Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vintage Bean

I found this a few years ago when we were unpacking the ornaments. It's from 1988 - I was in 2nd grade, 7 years old, and that was my catholic school year, hence the plaid :)

We got Nintendo that year and I had chickenpox for christmas.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Another christmas has come and gone, and it was great to spend the holiday in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with my family. This is the last time for a while that we'll be out there for the big day. We agreed a long time ago that when we had kids we would spend christmases at home during the "Santa Years." Charlie traveled out of town every year growing up, and he doesn't exactly have the fondest memories of being away from his own house for every single christmas. Part of me (ok, a lot of me) is sad that it's going to be another few years before we start up the east coast christmas express again, but the other part of me is really excited for Toddler Charlie because he'll get to have those christmas memories of waking up in his own bed in his own house. I always forget just how lucky I was that my entire extended family lived in the same place. No one was ever missing from our celebrations.

I'm lucky enough to have a super long christmas vacation this year, so I don't go back to work until January 4th. I try not to spend too much time on the computer when I'm home, and the XBOX Kinect Dance Central game is taking up a lot of my time and energy after Toddler Charlie goes to bed, so I won't be around too much until after the new year. Hope you had a fantastic holiday season with your families!

Bean and the Sibs, Christmas 2010. This is why we're hot.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peppermint Trifecta

I've said it before, but I LOOOOOOOOVE peppermint and chocolate, and this was certainly three successful outcomes.

I stole two of the recipes from Beantown Baker and made a very slight adaptation to each to up the peppermint goodness.

Starting at the top, we have peppermint fudge. I used her standard fudge recipe but used mint chocolate chips instead of plain chocolate chips. It's the easiest fudge recipe in the world, so I suggest you check it out. When I say "easy," I mean EASY, as in less than 10 minutes to prep. The hardest part is waiting for it to chill in the fridge.

The Peppermint Bark is my favorite holiday trick, because everyone always thinks that it's so impressive and that it must be so hard to make. I probably shouldn't tell you this, but it's really one of the simplest things ever. I kind of wing it, but the recipe that I've come up with, if you can even call it that, seems to work pretty well. I'm not even going to break it into steps, because you don't really need to:

Melt 8oz dark or semi-sweet chocolate with 1/2 tsp of canola (or vegetable) oil and 1/2 tsp peppermint extract. (You can melt the chocolate in a microwave, but I prefer a double-boiler.) Spread onto wax- or parchment-lined cookie sheet (thickness is a personal preference!), then sprinkle crushed peppermints on top.

Chill for an hour, then melt 8oz white chocolate (not the fake white chocolate candy coating, the good stuff! Look for cocoa butter and milk, not hydrogenated oils.) with another 1/2 tsp canola oil and 1/2 tsp peppermint extract, spread over chilled darker chocolate, top with another round of crushed candy, and chill overnight. Break into pieces when it's set.

Finally, we have the phenomenal peppermint cookies. This was a new recipe for me, and they're my new favorite, for sure. Again, slight deviation from the recipe in the form of peppermint extract - I doubled the recipe and added a teaspoon to the cookie dough. I also added a half teaspoon to the chocolate topping, which was just enough to add the minty kick but not be overpowering. Finally, I opted to crush my peppermints a little bit finer, just because there will be toddlers eating my cookies.

So there you go, three of my new favorite christmas recipes. Now, if only Ben & Jerry's would release a Peppermint Ice Cream to go along with them, I'd be totally set.

My only regret is that I didn't make it to Beantown's Peppermint Brownies. They're definitely at the top of my list for next year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

One of Those Nights

Charlie woke up right around 1:30 because he needed a drink of water. He went right back to sleep, but I wasn't so lucky. I tossed and turned for two hours after that thanks to a stream of random thoughts running through my head.

It started out with thinking about how to explain shadows to a toddler (that's his newest obsession - the shadow on the ceiling that appears when he turns his light on and disappears when he turns it off. "Where did shadow go? What's shadow doing?"). Then it moved on to reminiscing about how I was too scared to walk down the hall to my parents room because I was just positive that Skeletor lived in the hallway closet. Where did that come from?

