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Okay, so I've remodeled the look of my blog & am starting "anew"...well sort of. I'm keeping my few previous entries & going with it. I've been putting off posting this for some time, waiting for the right time. To have everything in order, to have nothing being neglected or overlooked as I steal a few moments away to type. I realize, it's just not going to happen, so I'll begin.

I had once hoped to carry this into a sort of food blog, nothing gourmet mind you, just me. I don't have time for that. I so wish I did. I do cook & love to cook, but my adventures aren't as frequent as I had hoped. Most of our meals are really aren't awe inspiring as I find so many others to be.

While admitting I don't have the time I wish I did for cooking, I'm still going to cook, (after all, we do have to eat!) and post what I can or feel might be an interest to someone. Or, I'll post for my own future reflections.

So, this is me. Here I am. Muddling my way through with my husband and kids carving out our little niche. There will be some cooking, some crafts, some of everything I find along my way...and basically, well, there will be me!
Okay, so I took the summer off from BBA due to a full calendar of events. My last course of action, before doing so, was to tackle the bagels! My whole family is crazy about bagels and were very excited with this challenge.
I wound up doubling the recipe. (Crazy I know!) See the thing was, I got this notion of making baskets and delivering them to neighbors and the in-laws! The total yield was 52 bagels. 25 sun dried tomato garlic parmesan and 27 cinnamon raisin. We had one casualty along the way, during the cooking process, so only 51 were fully completed.

Here are some the bagels as there were being set up to proof overnight.

Now I have to say, I wasn't fully aware of what I was getting myself into. My house is kept on the cooler side, thanks to my darling husband. Needless, it took forever the night before to get my starters to rise. I was up until the wee hours of the morning. The next day, was one of the warmest days we had all summer, and of course there I am over a "cauldron" boiling bagels & tossing them in the oven! I wish the heat was the only unanticipated occurrence. The thing was, I thought I was making mini bagels. I mean they were small when I shaped them & only slightly larger the next day. Add a boiling pot of water into the mix and suddenly my mini bagels were full blown, full sized bagels! Please note that I am not complaining, as I am a true blue bagel lover, but boy what a surprise!!

Here's a pic of my little lovelies as they came out of the "bath". See how they increased in size!

I brushed the cinnamon raisin ones with butter and sprinkled them with
Sweet Cinnamon Sprinkle from Pampered Chef.

The sun dried tomato-garlic-parm bagels got topped with cheese, minus 6 that were left plain.

Finally the crumb!
(I'm working on the whole photography thing!)

There's a quote by Beatrice & Ira Freeman which says, "The bagel (is) an unsweetened doughnut with rigor mortis". This does not holds true for Peter Reinhart's bagels. They are wonderfully chewy and dare I say moist, for as moist as a bagel can be. I wasn't really sure about the cinnamon raisin ones, but once they got a chance to cool completely & set up, (the butter seemed to drag it out), they wound up being terrific! We found them simply wonderful!! They were a huge hit all around & I can't wait to make them again!!
No picture to accompany this post. (Not that I didn't take any though! They just weren't of any quality.) This is a follow up to my last post about Greek Celebration bread. This morning I finally did the french toast version!! Oh it was so delightful!! I'm not a big fan of raisins in food. Very, very selective about it actually. I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed the bread & equally so the french toast!! As I did enjoy it, I have to say that cinnamon roll french toast is still my all time favorite. That being said, we will definitely be having this again when I dust the recipe off for Thanksgiving. (If not before!).

Tomorrow I will undergoing BBA Challenge #3: Bagels! Yee-ow!! Very excited & nervous about this, as it is a bit involved!! Keep your fingers crossed! :)
Last week was second week of BBA's Challenge, which introduced us to Greek Celebration Bread! I started off making a poolish. This bread I struggled with. For some reason, I didn't come across the correct consistency on mixing the ingredients. It took a very long time for it to rise. In fact, on the suggestion of some fellow Challengers and bakers, I wound up letting it go over night. In doing so, such a wonderful thing occurred!! The bread turned out wonderfully!! The smell it gave off while kneading and proofing was wonderful!!

