Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Sleeper Movies and Shows

With all this crazy weather, we have doing as much "cave time" as we can. That is, staying in watching movies snuggled up with something good to eat and no where to go. As we go through our collection of DVD's, it makes me think of movies and shows that we love that never did all that well at the box office, but should have (IMHO). Here are some:

1. The Cutting Edge- I first saw this at a bargain matinee with a client of mine. She wanted to go to the movies and chose this one. It surprised me with how good it was. The banter between the characters is sharp, the skating beautiful and the story had depth and meaning.

2. Tombstone- the one with Kurt Russell. Everyone seems to like the Kevin Costner version but I like this one the best. Val Kilmer is perfect as Doc and all the characters stand out in their own right. Plus I love a good shootout!

3. Blade- the movies did well, but I was really impressed with Wesley Snipes athletic abilities and the action was very good as a result. The characters have deep dimension too which makes it not just another karate movie.

4. Pride and Prejudice- the Keira Knightly version. The music, settings, and tension between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy makes this movie a favorite of mine. I watch it nearly everytime my husband is out of town just because I can't help crying at the end!

5. The Express- we just got to see this movie last week. I couldn't believe that I had never heard of Ernie Davis. If the movie is true to who he really was, he was a fantastic example to the current lot of football players who could learn a lot from that man. It also gives a sobering view of the kinds of discrimination blacks faced back then.

6. Frequency- takes place in New York with a father and son who find each other through an unusual way. Without giving it away to those who haven't seen it, I'll just say I love the "back and forth" of the movie mixed with a thriller.

7. The Count of Monte Cristo- not accurate to the book, but a terrific story nonetheless. The layers of the story and the excellent acting make it fun to watch. I especially like Richard Harris's character ("you have some pressing appointment, perhaps?). And we are always quoting Jacopo with his "how is this a bad plan?" Funny! Jim Caviezel is a hottie in this one too (whoops, there I go again)!

8. Kate & Leopold- speaking of Hugh Jackman, this is one of his earlier roles I believe. Kind of corny story but interesting to watch for a bit of romance and time travel fun.

9. Life- we just got done watching this fantastic show. It ran for two seasons before they canceled it. For what reasons I have no idea. It's smarter and better than most of the cop shows out there. The Charlie Crews character is perfect with Dani Reese. It has story lines with layers running all through it. And the music for this show is intense. I've looked up several of the songs for my collection.

10. Firefly- it's Sci Fi but the only thing I see to make it that way is that it's set in the future in space. Otherwise it seems like a regular adventure to me. It didn't look interesting at first, but once I watched it, I was drawn in. If you catch it, watch the show before the movie. I didn't get the movie at all without seeing the show. Nathan Fillon is in this, way before Castle.

11. Moonlight- if you liked Buffy this is another angle to that vampire thing that everyone loves. I don't typically get into vampires (well, except for Buffy), but the story line for this show was great. I couldn't believe they didn't keep it going. Grrrr!

12. Fringe- I keep hearing all the time that this show is going to be cancelled. I sure hope not. It reminds me of the X-Files but without all the strangeness. The characters are easy to take seriously and yet they use a lot of humor to keep things interesting. I can't wait for season two on DVD!

13. Dark Angel- set in the future on Earth. Interesting story line and Jessica Alba is great as Max, before she got all Hollywood! She reminds me a lot of Buffy in this series. Michael Weatherly (from NCIS) is also fun to watch as Max's helper and maybe boyfriend. The reviews on this show were good, but for some reason it only ran two seasons. Bummer.

Any good movies or tv shows you think should have done better?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

It's tough to come up with a better combination than peanut butter and chocolate. When I have my worst cravings (and we all know when that is!), only peanut butter and chocolate really satisfy me. One thing I changed in this recipe was switching the 2/3 cup of vegetable oil and using applesauce instead. I also used lighter versions of milk and cream cheese. I knew I was going to be eating a lot of this cake, so I figured that was a bit healthier. It's very easy to make and delicious! And best of all, my kids didn't even notice the substitutions.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsps. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil (I used applesauce)
2 eggs
1 cup 2% reduced fat milk (I used skim milk)
1 cup brewed coffee, cooled to room temp
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 (8 oz) package reduced fat creamed cheese, softened
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tblsp. 2% milk (used skim here too)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Mini or regular chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13x9 inch glass baking pan with cooking spray.
Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

Combine oil (applesauce) and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a mixer, beat at medium speed until well combined. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour mixture, mixing well after each addition. Stir in coffee and vanilla. Batter will be thin.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until middle of cake springs back when touched. Cool completely on wire rack.

