Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Trash

This is the second year we have made Texas Trash (Modified Chex Party Mix) by the bucket load to give to anyone and everyone that we want to say 'Thank You' or 'Merry Christmas' to.  My husband and children can't get enough of it, and I like that it is a salty treat that breaks up the endless stream of cakes, cookies and candy that seem to accompany the holiday season.  

Teachers, choir directors, neighbors, etc, usually get their fair share in a pretty tin (I love the Container Store's selection), and the postman, trash guys and Terminix man get theirs in disposable tupperware containers with ribbon.

I bug my mother-in-law for her recipe every year, which is a modified version of the original recipe.  What's funny is I modify her modified recipe, and after making a dozen of these 'double modified' batches, I figured it was time to write both recipes down.

Here's the recipe my wonderful mother-in-law, Alice, has emailed me at least 3 times.

The Original Chex Party Mix (recipe on the back of Chex cereal boxes)

3 cups Corn Chex cereal
3 cups Rice Chex cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex cereal
1 cup mixed nuts (Alice uses 1 cup lightly salted peanuts plus 1 cup pecan halves)
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 cup garlic-flavor bagel chips (Alice does not use these)
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (Alice uses slightly less)
1 ½ teaspoons seasoned salt
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
(Alice melts the butter in a big roasting pan, then add the seasonings.  Mix all the cereals and nuts together and then mix in with the butter and seasonings to coat.  Bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes.  Spread on paper towels to cool.  Store in airtight container.)
The recipe says to use a large microwavable bowl and mix the cereals, nuts, pretzels, and bagel chips together; set aside.  In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on high about 40 seconds or until melted.  Stir in seasonings.  Pour over cereal mixture, stir until evenly coated.  Microwave uncovered on high 5 to 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes.  Spread on paper towels to cool.  Store in airtight container.

My mother-in-law's trash is delicious!   We love it, but after some trial and error, decided we liked it amped up a bit (basically our version has more butter and double the seasonings). We also let the kids help a lot which leads to some less-than precise measuring and generous pouring of anywhere from 1/8- 1/4 cup more of each of the first 7 ingredients.  That may be why we were craving more seasoning! 

Christmas Trash
Warning: this tasty treat contains tree nuts, gluten, dairy, and is definitely NOT low in salt or fat. That's what makes it so good!

3 cups Corn Chex cereal 
3 cups Rice Chex cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex cereal
1 cup lightly salted peanuts 
1 cup pecan halves
1 cup bite-size pretzels or pretzel sticks
1 cup garlic-flavor bagel chips 
1 stick (8 Tbs) butter
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 teaspoons seasoned salt
1½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

Melt the butter in a big roasting pan in the oven while it preheats to 250 degrees.  While the oven is preheating and the butter is melting, combine the cereal, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips in a large bowl (I don't even bother to stir them together, just dump them in, and as I mentioned before, we measure generously with heaping cup-fulls of all the cereals, pretzels and nuts).  Once the butter is melted, add the seasonings into the pan and whisk to combine with the melted butter.  I pour the butter and seasoning mix out of the roasting pan and into the large bowl over the cereals.  Then I pour the cereal and seasonings back into the roasting pan.  I find this extra step helps coat everything a little better than just putting the dry ingredients on top of the butter and seasonings and trying to mix it up from the bottom of the pan. Using a large spoon, gently fold everything together to ensure even coating, then bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes.  Spread on paper towels to cool.  This is when everyone sneaks a taste or two :)  Then we box up leftovers in air tight containers.   

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween is over, the sugar crash is setting in

Halloween is over, the sugar crash is setting in, and according to the retail industry, we were supposed to start thinking about Christmas yesterday.

I'm not going to disrespect the turkey by putting up Christmas decorations just yet, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to start drafting up the ol' family Christmas letter.

Maybe it's pregnancy hormones or maybe it's just the general state of grumpiness I live in without alcohol, but my husband seemed to think my first letter was too cynical and sarcastic for public circulation. This is my fifth draft. I think it's a winner...Stephen thinks we still have a ways to go.