I wound up making one boule and one regular loaf. I had intentions of making mini Christopomos, but with the holiday weekend and the extra time needed for the poolish itself, time just didn't allow. The extra ingredients of the Christopomos were added, (excluding the nuts), only the physical shape of it was not followed through. This is an amazing aromatic bread! With the crisp spring air and the zesty spiced bread perfuming the air, it truly felt like a holiday weekend. It conjured up thoughts of Thanksgiving and Christmas. This bread would be a perfect accompaniment for either of the two holiday meals!

Once finished baking, I had plenty of guinea pigs for taste testers! Ages of my taste testers ranged from 22 months to 36 years of age. They all gave a unanimous thumbs up. The little kids could not get enough. My little asked for seconds and did a little happy dance when she got it! Of course, she ate all the fruit of it first & then at the bread, but it all disappeared into her little tummy!! :) Later that evening we took the boule to our other neighbors house and had it with some wine. It was again well received by all. This is one that will definitely be revisited with winter holidays!
So, I was on my baking way when I recalled a recipe I thought would be so much fun for Calista & I to do together. I had every hope of doing it over the weekend, but the weekend came and went. It didn't help that my 'tween, (gotta love this age), didn't want to pulled into the kitchen with mom. Now we found ourselves going into the next weekend with me wanting bananas and chocolate. I could have gone very simple and made a banana cake with chocolate frosting, (yummy), instead I opted to branch out and try a new recipe. I found this one on Elle's New England Kitchen. She's one of my favorite blogs I follow. Great read and more importantly wonderful recipes!! This one is very easy and perfect for getting little hands in the kitchen.

Elle has a fabulous recipe for Double Chocolate Banana Muffins. Just the mere thought of them make me shrug my shoulders up with giddy excitement. They are so amazing!! :) We followed the recipe and only made two little changes. One being we added walnuts, as suggested by Elle's husband, into the batter, as opposed to a topping. Second being we made them into brownies instead of muffins.

I have to say we are a family of chocolate lovers and great lovers of brownies!! We quickly mixed these up and rushed through dinner eagerly awaiting their finish! We of course had to snap a picture as soon as they came out of the oven! Don't they look divine??

Here's a nice side shot, right before it was gobbled up!! They were so delicious!!! Very rich, and very moist! The chocolate, banana and walnuts all complimented each other quite nicely. Nothing was too overpowering. Word of warning though, I used a 8x8 pan and it made for a very thick set of brownies. Really cake-like in thickness! Since they were so rich, we wound up cutting them much smaller than the piece below. In fact, the next time I make them, I plan on using a 13x9 pan. Our favorite way to eat then was straight from the oven or warmed slightly in the microwave with a couple of scoops of ice cream! Though I have to admit, we did try them in the morning for breakfast, as Elle suggested. They were perfect!! If you love chocolate and bananas, it's a definite must! :)

I just finished the first assignment for the BBA Challenge!! I'm quite excited about it...though, admittedly, I am slightly disappointed. :| I baked the bread last night, as a storm front came in. The house went from being warm & humid to cold & humid with the windows open. The dough rose terrifically. My oldest DD & I worked on the first portion of it together. The recipe stated it could be broken up into 2 or 3 loaves, depending on the loaf pan. I did 3. I refrigerated one portion and baked the other two. (Baking them was a struggle as we lost power in the storm just as the oven reached temperature!) One loaf was baked in a glass loaf pan and the other in a metal one. The glass loaf rose far more greatly while proofing. However, the metal pan yielded a far more visually pleasing loaf. It browned wonderfully all over, where as the glass loaf was a lighter brown. Either way it goes, we thought the results were yummy!!! Lacking in the sweetness, that majority of challengers had noted. Also, I ran into short/squat loaves. They weren't very tall as some of the other challenger's loaves appeared to be. Good none the less.

