To Treat or Not to Treat…

that is the question…

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Aaaaaah!  Land Shark!!

da da…..da da……da da da da da da…..

Let’s just say that she was about as scary as a golden retriever pup!  Although, I have to hand it to her…she did maul many the unsuspecting resident of a few quiet neighborhoods for their candy.

“Are we going to more houses to get more candy, Mama?” This, repeated over and over and over, after each and every home she invaded, until I would reassure her that indeed, we would be raiding more bowls of other people’s candy.  You’d think I’d deprived her of sweets until she was 2 and a half or something………

oh, right….

I did.

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Here’s the loot!  Can you believe how much this little beach rose lugged around in her bag by herself, for 2 hours!  Oh, the sacrifices we’ll make to satisfy that sweet tooth.  Like mother, like daughter….

and Daddy likes himself his Snickers & Reeses Peanut Butter cups, too…

So, the conundrum… she’s at the age where she has now seen, taken mental inventory of and probably catalogued the amount of and different variety of candy in her goodie bag.  What do we, the parents, do with it all???  We can steal a few pieces, but she’s no dummy; she’ll know if most of it’s gone.  But she cannot possibly eat all this or her teeth will fall out of her head and I’m going to have a heart attack!

And of course, she is now requesting to have said pieces of her candy at random times of the day. “Mama, can I have my treat now?” at 6am…   “Mama, I was thinking (always a precursor to negotiating something for herself that she’s pretty sure I won’t allow) that I could maybe have 3 treats after we play outside for a while”.

And of course I’d like to avoid the quivering of the bottom lip of that adorable little rosebud mouth.  Or an all out meltdown…

I do believe in allowing kids to have some candy/sweets, sometimes.  There’s got to be a balance or the child will end up becoming obsessed with what he cannot have.  However, I think they should realize that it is a rare treat.

So the approach I’m taking is a decent compromise; at least I think it is!

For the next few days, I am allowing her to have a handful of treats after lunch, snacktime and after dinner, IF she’s been a good girl.  And then, we’ll start to knock off treats for a snack (too close to dinner), then treats after dinner (because it’s too close to bedtime), and eventually it’ll go back to the rare treat.

Let’s hope my plan works…wish me luck!

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Pumpkin Mousse Dip

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Stop the press!  The easiest way in the world to get your kids to eat fruit for dessert is this dip…they go crazy for it!

And adults love it too.  It’s creamy and smooth and has a hint of pumpkin and maple syrup…autumn in a dip…

And this is another one of those recipes that only takes a few minutes to make, which makes it perfect to take along to any dinner party.  No pre-party stress about what to bring and how long it’ll take to make it!IMG_7389Here’s what you’ll need…

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin, canned
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

That’s it…half a cuppa, half a cuppa, half a cuppa, half a teaspoona…and 6 ounce-a

Important: Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy in stand-mixer. If you do not, you’ll end up with little dots of cream cheese throughout your dip, which will make it look unappetizing.

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Add pumpkin, with mixer still on, then maple syrup.  Add brown sugar and cinnamon and mix until creamy and smooth and free of lumps. ALL DONE!

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Serve it with whatever suits your fancy, or your guests fancy, or your kids fancy…apple and pear slices, cinnamon graham crackers, mini rice krispie treats, teddy grahams, popcorn balls (wait, is that going too far?!)

Nooks and Crannies

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Ok, super-simple advice…DO NOT cut your english muffin apart with a knife.  That’s it.  Finissimo.  Fini.

Ohhhhhh…you would like to know why?  Wellllllll…… if you do you will obliterate those gorgeous nooks and crannies that Thomas’ boasts.  The uneven peaks and valleys where the melted butter runs through in rivulets, leaving behind the random delicious pool.

And your breakfast will be dull and routine rather than full of little yummy surprises.  But, that’s your choice…if you’d rather not to take the time to learn how to properly divide an english muffin in half, stop here…

but if the thought of pools of melted butter make your mouth water, here goes…

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See that perfectly uneven line running through the side of this glorious sphere of bread?  That’s where the magic begins…

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Preferably you would use two hands to do this, but my four year old is not yet adept with my camera, so I took a stab at doing this one-handed.  Start to pull apart the muffin, using your two hands.

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Can you see those craggy hideouts created by gently pulling it apart?  Now imagine them slathered in butter and full of honey pools…

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The irregular result of your efforts…ideal!

THE WRONG WAY….

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Aaaah……..nooooooooo!  Don’t do it!  I feel as though I am witnessing a crime…

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Witness the bland preciseness accomplished by utilizing a knife.  Thank goodness Thomas’ has nooks & crannies throughout its muffin or you would have a flat surface to butter and no fun at all.

IMG_7427The tell all…The one on the left was pulled apart by hand – notice the enticing pool of maple butter in the center and subsequent smaller pools.  Not much swimming around in the muffin on the right!

