31. March 2008 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,


Oops, I did it again. I committed a brain fart and now I’m in need of a replacement RACK for our toaster oven. I popped in these little dessert h’or deurves the other night and the directions said they could bake in these little plastic “oven proof” trays that came with the dessert. Well I put the oven on about 100 degrees too hot and the pan melted all over the rack. So the rack is in the trash and I’m in need of the new one.

We really like our toaster oven, but for now I have to tell the boys, “No frozen waffles, bagels, English muffins or toast for breakfast.” I’ve been searching searching searching on the web for a replacement rack and so far, no luck.

Black and Decker makes a billion different kinds of toaster ovens and I can’t seem to find a replacement for my particular model.

And before you ask, no, I’d rather not just run to the store and get a new toaster or toaster oven. The one we have is pretty new (less than 2 years old) and we’re feverishly trying to get rid of stuff in advance of our move, so getting a new toaster would defeat the purpose…

So if anyone is more astute than me at finding a replacement oven rack for a B&D TRO390W, please let me know. Leave a comment!

30. March 2008 · Comments Off on You won’t see THIS on Animal Planet! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Here, play this song to set the mood.
From 2008 03 29 NC…

Yes, you’re seeing what you think you’re seeing here. I took this picture.

Yesterday, the boys and I joined Maryann and her two sons for the NC Zoo’s annual “Wake Up with the Animals” event. We were also offered a sneak preview of the new Watani Grasslands Reserve exhibit, which was a multi-million dollar project to give several African animals a large, free-range habitat, plus close-up viewing of the animals in their habitats.

Close-up, indeed. At least mine is a rated PG-13 photo.

Maryann took MANY MANY MANY more pictures of this exhibition, which can be viewed here.

Photos 137 – 149. Hers are definitely rated R+!

The children were pretty oblivious to this event…Jake asked later in the day about whether I had taken a picture of the elephants “climbing all over each other” and I showed him that I had. I just explained that they were “playing around” and he seemed happy with that. Hopefully he can just mentally compare it with when he and Timmy are wrestling, or when he and Howie the dog are playing around.

Right around lunchtime, it began to rain, and the temperatures fell into the low 40s. It was a cold, miserable walk back to Maryann’s van.

29. March 2008 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

So — the first day of Spring has come and gone.

What does that mean?

Flowers, April Showers coming, pollen, allergies, deciding between Zyrtec, Allegra and Flonase…

Oops, sorry, not the direction I was headed.

It also means that when you go to the clothing retailers, the first items that will catch your eyes will be SWIMSUITS. I’m still shivering in a sweater…how do they expect me to be in the mood for trying on a swimsuit?!?!?

Or worse yet, appreciating how I’d look in a swimsuit?!?!?

I told Dave yesterday that this year I need to get at least one new bathing suit.

“What’s wrong with the ones you have?”

Where do I start?

I have 3 bathing suits. The elastic is going bad on my favorite one (circa 2002, got it at Land’s End overstocks right after Jacob was born). Ever had elastic go bad on a suit? I don’t mean the waistbands or arm holes, either…I mean, you give that Lycra a good stretch across your backside to put it on and when you take ’em off, the fabric doesn’t retreat….

So I want to replace the Land’s End one.

When you look in the stores, here’s what is available (courtesy of Roxy):

Sorry folks, I’m TOO OLD to be dressing like this at the pool/beach now. I can’t tote around 3-year-olds, don an inner tube alongside Jake and jump into the pool in it, either.

Here’s more my speed:

Like the skirt?

Cost-wise, they’re about the same. I’ll end up spending about $100 no matter what. Dave can’t believe that. But if I can get 5 years out of it, then it’s like buying a $20 suit every year for 5 years, right?

28. March 2008 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

My boys love Pez.

“Hey, I love Pez, too…I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Yeah, I remember getting Pez dispensers when I was little, and I remember loading it up with the candy, and then gobbling it down.

“Those were the days, indeed. They seem like reasonable gifts for the boys…”

I got each boy an Easter Pez dispenser for their Easter baskets. A Pez dispenser comes with 1 or 2 blocks of candy, then I also stuck a “refill pack” of 6 more blocks into each basket. Really, it isn’t that much candy. Trust me. 150 calories total.

So here are the Pez dispensers…cute, huh?

From 2008 03 27 Pe…

I guess I’m not as young as I used to be. Jacob is pretty good at loading his dispenser, but Timmy needs help. Timmy’s gone through 3-4 of his 8 blocks of Pez, and I SWEAR, with every block since this past Sunday, I’ve been plagued with the VERTICAL PEZ. Allow me to demonstrate:

So here’s one of the Pez dispensers…this one happens to be Jacob’s:

And this is an example of the “Vertical Pez”:

Usually I end up with the vertical Pez when I’m just about done with loading, and all those other candies end up popping out while I’m adjusting the vertical one.

And finally, here I’m showing that Pez dispensers must have shrunk over the years — I can’t fit my fat fingers into the dispenser to adjust those $%^& Vertical Pez! My pinky barely fits.

Jacob’s received several Pez dispensers over the past couple years — Disney characters, Halloween, Christmas, etc. He probably has 4-5 of them. He never really had any problems.