The texture is phenomenal! The outside is firm & slightly crispy. Surprisingly, it was/is moist & soft. Sounds like a bag of oxymorons, but it is! :) We had some this morning first plain and then with applebutter. Mmmmm!! We put brown sugar ham, smoked turkey, avocado & creamy balsamic vinaigrette on it for lunch! Big hit!!

You can see how short the bread actually was. The deli meat had to be folded in half just to fit the slice. (Hardly any over hang though!) This loaf actually fell while baking...not sure of the issue there. The taller loaf, (the glass loaf), I left untouched for dinner. We'll be having loaded potato soup and sandwiches! Can't wait!!
I see them everywhere. Everyone seems to be giving them away this month. They really are the neatest things! They're from a company called Creative Labs. The Vado is a mini video camera about the size of a cell phone. There is now an HD version available. I've jumped on the band wagon & am attempting to win one from Mommy Goggles! Here's hoping! 10 minutes until the close. Nothing like cutting it close!! If not, I see a DH purchasing one in my future! :)
I am so terribly excited!!! My new Kitchenaid Stand Mixer came in yesterday!! I took pictures! LOL!! How could I not? I've wanted one for so long!! DH was very generous in getting it for me for Mother's Day. As he reminds me, I'm not even his mom! :)

<---Here it is!!! Woo hoo!! In all it's shiny glory!! I also got my book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. I recently joined a group, Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. The group was created by an extraordinary fellow blogger Nicole of She's amazing!! This challenge has brought together so many people, I myself included from all different levels of baking. Everyone is so eager to share and learn, it's really refreshing! Some have already finished their first loaf!!

Though I do find it a bit daunting, I cannot wait to finish my own loaf!! I've already peeked ahead to future recipes & I know my family will be very willing guinea pigs!!

I'll be posting pictures of my "creations", so be sure to check back for updates.
What can I say? It's been one week since my last blog. Both girls are sick. Nothing serious, just little viruses. Thank goodness, really, since the Swine Flu or H1N1, as it's now being referred to, is going around. Not too much of an issue for us, as we haven't been to Mexico or been around anyone, at least that we know of, that has been to Mexico recently. As we were going about our day, what's that I hear??? Ah, yes, that would be the sound of the panic alarm going off once again! That's right, the keys were left in reach of Sarah and she did what she does best, she was a curious kid! I won't say who's keys they were, but just know they weren't mine! :) The landscapers came and cleaned up the yard and planted a blue spruce! The yard looks amazing!! Spring is in the air my friends!!
Post title says it all! This will be short and sweet. Today, (well yesterday), was a busy day. Cali & I had a class at the hospital today. It was very nice! They served breakfast and she knew a few of the other kids there. Afterwards, we raced home, had lunch and got ready to go to Quentin's, (a friend of the family), birthday party. As we were heading out the door Sarah got the key fob and pressed the panic button! She is lightning fast! The security company called and we went through the motions and finally got out the door. Amazing, in spite of driving in a downpour & having to make a stop, we got to the party on time. It was at the mall and the kids had a great time. Calista especially, considering she was old enough to do everything. Afterwards we had to race out to Michelle's for Alexis' birthday party! All the family was there, even Darrin/Nancy, Dave/Jill, their son Tony, & Patrick and his girlfriend Danielle. It was our first time seeing Tony, in person anyways! He's so cute!! He's such a blend of his father and grandfather! We had a great time out there. We were all sitting around the kitchen table talking when Sarah joined us. Kevin let her play with his phone, since it was locked. She adores phones & was over the moon. After a while she set it down and was done with it. A few seconds later the phone rings. It's the police! Evidently she figured out how to call the emergency services!! Kevin explained to them how it was his niece & everything was fine. Two minutes later the doorbell rings and it's a policeman doing a well being check. I go to the door with Sarah, and explain everything. Accepting that everything is fine, he leaves & I head back to the kitchen. On the way back, I realize Sarah is now playing with my phone! I sure the officer thought I was crazy! LOL!! Thank goodness I have 2 locks on my phone!
So I went with Calista to bowling today. Randy stayed home and did the Mr. Mom thing. I am so glad we switched! First of all, bowling so not my thing. I usually pay attention enough to cheer her on and read my book when she isn't up. Bowling is really Randy's thing. He bowled when we was younger and was on a team as an adult. So, you see my approach to this. This was her last day for the season though, so I went along. She did wonderfully!! I was/am so very proud of her! She got her best score of the season 103 & her team took 1st place!! Woot woot!!! They announced her name a few times, for high score and team placement. She'll definitely get a first place trophy next month and quite possibly an additional one for high handicap! We course made an enormous deal of it & called the grandparents so they could get the news! She also got to pick dinner, which made her day! :)
Okay, so it's not the pennant or anything, but they did beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-7! The weather was amazing!! Especially for mid-April, and seeing how cold it was this week...and rainy! We had so much fun! It was Randy & I with our friends Tom & Patty. Patty & I remarked that how the last time we four went together, (last fall), they won. Yes, I realize that has a lot to do with nothing, but who cares, right?! They won! :) Our pitcher of course was the ever talented Carlos Zambrano. Randy & I realized that the past few years, each game we've gone to, he has been the pitcher. No complaints!Afterwards we stopped at a great little pub. The Globe Pub is located on Irving Park Road. It's intimate in size, but so much fun! The atmosphere was terrific. Some were straight from the game, others meeting friends after work & some yet just relaxing and catching the scores. The food was fabulous!! We adored the Steak & Mushroom Quesadillas the most. The Buffalo Wings, as Tom can attest, were hot! They had him sweating, lips tingling & looking for his beer! A definite good thing! The day was wonderful & we all look forward to doing it again!
Yes, that's right, LOVE! & her name is California! What a beautiful state!! I love it there! The weather was perfect. Each & everyday it was far warmer and sunnier than the weather people called for. We couldn't have been luckier! Wow!!! So picturesque. You know, I was always quite fond of Florida. California though, a little slice of heaven! :)

