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Sugar Bowl Mix: October 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My guest post on The Caffeinated Globe

I am thrilled to be featured as the first guest poster on The Caffeinated Globe with my recipe for dark chocolate flourless cake.

The Caffeinated Globe is an elegant lifestyle blog with a global flair that highlights the perfect food accompaniments for coffee and tea. The Caffeinated Globe's posts are always graced with beautiful, mouth-watering photographs that will make you want to run to the nearest upscale bakery!

Please hop on over to my guest post and let me know what you think. I always love hearing from my readers.

If you're visiting from The Caffeinated Globe, welcome! Pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee and hang a while.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - friendly burros in Red Rock Canyon State Park

This is a Wordless Wednesday post.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ten anecdotes in defense of higher waistbands

1. Caroline is four weeks old and we're at an organized baby playgroup. We're all sitting on the floor, trying to keep our babies entertained while we discuss every aspect of breastfeeding. When we get to the rules of thumb for storing breast milk my attention wanes. I count out of a possible twelve, there are nine behinds, or nine portions of behinds, on display. And they aren't baby behinds.

2. I'm seven months pregnant with Katherine, my second. I'm pretty elephant-like and am co-teaching an undergraduate English class. I introduce a new plan for discussion where everyone will sit on the floor and discuss the week's reading in a more casual setting - an attempt to encourage the shy students to participate. The plan is met with great resistance. "That's gonna be really hard for me with the pants I wear!" one student exclaims. Other students join in, saying their pants are not made for sitting on the floor. "If I can sit on the floor, you can," I answer. I suggest next time they wear long shirts. We all sit on the floor and I avert my eyes so I won't count the number of cracks.

3. Katherine is two and we're driving home. Out the car window she sees a gardener leaning over a flower bed, half of his behind hanging out of his jeans. "Poopy!" she says, giggling.

4. I'm at a playdate with four-year-old Caroline who is sporting a new pair of snazzy jeans. Suddenly, I hear the playmate shouting, "I can see Caroline's butt!"  When we get home we put the jeans away, never to be worn again. They end up in the bag for Goodwill four years later.

5. In a PTA meeting, the mom sitting next to me stands up and leans across me to pass a handout to someone in the row in front of us. Her lacy black thong and the top of her crack jumps out of the top of her conservative pants.

6. I'm pushing my grocery cart through the parking lot. A teenager, jeans belted below his behind, comes across a curb in the parking lot. He stops and contemplates the situation. He tries to lift his leg over, but his pants restrict his movement too much. Eventually, he swings his leg on top of the curb and then awkwardly swings the other one up. As he steps down on the other side he trips and falls.

7. I'm volunteering at the Kindergarten Valentine Day's High Tea. The girls wear their best dresses and the boys sport ties and jackets. As I pass out the tea sandwiches I catch a glimpse of another mom volunteer reaching up to get something from a high shelf which results in her shirt being hiked up and her flesh-colored thong and top of her crack getting a full view of the Kinders elegant High Tea.

8. I'm walking Caroline into second-grade. Students are busy putting their jackets, backpacks and lunches away. One boy throws his lunch box, missing the lunch bin. When he reaches down to pick up the lunch box, the back of his pants drop down, revealing the entire back of his checkered underwear.

9. I'm at Home Depot inspecting door handles when a gentleman next to me leans over to get something on a lower shelf and his already low-slung jeans slip all the way down, revealing his entire hairy, white behind to all the other door handle shoppers.

10. When I bring home some new pants for Caroline to try on, she immediately sits down with her legs crossed and asks, "do they pass the test?" which is code for "is my crack showing?" After the pants pass the first test she leans over, touching her hands to the floor, and says, "how about this test?"

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Chocolate pecan bar

I had this for dessert Saturday night at a restaurant and had to share it with you. I love the idea of a sophisticated homemade Snickers. This was a shortbread biscuit layered with caramel and then topped with soft chocolate fudge filled with pecans. It was served with a dollop of whipped cream, cocoa powder and a spoonful of chocolate sauce sprinkled with powdered sugar. Very yummy.

I must try to replicate this at home. I'll share the recipe with you when I do.

Have you ever tried to replicate, or wished you could replicate, a dessert you had in a restaurant?
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Yard sale goddess

Caroline looks a little like a yard sale goddess.

I, however, am not a yard sale goddess. As much as I would like to magically morph into one and effortlessly pull together a brilliant yard sale at the drop of a hat. It's not going to happen. Ever.

The yard sale we held last Saturday was my last. Ever.

Enough said.

Except for one last note. The girls held a bake sale and made thirteen dollars that they will donate to a cat rescue organization. Maybe they can become bake sale goddesses. Or maybe not.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Enjoying every moment

We lived in San Francisco when I took this picture of Caroline with her grandfather. She loved to read.  Brown Bear Brown Bear was her favorite book. We had a feisty, spry ninety-year-old next-door neighbor who used to say to me, in the way that older people do, "enjoy every moment because she'll be grown-up before you know it." I would laugh and say, "oh we do!" But the truth is, I didn't enjoy every moment. I enjoyed many moments. Just not every moment.