To make frosting, combine cream cheese and peanut butter in a large mixing bowl. Using a mixer, beat at medium speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Add more powdered sugar or milk as needed to make consistancy for icing cake.

Spread frosting over cake and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Store in the refrigerator.
Serves 16.

"Hunger: One of the few cravings that cannot be appeased with another solution."
-Irwin Van Grove

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Hot Stuff

With all the snow and cold blizzard like conditions all week, I thought it might be nice to post about something hot. Anything hot. Here are some hot stuff:

1. Hottest place- El Azizia, Libya. According to the internet, this place has reached up to 150 degrees. This is air temperture, not surface temps.

2. Hot Sauce- goes on just about anything!

3. Peppers- jalapenos, banana, etc, just about any pepper goes great on sandwiches, pizza, and salads. Yum!

4. Red hots Candy- not my favorite, but they are hot!

5. Fireplace- I couldn't survive without my wood stove. It makes at least two of the rooms in our house nice and cozy. And it smells so good.

6. Hot tubs- Man are those things nice! I don't have one, but I sure enjoy them on vacation.

7. Hugh Jackman- sorry, not very Christian of me I know, but I couldn't help myself.

8. Showers- Nothing like a good hot shower to warm you up.

9. Avatar- that is one hot movie! It was number one forever! Even my daughter saw it twice she liked it so much.

10. Soup- I made homemade chicken noodle last night and that tasted so good.

11. Hot tea and coffee- This is perfect weather for both.

12. Saunas- wouldn't that feel great about now?

13. Summer- it's almost here!

Did I miss anything?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Digging Out

Oh, what a fun weekend we had! Last week, the local weather stations said we were getting a storm, and they called for about 8 inches tops. I think they were off just a bit because we got 21.7 inches within a 24 hour period!

Here I am on Saturday, doing my best to move some of this heavy, wet stuff out of the driveway. If you look behind me, that is supposed to be our street. On Sunday, I made a path about a foot wide to our front door so we could get out if needed. It's still slippery and icy out there, but the temps are too cold to do much about that.

Needless to say, from this photo, you can tell why we didn't get our mail or newspaper on Saturday.

This split rail fence runs the front length of our property. I couldn't believe that the snow met the bottom railing.

The kids finished their school day Friday but most schools cancelled for today. Even my husband was off work as the county of Allegheny declared an emergercy and only essential personnel had to report. Apparently, most of the city has impassable roads and a lot of neighborhoods have no power.

On top of what we already have, the forecasters are calling for another storm tomorrow through Wednesday. The local weather guys are saying we are getting another 4 to 6 but since they missed the mark so badly last week, I think I'm staying safe and going with the Accuweather forcast which is saying 6 to 11 inches, with possible ice.

At this rate, it looks like the kiddies may be off school the rest of the week!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- The Good And Bad Of Being A Stay At Home Mom

As my husband can tell you, I went into this motherhood thing kicking and screaming. I was Miss Career Woman in my 20's. Not that I had that great of a career (mental health therapist), but I loved working and having my own paycheck. Independence was my middle name, even when all my friends were having babies and the pressure was on. But when I learned my brother and his wife wanted kids, something clicked for me and suddenly I wanted to try out this kid thing. Still, the change over was a tough one. Here is some of the nitty gritty I found out about staying home:

1. I miss my paycheck!! - I knew that relying on my husband's income was going to be tough, but man! I also miss having my own spending money and say so about my budget. It's awful having to ask for money from my husband. I still hate it.

2. Talking to other adults- I was so lonely when I first had kids. One, it's too much to drag all that baby stuff everywhere you want to go, so you can't just go out to see a friend, and two, you just don't have time. The isolation is crushing at first and I got a bit depressed as a result.