So, we went on vacation & it was fabulous! The girls were wonderful on both flights. Calista was like an old pro flying and Sarah slept. I thought they, at least Cali would be nervous or excited, but it was old hat for her. We were far more excited for her. She finally got her airplane ride she'd been begging for! Flight in was so smooth!! So, of course the return flight, we had to have turbulence. The girls were cool though, no qualms.

We flew into LAX and drove around for a bit before heading to Vegas. Unbelievable, Vegas with kids is nice. You don't get those people, (I call them click-clicks), trying to hand out the gosh awful cards with the naked women on them. When we've gone in the past, just the 2 of us, they thrust those things into our faces. Even walking hand in hand, they thrust them in your face! With kids...nothing. They stop! Stop!! Can you believe it? Wow! Anyway, we hung out. Did the Wildlife Sanctuary and the arcades. We went the first night to see the Fountains of the Bellagio. They loved it! We even did the Eiffel Tower!

The drive back was even more amazing. We drove through a few sandstorms. There were real tumble weeds flying around too!! Our hotels were great! We even had celebs in one. They were doing photo shoots and interviews. San Diego Zoo was amazing! We saw everything except for the big cats, (lions & tigers), they were closed & the pandas. The Panda exhibit had over an hour wait. Couldn't even fathom that if we didn't have the kids with us! Sea World was a blast too! Sarah went on her first roller coaster ride! She laughed the entire time!! Oh, it was fantastic! Shamu was so...don't have a word for it. It was something I've always dreamt of seeing. We even sat in the Soak Zone!! LOL!! Oh & we got wet! :) We did City Walk, Universal Studios, NBC tour and all that fun stuff.

LAX was a hellacious nightmare on the way back. They didn't have us sitting together, so we had to wait and see if they could at least jockey seats around so each kid could have a parent next to them. We called so many times to make sure we were together to avoid this. They kept saying we were. A$$es! Ugh! Then I tell them ahead of time, (going through security), that we had liquid, (milk & juice for Sarah). No problem in Chicago. They check everything & fine. LAX? No such luck. They do vapor tests. They go through everything & they do it with us separated. Calista is with Randy & I have Sarah & all the baby stuff. *sigh* Horrible experience.

