Topsy Turvy

I finally finished a project that’s been in the works for a while.  It was one of those things that I’d pull out and work on a little and then get stumped and put it away.  Then I’d have an idea and work on it a little more…and then put it away again.  Last December/January as I was surfing some sewing blogs, I found a couple of skirt-into-a-shirt tutorials.  Basically, you turn the skirt upside down, so the waist is still the waist.  Then you make whatever alterations necessary to make the arm- and neck-holes.  They looked interesting, so I headed to my closet to search for a suitable candidate.

I’ve had this skirt for a few years.  I liked it, but it was hard to find a top to wear with it.  Because I didn’t buy the matching blouse when I bought the skirt.  You know, because I’m not 80.  It’s a very thin fabric, lined, and with a ruffle on both the outer skirt and the lining.  The lining was even thinner than the skirt fabric and was starting to shred.  The first thing I did was separate the lining from the skirt.  I threw the lining away, but saved the extra ruffle.  Because the fabric was so sheer, I knew I didn’t want to mess with opening up the sideseams to make armholes.  At first I thought I could just make a couple of short seams at the shoulders, but since the skirt wasn’t that full, I was going to have to come up with a different way to do it.  It also took me a while to find a fabric to replace the lining.  I finally found the perfect color pink at Walmart…for the bargain price of 75¢ per yard.  After thinking on it for a while, I came up with the idea of sewing one short shoulder seam and to use the ruffle I took off the lining as a kind of shoulder strap.  So I ended up with a ruffle-y asymmetrical top that looks good with my dark denim skirt.

I wore this to church Sunday, and I was happy with it, but it’s a little short, so I don’t know if it’s an all-day-at-school outfit.  There’s a lot more movement involved teaching class, and I don’t want to  have to wrestle with it all day long to keep my tummy covered.  How do you think it turned out?


Inspired by Pinterest

So I saw this cuuute t-shirt on Pinterest.

At my school, the teachers wear jeans on Fridays, so I’ve been looking for some nice t-shirts that won’t look too dressed-down.  When I saw this on Pinterest, I thought it would be a nice little tutorial.  I clicked on the link, and found that I could buy the shirt for a mere $50. Um, no.

Why would I buy the shirt when I could make it?  All I needed were a plain white tee and some permanent markers.  A friend recently gifted me with a jumbo 24-pack of permanent markers, so I was all set.  I gathered the following tools:

If the shirt is new, wash and dry it first.  You’ll need a large piece of cardboard (or a giant coloring book) to put inside the shirt so the marker won’t soak through to the back.  I used a yardstick to make sure my lines were straight.  The colors are Bic Mark-It permanent markers in Rambunctious Red and Blue Skies Blue.  Before doing my new shirt, I did an old one and then washed and dried it to see how the colors would hold.  They did fine.  Except for using the yardstick as a level, I just sort of eyeballed the whole thing.  I did the red line first and didn’t measure the space between the blue lines.

Here’s my finished project:

Compared to the original, mine is wide-ruled, but that’s okay.  I teach primary school! 😉

I think this shirt has so many possibilities…you could add writing to it, making it even more like a page in a notebook.  As a gift, all the kids in the class could sign it.  For now, though, I’m leaving mine as-is.   What do you think?

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Second Grade

I like that title, don’t you?  They’ve been re-using that old Chevrolet jingle this summer during baseball games, and it came to me one day that “second grade” was a perfect replacement for “Chevrolet.”  Even more perfect since I will be teaching second grade this fall.  I’m very excited about the change, and just a little freaked out since I haven’t been a classroom teacher for five years.  After spending my first 11 teaching years in kindergarten, I became a reading intervention teacher at the second/third grade level and then the last two years in first/kindergarten.  The worst part was waiting to find out what my placement for next year would be.  It was a little drawn out due to the domino effect…one teacher was retiring, and Mrs. X wanted her job, and I wanted Mrs. X’s job, then Mrs. Y was interested in my job.  It took a while for the dust to settle.

