Friday, August 5, 2011

The Proper Way to Melt Cheese (Yeah There's a Wrong Way)

Back story: my husband comes from a very Italian family. While I have an Irish heritage, my mother was a single parent for many years, so our spaghetti came from a box and the sauce from a jar. After I got married, it didn't take long for me to realize I had to learn a few things in the kitchen. So, by now I have mastered making what we affectionately refer to as "the sauce," or a good, from scratch marinara sauce. I also learned to make Bechamel and Alfredo and I've learned how to make my own pasta dough. So, I was feeling pretty confident when I decided to try my hand at home made mac-n-cheese.
Oops! If you have made cheese sauce from anything but Velveeta, you already know what I'm about to say. I took some milk, butter, salt and pepper, heated it up and threw in some cheese. After whisking furiously for 15 minutes, my cheese was not melting, but separating and hard. At this point I used my favorite kitchen tool: GOOGLE. I found a very helpful article on All Recipes about how to make cheese sauce.
Immediately I discovered my first mistake, which was too much heat. Also, I knew I needed a starch to thicken the sauce, but I should have had that incorporated before adding the cheese. So, refusing to call it a loss and waste everything, I cut a bit of cheese cloth (which was a mystery to me until recently, I found it in the fabric department) and used it to strain out the curdled cheese. By that I mean, lined a bowl with the cheese cloth, poured the sauce in, the gathered the cheese cloth and squeezed out the liquid. Then I threw the liquid back into my pan and brought it to a medium heat, lightly bubbling, so i could whisk in a bit of flour. Then I lowered the heat to low-med and added the cheese. Another tip from the article was to sprinkle a bit of an acid, like lemon juice, on the cheese before melting, to keep it from getting stringy. This worked very well. So, after a small bump in the road, we ate home made macaroni and cheese for lunch.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

All I Wanna Do Is Enjoy Shark Week!

So, this may sound out of character, but I love Shark Week, on the Discovery Channel. And I'm happy that many of the programs during the afternoon and early evening are only PG, so the whole family can marvel at those beautiful, vicious creatures. One problem: the commercials, mainly the movie trailers. There is a new horror film being advertised on every commercial break! The trailers are disturbing to me, so I'm really disgusted that I have to worry about my kids watching them. I suppose I could DVR everything we want to see so we can skip ahead, but it's not very convenient nor as much fun. So after one very frustrating hour of the annual "Sharkapalooza" (and this was 5pm to 6pm, not even prime time) I decided to change the channel. I'm really disgusted with the increase in disgusting movie trailers on many channels, before prime time viewing. I understand that programming after a certain hour is geared toward adults, but during football season, we are watching Sunday afternoon and I cringe at the trash being during breaks. And while I'm at it, we watch a lot of PBS, Disney and Nick, although we bounce around between the latter two, due to shows I think are too mature or just innaproproate for my family. Disney is now on my list, though, because they've decided to make a vampire show and its advertised during programs my kids are allowed to watch. It's ridiculous! Just because the rest of the world is vampire crazed because of a series of novels (geared toward teens, ugh!) doesn't make it ok for all kids everywhere, does it? I would love to be at a point where we could give up the tele completely, but to be forced into it because the general decency of the major networks has gone out the window! This Mom is about fed up.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mama Bear Syndrome: The Fierce and Unrelenting Need to Protect Your Children

Because we are a "blended family" (the newer, nicer way to refer to what used to be called dysfunctional family), I have the pleasure, or rather, the challenge of trying to keep the peace between my husband and the birth mother of my two oldest children. With all due respect to her, she has had many challenges of her own and has many times, over the course of our four years of being a family, been less than reliable (to put it nicely). Unfortunately, our views of what is appropriate when it comes to diet and t.v. viewing are often at odds with hers. The upside to this is that, because the children live with us full time, this is not a concern we have to deal with more than once or twice a month. Another down side that we've found, though, is that a lot of damage can be done in one over night visit.
Our oldest son, who will be 7 in October, has always been a good sleeper until recently. Over the summer, he has been crawling into bed with our daughter, 8, almost every night. We have tried everything to keep him in his bed all night. It seems to be getting worse, though, to the point that, minutes after he is tucked in, he's gotten his favorite pillow, blanket, and doggie and is sneaking across the hall. I had to put him in bed 5 times last night. I finally asked him if there was some reason that he refused to stay in bed lately. This is not the first such conversation, but he usually give me a shrug and an "I dunno." I pressed the matter and said that I needed to know why. This is how I discovered the latest in a long line of issues occurring when they visit their other mother. They were made to watch a horror movie. I started to name this movie, but thought better of it, because I'm a firm believer in not glorifying such negative things with any more attention than they might have.  If you keep up with cinema, this is a recently released to DVD horror film, rated PG-13, is about a family being harrassed by demonic possession. I looked up a review on Parent Previews, since I have no intention of watching it, because this site gives fairly detailed accounts of content, broken down into categories (violence, sexual content, language, etc.) and I wanted to know with what, exactly, we were dealing.
Now, my husband and I have to figure out how to keep this from happening again. I'll spare you the details. Here is where I rant. The previous was just for your information, so that you can understand the title of this post and what I'm about to say...