Overall, the trip was terrific. We all had our cameras, including Calista. Hopefully we made some very wonderful lasting memories for our girls!! Now just to get the scrapbooks in order!
We're going on vacation!! Just a matter of hours!! Woot woot! *sigh* I'm terribly excited, can you tell? I'm terribly tired too. No sleep. Not since last night. I've been up all day making sure everything is done. I am coming back to a clean house! The only thing I'll have to do is laundry, (from the trip), and more than likely dust. Our house is an extreme dust magnet. *double sigh*

I suppose I should try to relax a bit. I know I won't sleep. I never do before a trip. Back is really starting to ache though! Post on the return!
I was driving back from the store today, with my girls in tow, when this little boy ran across the street. It wasn't any old side street or neighborhood road, but a very busy main road with 4 lanes of traffic, speed limit 45mph. As he darted across, (head held high, arms pumping doing his best Carl Lewis impersonation), and I carefully pushed my breaks, the question posed itself. When did we become vincible?? Clearly he had no idea that I even hit my breaks. I knew he was going to run before I even got close. As I think about it, flashes of Lorne Green's New Wilderness dash through my mind. Gazelles escaping an oncoming attack. Seeing the shift in his body you just knew he'd run.

So, when does it happen? When do we go from being so invincible that the world is literally our playground to recognizing our own mortality? My children believe they can do anything, especially my youngest. Nothing scares them...except maybe a house rattling clap of thunder. :)

It's amazing and a bit sad at the same time. We go through so many changes over the course of our life. Most of us no longer have free abandon of that of an 8 year old. We've pulled in the reigns a bit. I believe that's a necessity, in my life anyway. There are moments though when I escape "adulthood" and forget. When I'm running a kite trying to keep it going, splashing in the waves, skipping rocks, playing tag or dancing with my kids I am free. Nothing else matters, just them and I. I hope those moments never stop happening. For you see it's then. if only for a moment, I too am invincible!

I used to be able to encircle my thigh with my hands, not quite touching, but only an inch gap...that was several years ago! It's amazing how you change. How the body changes. Granted I don't want to be that little again, it blows me away to know I was so tiny!! I mean crazy tiny, I had a mad metabolism!!

So I'm thinking, I need to set myself a goal. A realistic goal mind you. So, I'm thinking 10lbs by summer would be nice. Nothing drastic I realize, but doable. Baby steps! Baby steps! That's my short term goal. I'd like to lose another 10-20 over the summer, (as I figure I'll be far more active). I'd love to be down 30 by the end of the year. Thirty pounds is my ultimate loss goal.

It is amazingly cold! Alright, alright, it has been far colder this winter, but to go from 61 one day to 20 the next is really incredulous!! How does one function like this?? Supposedly it'll be warmer for a bit. I love to imagine summer and all that it entails, but it's so hard to do so when dealing with the current craziness that is the weather! I can't make heads nor tails of it.

You know, when I was little it was March was either in like a lion & out like a lamb or vice-versa. That would mean, we've begun quite lamb-like. So we're to expect the lion?? It seemed to work that way when I was a child...I can't help but hope for more lamb!! After all, I believe we've already been experiencing April showers a tad early!!

Keep those fingers crossed & thoughts warm!!

Oh.My.God! I am so sore!! All this working out has been/is great! I'm really feeling good, but everything but my eyelids hurt! My stepper came in yesterday. All the exercises coupled with that, Wooo Boy! LOL! Seriously, when I got the stepper I hopped on it right away & tried it out. Of course it didn't seem that difficult, so I kept doing it. I'd go do things & hop back on & the cycle continued! To top it off, Sarah & I spent the day shopping, the entire day. My thighs are on fire, but it's good. A good sore!! Can't wait to see the results. (BTW, it was 65 degrees out again today, which is fabulous, but the mall was 87 degrees! I think I lost an 8th of my body weight due to complaints here. I'd stay in 1 store longer if they'd get their sh!t together though!)
I'll lead off with the 25 recently played songs on my ipod. (Follow up to J. Lancaster's listing).

