Thursday, June 28, 2012

Whose Craft Is It Anyway?

I remember making a project for an elementary school science fair -- I punched holes in construction paper to show how thin the air was in the four layers of the earth's atmosphere. Lots of holes in the troposphere, not so many in the thermosphere. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. Have you ever tried to punch a hole in the middle of a piece of construction paper? How about 200 holes? And of course I started on the project around 8:30 p.m. the night before it was due. My knack for procrastination hasn't changed since the fourth grade; only my bedtime has gotten later.

Anyway, my dad helped me figure out the logistical hole punching problem through some strategic cutting and folding, and I was pretty sure my rad poster was going to take home the blue ribbon. But then another kid showed up with, like, a working centrifuge that separated blood cells from plasma. Okay, so I don't remember what he actually brought, but I remember thinking, No fair, your dad totally made that!

Not bitter.

Anyway, that's kind of how I feel when I look through Pinterest and see kids' craft suggestions with titles like, "Easy Toddler Craft: Turn an Egg Carton into a Schooner!" I mean, seriously? Did everyone on Pinterest pass on some kind of crafty carrier gene, or are they actually doing the lion's share of the craft while their kids are busy glueing Cheerios in their hair? I really hope it's the latter, or we have some serious work to do in the crafting department around here.

I figured I'd post a sample craft from our house. Here's a train we worked on as a team today. We used a $5 kit from Melissa & Doug. In case you couldn't guess, I was in charge of the wheel stickers and painting a heart. The boys handled the rest.

We also did a bonus bodypainting segment of craft day.

This is what toddler crafts really look like, at least in our house. Not like this or this or this.

And you know what? I don't care if other kids are making Faberge eggs in their spare time. I want my boys to do their own projects, and I think they made a pretty bangin' train today.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Science: It's a Bayside Thing

Is it just me, or is there an uncanny resemblance between this new commercial from the European Commission:

...and this classic gem?

Same fashion sense, same basic production values, same embarrassingly misguided good intentions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

RECIPE: Faux-Fried Okra

Week 1. Frozen food aisle. I see a bag of okra and think, "Hmmm, okra. That would be a nice change. I'll buy a bag!"

Week 2. Frozen food aisle. I see a bag of okra and think, "Hmmm, okra. That would be a nice change. I'll buy a bag!"

Week 3. Frozen food aisle. I see a bag of okra and think, "Hmmm, okra. That would be a nice change. I'll buy a bag!"

Week 3. Back at our house. My husband wants to know why there's so much freakin' okra in the freezer considering we've never, in the 15-year history of our relationship, consumed okra in any form.

He suggests that maybe I start looking up okra recipes and figuring out how to get the three pounds of frozen okra out of the freezer and into our bellies, so we have room to store some foods we actually eat.

Enter....the faux-fried okra!

I saw a photo of fried okra in a magazine, but the recipe was stupid-hard and I don't own a deep fryer. Nor do I want to get into the habit of deep frying things at my house, because let's be real, okra is just a gateway drug. Today I'm deep-frying green vegetables, tomorrow I'm eating funnel cake for breakfast.

So here's my take on a sauteed okra that tastes a whole lot like deep-fried okra.

You'll need:
  • a bag of frozen okra, thawed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup crushed Honeycombs (or any corn cereal)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of Italian seasoning
  • dash of hot sauce
  • olive oil
1. Grease a skillet with a little bit of olive oil. 

2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and hot sauce together. Stir in the okra until it's completely coated, then strain the excess egg goo out of there.

4. Toss the gooey okra in the dry crumb mix. 

5. Throw the whole shebang into the skillet and cook until the breadcrumb mix starts turning brown.

Now, it turns out I'm not a huge fan of okra. But this made it totally edible, even borderline delicious. I can't wait to try it on a veggie I love, like peas -- my head might explode.


Monday, June 25, 2012

RECIPE: Bacon-Wrapped Chicken, Spinach, and Cheese in the Oven

Two great things about this recipe:

1) It was crazy easy.

2) My husband thought I was some kind of domestic wizard, although I think he just had his bacon goggles on.

You'll need:

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts or tenderloins
  • 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano
  • pinch of oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon

Flatten the chicken with a meat hammer until they're a little less than 1/2-inch thick. (I'm sorry if "meat hammer" isn't the correct term. But you know what I mean.) If you're using tenderloins, you're ready to roll; if you're using chicken breasts, cut them in half length-wise. Each piece should ideally be about 2" wide and 5-6" long.

Thaw the frozen spinach and spread it evenly over the pieces of chicken. Sprinkle parm on top of that, then a little bit of oregano or Italian seasoning. Roll the chicken up. Layer a slice of bacon on top of the fold and wrap around the chicken. Secure it with a toothpick.

You can cook these on the grill, but to avoid the unholy grease inferno of grilling bacon, I put them on the grate from the toaster over and hooked that over a deep baking pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, or until the edges of the bacon start looking brown and crispy.