Are you crazy?! How dare you subject our children, MY children, to such horrific images, not to mention the other movies we have heard about in the past, with foul language and violence and considered just completely innapropriate by 99.9% of the world with any kind of standards! They are so impressionable at this age, with wildly active imaginations that take those images and run laps in their little minds. I litterally feel like I could sprout claws and let loose a howling growl towards the sky. My babies should not have to be afraid of their own rooms and every shadow out the window. I'm so furious right now, I could shake a tree.
However, I am a Christian and therefore commanded to forgive. I am also commanded to love unconditionally. It's not easy on days like this, so I remember that I Cor. 13:5 says that love "is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]." This will be my mantra today. By the way, another good site for reviews is Plugged In, which gives you the same, plus from a Christian point of view. I didn't check it first, because I assumed they wouldn't have reviewed this movie. Upon closer inspection, they did have a very thorough and insiteful review.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Celebrating the Oops in the Bathroom

Always on the move.

So, if you've read my blog, you know my youngest is 2 1/2. We tried potty training several months ago and, 6 new pairs of undies, a training seat and a mini potty later, we decided he wasn't quite there yet. It's a tough call because every child is so different, but I tried not to stress about it, remembering that we didn't even attempt to potty train my oldest son until he was at least 2 1/2. However, we have a new reason to try to master this skill. If due dates are to be believed, then our newest addition to the family is arriving exactly 3 days before Declyn turns three! I'm not one to rush him, but he is developing more understanding each day and thought it would be prudent to at least give him a chance. Yesterday was day 1 of "Potty Training: The Sequel." This time was much different, as Declyn went for long stretches with no accidents, as opposed to last time where I set a 15 minute timer and about 3 minutes after I pulled him off the potty, we had a mess.
Now, to this morning. After he woke up, I gave him time to eat, then put him on the potty. We got out some "Big Boy Pants" with a T-Rex picture on them. We discussed coming back to the potty if he needed. Fast forward 45 minutes and I hear the toilet lid hitting the tank repeatedly. Realizing after a quick head count who's missing, I jumped up and ran into the bathroom. Declyn stood there, in a puddle, next to the toilet, trying to put his potty seat in place. Awesome!!! Not that he had an accident, of course, but that he went to the bathroom to do it. I praised him and told him I was so proud that he knew to run to the bathroom. I reminded him to let Mommy help next time. We got cleaned up and danced around, "What a big boy!" I've never been so happy to clean up a puddle.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Plumbing Issues and Peanut Butter Oatmeal Pancakes

Last night, while preparing dinner, a strange thing happened. Foul smelling water came into both side of my sink, from the drain. I ran the disposal and it went away, but as soon as I turned it off, the swamp water returned. Ewww! Today, my husband and I both tried our hand at plumbing. About an hour into this, we threw in the towel and decided to leave it to the professionals. So, I had to get creative for lunch because, while waiting the professional, my sink was in pieces. I went for something fun and filling, although I may not win Mother of the Year for it. I took a standard pancake recipe and threw in some melted peanut butter and a cup of quick cook oats. What came out was delicious and my kids ate it up, with no syrup! I've actually never had a habit of buying syrup because I showed the kids long ago that a yummy pancake with the right extras in it, and a pat of butter on top, tasted great without any extra sugar. Of course, they still love syrup when its available, but I never get any complaints without it.
You can try this or leave out the peanut butter and throw in your own twist, like a mashed up banana or sliced up apples.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Pancakes
2 c. All Purpose Flour
2 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
5 tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 c. Milk
2 Eggs
2 tbsp Melted Butter
3 Heaping tbsp Melted Peanut Butter
1 c. Quick Cooking Oats

Mix your dry ingredients first, then whisk in the wet ingredients. It will be thick and you may thin it out slightly by adding a tbsp of water at a time until just right. Heat a skillet or griddle over med-high and spray with cooking oil. Laddle batter into the skillet, wait for it to bubble and brown around the edges, then flip. We enjoyed these with a little butter on top. If you really want to get crazy, powdered sugar is nice, too.