While I was waiting to find out if I would have a classroom, I couldn’t stop myself from making plans.  Or almost making plans.  You see, I didn’t want to make all these wonderful, elaborate plans and not have a classroom in which to use them.  So I kept a notebook handy and every time I had an idea, I jotted down a quick note so I could go back to it later.  I pinned interesting things to Pinterest, but didn’t follow the links just yet.  That’s my project for the rest of the summer…to sort out my pins, follow the links to see if they’re worthwhile, and raid my teacher-friends’ pins to see what they’re doing.

I also had my eye on a couple of books at that were recommended by others on the second grade staff.  When I first started looking at them, I wasn’t sure I was going to be buying, so I just put them in my cart to think on it a while.  By the time I decided I did want to buy them, the price of one of the books had gone up a little.  Prices tend to fluctuate slightly on, so I figured I would just check back every day and catch it when it came back down.  But it didn’t.  The price of one of the books has gone up at least $6 since I first put it in my cart.  Now I realize that this is a time of year when many teachers are buying this book, so it is in high demand.  But that kind of increase is a little ridiculous!  I live in a rural area and don’t have access to many physical book stores, so I was feeling kind of stuck, but I wasn’t going to buy that book from on principle…plus I didn’t want their records to show that I eventually bought a book after that kind of increase.  I ended up buying the books from (Barnes and Noble)…at the same price as had them.  Yes I’m out the same amount of money, but I just couldn’t give it to after watching the price increase that much in so short a time.

In the next few weeks students should be getting their welcome letters and finding out who their teachers are.  I can’t wait until my students get their letters and their parents tell them they will have Mrs. Barney.  The kids are likely to say, “That’s the cafeteria lady!”  As a reading teacher in first grade last year, I already know most of my class, some from having them in reading groups and the rest from having cafeteria duty, and that’s how some of them describe me to their parents when I see them around town.  We actually had a parent call the principal one time and complain that the “cafeteria ladies” were reading with her child.  I’m actually really happy to be finished with cafeteria duty.  The classroom teachers cover recess, and the intervention teachers are in the cafeteria.  At first I preferred the cafeteria because inside recess stinks, and with our winters we’re inside for three months straight sometimes.  Inside recess takes place in the classrooms because there is nowhere else to go, so you start to get kind of a cooped up feeling.  However, after five years of squirting ketchup and opening endless cups of yogurt and bags of chips I’m ready to trade.

I am anxiously awaiting the school supplies to go on sale.  Sometimes I think I must’ve become a teacher just for all of the different school supplies.  I love when Walmart has notebooks on sale for five cents.  I get stacks of them.  Seriously.  Forty notebooks for $2?!?  Who could pass that up?  And sticky notes of various sizes and permanent markers in all colors of the rainbow make me happy.

My best find of the summer, though, is the font I found yesterday…perfect for my baseball theme.  Check out that tail!  I might have to get a t-shirt made!

Reasons to Workout Before the Kids Wake Up

When we’re all getting ready for school in the morning, it’s easier to workout before the kids get up.  Now that we’re all on summer break, I don’t always get up and going before they do.  But working out with the kids watching is very demoralizing.

  • “Mom, how come you don’t look like them?” (Referring to the people on the DVD.)
  • “Mom, are you out of shape?”
  • “Mom, they’re using bigger weights than you.”
  • “Mom, they’re doing it faster/higher/better than you.”
  • “Mom, they’re not breathing as hard as you.”
  • “Mom, you better not try that…you might hurt yourself.”

And my personal favorite, after said child attempts the exercises with me for mere minutes before plopping back down on the couch:

  • “Mom, I don’t know why you’re making this look so hard.  That was easy!”

I’ve been a little neglectful of my blog lately, but as school was winding down and summer activities were winding up, I just got a little busy.  Hopefully I’ll make more time for writing over the summer.

I Hope They’re Not Sitting Here

Baseball season is upon us again, and I thought it would be fun to make a list of the people you don’t want to sit around you.