Soooo…go ahead and save yourself an extra dirty utensil and put the knife away…

The Endangered Photo Album

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Can we speak honestly here?   Are we close enough where I can show my true colors and not be judged for showing them?  Or is it too early in our relationship?

Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and throw it out there, figuring that you might share my sentiments…

I loathe digital cameras.  There, I said it.  Phew…that was therapeutic!  I already feel better.  Hate them, hate them, don’t like them, wish they’d go away, still don’t like them, begone!

Why, might you ask?  Because they are encouraging the early death of the printed photo and the ‘old school’ photo album.

Oh sure…you can have a ‘virtual album’ where you share your photos with loved ones online, or a ‘digital picture frame’ which you put on your desk at the office, that scrolls through a set amount of photos that you program into it.

But what happens when your child reaches the age when she needs to bring photos of herself in to school for a family tree project? Or when your sister-in-law comes over once a year and wants to look at pictures of the snowfall or your attempts at surfing or your garden last year?  Do you run to the computer and scroll through thousands of pictures trying to find them?  Then do you put them on a thumb drive to run to the nearest, where?, Walgreens?, to develop them?  Do they even develop photos anymore?  Does anyone with a brick and mortar store develop pix?  Or do you have to send away to have it done?

And what about the possibility of your computer crashing and you losing all of those precious memories?  It happened to my parents.  They went on vacation to visit all of my aunts, uncles and cousins in France, and took a bunch of pictures & videos.  They downloaded them when they got home, their computer crashed and they lost it.  Granted my parents are not technically savvy, but still, I think this could easily happen to the majority of us out there.

And did you know that looking at your “photo album” online is considered screen time?  So now it’s not healthy for your children to go through their family photos?!

And then there’s the amount of photos taken with a digital camera.  Let’s not take one photo of my beach rose looking so chubby and adorable in her little tutu bathing suit, let’s take a million…one of her profile, one of her sitting in the sand, one of her digging in the sand, one of her sitting and digging…

I tried to have an entire year’s worth of photos developed recently and found that I had over 2500 pix!  Who in their right mind would ever sit down to look at a photo album with that many pictures in it? Nobody, that’s who.

The response I usually get when I bring this gripe up is that I should just go through and edit the 2500 pictures and then have them developed.  Well, easier said then done.  First of all, it takes forever.  Editing not only consists of deleting shots #2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 of a sweet chickadee at the birdfeeder, but also cropping photos, correcting red eye, removing blemishes, adjusting the brightness, focus, etc, etc.

Too many options.  I much prefer my old 35mm camera that had a roll of film with 24 exposures.  I had just 24 chances to capture the moment, the day of moments, or the week of moments. So, there were no superfluous shots taken of anything.  And when you got your developed pictures back, you were thrilled with all of them, regardless of the inevitable red eye, if it was blurry or if it wasn’t the most flattering pic of you.

Most importantly, your photos were tangible.  To have and to hold.  And you excitedly placed them in your photo album.  Which you still look at to this day.

And you had the negatives to hold onto for life…in case anything ever happened to the original photo.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with my rant against digital cameras, do everything you can to go through and edit your pictures, print them and put them in an album.  Someday, when the zombies attack and there are no more computers, this could be all that’s left to tell the stories of our lives…

Don’t give up on that acorn squash just yet…

I just had acorn squash for the 1st time last week and to say that I didn’t care for it would be very polite.

It was bitter, and stringy and not good at all.  I followed a recipe I found in a book that had me cut it in half, scoop out the middle, and roast it in the oven for about an hour face up with a little butter & brown sugar in its cavity.  The only edible part of it was the melty, brown sugary center.  All set with acorn squash… thank you very much.

Wait!  Not so fast!  Don’t put the kibosh on it just yet, you say?  I may not have cooked it right?  Or didn’t use the right recipe?

Try foods again.  And again.  And again.  And then give them one more shot.  Even if you didn’t like them the 1st go-round.

Why?  Because your tastes change as you grow and you may like it now.  Because perhaps it was the way it was originally cooked, prepped, the cut of it, the freshness of it (or lack thereof),  etc. that you didn’t like.

Perfect example…I hated pork growing up.  Despised it, thought it was gross, never ate it.  Then I met my husband-to-be and was invited to his parents’ house for dinner one night.  And, you guessed it, his Mom made pork.  Big, meaty pork chops.  And 2 of them landed on my plate. And I ate them. And tried not to gag. (Not the fault of her cooking, I’d like to quickly add in case she’s reading, but because I hated pork!) And since I ate them, this was taken as a sign that I enjoyed them and from then on my husband would get a phone call every time his Mom was making pork chops for us to come over for dinner. And a lot of times we couldn’t get out of it.  And this went on for about 6 years…till we finally kind of let it leak that pork wasn’t really my favorite dish.  This is still a running joke in the family…thank goodness they have such a great sense of humor…phew!

