MODERN DAY MARTHA

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  • Archive for October, 2009

    Chocolate Cherry Cookies

    Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

    The best thing, well, one of at least, about being an adult is not having to wait for cookies. Right now, it’s getting late in the evening, but I just pulled a batch of warm cookies out of the oven. Baked because it’s going to rain tonight (I hope) and it’s fall and my husband and I just wanted cookies. Sometimes you have to give in and let go and bake cookies.

    To this end, I am sharing a recipe. I love these cookies. Addictive, easy, and almost healthy. But don’t let that stop you from whipping up a batch when the mood strikes. Go on. Share some with someone you love.

    Chocolate Cherry Cookies

    makes about 3 dozen

    Ingredient List:

    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

    1 cup packed brown sugar

    2 eggs

    1 tablespoon vanilla

    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

    1 teaspoon baking soda

    2 teaspoons cinnamon

    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

    2 cups rolled oats

    1 cup high-fiber cereal with flakes and twigs (I use “Twigs Flakes and Clusters” from Trader Joe’s. Kashi “Good Friends” is another good choice)

    1 cup dried cherries, sour cherries are the best

    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Method:

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    Cream together the sugar and the butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, beat until well incorporated.

    In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and spices.

    In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, cereal, cherries and chocolate chips.

    Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and slowly blend (on low if using a stand mixer) until just mixed. Add the oat mixture and blend (on low if using a stand mixer) until the dough comes together and the ingredients are distributed fairly evenly throughout.

    The dough will be very soft and clumpy because of all the good stuff in there.

    Drop dough in rounded tablespoon fulls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Make sure to keep the dough mounded–the cookies will flatten out in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes or until the centers are just set but still look a bit underdone. Let cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

    The cookies will keep for about a week in an air-tight container. But I doubt you’ll be able to keep them around that long.

    The minister in each of us

    Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

    I read this fantastic post the other day and it got me thinking.  The whole question of what I’m supposed to do with my life has come up quite often for me, and like the author of that post, many times I’ve dreamed that my life’s mission is something huge and influential.

    A little while back, however, while talking to my mother-in-law, I started thinking about ministries.  We don’t talk a lot about ministries in the LDS church; while we talk about ministering to the sick or the poor,  we don’t refer to our leadership as ministers, or refer to our work with certain groups as a ministry. But I started thinking about those who feel called to work with specific people, to love them, to nurture their needs and weak spots – to start a ministry.

    Don’t you love it when someone else’s approach to something breaks open your perspective and helps you see things in a different way?

    The word minister has a lot of religious connotation, but in its form as an intransitive verb (yes, I did have to look that up)  it means merely to  give aid or service.  All of us do that every day. And ministry? For my purposes, this definition leaped out: a person or thing through which something is accomplished.

    I’m coming to realize that my life’s mission isn’t something visibly large and all encompassing, something impressive on a resume. The great accomplishments of my life will be in my ministering to those around me. To the little girl who woke me up at 4 this morning because there was a “monster shadow” in her closet. To the other little one currently performing an crawling obstacle course through the chairs and under the table. To my love who has to go out on a crazy rainy day.  To my friends, my family. Until earlier this week, my “official” ministry at church was with the young women 12-18. Soon it will be with another group, and I look forward to being able to dive in, give aid and service, and be a person through which something is accomplished.

    Because even though these things seem small, I know they’re not.  I’ve seen the “small” acts of those who have ministered to me, and how those acts have reverberated like ripples on a pond through the years and how they are affecting people even now.  I don’t know what effect I will have, but my heart echos this line from that post above, “Isn’t a mission from God inherently laced with magnitude?”.

    What do you feel is your ministry?

    Photography Tips

    Saturday, October 10th, 2009

    There is this other blog that I occasionally update called MomShots.  My goal in creating MomShots was to learn how to photograph my children so that I could get professional quality results and teach other parents how to do that too, as I learned.  This October is my two year anniversary of learning photography.  I don’t claim to be a photog expert but I do know that I have learned so much in that short time frame and have transformed my photography.

    I am much more happy with my results since I discovered these five tips.  I want to share with you, dear MDM readers.  These tips helped me take my photography to another level.  Maybe they will help you.  I am much more happy with my results since I discovered these five tips.  You do not need a fancy camera (though it doesn’t hurt to have good tools).  You can achieve results you will love with any camera by following these simple guides.