The Drunks

Let’s just start with the obvious, especially if you have small kids like I do.  You just know somebody’s going to spill something, fall over someone, or teach your kids some nice new words.  Even if none of this happens, they’re likely to constantly yell obnoxious things in the general direction of the playing field.  Like the time we were sitting in the outfield watching Ryan Braun (unfortunately for us) make great defensive plays all night.  This guy kept yelling “Ryan Braun, you suck!”  If he was trying to get in Braun’s head and mess with his game, it was definitely not working, but he kept it up all evening long.

The Know-It-All (Who Doesn’t)

My sister and I were once sat in front of a dad was and his young son (I’m guessing in the 7-9 range).  Early on in the game, the dad was teaching the boy how to keep a score book.  It was sweet, but he would get a little frustrated with the boy for not immediately grasping every concept.  I honestly have no idea if he was correct in his scorekeeping, but nearly everything else he told his son during the game was wrong.  Most people know that baseball is the king of obscure stats, like strikeouts by a left-handed, green-eyed pitcher with a one-syllable first name during the first full moon of June when the temperature is above 87°.  There are so many qualifiers that it gets ridiculous.  They usually show a player’s stats on the giant screens when he’s up to bat.  So this guy starts commenting on the stats to his son.  “Only 5 at bats this season?  He must have spent some time on the disabled list.”  Uh, buddy, it says right there beside those stats that they are for his last two ballgames.  But he did inspire one of our favorite games.  The Cubs had a player that night, Starlin Castro, making his major league debut.  It said so in biiiiig letters right on the scoreboard.  But this guy starts going on to his son about how this is Juan Castro, who used to play for the Reds, and wonder how he feels being back in the ballpark playing against his old team.  So now, anytime we see a player with the same last name as a former Red, for instance Geovany Soto of the Cubs, we say things like “Look, Mario Soto (Reds pitcher ’77-’88) is catching for the Cubs.  I can’t believe after all this time he can get down in that crouch!”  So now we sound like idiots to the people sitting around us!

This guy was also annoying because he failed to get one of our pop-culture mash-up jokes.  You can order t-shirts that look like jerseys and pick your own name and number for the back.  Well, at some point when Joey Votto was up to bat, we started saying “How you doin’?” like Joey on Friends.  So we got shirts like this:

Every two or three innings, this guy leans forward, taps my sister on the shoulder, points at his son and says, “He’s doing fine.  He wants to know how you are doing?”  Really.

Girls’ Night Out

These girls just came to the ballgame to be out for the evening, not necessarily to watch the game.  They also may or may not be included in the ‘Drunks’ category.  I once sat in front of several college-age girls who went on and on for at least three innings about their contact prescriptions and who had the strongest prescription and the worst eyes, and seriously, have you ever heard of anyone with eyes that bad?

The Excuse Me’s

These people sit in the middle of the row, but keep getting up, making everyone move.  Bathroom breaks, food runs, you name it, they’ll get up for it.  The first game I went to this year, I was with a group of five, and we were on the end of the row.  There were two guys in the seats next to us, and then the row was empty the rest of the way across.  A group of about 5 people walked up the steps, checking the aisle letters as they went, and stopped at our row.  Excuse me, excuse me, we all got up and let them pass…then they proceeded to walk all the way to the end of the row.  The guys next to us looked over and said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”  Now, I have small children, so sometimes we get up frequently for bathroom breaks.  But I always try to make sure to get seats on the aisle, and in the upper sections that usually aren’t so crowded.  There’s also the method of waiting until several other people in the row have gotten up to go, leaving you with fewer people to bother.  I don’t mind getting up every now and then, but it can get a little ridiculous.

Whiny Kids

‘Nuff said.  And, yes, I’ll admit to being the person with the whiny kids every once in a while.  Which is why S was banned from the ballpark for a while.