Now that I think about it — Jacob never asked me to load up the dispensers…he merely ate the candy straight out of the packaging.

This Easter Timmy received his first dispenser, and the very first thing he did when he was given his first loaded up dispenser Easter morning was flip the head up and attempt to suck the candy out with his mouth. All he did was gum up the dispenser.


So I fix it. Remove the slobbery one, wipe down the offended area…queue up the remaining Pez.

Then, about 2 minutes later, he somehow got a Pez candy way up into the Lamb’s head (imagine a Pez shoved up into your brain!).


When you brain your Pez dispenser, the head stays in the “up” position and you can’t advance the candy until you get the one out of the head. I had to use a seafood picker-thingy to break the candy into pieces and shake the pieces out. Sigh…

And all the while when I’m loading, cleaning, breaking, shaking with Timmy’s dispenser, he’s hovering over me: “Are you done yet? Are you done yet?”

I don’t remember Pez being this difficult…really!

25. March 2008 · Comments Off on It’s Been One of Those Days… · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

I’ve been sorta, well, SLOW today. Last evening at about 11:30pm, I received an e-mail from my friend Susan in Norfolk about her seeing news of one of our high school classmates getting killed in Afghanistan. So I did a little research and found out that our friend, William Jefferson, was an Air Force Combat Controller stationed at Pope AFB just south of here. The work he did for the Air Force was pretty high speed and among the most dangerous for Airmen. He was in Afghanistan when his vehicle was struck by an IED.

I was pretty upset at the news and didn’t sleep too well last night. Since I worked all day on Sunday cleaning the house, plus mowing the lawn and doing some landscaping, plus making a nice Easter dinner…I was pooped. But my mind was too busy to rest well.

So I’ve been very sluggish today. I helped Susan pass the word about Willie’s death to some of our other high school classmates, and I was able to get on the phone with the public affairs office at Pope AFB and found out about a memorial service scheduled on Wednesday morning. I think I’d like to go…I just need to arrange child care and reschedule a parent/teacher conference and I think I’ll be set.

Dave suggested dinner out for the family tonight, and while at dinner he mentioned that he didn’t think I’d take Willie’s death so hard, considering I’d NEVER mentioned him before. He’s right, I hadn’t. Willie wasn’t exactly a close friend, but we had many classes together during our 4 years of high school.

Upon reflection, last night I had realized that in the 6 1/2 years since we’d first invaded Afghanistan, and in the 5 years since we’d entered Iraq, TSgt Jefferson is the first combat death that’s struck a personal chord.

Also, my kitchen laptop died yet AGAIN. Another hard drive format, another reinstallation of Windows XP — which has to be followed by Service Pack 2, Wireless card adapter, IE 7.0, and an Anti-Virus. That’s just so I can hop back on here and write this to you. But it’s back up, by some miracle.

Early bedtime tonight! Stay tuned for updates on the ant farm (it’s still going strong!), getting the house “Staged” for going on the market in early May, and my struggles with Pez.

24. March 2008 · Comments Off on Happy Easter #2 — Egg Hunt and Dressed for Church · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,
24. March 2008 · Comments Off on Happy Easter #1 — Dyeing the Eggs · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,
21. March 2008 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

One of my favorite recipes — and when made with a little less cayenne and hot sauce, it’s becoming a favorite of the kids, too!

Emeril’s Chicken Etouffee. Etouffee is basically a variant of a stew with lots of “aromatics” and flavorful herbs and spices. Popular in Cajun cooking, the definition I found gives it Creole roots. The two are NOT the same. No matter who takes credit for it, it’s incredibly delicious.

Admittedly, this is one of the more labor intensive recipes in my family’s repertoire, but it’s SO GOOD, it’s worth the work. I make this up 3-4 times per year for the family, and the recipe linked above makes enough for my family of 4, plus another dinner for just Dave and me, if I made Spaghetti-o’s or Macaroni and Cheese for the boys.

Things go most smoothly when I cut up the chicken and chop the aromatic veggies well ahead of time. I’ll spare you pics of cutting up a whole chicken, but that was the first thing I did…disassemble a whole chicken.

Side note: from a financial standpoint, the cost of a whole “fryer” chicken is about 1/2 of the cost of a “whole chicken cut up”. If you’re willing to learn how to dissect it on your own, in about 10 minutes, you not only save a few dollars, but you also can keep the back, neck, organs and giblets for other uses.

So after the chicken, I cut up the peppers (2 large) and one really-large-honkin’-onion:

From 2008 03 20 Em…

From 2008 03 20 Em…

From 2008 03 20 Em…

From 2008 03 20 Em…

You might notice that the recipe calls for celery, too…I usually include a little, but I forgot to pick some up at the store this morning, so I omitted it. No biggie, means more onions!

Next, I oil up the pot, season the chicken with lots of Tony Chachere’s seasoning instead of the salt and cayenne (hey, I’m serving young children here!) and sear all sides. So here’s a gory close-up of the seasoned chicken. The inside is still raw, so don’t drool too much…yet.