    Tip List:

    • Get close.  Get real close.
    • Get down on their level.
    • Focus on the eyes.
    • Be aware of your background.
    • Be flexible and take lots and lots of shots.

    My first tip here about getting really close was a huge change for me.  For some reason I avoided taking close ups like they were the plaque.  I just didn’t do it.  Once I broke through my photographic mind block I really enjoyed these new shots I was getting.  You can really focus on one person and get a feel for your subject’s zest for life.
    Summer Fun

    The tip of getting down on their level was something that blew my mind.  I could not believe what a difference it made.  Suddenly my shots of my kids went from a boring “adult holding a camera” view to suddenly seeing the world at the child’s level.  If you incorporate this into your photos, you will possibly jump for joy by how much of a change this brings instantly to your shots.
    Cora at the Beach

    Focusing on the eyes is a great way to make sure that you get the attitude and expression you are looking to capture.  You don’t always have to have the eyes in the center of the frame but if they are a prominent feature and in focus, you will enjoy your results much more.  Sometimes you will get so captivated by the eyes that you will ignore all the gunk stuck to their hair and face!
    Mag_by_chair

    Being aware of your background is a huge subject that takes lots of practice and thought.  The basic idea is that you want to avoid backgrounds that are distracting or detract from your subject.  A classic example of this is to take a photo and then you realize that there are trees or sticks in the background that appear to be growing out of their head or body.  Realistically we know that nothing is growing out of our children but it can be distracting and unpleasant to look at.  Think about the background and a neutral background is not what you are going for, try something fun.
    Gar_tractor_tire72

    Taking photos of children can sometimes get frustrating because they don’t always want to do the things you would like them to do.  Children have a mind of their own and love to exercise that independence.  In order to save your sanity remember to be flexible.  Try new things and if possible make your photo shoot into a game.  The most important thing to remember is to take tons of photos.  With digital photography you can take many more shots then you might have been able to justify with film.  Don’t be afraid to take as many shots as you can.  The more shots you take, the better the odds are that you will end up with a few that you really love.

    The last bit I want to pass onto you is that once you have learned these tips feel free to expand on them.  Feel free to try new things and ways of looking at your subjects.  The old adage about rules being meant to be broken is a fun thing to apply to photography.  Let your creativity guide you and you will love your results!

    Seek Him in His Temple

    Saturday, October 10th, 2009

    One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; To behold the fair beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.  –Psalm 27:5-6

    Olea’s honest and beautiful post about taking care of herself in the midst of new mommyhood reminded me of the scripture that says “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, if you wanna follow along at home)

    I have been mulling over the idea of temples for the past few days, ever since I prayed the opening quotation in Vespers on Wednesday.  My Mormon friends have a very clear idea of what a temple is, but even they are taught that our homes can and should be a temple too.

    As we seek to make a home, what are some ways we can make it a place where God’s Spirit can be?  And why is that important?

    Putting my superwoman self together

    Friday, October 9th, 2009

    I’m a new mother and aspiring superwoman.  My daughter is almost 3 months old now and I finally feel like I have a routine down with her.  However, I still end up spending most of my days not leaving the house and when I do I try very hard to not look like I have spent all day in my sweats getting spit up on.  It’s a bit more difficult than I thought.  When I feel messy I look messy, but sometimes if I work backword and try to ‘unmessy’ the look, I can trick myself into feeling better!  I have been a hairstylist for 8 years now and using some past experiences have come up with some tips that help me feel and look a little more put together.  I wanted to share them because I’m always looking for more and hopefully this will inspire you to find those tricks that help you and PLEASE… share them with me!!

    My first and most common problem is oily hair!!  I don’t wash my hair everyday.  I know some people have a hard time with this but it is actually better for your hair if it is somewhat coarse like mine.  It always seems to be the days that I need to wash my hair when we get a phone call inviting us to some shindig that I would like to look put together for.  So what do you do?  My hair is long, so there is always the option of the ponytail. (I”m SO sick of the ponytail)  What do I do?  Baby powder!!  I know, I know, it sounds weird but try it!  What I do is part my hair down the center and sprinkle some baby powder * right on my head, then make a part just to either side and do the same.  Then flip your head upside down and rub the powdered area on your scalp.  This works because the powder absorbs the oil in your hair and falls out.  It wont make your hair white, but if you are worried than try just a tiny bit at a time.  You can always add more!

    *you can also buy talc powder if you have no need for baby powder.  I just had baby powder around the house.