The Woman in the Bathroom Who Throws Used Feminine Products at People

Okay, full disclosure, this one was me.  But it was a total accident.  I wrapped it up, and lifted the lid of the little bin on the wall and tossed it in.  Only I didn’t see until after I let go that inside the bin it was completely open into the next stall.  And that stall was occupied.  I froze for a split second trying to decide what to do.  My first instinct was to hide in the stall until the other woman was gone.  But then I realized that if she left the stall first she could just wait there for me.  So I quickly decided to finish my business and exit the bathroom as quickly as I could.  I spent the next two innings in terror that some woman was going to march up with security, point at me and yell “It was her!”  At which point I would be thrown out of the ballpark.  Nothing happened, however, and I can only guess that either the woman in the next stall did not notice what happened or saw the gaping hole in the divider and was exceptionally understanding.  But on the bright side, now we both have a funny story to tell! 🙂

Me and My Sister

Okay, it’s mostly my husband who does not like to sit with us, but he has a very low tolerance for silliness while we quite enjoy it.  There’s the aforementioned game where we pretend to confuse the names of the players.  We also don’t like to leave until the last out, while my husband is more than happy to skip out early.  The worst example of this was when we made him wait through a many-hour rain delay when we were getting beat by about 10 runs (the score at the end of the game?  12-0).  To be fair though, we were sitting in a suite, so we were inside with plenty of food.

There are people who do enjoy sitting with us, however.  We were at a game once, running through all of our routines, and we got enough questioning looks from the people in front of us that we had to explain why we were confusing the names of the players.  At the end of the night they told us we could sit in their section any time.  And after the nearly endless rain delay, after having already used most of the bullpen, the Reds trotted out a new pitcher to make his major league debut.  We missed the announcement or seeing it on the scoreboard (irony, huh?) and we had no idea who this guy was.  I said, “Now pitching for the Reds, the fan of the game!”  I heard a chuckle next to us.  It wasn’t my husband, but a photographer who had slipped in to take a few photos of the field.

 During the rain delay…

There are plenty of people that we’ve had a great time sitting with at the ballpark.  Once we were sitting behind a couple from Chicago, who came to Cincinnati to see the Reds play…the Marlins.  My son had brought a friend, and behind us were several college-age guys who could have easily fallen into the ‘Drunk’ category, but we heard a couple of them nudging each other to watch their language because of my son and his friend.  The Chicago couple had turned around and talked to the boys a little, and when the guys behind us heard where they were from, they kept nudging the boys and saying things like, “Hey, ask him how long it’s been since the Cubs were in the World Series.”  And then, “Hey, ask him how long it’s been since the Cubs were even in the playoffs.”  “Hey, ask him how long it’s been since the Cubs had a winning record.”  And so on.  But everyone had a good sense of humor that night, and the boys enjoyed being the center of attention.

The night of the rain delay was also the night I “met” Marty Brennaman, Reds radio announcer.  We were being escorted down the narrow hallway to our suite, single file.  My sister was behind me, and I felt a not-so-gentle poke in my back.  I know my sister well enough to figure that I should probably ignore the poke, but I couldn’t help myself.  I turned to the side and was face-to-face with Marty.  I’m sure I looked a little startled, and all I could say was “Hi.”  Marty said “Hi.” and turned into the broadcast booth as my sister and I dissolved into barely contained hysterical laughter.  We remained somewhat composed until we entered our suite and completely lost it, falling to the floor with tears in our eyes.  My husband and our escort, who were walking in front of us, had no idea what we were laughing at, and it was quite some time before we could explain.

Some of the vendors who work the ballpark are also quite entertaining.  There’s one guy who advertises lobster tail and lasagna, which he doesn’t have, and then there’s sno-cone guy.  We’ve seen him selling other things, but the first time we saw him, he had sno-cones, so he’ll always be sno-cone guy to us.  He’s this tall skinny white kid, maybe about 19, with a pale face and long brown dreadlocks.  We were sitting in the outfield a few rows back from the wall, so he came down from behind us.  He walked down to the wall, turned around and just looked from side to side.  Never.  Said.  A word.  After a few moments, he quietly walked back up the steps.  Completely silent.  Every time we’ve seen him since, he’s never made a peep.  We wondered, has he taken some vow of silence or is he just painfully shy?  We may never know, but each time we go to the ballpark, we look for sno-cone guy.