3. Setting my own schedule- I love this bonus! I don't have a boss (unless you count the kids), I run the house as I see fit, coming and going as I choose. It also means I never stop working at a set time anymore, but that is ok with me. I get to go to the gym, eat out with friends, shop, etc. No scheduling things around the 9 to 5.

4. Other moms- it was such a comfort to me to be able to talk with other moms about all my worries and concerns when my kids were little. And most of them didn't work full time either, so we had time to talk. And I've made some great friends as a result.

5. Keeping the house in order- this is a good and bad. I don't have to wait until weekends and nights to clean, get laundry done, etc. but I do have 4 other people working against me on this. Man, those kids can make a mess! And apparently I look like a maid cause they keep making messes even after I've read them the riot act.

6. Dinner- ok, pretty simple. But I used to dread dinner when I worked. Dragging myself home after work and coming up with something to make when I'd rather just eat a sandwich everyday was not fun. Now I have all day to throw something together and I often make regular food, not much take out or prepackaged food. Though some days Mc Donald's is all I can manage!

7. Co-workers- I had some great co-workers and some real doozies. I miss the great ones and not the others! But it's nice at home cause I can choose pretty much who I deal with all day now, or just spend the day alone.

8. Having my own business- I just started my own business with my brother in law and his brother (he's my brother in law too, right?). Anyway, having the time to start the business and get it going is wonderful. I can research, call who I need to call, and make meetings without all the worries of a regular job in the way. And maybe I can get back that paycheck too!

9. Taking a day off- At work, we used to have "mental health days" because of the nature of our careers. But any day I needed off, I had to call someone or sign a slip to ask permission. Now, I can take a day if I need to. Not that I won't get behind with my work, but if I don't feel well or just need a day, I can take it. No permission needed.

10. The stigma- I've noticed that society in general tends to look down on stay at home moms. We are catagorized as "housewives" or "homemakers" which sounds a bit old fashioned to me, since we do so much more these days. People assume that if you stay home, you don't have an education or have never contributed to society. Raising kids is not an admired profession, it seems.

11. Keeping up with my profession- My professional licenses require me to get continuing education credits to maintain them. And since I no longer have access to an employer who will pay for me to obtain those credits, I have to do it on my own. Plus, I get behind on new ideas and findings in my field just by the fact that I don't have contact with anyone in my profession anymore, except my husband. And I know he doesn't want to spend time keeping me informed!

12. This is a hard job!- I used to think going to work was hard, but nothing prepared me for the sheer exhaustion of being a parent. And apparently I don't learn too quickly because I have three kids. To say it's overwhelming is a severe understatement. I also had no help so that made it ten times worse. It's easier now, but I still have moments where I'm not sure I'm qualified for this job.

13. My kids- Couldn't leave them out! The best, most wonderful part of this whole thing is that I get to be there for my kids. I realize that I am more than blessed to even be able to stay home, especially nowadays. From skinned knees to an extra hug at the end of a bad day, I can be there for it all. Forget the lack of money, time or any other struggle, my kids are worth it.

Photos of Virginia Receipts

As per Debi's request over at Greener Pastures, here are the pictures of the recipes I posted on Monday. I bought these several years ago at the Williamsburg pottery, not knowing if they are from a cookbook or not. I just knew I really liked them!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tidewater's Own Sweet Potato Pie

All last week, my family each took turns being sick, with my husband being the forerunner with pneumonia. By Sunday, we were all pooped! We stayed home from church to get better and I spent the day making homemade navy bean soup and this wonderful Sweet Potato Pie. It actually comes from a framed wall hanging called Old Virgina Receipts I have on my wall in the kitchen. I saw it, along with the matching recipe for Virginia Peanut Soup, in Williamsburg years ago. It's great because whenever I want to make this pie, I never have to worry about finding the recipe!

Sweet Potato Pie

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
1 1/2 cups sweet potatoes, mashed
3/4 cups brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon peel
1 cup light cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine sweet potatoes, brown sugar, spices and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix well! Fold in lemon juice and peel. Slowly, you hear, add butter, vanilla, eggs, and cream. Make it smooth. Spoon into prepared pie shell. Bake 45 to 50 minutes. Poke a straw (or butter knife) in center....clean? Done!
-Squire of Williamsburg

"I'm a sweet eater. I love lemon pie and sweet potato pie."
-Claude Williams