From 2008 03 20 Em…

With the oil and remnants of the seared chicken and spices in the bottom of the pot, throw in an entire stick of butter. Real butter. Margarine won’t cut it here.

(As our friend the Pioneer Woman would say, “Hey, I never said it would be healthy!”)

From 2008 03 20 Em…

Once the butter melts, turn the heat down to straight medium and sprinkle in the 3/4 c. of flour. Put on some comfy shoes and start to stir…you’ll be doing this for a while. This is the foundation for a good-old-Cajun “roux”. The recipe calls for “chocolate” colored roux…when you first start, your roux is basically the color of the butter you just melted. It takes 10-15 minutes for it to darken down to “chocolate” colored…but from there it can quickly turn to “Burnt”, so I tend to stop at a peanut-butter color.

Here are before and after shots of the roux process…this took about 15 minutes.

From 2008 03 20 Em…

From 2008 03 20 Em…

See the difference?

Then you throw in the onions, celery and bell peppers…do this quickly. And quickly get as much of the roux around the veggies as you can…there’s a lot of heat in the roux that can help the veggies cook down. And the smell that will fill your kitchen will be DIVINE!

Afterwards, add the bay leaves and 2 cloves of minced garlic and continue to cook down.

From 2008 03 20 Em…

Between searing the chicken, making up a roux and stirring in all those veggies, you might have noticed the glop accumulating at the bottom of the pot. You’ve probably heard Emeril, Rachel, Bobby or Alton say “That stuff is FULL OF FLAVOR! We need to RELEASE THAT FLAVOR!”

So here’s where the beer comes in — the alcohol in the beer will dissolve the stuff at the bottom of the pan and will be able to blend right in with the roux/veggie mix. Get a wooden spoon/spatula ready…you’ll want to work quickly before all the alcohol cooks off!

From 2008 03 20 Em…

Get ready? Get set? GO! Pour in the 12 oz. bottle of beer and use the wooden spoon to scrub scrub scrub the bottom of the pan! If I weren’t using one hand to hold the camera in this picture, I’d be simultaneously pouring and scrubbing the pot with my wooden spoon.

From 2008 03 20 Em…

And again, the kitchen will be smelling like you’re running your very own Cajun restaurant! Brennan’s, the Apex, NC branch!

Now you add the remaining liquids, which include the Worstershire and hot sauces.

From 2008 03 20 Em…

Yes, that’s Texas Pete hot sauce there, and NOT Louisiana’s own McIlhenny’s Tabasco Sauce…but Texas Pete (despite the name) is a North Carolina tradition, and I have to thank an AF friend and Hickory, NC native, Rick Sapp, for introducing me to it in 1996. Besides, Texas Pete is a bit more mild than Tabasco and this is a family show here. I personally like Tabasco a little bit better, but Texas Pete passes muster here…especially for Buffalo Wings.

Okay, enough about the hot sauce.

Finally! Time to add the chicken back into the pot…

From 2008 03 20 Em…

Let it all come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 1:15 hours. Pull the chicken off the bones — it should come off easily by this point, return the meat to the pot, and simmer for another hour or so. The chicken pieces will start to take on a stringiness that means “I’m ready to eat now!”.

Ladle the hot etouffee over a bed of rice (or other starch of your choice, although I can’t see it served any other way). Sprinkle on chopped fresh parsley…I didn’t have any on hand today, so that was omitted along with the celery.

From 2008 03 20 Em…

(You’re looking at my second helping here…I forgot to photograph the first serving, I guess I was that famished after smelling the etouffee all afternoon!)

This recipe is a hit with visitors, and if you’re serving more than 6 adults, you could double the recipe quite easily…you’ll have to sear the chicken in shifts, and use a bigger pot.

P.S.: Have the Tums or Pepto Bismol ready if you try to have 2 servings like I did. Oops.

20. March 2008 · Comments Off on Timmy’s Preschool Easter Party · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

Enjoy these pictures from Timmy’s Easter party. They kids started with a “Find the Easter Bunny” game in the classroom, followed by an Easter Egg Hunt on the playground, then they had pizza for lunch, and their dessert consisted of Easter egg cookies that they could decorate themselves with icing and sprinkles! Fun and messes abounded!

We wrapped up the day with stories and coloring. It was a good time for all!

19. March 2008 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

Some time ago, Dave and I were watching Family Guy (<– watch full episodes here!) and there’s an episode where Peter’s dog, Brian, is attempting to cheer up Peter. So Brian puts on a banana suit and wields maracas and starts singing. Dave and I tried to dig back into the recesses of our brains on why that sounded familiar to us — something common for Dave and me when watching Family Guy, they like to reach back to the 80s and 90s for references…and Dave quickly found the original on You Tube. A picture’s worth a thousand words, so here. Brian’s voice has been edited out (copyright issues, appaently).

So one day the boys were bored and were getting on each others’ nerves, so I brought up the You Tube video of the original “It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time” dancing banana…

…and I never heard so much laughing and giggling! In fact, Jake and Timmy even took it upon themselves to click on the “related videos” on the right side of the screen to watch other versions.

I need a video of Timmy singing it…maybe tomorrow… 🙂

Anyway, for your personal viewing pleasure, presenting “It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!”