    Another option is to keep a big container of inexpensive gel handy and do the ‘ol slick back ponytail.( LA Looks is a good one that comes in big containers, I’ve found)  If you have short hair you can try a can of spray wax and that can give hold to the dirty hair so it doesn’t look so oily.

    The other issue I have is not having time (or energy) to put on a full face of makeup.  Here are some things I’ve found that have helped me:  Most women I’ve talked to have that one thing that makes them feel put together.  For my mom its lipstick.  For me, mascara.  But just doing mascara is not enough for a ‘going out’ face, so I pair it with something bold.  I like to add dramatic lipstick, red is my color of choice.  If you aren’t a lipstick person maybe your an eyeliner person.  I think my sister is.  When we have a spur of the moment chance to see a movie I have seen her put on a bolder eyeliner.  I recommend experimenting with liquid if you aren’t familiar with it.  She gets really nice sharp lines with liquid.

    I guess the idea behind this is that you get your basic thing that makes you feel ‘done up’, then add something a little bolder to dress it up.  I have done dark eyeliner with my mascara and put on chap stick.  It looked like I spent more time on myself than I did and ultimately that is the trick to being a superwoman!

    So?  What do you do to get yourself in last-minute-date ready?  Do you save the expensive smelling lotion for a I-feel-hot-because-I-smell-good-so-no-one-knows-I-haven’t-showered-and-really-smell-like-sour-milk-pick-me-up?  What’s your sexy superwoman secret?

    It’s (Often) Salvagable

    Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

    Beef Wellington

    I attempted to make the beef wellington from the above video Sunday night.  Joey watches Dexter (which is super scary, as an FYI…), and we invited over his good friends JJ and Georgina to watch it and eat a yummy meal.

    It was an epic fail.  I just couldn’t get anything to work out…I bought the wrong meat, the mushrooms wouldn’t puree, I didn’t give myself enough time, etc.  To top it all off, trying to comfort me, Joey reminded me that “No one cares about the food, Brandy.”  This had the opposite effect of what was intended, as now I was grumpy that no one cared even though I was going to all this trouble.

    Long story short, we ordered pizza and it was fine.  Fun, even.

    Last night I tried to rescue the ingredients I had spent so much money and time on.  I seasoned and sauted some red potatoes and made a green salad with mustard dressing.  I pan friend the beef steaks.

    Joey ate two servings.  Meal=salvaged :)

    Any stories of salvaging a meal?

    Winners, winners, we have winners!

    Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

    This morning I visited a handy dandy random generator site and it gave me the numbers:

    3, 2, 11, and 8.

    That means our winners are:

    Mari B wins the album!

    Valerie wins the dish cloths!

    Marie wins the cookies!

    Jenny wins the book!

    Congratulations! Please make sure you get me your addresses so we can get these prizes out to you!

    Thanks to everyone for participating, I’m sure we’ll do more giveaways in the future, and you never know what you might win! Thanks so much for the words of encouragement and suggestions, we’ll see what we can do about getting those things done.  And remember, if you’re interested in writing for us, we’d love the company!

    Reminder: Giveaway Goodness afoot!

    Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

    This is just a reminder that we have a giveaway happening, wherein you can win really cool prizes! (At least, we think they’re really cool.)  At this point there’s 2 days left to enter, so….

    Why haven’t you entered?

    You can’t tell me you’re not interested in awesome prizes.

    Dishtowels embellished with refreshingly retro fabric?  You know your kitchen could use a little pizzaz. A little pick me up. C’mon, you know you want to dry your hands with something lovely.

    DSC_0204

    Homemade sugar cookies? I can personally vouch that they are delicious and addictive. We won’t inform your family that you’ve won them; you can keep them all for yourself! And if you’re not a sugar fan (we’ll forgive you), give them as a gift and win a friend for life!

    IMG_7388

    The Year of Magical Thinking? Nothing is better than a book. Nothing. (Ok, possibly sugar cookies. But only possibly.) Stretch your mind and your soul with this incredible read. It’s Brandy’s favorite book, and she’s REALLY picky. So you know it’s got to be good.

    the_year_of_magical_thinking.large

    A new photo album? In lovely boho distressed style? Made by yours truly? I try to be modest, but this one turned out really cool. 20 heavy duty scrapbook pages, spiral bound into a hand decorated cover – you know your pictures deserve to live somewhere beautiful.