Then I started thinking about the other things I used to be afraid of when I was little, namely that vampires lived in the sewers and would come up out of the toilet when you flushed it. I used to stand as far away as possible and push the flush lever with one finger and then turn around and run out of the bathroom as fast as I could. Sometimes I even enlisted my siblings to come sit by the door and tell me jokes while I flushed so I wouldn't have to think about it. We were weird like that, and called them "bathroom jokes."

That led me to thinking more about the house I grew up in and how weird it was - my dad and my grandfather built it and some things about it were just "off," like how there were no closets other than in the upstairs hallway and there was a huge window in the bathroom right over the toilet and only a little tiny window in the playroom.

The next logical step from there was to start thinking of the neighborhood kids that we used to play with, and my friends from elementary and junior high, and how we used to go christmas caroling and play the piano and sing awful show tunes.

Then I relived the day we moved to Ohio and how bad it sucked and how miserable I was. But I made friends, some of whom I miss dearly. So I started thinking about my old friends and old times and how much trouble we used to get into, and what would have happened if I had started dating my old buddy from high school when he showed up in my philosophy class in college, before I had met Charlie, and then being glad that I didn't, because I have a very lovely life and if we had dated even for a few weeks I probably wouldn't have ended up meeting Charlie, at all.

I thought about the music we used to listen to and the million games of laser tag and the slam book and some other random happenings that I'm not about to broadcast to the interwebs.

And after that it was just random, like trying to remember where we had dinner on our anniversary each year, or studying the flashing light on the smoke detector and wondering when we last changed the batteries, or thinking about the peppermint bark setting in the fridge and the other stuff I had made over the weekend and whether there would be enough to share with everyone and enough to take with us for the trip.

And it just wouldn't stop. Fun times.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments is brought to you by Mrs4444!

Mommy's Idea

We had a snow day yesterday. Daycare announced a 2-hour delay (of course, after I had already gotten up at 5:15 and was ready for the day), then an hour later my offices announced that they were closed for the day. By the end of the day it looked like a bomb had gone off in the living room and I was absolutely exhausted. I wonder if this is how my parents felt after snow days?

I introduced Charlie to Rudolph. The original Rudolph, with Herbie the Dentist and Cornelius. He's become absolutely obsessed with it and asks to watch it pretty much every night. I never realized how long that movie is. An HOUR! That's a long movie. I also never realized just how mean those reindeer were, and how annoying the movie was. I almost feel guilty for how many times I made my parents watch it with us.

You know what other kids christmas movie is super sad? Frosty the Snowman. I had flashbacks to crying on the couch when Frosty took the little girl into the greenhouse to save her - you just knew that he wasn't going to make it out alive.

Charlie's final christmas present is on it's way! My friend up in the cold north of Ohio made him a toddler-friendly light saber, complete with glow-in-the-dark yarn.

I continued my holiday baking last night with Peppermint Fudge. I took a recipe from a favorite cooking blog - Beantown Baker - and changed it up a little bit to mix my two favorite flavors together.

Pictures and recipe adaptation coming soon!

Tomorrow my baking continues with a cookie-baking mini party with one of my favorite friends, who I haven't seen in way too long.

I strained my quad muscles on Wednesday and I'm placing 100% of the blame on my not-so-high heels. I spend way too much time in them wandering a random college campus while I was there for career day.

Can you believe I was invited to speak at career day? It's one of those moments when you realize that people expect you to act like a responsible adult.

Have a lovely weekend :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Recipe: Gnocchi with Butter Thyme Sauce

Have I mentioned before that I LOVE gnocchi? LOVE it. Like, I could swim in it. I can't get enough of it, but it's time-consuming to make, so I don't get to enjoy it very often. What's that you say? Buy it pre-made? Blasphemy!

Gnocchi is an excellent winter food, and since it's been well below freezing here, I decided to make up a batch of gnocchi to make myself feel better.

I've gone through a few different recipes, and this one from Giada is definitely the easiest. We usually freeze half of them - we eat the fresh batch with the butter sauce and then eat the frozen batch with tomato sauce and bits of mozzarella. Yum!