1. Paid My Dues -Anastasia
2. It Don't Make A Difference To Me -Kevin Michaels
3. Rock The Boat -Aaliyah
4. Anyway You Want It -Journey
5. How Far We've Come -Matchbox Twenty
6. You're My Best Friend -Queen
7. Whatever You Like -T.I.
8. Slow Dancing In A Burning Room -John Mayer
9. Sea Breeze -Tyronne Wells
10. The Luckiest -Ben Folds
11. Welcome To Paradise -Green Day
12. We're Young & Beautiful -Carrie Underwood
13. Sweet Love -Trisha Yearwood
14. Rock Steady -The Whispers
15. Like A Feather -Nikka Costa
16. Live Until I Die -Clay Walker
17. You're Unbelievable -EMF
18. Under The Bridge -Red Hot Chili Peppers
19. Let's Do It Again -TLC
20. Come Rain Come Shine -Ray Charles
21. I'm Glad There Is You -Grover Washington, Jr.
22. You and I -Michael Buble
23. Pieces -Pieces Of A Dream
24. Not Ready To Make Nice -Dixie Chicks
25. She Is Love -Parachute

It's an odd assortment, but you know, it's me! Totally all across the board, but music makes my day!

So, I'm doing all these little exercises & feeling pretty good about it! I ordered a couple of DVDs to do & am getting excited! The weather will be warmer tomorrow & I'm itching for spring!

I have to admit, I have a few defeatist I see some Skinny Minny on the tube & wonder if maybe I should be more accepting of my current state...can't do it. Granted I may not be a size 3 again, but I want to feel a little more comfortable in my own skin. You know, I really can't figure out where all the years went to!!

DH & I are making healthier choices and are hoping to set a good examples for the girls. I think we've done good thus far, but I think we need to be more active individually. I really don't want them to be afraid to have solo ventures and succeed! I may head up to the gym this weekend & sign us up. Be a bit more proactive. Just finished J. Lancaster's Pretty Fat and had a bit of an epiphany. Well, I'm sure I'm not the only one, but sometimes when you see something in print or hear it said aloud, it hits you right between the eyes. It's basically realizing I've kept myself from changing my body by worrying of how people may view me working out. (Mainly because I was a good 20lbs last time I was really working out at the gym). I've got up the gumption & I'm just going to do it!! Super excited!!

Grabbing life by the horns people!! I'm 33.5 & this is going to be a banner year!! I'm not expecting great things to happen, I'm just going to make them happen! Well, better hit the hay.
Alright, so I decided I needed a blog of my own as I begin this weight loss venture. Mind you, I'm not terribly overweight. According to the Army Weight Charts, I am 8lbs over their maximum weight limit for my age group...So being over the maximum isn't ideal, but it's not as bad as I thought. That's also assuming my scale is accurate-I tend to believe it's off by a good 10lbs. HA! Going off the scale, I am 181.75lbs. *sigh* I am 5'9" though, so that's my only saving grace as I am fine boned. I carry it well, but I don't want to carry it at all anymore.

I began working out today at home. We're going to join the gym, but until that happens, I can't sit idly by and do nothing...not any longer anyway! This morning it was just Jillian & I. Jillian won. I hung in there though, but WOWEEE I can feel my gams & I haven't felt that in some time! I'm trying my darnedest not to have a soda. I did have 1cup of coffee though & I did have a Boston Creme donut. You can't expect me to quit cold turkey!! Besides that I am not one to let food go to waste...especially in these economics times...did I convince you??

So, I ate my last donut. Boston Cremes are my weakness & tomorrow hopefully I won't have coffee. Whew, that's a big commitment but it's me or my waistline & by golly I'm gonna win!
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