Around the time this picture was taken Caroline was an awesome sleeper. I enjoyed that. But a few months later, when she started to crawl, she decided she wasn't ever going to go to sleep again. I didn't enjoy that. She was so determined that she wasn't going to go to sleep ever again that she started to vomit every night when we put her down. I didn't enjoy that.

Eight years later I can actually laugh at Caroline's determination not to go to sleep. This was so telling of her personality. She is still so determined about many things. Reading is still one of her most favorite activities but she has moved on from Brown Bear Brown Bear to A Wrinkle In Time and other third - grade favorites

My ninety-year old neighbor was right. Time does go by in a flash. But what I realize eight years on is that those moments I don't enjoy now may be moments I'll appreciate in the future. Like in another eight years when I'm sitting in the passenger seat next to a sixteen-year-old determined to get her driver's license.

Do you have moments that were difficult for you at the time, in the moment, but that you enjoy and appreciate later? Maybe even years later?

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Homemade playdough fun

I was at a party a few weeks ago and met a lovely Australian woman and her husband, both of whom are bakers. I love meeting fellow bakers. It's not often that I find others who bake from scratch. But of all the things we could have discussed, we discussed the intricacies of making homemade playdough. She asked me to post a recipe on my blog.

If you have never made your own playdough, now is the time to start. Homemade playdough will last for years. Seriously. Just keep it in an airtight container. It is far more malleable than purchased playdough, you can play around with the colors and your children can help you make it.

Katherine was home sick from school with a cold today and we haven't made playdough in a long time, so we set to making it. This is how you do it.


3 cups of flour
3 cups of water
1 1/2 cups of salt
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
food dye - Katherine chose blue


Pour the flour into a pot.

Pour in the water.

Add the salt.

Add the cream of tartar.

Add the oil.

Stir all the ingredients together.

Set the pot over medium heat.

Make sure your helper squirts the food dye into the pot, not directly at you as happened to me today!

Continue cooking until all the ingredients stick together and all the water is absorbed. Don't worry if the food dye is not perfectly distributed.

Remove from the heat and transfer the dough into a container.

Let cool slightly before removing and kneading it to form smooth dough.

Try not to let older siblings who haven't helped make the playdough create cool birthday cakes like this.

It makes the younger sibling who helped make the playdough upset and then you'll be left dealing with sibling rivalry and all that. And then you'll have to write another post about sibling rivalry when you really only set out to write a simple post about making homemade playdough.

Do you make playdough with your children? Do your younger ones have a hard time not being able to do everything their older sibling does?

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pie

Right before I went to London for Junior Year Abroad - a long time ago - I visited my sister, Sarah, in Washington D.C. We went on a very long bike ride and oh, how my muscles cramped and ached the whole flight to London the next day!

The night prior to the long bike ride we hosted a dinner party. We made a delicious chocolate chip pie, the recipe for which Sarah had found on the back of a chocolate chips package. I don't remember the brand. I made the recipe often over the years and every time I made it I remembered the too-long bike ride and that painful flight to London and would laugh out loud.

A few months ago I came across the recipe again in my little book of handwritten recipes and introduced it to the girls. It has become one of Caroline's favorites desserts. Like almost all my recipes, I tweaked the original; mine contains less butter and has a crispier crust.

This pie is just as delicious warm and oozing as it is cold.


1 9" unbaked pie shell *
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
12 oz chocolate chips

*I confess, I do not make my own pie crust. Yes - big sigh - I buy the 9" deep-dish pie crusts in the frozen section.


Remove the pie crust from the freezer and let thaw for 20 minutes. Prick the pie crust with a fork all over. Bake in the oven at 400 F for 10 minutes or until baked but not brown.

Melt the butter in the microwave. Let cool. I put mine in the refrigerator while I'm preparing the other ingredients.

Beat the eggs until foamy.

Measure the flour and sugars into a bowl and then add to the eggs. Mix well.

Add the cooled butter and mix well.

Add the chocolate chips.

Pour into the pre-baked pie crust.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 F or bake until brown on top. Insert a fork in the middle before removing it from the oven. If the fork comes out clean (the chocolate chips may stick a little) it is done.


The easy-to-print version can be found here.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

The finger and a white lie

Tim and I try hard to be cognizant of what we discuss in front of the girls. But sometimes, like a few days ago, we forget what we're saying - or I forget what I'm saying - and we wind up in one of those "discussions" that we were saving for later, when, you know, the girls are older.

Or, we pull ourselves out of the messy "discussion" with a clean, little white lie.

A few days ago we were driving to the movie theater to see Secretariat (not very good, but worth it for the horse racing scenes alone). A woman driver next to us, annoyed about being in Los Angeles traffic, gave us the finger as she cut in front of us and sped off.