Dear family and friends,
In keeping with tradition, we have enclosed a family photo that we paid shy of a year's college tuition for. When ever in doubt of our character, kindness, self discipline, generosity, attractiveness or personal hygiene, we hope you will refer to this photo to reassure you that we are happy, calm, smiling, and have it all together, no matter what you may have seen or experienced when dealing with us in person.  Also in keeping with our tradition, here is a brief update on life at the Childress household.  Carter is brilliant, and continues to baffle us by being the smartest child in the world. We aren't 100% out of pull-ups yet, but I know that it is only a side effect of his independent thinking style and genius IQ.  Jack is the world's cutest baby/big boy depending on what mood he's in. Potty training? He wants to be a baby. Playing with knives? Big boy. Fortunately, he's so charming and good looking, we barely even notice we're being blatantly manipulated. Our beloved cat Scratch is seldom/never mentioned in our holiday correspondence because he is an animal, but that didn't change how deeply saddened we were to lose him earlier this year. Luckily he was returned to us by a concerned neighbor.  Stephen is still working at Elite Compression Services so I can stay at home pursuing my passions. They change weekly, but mostly involve parenting. Stephen and I both celebrated the big 3-2 this year, which means we have now legally been driving for more than half our lives. To celebrate we each scored traffic tickets and took defensive driving online. Despite the new technology and lack of stand up comedy, it was a nice trip down memory lane, since none of the material had been updated since 1996.  Certainly the biggest news we have to share is that we will be welcoming a third child into our family in February 2013. We do not know yet if it will be a boy or a girl, but we are positive it will be the most beautiful baby you've ever seen and that we will post an exorbitant number of pictures online, clogging up your Facebook feed and causing you to block if not unfriend us. In closing we'd like to wish everyone a happy holiday/new year and look forward to getting your Christmas cards so we can confirm that we are still friends. With genuine love and affection,  The Childresses

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The boys of summer

It was like the movie "Groundhog Day" around here this summer.  Every day the same.  I was dealing with 'morning' sickness that is more like 'debilitating-all-day' sickness for me, and we finally had to get some help in the form of a girl that came in the mornings to watch the boys for about 6 weeks.

So everyday was the same...starting at about 3am, I would get sick.  Crawl back to bed sometime around 5 or 6am take a Zofran and pray for death.  Stephen would wake up with boys at 7am. 8am girl would show up and Stephen would go to work. Noon, Stephen's home for lunch, I take another Zofran.  After lunch, Stephen gets boys down for their 'nap', before heading back to work at 1pm. 2pm, after about an hour of (sometimes) quiet time, I pry myself out of bed, apply swimsuits and sunscreen, and it was out the door for swim lessons.  After lessons, another Zofran for me, a snack for the boys, then I would plug them into a show, curl up on the couch and zone out until Stephen came home then I would retreat to bed as soon as he'd let me.    

On paper, it kinda sounds like a dream come true, in bed til 2, lazing about all the time, but it was honest-to-God, THE hardest summer of my life.  Not being able to take care of my family, even though it was a temporary situation, was surprisingly heart breaking. And even though we were all under the same roof, I really missed them because even when I was awake, it was hard to be present.

Despite being so sick, I managed to take the boys to swimming lessons almost every day.  We had a ton of missed classes because of weather, but squeezed in several make-ups in the last few weeks and I'm so proud of how far they came.

The first day of swimming lessons was horrible...Jack refused to get in the water.  When I threatened to spank him if he didn't cooperate, he flat out said, "I want a spanking." I realized, he wasn't being stubborn, he was just terrified.  And no, I didn't spank him, in case you were wondering.  Carter got in, sort of, but repeatedly told his coach, his classmates, and anyone else that would listen, that he didn't want to die.

The last day of summer lessons was a whole different story. They were like two different kids. Carter was gliding underwater with his pancake hands and kicking really well.  Jack jumped in, kicked around using a kick board, and put his face under water.

Their attitude was what I was most proud of, especially Carter's.  I signed him up for twice as many lessons as Jack and the schedule was nuts.  Mondays and Wednesdays he saw a different teacher than Tuesdays and Thursdays, and to make things crazier, his Monday/Wednesday teacher changed twice over the summer.  Didn't matter, every day I'd go upstairs to let him know it was time for swimming lessons, and he'd ask "which coach is it?" I would tell him, then he'd get on his swimsuit and head for door without another question.  Other than the first day, he walked right up to the water and did his thing with honest enthusiasm and joy. Every day, and I'm not exaggerating, it was incredible.  Jack did really well too.  He's two, so clearly there were a few days when his heart wasn't in it, and it took some cajoling to get him in his swimsuit, in the car, and/or in the water, but for the most part he was very cooperative.