Gnocchi with Butter Thyme Sauce

* 1/2 cup unsalted butter
* 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
* 1 (1-pound) russet potato
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 large egg, beaten to blend
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/4 cup shaved Pecorino Romano

Pierce the potato all over with a fork. Microwave the potato until tender, turning once, about 12 minutes. (I always bake my potatoes in the oven. I'm sure the microwave works just as well)

Cut the potato in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl; discard the skin. Using a fork, mash the potato well. Mash in the salt and pepper. Mix in 3 tablespoons of the egg; discard the remaining egg. Sift the flour over the potato mixture and knead just until blended. (If you have a Kitchen Aid Mixer this is as simple as turning the power up to four)

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your palms and the work surface into a 1/2-inch-diameter rope (about 20 inches long). Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece of dough over a wooden paddle with ridges or over the tines of a fork to form grooves in the dough. (I don't usually bother with the perfect ridges. They don't look as nice, but my time is valuable)

(At this point you can freeze the extras - I lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet and stick them in the freezer for a few hours, then transfer them to a freezer bag after they're frozen through)

Cook the butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the thyme leaves. Set aside.

Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water until the gnocchi rise to the surface, about 1 minute. Continue cooking until the gnocchi are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the hot thyme-butter in the skillet. Toss to coat. (Alternatively, cook your gnocchi in the skillet with a little bit of butter or olive oil. Sometimes I like mine to be brown on the outside to add more texture.)

Spoon the gnocchi and butter sauce into shallow bowls. Top with the Pecorino and serve.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Random Thought

Today I didn't count Charlie's breakfast blueberries to make sure there was an even number. I felt a little twitchy as I dumped them into the bowl, but I handed them off and started doing something else.

I'm still standing.

I still feel a little weird about it, but I'm still standing.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

White Wine in the Sun

I posted this video last year because I heard it on a podcast and totally fell in love with it. This song pretty much sums up how I look at the holiday season from an agnostic standpoint; as a celebration of family.

Being so far away from my family and having a small child of my own, this section at the end makes me cry every time I hear it.

And you my baby girl
My jetlagged infant daughter
You'll be handed round the room
Like a puppy at a petting zoo

And you’re too young to know
But you will learn one day
That wherever you are and whatever you face
These are the people
Who'll make you feel safe in the world

My sweet blue-eyed girl

And if my baby girl
When you're twenty one or thirty one
And Christmas comes around
And you find yourself 9000 miles from home

You’ll know whatever comes
Your brothers and sisters and me and your mum.
Will be waiting for you in the sun

Because that's really what it's all about, after all. Being around the people who love you unconditionally. Forget about the dancing animal toys and the webkins and the leapfrogs and the legos and all the other junk that dominates the month of December - what matters are the memories and the connections and the life that we make for ourselves and the impact that we have on others. I think everyone can get on board with that.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments is brought to you by Mrs4444!

Mommy's Idea

Guess who was the favorite Friday Fragmenter last week? Moi!

Thanks to Dunkin Donuts for the inspiration. And for this morning's coffee.

You know you're in trouble when an Eminem song comes on in the car and your 2-year-old pipes up from the backseat - "I like this song!"

No better way to start the day than being handed an entire mashed up cereal bar as said 2-year-old exits the car.

Charlie had his first holiday concert last night. It was hilarious. Of course, I didn't get a good picture because there were too many people in front of us, and then afterward he was too hyped up on christmas cookies to sit still for a good shot, so this will have to do.

I got my early christmas present - Jeter has a finalized contract to stay with the Yankees. Totally made my day week offseason. Four more months until baseball comes back!

Funny FB status of the week: An amazing movie with an AMAZING of my all time favorites ♥

Any ideas what movie she might be talking about? If I told you to guess 100 possible movies, I bet it wouldn't end up on your list.

Really? Amazing? I didn't really find anything about that movie to be amazing. Anything other than Ben Affleck, anyway. Yum.

ESPN launched a special website for women this week - espnW. I'm not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, I like that the female sportswriters have a place of their own where they can showcase their work without constantly being overshadowed by the Buster Olneys and Michael Wilbons of the world. On the other hand, I don't really think that female sports fans really need (or want!) a separate site. I'm just as capable of reading and comprehending a sports-related article as any other man out there, maybe even moreso, when the discussions turn toward sabermetrics. I think it's a bad step for them to take.