We also look for people wearing Ryan Freel jerseys.  I don’t know why, exactly, except that he was one of our favorite players and at some point we noticed that we usually see at least one Freel each time we go, even though he wasn’t a superstar and was traded several years ago.  He was one of those guys who didn’t have the most talent, but he gave the game all he had.  You had no doubt when he was in the game that he was going to leave it all on the field.  It’s almost a game to see which one of us can spot it first.  If we’re separated, we try to get a pic, which can be difficult to do undetected.

We’re not the only ones with customized shirts either.  A couple of the better ones I’ve seen were the two Chicago fans wearing jerseys with the names ‘Who’ and ‘What’ and the numbers 1 and 2, respectively.  Another good one was the guy who had ‘Fan Since’ in the place where the name goes and a year as his number.

Well I have rambled on, but if you’ve made it all the way to the end, congratulations!  Now you know what my husband felt like during that rain delay!  🙂

Pork Loin Roast

This recipe is not new, but a family favorite.  I got it from my mom several years ago, but I do not know the original source.  It is ridiculously easy for how delicious it is.

All you need:

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3 T butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 boneless pork loin roast (4-5 lbs)

Saute the onions in butter then stir in the garlic and spices.  We usually have a jar of minced garlic on hand, so that is what I use.  I also add some of the liquid from the jar and a little bit of water if needed to help the mixture combine.  Place the pork loin in the baking pan and spread the onion mixture evenly over the top.  The original recipe says to lay it fat side up, but my mom’s tip is to put the fat side on the bottom, so that anyone who wants to cut the fat off before they eat is not also cutting off the yummy crust.  Bake uncovered at 325°F for 2-3 hours or until meat temp reaches 160°-170°F.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.  This also freezes well.

That’s it.  Boom.  You’re done.  Here are a couple of pictures along the way:

Yes, that is my Darth Vader spatula.  After having Governor Tarkin aboard his ship, the “foul stench” of onions and garlic should be a picnic!

Spread the onion mixture evenly across the top of the roast.

My husband h-a-t-e-s onions and he loves this roast.  The kids like it, but they still avoid eating the onion mixture if they can.  We will eat part of this for dinner and freeze the rest for another time.

Sometimes, I Question Her Taste

If you ever watch Project Runway, you’ll hear that quote a lot, “You know, sometimes I question his/her taste level.”  Usually it’s coming from Nina Garcia, who, judging by what she wears on the show, has a fairly classic/timeless sense of style, never anything too outrageous.  In my house, it applies mostly to my almost-7 (going-on-15-who-thinks-she’s-23) year-old.  If it’s bright and sparkly and frilly and twirly, she is there.  Never having been a super-girly-girl myself (and yes, an admitted attention-phobe), I don’t quite understand it.

She’s not a total princess.  Right now she’s outside riding bikes and playing kickball with her brother.  While wearing hair extensions.  Yes, at Toys R Us, with the last dollars left on a gift card from Christmas, she bought a package of Barbie designable hair extensions.  They consist of strips of “hair” stuck to paper.  You go to the Barbie website and choose different colors, patterns, and pictures, then print it on the “hair,” attach it to the clips provided, and put it in your hair.  But, since this is S, she just can’t go with a simple design.  Noooooo.  She picks a pink/black/blue leopard print, but only puts it on the bottom half of the extension.  Then she puts a picture of a giant diamond in the middle, finishing with more leopard print on the top half.

The indentation from her ponytail just ups the taste-quotient, don’t you think?

