older "big boy").   You can't quite see it here, but the youngest of the boys, tiny little S on the right, is also the tallest, at 6 foot 2 (and has probably grown since this picture was made three days ago).
JT, a puny 5 foot 7, loves these boys.  His first act upon returning home last night was to sent S an instant message about their fantasy football league.  I'm grateful that the 2000 miles between them seems like nothing to fret about; a mere detail in a world of easy travel and instant messaging.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Real Life Conversations with Family: This is How We Roll edition

The backstory:  We were sitting around supper on our last evening in California, reviewing the indignities of airline travel, especially the red tape that is the TSA.  I was expressing my usual objections to the removal of belts and shoes when others chimed in.

KO:  I thought that older people don't have to take off their shoes anymore.

My Mom:  That's only if you are 75 or older.

KO:  Ahhh, you could pass for that, Mom.

Our mom is a rather young looking 70.  None of us have a future in diplomacy.

Monday, August 05, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Dried Out

In my New Jersey world, winter is the season of dry skin.  As the cold comes in and heated indoors become the norm, my skin slowly dries out.  Then, as winter settles upon us, my skin cracks and feels unpleasant.  Around that time, I start to demand that I be dipped in a vat of warm lotion.  I am not kidding.

Summers are better, at least as far as my dry skin is concerned.  The humidity keeps the air moist and my skin is more supple and soft.  But there is an unpleasant side effect:  humid heat finds me sweating, often unpleasantly.  If there was an Olympics of sweating, I would be a contender. I know what you're thinking, Internet, and yes I am prone to hyperbole.  But not on this matter.  Don't be jealous.

Trips to California in August largely cure the sweating.  It's hot here, but there is no humidity and I find it surprisingly pleasant.  Or at least it is pleasant until the dry skin returns with a ceiling-fan-driven vengeance.  Within 3 days, my skin is feeling dry and crackling and my eyes are bulging dry, thanks to the ceiling fans that are everywhere.

Normal people seem to fare just fine in these conditions, but I must face the sad fact that I have not evolved enough to live peaceably in the modern ceiling fan world.  Well, not without a vat of lotion at hand.  Sigh.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Big City Farmer's Market

I love a farmer's market, not only for the prospects of lovely produce but also for the photos I can make of the fruits, veggies, and flowers.  On Thursday, my sister and I ditched our kids with their grandmother (she took them to Alcatraz…hopefully, not a harbinger of their future) and then KO and I strolled the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco.  I hadn't been to the city for years and all the waiting must have paid off.  It was a beautiful day.
There are actual photos of me, an elusive creature who should know better than to stand next to her beautiful and photogenic sister.
There was yummy Mexican food for lunch.
And then there was produce; beautiful, freshly grown, California produce.  We were in San Francisco, mind you, so it was organic produce fertilized with the tears of aging hippies.  There were dahlias of the sort I dream of harvesting some day (pro-tip: I may need to plant more than 4 bulbs for a crop such as this).
Tomatoes a-plenty.
These peppers were simply glorious.
Lovely squash and potatoes.
And then some strawberries for dessert.
That's happy!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Four Eyes but Not a Lick of Common Sense

In my early 20s, I discovered that the glasses I wore to see long distances were really handy seeing things close at hand as well.  The realization that I needed glasses did not set well with me.  I did not like the loss of peripheral vision; I would squint painfully in the sun; I did not like their feel on my face.  So I embraced contact lenses when my eye doctor suggested them.  And I've never looked back.

Well, sort of.

These days I still wear my contacts (in fact, I'm quite dependent on them).  But years of contact lens abuse have taken their toll and I am now careful not to overdo it.  When I travel on a plane, I wear glasses so that the dry air doesn't irritate my eyes.

I have a pair with an up-to-date prescription, of course.  But I do not like those glasses. Instead, I wear a pair whose frames I do like, despite the fact that the prescription is a few years out of date.  For short distances, that's no problem.  But in the distance of an airport, I am forced to squint and look closely, like some sort of blinded fool.

Which, come to think of it, is exactly what I am.  Someday I expect to grow up and act like an adult.  That day has not yet arrived.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Food Friday: Lemonade Icebox Pie

Everyone loves themselves some pie.  But it's August and it's hot and I'm not heating up the oven for pie.  On the other hand, icebox pies are cool and taste like summer.  The virtue of icebox pies is that they are cold and refreshing and they don't heat up the kitchen.  And, they are easy to make.  So this month, each Friday I will post an icebox pie recipe.  First up: lemonade pie. 
1 pre-made graham cracker crust 
1 6 oz can frozen lemonade, defrosted
1 small can sweetened condensed milk
1 small tub of Cool Whip (you could substitute 3 cups of homemade sweetened whipped cream)
finely grated zest from one lemon

In a large bowl, mix the frozen lemonade, the sweetened condensed milk, and the Cool Whip together until the ingredients are smooth.  Pour into the graham cracker crust.  Sprinkle the lemon zest on top.  Place in the freezer for at least 6 hours and then serve.  

This is the yummy taste of summer.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

August 1st: Front Yard Flowerbed

In the process of organizing my front yard flowers to have a fresh bloom for each month of summer, I forgot the rudbeckia, which blooms in late July and early August.  As if the black-eyed-susans knew they had been neglected, they have put on quite a show these last few weeks.
I trust my apology will be accepted.
For the very first time in my gardening history, I seem to be headed toward some success with dahlia bulbs.  I staked these two with some short bamboo sticks and they should have orange flowers later this month.  There are two more dahlia plants in the backyard.  That's happy.
Usually, summer's heat ensures that by August I need to mow less often, more like every 10 days.  But this year's abundant rains have kept me on a weekly mowing schedule.  The plants have soaked up the hot sun and rains and they remain lush and green, a welcome sight to greet me every day when I take my stroll around the yard each morning.
Soon enough, summer vacation will come to an end and it will be time to suit up for school (and the challenge of teaching the 6th grade).  In the meantime, here's to hoping that the lush garden growth can hold out.