We dipped it in Italian dressing which added an extra layer of awesome to an already delicious bacon-y feast.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

5 Things I Am Disproportionately Excited About This Week

1. Fiona Apple's Idler Wheel
After a seven-year wait, I just picked this up at Target. I can't wait to listen to it tomorrow while my boys scream "Turn it OFF! Turn it OFF! Make Phineas & Ferb start!" Loved this video of her in all her nervous glory:

2. Green Day's Uno! Dos! Tre!
Three albums?! It's not even my birthday!

Source: Facebook

3. The Les Miserables movie.
I have a teeny Les Miz obsession dating back to my extremely awkward middle school years. To this day, when the concert special from a million years ago plays on PBS, I'm like, "Abandon all plans! I don't care if it's Saturday! Give me some ice cream and I'll see you in three hours!" So oh my sweet nerdy goodness, I can't even wrap my head around how awesome this is going to be. Hugh Jackman, don't let me down!

Source: Facebook

4. Canon 40mm pancake lens.
How cute is this?!? Finally, I can shove my camera in my diaper bag and still have room for actual diapers! Okay, so I don't technically own it yet. But it's on my B&H wish list, so let's be's just one retail therapy session away from being mine.

5. Johnny Depp is single. 
Fun fact: Several years ago, I was commissioned to write a Johnny Depp biography, which received overwhelmingly positive reviews and little emoticon hearts from six middle-school readers on Amazon who were obviously forced to read it for a book report.
Anyway, he's single again and I figure it's like the lottery -- somebody's gotta win.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

RECIPE: Oven-Roasted "Jerk" Pork

How nerdy am I? I totally just looked up "jerk" on Wikipedia to see if this was actually a jerk recipe. The short answer is no -- it doesn't have Scotch bonnet peppers. But it has allspice, so it's halfway there. Jerk-inspired? Jerkish? I don't know. Either way, it takes about five minutes to prep and it's delicious.

You'll need:
  • 1 lb pork loin (give or take)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp Papa Joe's salt (or a mix of sea salt and black pepper)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
Mix everything together but the pork. Two options here:

1) If you're making dinner NOW, put the pork in a casserole dish and pour the mixture over it. It should be pretty grainy, so really rub it into the meat. Cook at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes (until it reaches temperature). 

2) If you're planning ahead like a good Girl Scout, marinate the whole thing in a Ziploc bag overnight to really get the flavor in there. Then cook it same as above. 

I was going for a toddler-friendly version this time around, but feel free to add peppers to make it spicier. 

My husband loved the pork, but the REAL star was the sweet potato stacks you see on the side. Holy yam heaven. They were amazing! They were so good that my carb-counting hubby shoveled them down like he was loading up for a marathon. The recipe for those is here. I used parsley instead of thyme and light cream instead of heavy, but otherwise I made them verbatim. Honestly, the recipe sounded so weird that I felt like I must be screwing something up, so I didn't even attempt to tweak it (beyond substituting the stuff I didn't have in stock). But oh. Oh my. It was good.

Monday, June 18, 2012

ROOST: Awkward Conversations 101

Just came across an article via Pinterest called "8 Great Date Ideas for Moms and Sons," which sounded cute, even though I always think it's a little awkward to call it a "date." Besides, what constitutes a date? They're toddlers -- we hang out all the time. Is it a "date" if we stop at Panera on the way home from running errands? What about the playground? What if I only take one of them food shopping? Is there a minimum fun-quota that has to be met? If we meet up with my friend and her kids, is that a double date?

But semantics aside, I like having special hangout days with my kids, by which I mean days when we have either more fun or better food than normal. We are particularly fond of the Thomas aisle at Target, and lunch at Chipotle.

He licks the foil just like his mama!

So I figured the article might have some creative suggestions. I mean, Pinterest is the home of black-olive penguins and reindeer cupcakes -- surely these date ideas would blow my mind!

But it turns out the idea behind the article is to lure your kid with a fun activity and then trick them into a super-serious conversation. 

For example:

Head to the tennis court, the batting cages or shoot hoops.... Talk to your son about what it means to be a 'real man'....  Let him know that real men don’t have to be good at sports, or even like sports.

Holy bait and switch! "Hey, son, let's hit the batting cages. You go first. Wow, you knocked it out of the park...but that doesn't make you a man." Awkward. Then there's this one:

Take a day trip or an overnight trip.... Road trips are great for tackling heavy subjects.  While your eyes are on the road, he might feel more comfortable opening up about life topics. 

I just had a flashback to about 15 different car rides with my mom in high school. That's not a date -- it's entrapment. 

The article also suggests taking him out to his favorite restaurant and then asking him what kind of wife he sees himself having. Really?! "How's the burger and what kind of woman do you want to marry?"  That's like the person who announces on their first date that they want five kids. Sloooow doooown

Don't get me wrong, I think communication is important, but can't I just hang out with my kids sometimes? And, you know, just try to be as approachable and non-judgmental as possible, so I don't have to trick them into talking to me? If we're going to call it a date, let's at least make it fun. You know, so they want to go on a second date.