And of course Stephen was amazing this summer.  Incredible. Beyond incredible. In fact, words just can't describe how hard he busted his ass to take care of our family almost completely by himself for close to 2 months.  His relationship with the boys grew so much too - they all became so close this summer, it was incredible to watch.  The three of them were just inseparable...the boys of summer.

I love my boys.  All three of the men in this house are just incredible in their own way.  I always knew it, but this summer just reinforced what a lucky lady I am to be a part of this family.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Made in the USA

We joined some friends to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics last night.  They were interesting, right? Theatrical, and not all-together un-entertaining.  Anyway, I made a dessert for the festivities.  I pieced it together from a couple different recipes I found online, and it miraculously came out well!  It was super easy, delicious, and even looked fancy.  Sort of.  My fruit cutting/arranging skills are pretty amateur, so imagine what it could look like if someone with actual culinary skills took this on!
French pastry, English lemon curd, Italian marscapone cheese, Mexican Fruit,  Made in the USA!! 

Red White and Blue Fruit Tart
  • 1 package (of 2) puff pasty sheets
  • 11 oz jar lemon curd
  • 8oz marscapone cheese
  • 2 lbs strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 pint blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 tsp water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread thawed puff pasty sheets out side-by-side and press together to create a large rectangle. Fold outside edge in about 1/2 inch to create a 'crust' around the edge.  Poke a lot of holes in the center of the puff pastry.  Bake approx 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove to cool.
Mix apricot preserves and water.  Heat the mixture in a small saucepan or the microwave until boiling. Remove from heat.  Brush the center of the pastry crust (where your filling will go) with approximately half of the mixture.  This will create a glaze that helps keep the crust from getting soggy once you add your filling. Save the rest of the mixture.
Mix together lemon curd and marscapone until well blended.  Set aside.
Once the glazed puff pastry is completely cooled, spread the lemon curd and marscapone filling.  Arrange the sliced fruit on top.
Reheat the apricot glaze and brush over the top of the fruit.
Can be served immediately, but for best results, refrigerate for an hour or two before slicing. Makes approx 32 servings.

The great thing about this recipe is you can use whipped cream instead of marscapone, any type of fruit (I just used red and blue in honor of team USA) and any type of preserve (apricot's what the Joy of Cooking said to use, but more importantly, it's what I had on hand). It's SO easy and versatile.  Hope someone out there will try it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Forever and ever, amen.

Happy 7th anniversary to my amazing husband. I'm looking forward to many many many many more.
Custom Portrait by Nan Lawson 2012 - please credit photo.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tips for babysitters from a parent.

Parents the world over are desperate to find a good baby sitter, and our expectations are frighteningly low.  We are DESPERATE to get out of our house and socialize with other adults, so desperate we leave our precious children in the hands of naive, and sometimes frighteningly clueless teenage girls.

We have only been in the babysitting game for about three years, but in that short amount of time we've cycled through at least 10 babysitters and seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.  So in an attempt to educate the masses, preach to the choir, or at least get a few "AMEN!"s from my fellow moms, here are a few tips for babysitters.

1.  CALL ME if you have a question, even if it is not an emergency.  If you are not sure if what you are experiencing is worth calling about, CALL ME ANYWAY.  I promise, I do not want to rush home, nor do any of the parents I know, so if we can work it out with you on the phone, we will.  I will not think you are stupid or dumb or irresponsible for calling me.  The only dumb questions are the ones you don't ask.  You probably don't have children of your own, and if you do, you probably don't understand half of what's coming out of my 2 year old's mouth, so I promise to be understanding. 

2.  If it IS an emergency, keep trying to contact me until you reach me, even if it means using the phone number to the actual restaurant that I took the time to look up and leave for you in case of an emergency.  Do not send me a text, and assume if you don't hear back that everything is fine.  In fact, just don't ever send me a text. Ever. Because whatever activity led us to hire a baby sitter has very likely also led us to put our phones on vibrate, and while we will check our phone periodically, we probably don't have it sitting on the table.  So a phone call, which makes our phones vibrate 5-7 times, is superior to a text, which only makes them vibrate once.     