    100_4174

    100_4179

    All you have to do is go to this post,  scroll down to the bottom of the page, and type a comment. That’s it! Just make sure you do it before midnight on Monday Oct. 5!

    (Really, we get nothing out of this other than getting to see who you are, and thanking you for reading what we write. So please, let us do that.  Go, go! As they say in that one commercial (from ever ago), “Be free, little cheesy bread!” )

    Who Has Time to Cook?

    Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

    Well, everyone and no one is the answer to the title question. I used to cook under the catch phrase, “If it doesn’t take an hour or more, it’s not cooking.”

    I say “used to” because one day I found myself holding a very small child in one arm and wondering “How am I going to chop onions now?” and breaking down in tears. And now with three small girls ruling my life and running my house, the luxury I enjoyed as an under-employed home maker–you know, spending half a day on one meal–has flown out the window and left me searching for ways to make my desire to create in the kitchen mesh with the needs of my young family. It’s a struggle.

    Let me share my vision with you. What is food? Simply, energy for your body. Every body needs basic nutrients everyday to live. What is cooking? To me, cooking is the way we transcend meeting the basic needs of our bodies and create foods that do indeed nourish our traditions and our souls as well as our bodies. What is a meal, then? Every meal is an opportunity to use food to express some aspect of ourselves to those we are feeding. Even if that person is you.

    To this respect, one doesn’t have to master the art of French cooking to be a fine cook. After I had my first child and stood in the kitchen crying about no longer being able to spend two hours on dinner I realized I had to change my idea of what cooking was. For me cooking evolved from mastering exotic cuisine (I have made my own Indian curry blends…grinding seeds and spices by hand for the authentic flavor and textures) to mastering the art of a fresh delicious fast meal. I think the disservice that food television and the lovely glossy magazines and the oh so wonderful food memoirs has done to the home cook is to make us feel like we have to spend hours over a stove or we’re not really cooking. I know that’s exactly how I felt. As working women–be it career wise or mommy wise–can’t be expected to spend as many hours in the kitchen as a professional cook does. Julia Child, as much as I respect the work she did to increase the awareness of good food to Americans, didn’t cook with kids under foot.

    I have turned back to so many home-style basics some of my culinary school classmates would chide me as hopelessly old-fashioned. But they work. And by looking to healthy short cuts and meals that can prepped during nap time then popped in an oven later on or even utilizing a slow cooker I can have a dinner on the table I’m proud to serve and still have a day to spend with my girls doing the things that matter to them.

    In terms of practicality I focus on one large meal a day. As much as I would love to bake muffins and pastries in the morning, I love how late my girls sleep in and relish my late nights with my husband. I am not waking up before six to cook. And so, breakfast is a mostly cold cereal affair. Sometimes we have oatmeal. Sometimes French toast. We do eat it together and take our time. We linger over milk and bananas and coffee instead of hot buttery croissants. It makes us happy and I know the kids are starting off with tummies full and a less stressed mom.

    Lunch is a challenge, as two to three days a week we picnic it and my girls do not eat well with the distraction of friends and fun around them.When we are at home, I serve toddler food. I make a meal in 15 minutes or less because that’s what I’ve got to work with. We have a whole lot of chicken tenders and pasta with butter. I do serve veggies we all love and I again, sit and eat a meal with them. My focus at lunch is to round out nutritional needs and make sure another good meal gets into their systems. I don’t fight or stress over lunch choices. A well stocked freezer and snack pantry is my friend for lunch.

    Dinner is hard. I know it is. But I believe it is important so I make it a goal to cook for my family every night I can. Dinner is the meal I cook for myself and my husband. Dinner is the meal I use to expand palettes. Dinner is also the meal I don’t worry about if it doesn’t get eaten because I’ve tried to meet the needs of the kids throughout the day. So I can enjoy my meal and know that one day my adventurous eater will return because I’ve properly set the stage (this is the mantra that gets me through all the ‘but I don’t like thaaaaat’ whining happening here right now).

    So let’s talk about dinner. Dinner has become the cornerstone of my day. I plan my weeks around dinner and my dinners around my weeks. I make a dinner schedule. I sit down either Friday night with a couple of my favorite cookbooks (I’ll post some titles at the end of this missive) and decide what I want to make based on the weather, how we’re feeling, what we’ve had the previous week and how busy our week is going to be. I have a white board I stick on the fridge with the meal plan written out so I don’t forget what I’m cooking. If I’m using a recipe (I don’t always) I have the cookbook and page number written next to it.

