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Sunday, December 30, 2012

That "snow" ordinary ice cream

There I was, just wasting time making meaningful connections on Twitter the other night, when I overheard (over-read?) my friend Michelle talking to Katie about snow ice cream.

Being in love with anything that includes the phrase "ice cream" and possessing a yard several inches deep with fresh snow, I just had to butt into the conversation to see what the heck they were talking about. And what they were talking about was in cream made out of snow.

When I was a kid, I once poured chocolate syrup over snow in a cup. The results were not stellar. But Michelle shared with me an actual recipe, one simple enough that even I couldn't screw it up.

The Ingredients

8c snow
14oz sweetened condensed milk
1tsp vanilla.


1 gal snow
2c milk
1 c sugar
1tbsp vanilla

Not having sweetened condensed milk on hand, I chose option 2.

Here's how we did it:

I thought it tasted pretty good. A little like the ice milk my mom used to buy back in her "let's get this family healthy" phase. The peanut gallery had their own ideas:

Annie: "Tastes a little like a vanilla candle, but in a good way."
Charlie: "It tastes like sugar and snow and vanilla. Not like ice cream."
Robbie: "SUGARRRRR!"

If I were to make it again, and I think it's definitely fun to do once per winter, I would use either the sweetened condensed milk version of the recipe or make it with 2% or whole milk so it's creamier. I only had skim milk on hand, so that's what I used.

Snow Ice Cream. Try it, then let me know if your family likes it. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Colorful language & curtains for Christmas

We hosted my family -- parents, siblings & spouses, nieces and nephews for Christmas last weekend. We had the date set plenty far in advance. Did that motivate me to start getting things ready early? Nope. Of course not.

The day before legions of relatives (22 of us in all) descended on my house, I decided that I had to put up curtains. My living room and dining room have been going commando -- that's curtain-free for all you non-decorator types -- for about a year. But my "all custom draperies" sister and her family were on their way. As was my "makes her own cleaning supplies and sings while she Swiffers" sister and her family. I just couldn't have them over with my bare windows showing.

(I should note here that I love my sisters. I also like them very much. They do nothing to make me feel self-conscious -- nothing other than be skinny and pretty and have kids who wear matched clothing. All of this is on me. My own crazy anxieties.)

So, I headed out with a smallish budget and a plan to get some thermal curtains for my triple-wide and double-wide windows. I struck out at JCPenney. Then I headed to Kohls, where happily, I found curtains in a neutral "mushroom" color. I bought 7 sets of curtains (odd, I know, but that's all they had and I really needed 10, but I would just make do), 2 drapery rods and headed home to hang those suckers, with a little help from Annie.

Five hours, a borrowed cordless drill (seriously,  I have to get one of those things) and some colorful language later, we had the hardware installed to hang the curtains. Learning from the last time I hung drapes (in which I'd hung them without ironing them and the package creases were still in them when I took them down years later), we ironed each panel and got read to hang them.

We hung them on the short set of window first. I think it's south facing. Or maybe west? I can never remember which way our street runs. The sun was streaming in -- right through several little pinholes where the sprayed-on thermal backing obviously did not stick. I might have said "fuschia," "shell green," and a few other choice words of color.

Annie, who was standing on a chair holding up the rod, tried to tell me it was probably ok. When I insisted that she step down and step back to look, her response was, "Um, yeah. Those look like we live in a gangster house."

Oh, peacock blue.

By then it was time to get Robbie from school. After making a couple of stops to find new curtains that would match the hardware I'd already installed and would not break my bank, I decided if I just got the tie back hardware that matched the rods, then the curtains would be a little more bunched up and not have as many places to show the light streaming through. 

So, I went back to the store to buy the additional hardware. I was able to install it with minimal difficulty and next to no rainbow references. Just as I was pulling the curtains into a swag in the new hardware, Mike walked in.

"Cool! Curtains," he said. "But why did you pick that color?"

At which point, my eyes began shooting daggers and I said something that sounded a bit like "turquoise-ecru-burnt sienna" and a few other of the really good colors from the Crayola box of 64.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppSensing the error of his ways, Mike quickly back-pedaled, mumbling something about the mushroom curtains coordinating nicely with the reds in the couch and the rug.

As I was still muttering shades of black and blue under my breath, Annie spoke up.

"Mom, I don't think we should host Christmas at our house again."

"Why not?"

"Because it makes you cuss a lot."

Oh, indigo purple.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What happens when I get over myself

Last Sunday, I woke up and wished I hadn't, not that early anyway. But I had to take Charlie to Sunday School, so the fact that I was feeling blue and sorry for myself didn't matter much. While Charlie is in class, I sit in the CCD office with two friends, talking and laughing -- oh yeah, and helping with any prep stuff the Sunday School teachers need. Knowing my friends were going to be there made the rising and not-so-shining a little bit more palatable.

Imagine, then, how I felt when I arrived and found no one there. One quick text message and I was reminded that one friend was out of town. The other one opted to sleep in and come to church later. Waaahhhh! Didn't she know I was counting on her to be there? How could she have not read my mind or sensed my sad (and selfish) aura?