This post was almost called “If You Take A Princess To The Fabric Store” so I could write about a couple of projects I’ve sewn recently for S.  At the end of January, we went fabric shopping and she picked out a leopard-print fleece for a poncho, and a fuzzy red fabric (think Elmo) for a top.  They were both super-easy patterns, although working with the fuzzy red was a pain.  I only wish that the poncho was a little bit bigger.  I made the biggest size on the pattern, 8, thinking it would take us through the end of this winter and into next fall, but it’s not as long as I would have liked it.  S actually helped with this project, sewing the two pieces of the hood together, as well as the two shoulder seams.  All I had to do was attach the hood to the body and add the finishing details.  It was my first time working with fleece, and since it doesn’t ravel, finishing the seams was very easy.  Around the collar and inside the hood, all I had to do was trim one of the seam allowances and fold the other over it and stitch, which gave a nice top-stitched effect on the outside.  The pom poms for the ends of the ties were also easy, although I think next time I will attach the ribbon to the inside of the poncho instead of outside per pattern instructions.

The pattern I used for the Elmo top was from the same one as C’s pajama pants.  The pattern itself was super simple, with only four pieces…front, back, and two sleeves.  Working with the fabric was another story.  It was shedding so much that I zig-zagged all the edges and “hemmed” the bottom, neck, and sleeves before I started sewing them together.  I say “hemmed” because I really just folded over the edges and stitched them.  The top turned out fine, although a little big, but I am not in a hurry to work with this fabric again.  I finished this about a month ago and I am still finding red fuzzies all over the sewing room!

Tomorrow is Easter, so today I have to finish up her dress and jacket before we go to the Reds game tonight.  (Opening Night!!  Woo Hoo!)  We went shopping yesterday and she picked out a headband and sandals to go with her outfit.  I’m not crazy about the sandals she picked, and her dad really doesn’t like them, but after she saw them she wouldn’t look at any others.  (But to be honest, he doesn’t like the sandals I bought either!  🙂  )

Opening Day at Home

Today was Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds, and although we were fortunate to be at the ballpark last year, this year we spent it at home.  We still celebrated though.  We had a small family gathering and the kids did their best to make it feel like we were really at the ballpark.  We started with the menu…hotdogs, of course, with a variety of fixin’s.  We also had peanuts, Cracker Jacks, Slim Jims and Rice Krispie Treats.  The Slim Jims and Rice Krispie Treats were to complete our “Kroger Meal Deal”.  When you go to Great American Ball Park, you can buy a value meal with a hot dog, small pop, chips, and a different promotional item each homestand.  In our case, the Rice Krispie Treats and Slim Jims.  I also found some small paper Coke cups on sale at Walmart to help with the atmosphere.

Then they got serious.  C and S informed everyone who was coming that there would be a security checkpoint and bags would be searched, just like at GABP.  They set up this area outside the garage door.

Curious about the sign on the back of the van?  Here’s a close-up…

They even made tickets…

Yes, that is princess notepaper.

With the entry gates secure, then they set up a Fan Zone in the yard, with pregame activities such as frisbee, kickball, and wiffle ball.  For a while, they even talked about selling Split-the-Pot tickets.  We had a great time, and my parents and sister even made their own tickets before they got here, just to make sure they’d be able to get in.  Thanks to Jay Bruuuuuuuce, we got to renew one of the kids’ favorite traditions…Ding-Dongs for dingers.  Any time one of the Reds hits a homerun, we get to eat a Ding-Dong.  They were a little hard to find this year.  Everybody was worried about Twinkies when Hostess filed for bankruptcy, but there were plenty on the shelves when we were looking for Ding-Dongs.  My sister finally had to get some individual packs at a gas station convenience store.  Maybe we should stock up.

We’re looking forward to our first trip to the ballpark on Saturday for Opening Night, but Opening Day at home was a lot of fun.  Jay Bruce himself even stopped by to say hello!


Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

I’m always looking for new ways to fix chicken.  But my kids are kind of picky, and my husband doesn’t always like something different, so it’s hard.  A few days ago, I found a recipe for crock pot Italian chicken.  But I didn’t have everything I needed on hand to make that particular recipe, so I decided to improvise.