    I use the season and the weather as inspiration. I like to make sure I’m planning a variety of proteins, balancing red meat, pork, chicken and fish and at least one meatless meal throughout the week. And I do find inspiration in food magazines. I love Bon Appetit. They have a few regular features that work for me. I love the “Dinner for Four and Leftovers” which is a kid friendly meal all planned out that uses the leftovers for lunch the next day. And “Fast Easy Fresh” utilizes seasonal ingredients in recipes that take 20-45 minutes to prepare.

    I shop once and (try to) obtain everything I need for a weeks worth of cooking because nothing is more frustrating than staring at a cupboard with no clue as to it’s contents and no idea how to put them together anyway. Like any craft, having the right tools will make your project more fun.

    Food should be fun. I think we as home cooks also lose sight of that simple fact in the rush to get food to the table and the cajoling to get kids to eat or in the balancing act of cooking for one. Food is fun. We could all drink protein shakes and take vitamins and survive. Cooking transforms the cook as well as the food. It builds us up on many levels. It doesn’t have to be tricky. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done with love.

    I could go on…but maybe I’ll let you all digest this meal. I will recommend this cookbook even thought it’s out of print: The Working Stiff Cookbook

    One great feature is the “Well Stocked Pantry” page with suggestions of basics to keep around for cooking these, and many other, tasty meals. There are also very easy versions of exotic foods that use familiar ingredients and are a good place to begin the introduction of, say, curry to a three-year-old.

    Also check out A Year of Slow Cooking for slow-cooker inspiration. This is my saving grace on days when I know we’re going to be out of the house for most of the day. And honestly, nothing is better than walking into your own home and smelling dinner cooking deliciously away.

    A call for help

    Friday, October 2nd, 2009

    They say the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one, right?

    Well here we go: I don’t understand food.

    I know that it’s fuel for our bodies, that it’s necessary to keep us alive and functioning.

    I know that it can be delicious, and function as a bonding and binding ritual.

    I know it can nurture body, spirit and relationships.

    I know that variety is important, that partaking in different taste experiences can refresh our bodies and open our minds.

    I get it on a conceptual level, like I understand how a car works, but where it all falls apart for me is the practical level. I’m experiencing the equivalent of popping the hood and staring helplessly at the motor when the car breaks down.

    Problem # 1:  I don’t know what to cook.

    I have a bunch of cookbooks, and often buy magazines full of recipes, but mostly end up using the types of recipes that are already in my wheelhouse. Eating the same 10 meals over and over gets boring. I don’t know how to break out of that.

    Problem #2:  I have a really picky 3 year old eater.

    Seriously, she’d just eat hot dogs and peanut butter sandwiches every day if I’d let her. And most days I do. And I know that her behavior is normal, I’d just like to stretch her horizons (and her nutrient intake).

    Problem #3: Meals come at really inconvenient times.

    I’d love to make delicious breakfasts to start my family off right every morning, but sheesh it’s early in the morning. And I’m tired.  And lunch is right before naps, when the kids are all feisty, and dinner is right when they’re all wound up and losing it at the end of the day.  It’s so much easier to cop out and rush something to the table than try to cook and solve the house’s problems at the same time.

    I’ve considered those services that just pre-prepare the meals for you, but I really feel like there’s something I’m supposed to learn about cooking for my family, and important things they get from me cooking for them.

    Problem #4:  I just can’t catch the vision.

    I feel that if I could catch the vision of what meals could be, I could overcome the other issues I’m dealing with. But I can’t seem to do that. And that’s why I’m turning to you.

    I’m a reader, and I get inspired most by reading. SO…. give me books, websites, magazines, anything that can help me out.  I’ve read Julie and Julia, which I enjoyed, but which convinced me to stay (FAR!) away from French cooking. I’m currently reading My Life in France by Julia Child, which I highly recommend; I love how years after the fact she can recall what she ate and where, and I want to be more like that, but the book does not give good clues as to how to do that.

    Where do you get your recipes?

    When you want to cook something new, where do you look for ideas?

    Any good memoirs/books that inspire your creative cooking juices?

    Help!!

    And don’t forget to go here and enter the giveaway! We know you’re here, why aren’t you entering? Seriously! It’s easy! And the prizes are awesome! Are you afraid you’ll be too disappointed if you don’t win? Well you won’t even have a chance if you don’t enter! Go go!