Yet, years later I was out to dinner at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants and ordered carnitas, thinking it was beef.  They were UNBELIEVABLE and only after I was halfway through them did I find out they were actually pork!  Now I cannot order anything but pork carnitas when I go to a Mexican restaurant.  And since it’s so similar, I’ve also had pulled pork and really liked that too.

Since cooking the acorn squash, I’ve spoken with a couple of my foodie friends about my unpleasant experience.  They have all scoffed at me, saying that I have done a grave injustice to the acorn squash by pronouncing it inedible, when in all reality it was my cooking that rendered it so.  Apparently, acorn squash is not supposed to be stringy and should have been in a water bath when baked.  My fault.  Therefore, I accept the challenge to try it again, whether it be at a restaurant, my Mother-in-Law’s house or out of my own kitchen!

Herb Garden Reward

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Mmmmmmm….creamy, herbaceous dip.  Super-tasty and easy to make.  Everyone will be asking for your recipe!

It’s the end of the gardening season in New England.  We had our first frost on the seacoast 2 nights ago and luckily, I had covered all that remained of my pepper, tomato and basil plants with a tarp to protect them from freezer burn.

Now’s the time to harvest all of them and reap the reward!

This recipe uses some of the delicious herbs in my herb garden.  I use tarragon, oregano, parsley & basil.  But, feel free to use whatever herb combination you like or can get your hands on at whatever time of year you decide to make this!

IMG_7373Here’s all you need…

  • an 8 oz block of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 stick of butter, room temperature
  • 1 clove garlic
  • a good size bunch of basil leaves
  • equal parts of 3 other types of herbs(the amount of basil leaves should equal the TOTAL amount of all 3 other herb types combined).

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Give the 3 herbs a rough chop.  Stack the basil leaves, stems removed, on top of each other.  Roll the stack, slightly.

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Slice through the basil, cutting “ribbons” or long, thin strips of it.  This is called a chiffonade.  The basil is cut in this fashion so as not to damage or bruise the herb.

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Add softened cream cheese & butter and chopped & sliced herbs to a food processor.  Use a microplane grater to grate the garlic clove into the mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Turn on the food processor and let it work its magic for you!  You want to stop the processor when you see that the majority of the herbs have been finely chopped & incorporated into the mixture.  You definitely want to see larger flecks & ribbons of herbs throughout…these make the dip extra tasty & beautiful!

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Spoon into a serving bowl.

Absolutely taste the dip at this stage……..try not to leave a big finger imprint in the middle of your bowl!

Add salt & pepper again, to taste.  Since you’ll most likely serve this dip with salted crackers, go a little light on the salt.  My #1 choice of cracker accompaniment is the mini Stoned Wheat Thins.  Buy extra…you’ll need them!

The Q-Tip Quandary

Ok, let’s see a show of hands…how many of us out there q-tip our ears?

Daily? Weekly? Monthly?

I’m a Saturday q-tipper myself.  My husband, who won’t mind if I disclose, is a daily user.

Now, don’t get grossed out.  It’s ok to talk about, even though it’s not discussed very often.  It’s a part of tons of people’s hygiene regimen, actually probably most people’s.

Cleaning out your earwax.  There. It’s out in the open.  We all have earwax.  Some more than others.  And some much, much more than others.  Eew!

Now. What to do about it…if anything.  Earwax is there for a reason.  It protects your ear from dust, insects, bacteria, etc and the ear canal skin from irritation due to water.

How often to use a q-tip, if at all?  Well, why wouldn’t you, you may ask?

Do you read warning labels on products or are you like me, who never does and blindly goes through life trusting that everybody has my best intentions in mind when they put something out on the market??!

The warning label on the Q-tip box says “Don’t stick in your ear.  Just brush lightly on the outside”, or something like that.  Can you believe it?!  All this time I’ve been putting this thing into my ear canal and I was forewarned not to!

because… there’s a danger of accidentally pushing the earwax deeper, causing a blockage.  This can cause temporary hearing loss and be very uncomfortable.  Also, removing earwax can cause your ear to become dry and itchy.

I only thought to question q-tip usage cause I noticed a little earwax on my beach rose’s adorable little earlobe and thought it was time I asked the pediatrician if I should be q-tipping her too.  Thank goodness I asked!

There’s a saying, “Don’t put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.”

Our pediatrician and many doctors (& apparently the Q-tip company!) are agreeing with this statement and strongly urge that we leave our ears alone.  They strongly advised that people not use cotton swabs or ear candling.  (How anyone could be brave enough to strike a match near their hair is beyond me!  I know I’d be the one that ended up burning their eardrums or face…owwwww!)

So what happens to all that extra earwax, if you don’t q-tip ever again?

You asked…

our ears will take care of any excess wax themselves, by pushing it out.  Now there’s an image…

Moral of the story:  read the warning labels.

P.S.    Looks like Q-tip is going to need to come up with a new use for its product!