Colleen’s Italian Crock Pot Chicken

  • 1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes (crushed or chunks would work too, depending on your preference)
  • 1 15-oz. can pizza sauce
  • 1 tsp. each of:  garlic salt, onion powder, oregano, and basil (Truthfully, I didn’t measure any of these, just shook some in until it looked good, but 1 tsp is a good place to start.  Adjust to your personal taste.)
  • 2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese (or pizza cheese or Italian blend)
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

Add tomatoes, pizza sauce, and spices to the crock pot; stir to mix.  Add chicken to mixture.  I cut the breasts into thin strips; you could also leave them whole or cube them.  Stir to cover chicken with sauce.  Cook on High 4-5 hours.  Stir in mozzarella cheese about 30 minutes before serving.  Stir in parmesan cheese right before serving.  Serves 4.  We also sprinkled some extra mozzarella on top after we put it on our plates.

That’s it.  Nothing fancy, easy to whip up with ingredients you probably have on hand.  I came home during my lunch and threw it together and when we got home this afternoon it sure smelled good.  I like to have green beans as a side with Italian/tomato dishes, and I was thinking about garlic mashed potatoes, but then I decided to buy a loaf of French bread and try to duplicate the herbed dipping oil served at Carrabba’s Italian Grill.  I found several recipes, but they were all pretty much the same:

  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • extra virgin olive oil (as needed)

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Spoon a small amount into a small dish and add olive oil for dipping.

Different recipes demanded fresh herbs; some called for lemon juice.  A reviewer of one recipe claimed to have worked at Carrabba’s and said they used dried herbs and there was no lemon juice, that the lemony flavor came from using Spanish extra virgin olive oil.  I found that the garlic powder migrated to the bottom of the bowl and didn’t mix well with the other dry herbs, so I added a little bit of olive oil to keep the mixture well combined.  It was good, but not quite right.  I think next time I’ll cut back on the rosemary and thyme.

This dinner was a huge success!  My kids loved it.  My husband loved it.  It was goooood, if I do say so myself!  C said about every five minutes, “This is the best chicken I’ve ever had!”   My husband said, “It’s not baseball season yet, but you hit a homerun.”  (He said I’m allowed to use that. 🙂 )  S loved the dipping oil.  C asked for extra sauce on his chicken.  In fact, the kids loved the chicken so much that we were most of the way through dinner before they even noticed the chunks of tomatoes.  This one is definitely a keeper!

Molten Lava Cakes

Yes, I know I already made Molten Chocolate Lava Cookies.  But these are cakes, so they’re different.  I found this recipe in the Food Network Magazine chocolate issue.

Tell me you could stand in the checkout line next to this and not pick it up.  C’mon, it’s a whole chocolate issue!

The recipe I made tonight was The Neelys’ Molten Lava Cakes.  You can find it online here.  I didn’t own any ramekins, so I had to buy some.  Actually, what I bought were custard cups, because the ramekins were about 3x more expensive.  So they’re not as pretty, but they served the purpose.  I began by cutting the recipe in half, because it makes 8 cakes and it was only the four of us for dinner.  This recipe is rich; it took 3 eggs + 3 egg yolks.  It also called for a pinch of cayenne and a pinch of nutmeg.  I omitted both because I didn’t have any cayenne and I’m not really a fan of nutmeg.  It also called for both almond and vanilla extract.  I think next time I’ll leave out the almond.

The recipe was very easy to mix up.  It just took some time to melt the chocolate portion of the mixture.  The recommended baking time was 12-14 minutes.  I baked mine for about 13 and they were just slightly underdone.  When I turned them out onto the plates, the bottom-which-became-the-top was still liquid-y, and not encased in firm cake.  It didn’t affect the taste, but kind of took the fun out of giving it that first poke with a spoon to release the lava flow.  The kids loved them, but my husband was kind of meh, I think because of the almond extract.  There weren’t more than a couple of drops, but it did kind of take over the taste.  We will definitely be making these again.

As for the rest of the chocolate issue, some other recipes I’m planning on trying are chocolate ice cubes, candy bar cake, Boston cream pie, chocolate layer cake, chocolate fudge, super-thick hot chocolate, and more.  They even have entrees and side dishes using cocoa, such as cocoa-rubbed steak!  Hey Kim, let me know what you want to try first when you’re off of that restricted diet!!

Mmmmmm, chocolate!