The Office totally redeemed itself with the Holiday Party episode last night. I haven't laughed so much during an episode since pre- Pam and Jim's wedding. One of the best quotes came from Michael, and I had to select it as my QOTW because it reminds me so much of my New Hampshire-raised husband, who is rather snobby when it comes to the quality of his trees :)

Michael (poking at the office christmas tree): No, no, no, no! Fake Tree! No, no, no! Holly's coming from New Hampshire! Someone from New Hampshire looks at that and thinks it's a burning cross!

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

10 Years Ago

10 years ago on Wednesday, I went across the street to Calhoun Hall to borrow a calculator from the cute engineering frat boy that I met at a party. I needed it for my stats exam the next day. How sad of an excuse is that? Of course, I ended up staying there way too late, involved in a drinking game of Jenga. Four days later he came to my apartment to watch Chasing Amy, and the rest is history.

This picture was taken at Winter Formal in February, 2001, about 2 months after we started "dating."

It's amazing how fast 10 years goes by when you're having the time of your life. Love you mucho smoocho, Pookie!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What was I thinking?

If you ever catch me saying something like this again:

It's officially fall, but the high today is 91. WTF, Cincinnati? I want my cool weather.

Come find me and slap me. Then remind me how frigid a high of 22 degrees is. Of course, all Charlie wants to do is play outside. I caved and let him out for a whopping five minutes so that he could try out his tricycle, which was a very late birthday present. How could I say no?

He did have gloves on, but they only lasted about 30 seconds. I went to the store to buy him some of those little glove clippy things. You know, the ones that look like claws that attach to coat sleeves? Do those even have a proper name? I literally asked the salesperson where I could find the "little glove clippy things." That's special.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments is brought to you by Mrs4444!

Mommy's Idea

TGIFF! Yes, there are two Fs there. For good reason.

We finally got our oven. It's awesome! I'm going to break it in with some Nutella Chocolate Chip cookies for this weekend's cookie swap.

So far the weatherpeeps are calling for snow tomorrow. I'm going to be hellapissed if this is the one time they're right and it seriously interferes with my cookie plans.

NOTHING gets between a girl and her christmas cookies. NOTHING.

Yesterday I drank way too much coffee, thanks to visiting the office coffee machine at 7:30, a trip to the coffee shop at 9, and a co-worker bringing me a cup of the SB Christmas blend around 11. I was WIRED. I thought a beer would help to counteract the effects of the caffeine, but didn't think about the fact that I hadn't really eaten all day. I'm a cheap date. One Blue Moon and C has to drive us home.

I hate it when people brag about how brilliant their kids are, but if you're going to gush about how your 2 year old is destined for Mensa, at least use spell check so you don't end up sounding like an idiot, yourself.

"She is a mocking bird and is also showing us that she is very cleaver."

Really? She's cleaver? I guess intelligence isn't genetic, after all.

Did you see the crazy news released by NASA yesterday?

My conspiracy theory is that we've already had contact with other worldly beings. Maybe the X-Files was just a way for the government to test the waters to see how people would react to alien stories.

Just kidding. Or am I?

Dunkin did a study on how people eat their gingerbread person cookies. According to their research, 64% of people start with the head.

The full article provides a quote from a real, live scientist: "If one chooses to bite the head first, it indicates an achievement-oriented individual, a natural leader, who won't take no for an answer. If the initial bite is the right hand, it reflects an individual who tends to be skeptical and pessimistic, while those who initially bite the left arm have a flare for creativity and are more extroverted. Those who first choose the legs tend to be more sensitive, reveling in the company of others."

So that's the problem in society today. 64% of us are achievement-oriented and won't take no for an answer. So much for compromise.

I don't eat gingerbread people, or anything shaped like any living thing, so what does that make me? I guess crazy, because I've been that way since I was 3, when (according to the lore of Original Bean) I cried because I didn't want to eat a chocolate bunny at easter. It made me too sad. OCD! Whee!

I had to laugh when I saw this headline yesterday - Working Moms are Stressed Out – But so is Everyone Else

I'm sorry, but how is that NEWS?

Here's a little tip: If you have BIG NEWS to share, don't let those closest to you (or those who think they're closest to you, very close family, anyway) find out about it on Facebook.

Next week I'm going to talk about my favorite gifts that I've ever given. C's birthday present from this year is at the top of my list, so if you love a geeky guy who's into gadgets, come back and check it out. You won't be disappointed.

Have a fantastic weekend!


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