"Did you see that?" I exclaimed to Tim. "She just gave you the finger!"


"What does that mean she gave you the finger?" Caroline asked.
"It's just a grown-up expression," I said.
"What does it mean, though," Caroline pressed.
"Uh, uh... she wagged her finger at me," I said lamely.
"What does that mean?"
"You mean she took her finger off and handed it to you?" Katherine asked.
"No, no," Tim said. "She was shaking her finger at us."
"Her pinky?" Katherine asked.
"No," I said.
"What finger?" Caroline asked.
Tim took his index finger and wagged it. "Like this."

"She was being rude," I said with an air of finality.
"Yeah, that's not polite," Katherine said, wagging her index finger at Caroline.

"So, what treats will everyone get at the movie?" I asked.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Un- Wordless Wednesday - Train Cake

Two sheet cakes (one chocolate, one vanilla) , six mini loaf cakes (three chocolate, three vanilla), two batches of vanilla cream cheese frosting, three grocery store runs, two packages of peach gummy rounds, one package of M&Ms, many marshmallows, one pill bottle, one Crest toothpaste box, one ounce blue food dye and many hours later the train cake for M's 5th birthday (taking place on 10-10-10) was complete.

Caroline helped me, especially with the design. She let me know when I applied the white frosting where the green frosting was supposed to go and encouraged with me comments like this one: "Ooh! Mommy, I can't even look. That's how bad the train track looks! You better start over."  I didn't start over.

The entire cake was demolished eaten in about five minutes at the birthday party. Happy Birthday M!

This post is participating in Wordless Wednesday.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Taming long car rides

We've given up the carpool. For now. It's temporary. It simply wasn't working very well. So I'm driving to and from school twice a day. Most mornings it's thirty minutes. An hour round trip. In the afternoons it's faster but then there's the carpool pick-up line to contend with. 

Katherine has a hard time riding in the car for more than ten minutes. So this is three times her limit. Let's just say we've had some difficult car rides. On long car trips the girls bring the dvd player and watch movies. That usually entertains Katherine for at least an hour or so. But given that we have strict TV and movie-watching rules I can't bring myself to let them watch movies before school and after school. Every day. 

Besides, thirty minutes seems like it should be manageable. We've tried bringing activities like paper and crayons, books, Benderoos. We've tried listening to different kinds of music. Everything works well. For about five minutes. 

So last week Katherine and I had a talk about it. What could we do about this problem that was becoming a bigger problem every day? She came up with the idea to call a relative who always has great ideas for fun things kids can do in different situations. And this relative came through. 

She sent Katherine the following suggestions for games to play. So far we've played the Alphabet Collection, I Spy, Going on a Trip, Going on a Trip (We came up with some very funny sentences - "I'm a tree, wearing a pink scarf, making soup, going to the moon.") and the 100 challenge.  Tomorrow we're going to try Virtual Hide and Seek.

So far our car rides to and from school have been much more pleasant. 

Do you have favorite games that you play in the car with your kids? Share them in your comments!

Alphabet Collection
Work together.  Find objects that start with every letter of the alphabe beginning with A -- such as Auto, B -- bus, C -- cloud etc.

Animal Alphabet
One player calls out a letter.  Then, everyone has to name animals beginning with that letter.  When no one can think of any more animals, another player calls out a different letter.

Going on a Trip
The first player starts off by saying, "I'm going on a trip and I'm taking along. . . "  That player then has to state an object beginning with the letter A.  The next player repeats the first players statement but adds an object beginning with B.  The games dontinues with each player in turn adding an object that begins with the next letter in the alphabet.  Keep going until some can't think of an appropriate object or forgets any of the items.

Say it Backwards
Can you say the alphaget backwards without making a mistake?  One player can say Z, the next Y, the following person X and so on.  For an extra challenge, try singing the alphabet backwards to the tune of the alphabet song.

100 Challenge
Try to spot the numbers from 1 to 100 in order. look at road signs, addresses, license plates and other sources for the numbers.

String Games
You will need a cotton string (24 to 30 inches long) knotted to make a circle.  It is fun to learn to make crow's feet, cup and saucer, Jacob's ladder etc. Check this link for specific directions.

Virtual Hide and Seek
Think of some place to hide inside your house.  You can be any size.  For example, you could hide in the silverware drawer.  The other players ask questions that can be answered by "Yes or No" to figure out where you are hiding.

Spelling Bee
Have the adult call out words for each player to spell.  See how many you can spell correctly before missing one!

I Spy with My Little Eye. . .  Something shaped like an triangle and is yellow.

Ask each person to name their favorite color.  Then someone else can ask for favorite songs, movies, toys, games, animals, books etc.

Begin a story. Each person has to add a sentence.  At some point someone has to put a closing to the story.  One day I was walking down the street with my friend.. . . . .

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