3.  Assume you are going to have to feed my children at some point. Bonus points if you can manage to feed them healthy food.  Also, if you are watching children during a meal time, please feed them that meal. Even though they may act like puppies, children are not animals that only get fed in the morning and at night.  Believe it or not, we feed them all 3 meal AND a morning and afternoon snack.  And if you are not sure of what (or when) to feed the kids, please ask me, not my kids.  

4. Spending more than 5 minutes with children means a mess will be made.  Please do your best to clean up this mess, particularly when spilled liquid is involved.    

5.  Only let children watch age appropriate material.  If you are unsure of what age appropriate is, please ask me, not my kids.  Or better yet, PLAY with the kids and don't turn the TV on at all.  

6.  Assume if you are watching young children past 8 or 9pm, that you will need to put them to bed.
Please put them in pj's and clean diapers before bed. If you are not sure of what else a bed time routine entails, please ask me, not the kids.   

7.  Do not let the children play with finger nail polish, finger nail polish remover, make up, sharp objects, food coloring, paint, markers, or anything else that will stain their clothes, mark the carpet, ruin my furniture, or cause them bodily harm. If you are not sure of what is ok to play with, and the GIANT playroom isn't providing you with any inspiration, please ask me, not the kids.

8.  I know that you raid the pantry and watch TV.  It's one of the perks of babysitting.  Just please do it after the kids are asleep.  I don't care if you eat my M&M's or watch South Park, but I kinda care if they do.

9.  Please do not ask to be my friend on facebook or twitter.  I'm not your friend, I'm your boss.  It doesn't mean that I don't like you, I promise.  It just means I'm trying to maintain an image of responsibility and the images of me on facebook may or may not always support that.

10.  Bring a note card with your name, address, phone number, age, parents' name(s) and contact info as well as an emergency contact (if not your parents).  Nope, I'm not kidding.  You'd be amazed how many babysitters give me strange "are-you-stalking-me?" looks when I ask for this basic info.  To all of those girls, I say the following: Seems crazy, I know, that you would need to provide all this info to your employer, but your employers will ALWAYS need this info, whether it's a job at McDonald's, Apple Computers, or my house.  See, your employer is responsible for your whereabouts, so while you are babysitting my kids, I'm pretty much babysitting you.   

11.  Know what you charge.  If you are not sure, do some googling because you will probably be asked at some point, and it is in your best interest to have an answer.  We pay our sitter $10/hour for 2 kids because that's what other parents told us to pay (not one sitter we ever asked had an answer).  But here's the thing, if our current sitter asked for $12/hour, we'd totally pay it.  Heck, we'd probably paid upwards of $20/hour we love her so much.  As it is, she never gave us a quote, so we keep it at the current rate.  Admittedly, we usually round up to the nearest multiple of $20, because we're almost always stopping by the ATM on our way home to pay her.  

12.  Babysitting is not a fluff job.  Our children mean more to us than you will ever know, more to us that anything you could possibly imagine, and taking care of them is a HUGE responsibility. After my first child was born, I immediately felt this intense sense of guilt over how lightly I took my baby sitting jobs.  Don't misunderstand me, I was not a bad babysitter, in fact, I was a pretty darn awesome baby sitter, but I had no idea how HUGE of a responsibility it was, until I had a child of my own.  So whatever you do, please please PLEASE keep my children safe.      

I know as parents, we are not always the easiest employers, but a good baby sitter is worth her weight in gold.  If you can manage the above items, I promise you'll never want for babysitting'll be fought over and your name will passed around and whispered reverently between moms the world over.   

Stay tuned...this post most definitely deserves a counter-part entitled "Tips for parents from a babysitter" because I know from experience, for every clueless babysitter, there are probably ten clueless parents.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Toe up.

About a year and a half ago, while I was training for my first half marathon, I broke my toe. We had just moved in to the new house and Jack was choking on something, so I rushed over to help him, kicking a moving box in the process.  Stephen was out of town, so I took some Advil and tried to forget about it.  I managed to get the kids to school the next day, but knew it was bad.  I couldn't get my foot into a regular shoe and was wearing rain boots. Plus my toe was looked more like a thumb than a toe.  Doc confirmed it was a hairline fracture on my 4th toe.