A big sigh and harumph later, I found myself in the cafeteria eating a donut. Oh yes, I did. Caramel frosted with white fluff inside. It didn't make me feel as good as I had hoped, but it did provide temporary comfort. After about 20 minutes of wallowing and self-pity, I decided I could at least go help set up the Christmas breakfast for the Sunday School teachers.

When I got to the gym where the breakfast was to be served, I found 3 small children. Let's call them Kate, Miles and Nora. I know these kiddos. My (missing) friends and I keep an eye on them while their mom teaches one of the Sunday School classes and their dad sings in the choir. At first, their presence in our little Sunday circle was a bit annoying. This was OUR time, our KID-FREE time. Just what we wanted -- 3 kids to look after. Nice Christian attitude, huh?

But we watch them and play with them, chatting over their heads as we can. Yet last Sunday, there was no WE to watch them. Oh, there were other people in the gym setting up, keeping a distant eye on Kate, Miles and Nora, who were coloring pictures of Advent wreaths. I decided there were plenty of cooks in the kitchen and I'd go at least be a physical presence for the kiddos.

Kate and Miles came to show me their pictures. Nora toddled behind them, waving her paper, too. There was a volleyball nearby, so I picked it up and we started to play catch. Kate only wanted me to throw the ball to her. She was ok if I threw it to the other two, but she didn't want to catch a ball anyone else had thrown. Nora ventured a bit away and I called to her to come back. Kate ran to fetch her.

After several minutes of playing ball and chasing Nora, I decided we should play "Red Light, Green Light." Miles wasn't so keen on the idea because he didn't want to lose. I told him there were no winners. It was just something fun to do. Then back to catch. Then a little more coloring.

I can't remember how the making videos started, except that I was probably looking for another time killer. Kate used my scarf as a prop for an interpretive dance. I shot a quick video on my iPhone and let the kids watch it immediately. That was all Miles had to see.

"Make a movie of me!," he insisted as he began one big long twirl, sans scarf.

Nora came and plopped down in my lap, watch the videos as they were recorded, laughing and wanting to watch them over again. I love the cozy feel of a kid sitting on my lap, head tucked under my chin. I turned the camera and recorded Nora saying "ho! ho! ho!" and smiling one of those chubby-cheeked toddler grins.

Soon, church was over and their dad came to pick them up.

"If they said I was filming them, I was," I offered. "But not in any creepy way. They were performing dances and silliness and then would watch themselves. I'm going to delete the videos."

He assured me that was fine and thanked me for watching them. It struck me that I hadn't felt sad since I'd stepped into the gym. As I said goodbye, Miles yelled, "Wait! I need to give you a hug!" (Insert melted me here.) Then Kate came to me and said "I'm so glad you came today. It was really boring before you got here."

I smiled and thought "I'm glad I came too."

Sometimes I need my friends. Or a caramel-frosted donut. Or both. And sometimes what I really need is to just get over myself. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Will everyone stop eating Sheri's M&Ms?!

About a month ago, over on the 4th Frog Facebook page, we conducted an M&Ms vote. It was a spin-off of the elections, so I asked people to vote for M&M Plain or M&M Peanut.

It would appear that my readers are the independent sort because there were a lot of write-ins. Here's how the returns came in:

Peanut M&Ms - 10 votes

Pretzel M& Ms - 7 votes

Plain M&Ms - 4 votes

Peanut Butter M&Ms - 5 votes

Almond M&Ms - 2 votes

Dark chocolate M&Ms - 2 votes

Mint M&Ms - 2 votes

Coconut M&Ms (blech! Sorry Leah) - 1 vote

Because we were having so much fun -- and because the Halloween candy was on clearance at Target -- I decided to give away one 1 lb. bag of M&Ms to one lucky voter. Sheri, who has been a 4th Frog reader for as long as I can remember, was the chocolicious winner. I promised to send her a bag of her favorite M&Ms, the pretzel variety.

I bought the bag and put it in a hiding place at home until I could get to the post office. Apparently, it wasn't hidden well enough because some kids who will remain nameless found the bag and ate all of Sheri's M&Ms.

So I bought another bag and hid them really well that time. The trouble was that I knew where they were and in a moment of uncontrollable weakness, I opened the bag...and ate every last pretzelly chocolate bite.

Intending to make good on my promise, I bought a third bag of Pretzel M&Ms and tucked them away in a different hiding place. Ironically, instead of the Halloween decorations the original bag had, this one was sporting a Christmas theme.

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Friday afternoon I was all set to go to the post office and mail Sheri her prize. Well doggoneit, someone had opened that bag, too.

So I am devising a plan to get Sheri her Pretzel M&Ms. I have several options:

1. Buy another (4th!) bag of Pretzel M&Ms and drive directly to the post office.
2. Buy another bag of Pretzel M&Ms and store them in an empty tampon box, which I'm certain at least 3/5 of my family will not go near, until I can get to the post office.
3. Skip the Pretzel M&Ms and send Sheri a Target gift card so she can buy the M&Ms for herself.

Somehow I am going to make this right. Even if I have to eat 3 more bags of M&Ms to do it.