I was supposed to wear a special shoe the doc gave me, but it was so ugly I walked around in flip flops or barefoot, and ended up whacking the same toe on an end table a week later.  Still, I thought it was no big deal. It was just a toe. I was supposed to be taking a break from running while my toe healed, but that was really interfering with my training.  So the day after Thanksgiving I gave myself permission to return to running.  Because of the chilly temperature, I couldn't really feel my toe, or my feet at all, and ended up running about 8 miles because I felt so good.  When my feet thawed out, I knew I had done something bad...but still thought it was no big deal.  It was just a toe.

Then when Carter ran over my flip-flop clad foot with his little wooden lawn mower and I heard a big 'pop' and ended up on the floor writhing in pain, I figured it might be time to call the doctor again.

This time, the doctor I saw wasn't quite as laid back about things.  He looked me in the eye, and said, 'well, it might have started out as a hairline fracture, but you have managed to really screw it's a displaced spiral fracture.  I am considering surgery.  I'm giving you a boot and if you don't stay off your feet, wear your shoe and let yourself heal, I'm going to surgically stabilize your toe and then put you in a cast.'

WHAT?!  Surgery?  Casts??  I thought it was just a stupid toe!  What really sucked was I had to completely stop running for 8 weeks.  No half marathon for me.  Had I followed the doctor's advice the first time around and let my little hairline fracture heal, I could have kept my cardio up on an elliptical or stationary bike for a few weeks, then gotten right back into training.  As things were, I'd lost 4 weeks nursing repeated injuries and now was going to lose another 8. I was devastated, but had no other choice. Even now, my toe will ache when it rains or is really humid because the bones don't really line up anymore.

(Note: I finally got back into training in April of last year, and completed a 15 k, 2 half marathons, a 30k and then a marathon in January.  It was awesome.  I should do a post on all that.)

So the timing isn't terrible, I'm not in the middle of training for anything, but I broke another toe this week hitting it on the leg of the couch.  Unlike the last break, I knew right away it was royally screwed up because it looked like this:

I spared you an actual picture (you are welcome)  because, as innocuous as the drawing looks, the actual picture just looked wrong...cringe-worthy and really REALLY wrong.  In fact, it looked so bad, I ended up letting Stephen take me to the ER (even though it's just a stupid toe) because I didn't know if I could buddy tape it while it was pointing in the wrong direction.  In case you are curious, the ER had a very scientific and medical way of handling it.  They X-rayed it, and then just pulled it back into place (I almost threw up) and then buddy taped it.  So, for all of you taking notes at home, save yourself the $100 ER co-pay and just tape your toe back into place until you can see someone during normal business hours.

At the foot doctor yesterday, I got some interesting questions...I think they are convinced I smash my toes on purpose considering the frequency in which I show up with "displaced spiral fractures".  You think I'm kidding, but they really didn't seem to believe I just hit the couch.

So, I'm back in a boot for 3 weeks.  No running, no jumping, no bare feet and no flip-flops.  And believe me, I will be following doctors orders this time around.  He was the first to say the boot is over-kill, but like I said, I think he's convinced I go around bashing my feet on things.  Anyway, the sooner I can heal, the better, because I've been recently toying with the idea of another marathon. In the mean time, I'll be sporting this very sexy look.

At least it's still cool enough to get away with jeans...which means it's in the 80's.  We're in south Texas remember?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cabinet and Hutch need a good home

I've got a big piece of dining room furniture (cabinet + hutch) that needs a good home.  I love this cabinet...I bought it thinking it would be perfect in a breakfast room with my grandmothers dining table that we refinished and painted black.  It's a work horse galore.  It's safely stored ALL of my wedding china, crystal and flatware for the past four years, with space to spare.  Unfortunately we just don't have a good place for it in this house.  We're using the dining room as a study, and while we do need some storage in there, this piece is just too big for that room.  You can see, we can't even get the doors open right now. So, as hard as it is to get rid of it, I can't hang on to a giant piece of furniture in anticipation of having room for it in some future house.

It's got a really interesting, concave front to it, and it's a little on the traditional/country side right now, with the two-tone finish, but with new hardware and a coat of paint it and it could go with just about any decor.

I have no idea what to ask for it, so I'm pretty much just selling it fbo, preferably to a family member or friend so that if/when the time comes that you don't want it anymore you give us a call and let us make you an offer before you sell/donate/toss it.

The deets:
57" wide
88" tall (cabinet 36"; hutch 52")
Bottom Cabinet is 16.5" deep, Hutch is 13" deep

Give me a shout if you are interested!