Extreme Bakefest Teaser

About a month ago I got together with one of my closest friends for Extreme Bakefest 2011. We made brownie stuffed chocolate chip cookies. They were fabulous. I’ll post the full details of our adventure in the not so distant future, but for now you can feast your eyes on our appetizer: Peeps s’mores.

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The proper way to make a Peeps s’more: with fire. Using a microwave is not acceptable. Using a Cosi s’mores kit is the best way to go, but I suppose you could just build a fire or use the stove, if you really wanted to.

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Here Tara demonstrates proper Peeps s’more construction.

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Voila! The finished product (that gigantic blob of a cookie in the background is an uncooked brownie stuffed chocolate chip cookie). I highly recommend you do try this at home. Don’t let the repulsiveness of Peeps turn you off from these. I personally hate Peeps, but in a s’more, they are a true culinary delight. When roasted properly, the sugar coating on the Peeps caramelize, adding another level of flavor to the traditional s’more. The sugar also adds a nice bit of crunchiness. Sadly, I can not claim credit for inventing Peeps s’mores, but I am on a mission to share their tastiness with as many people as I possibly can.

Stay tuned for the brownie stuffed goodness to come!

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Bubbles

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Around here we like bubbles. We are currently on our third bubble machine (and my child is only 2). In fairness, the second one only lasted one day, then it got returned to Wal-Mart. In addition to the bubble machine, we also have some awesome large bubble wands from the dollar store. They make some great, huge bubbles, if you have the correct solution. Personally, I have never been able to find a bubble solution at the store that holds up well enough for big bubbles. So I scoured the internet and found a homemade solution that works really well.

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Here is my interpretation of the recipe I found:

HOMEMADE BUBBLES

1/2 Gallon distilled water
5 oz. Dawn dish washing soap
1 oz. Glycerine (3 tbsp)
20-30 oz of a quality bubble solution

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These are our dollar store bubble wands (I believe you can find them in the discount bins at Target as well). I love these because they make cool, big bubbles and because my 2 year old can actually get them to blow bubbles. He’s generally too aggressive with his approach to bubble blowing, but with the homemade bubbles and large bubble wands he can actually participate in the bubble blowing.

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I do have a few tips for you in case you choose to try making these bubbles yourself. First off, the distilled water is necessary. Second, all the recipes you might find for homemade bubble solution will lead you to believe that glycerin is easy to come by. They are lying. I had a hell of a time finding it. The solution will work without it, but it works much, much better with the glycerin. I found my first bottle of glycerin at my friend’s house. She had purchased it to remove ink stains from her couch. Once I finally returned that bottle, I purchased my own bottle at Michaels. I found this particular bottle in the cake decorating section. The bottle I borrowed from my friend was larger and was purchased at Hobby Lobby in the soap making section. Third, the recipe also calls for quality bubble solution. This does not mean you should buy the $10 Gazillion Bubbles. I use scented bubbles I bought at the dollar store. They seem to work pretty well. My final bit of advice is that you should store your bubbles away from your children. Not for the sake of the children, but for the benefit of the bubbles. Dirt particles in the bubble solution make it perform less well. I keep my bubble solution in a glass drink dispenser and dole out a little bit at a time.

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Steele testing the mixture for me. I think he approves.

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Why my baby had a mohawk

Mohawk

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A couple of weeks ago I gave my baby this haircut … on purpose. In case you were wondering why …

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It was to go with this haircut.

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So we could take these family photos.

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This is the generous young lady who made this little project possible. She is actually a very skilled stylist who generally gets paid really well to style hair at a very nice salon. Unfortunately, not unlike myself, she made the mistake of taking Toby’s photo class. And now she has cut her first real mullet (and did a very fine job, if I do say so myself). She was also nice enough to take the portraits for us.

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Yes, perhaps giving your family extreme haircuts for the sake of a few entertaining photos is a bit strange. But the photos were totally worth it. At least I think so.

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Two weeks later Toby is still stuck with the mullet, so he might not agree.

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Mom

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On Mothers’ Day, I wanted to take a moment to thank the most influential person in my life: Mom. For the first half of my childhood, I was raised by a single mom. Not only has this made my mom and me very close, but it also taught me how to be a strong, confident woman. I will always be grateful to my mother for all the wonderful things and experiences in life that she offered me. But I am most grateful to have gotten to spend so much time with one of the most wonderful people I know.

Baptism

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Christmas

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Sledding

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For most of my life my mother was the sun around which I orbited. Becoming a mother myself, that center has shifted. Now we both orbit around a much brighter sun, but my mother is still the same brilliant life force that has nurtured me for 35+ years.

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I love you mom. Happy Mothers Day!

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A beautiful day?

This past Sunday I lined up with thousands of other runners for my 8th running of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. As I waited for the (30 minute delayed) start of the race I listened to U2’s Beautiful Day … for the 4th time in a one hour time span. At the time it was cold, rainy and just downright miserable outside. And we had been standing around for an extra 30 minutes waiting for the storm to pass (it never did pass). Was this song choice wishful thinking on the part of the race directors? As I listened to it, I wondered if I would classify my race day as a beautiful one.

As I said before, this was the 8th time I have participated in this particular race. Once in the full marathon, a couple of times on a five man relay team and the other times (this year included) in the half marathon. For the past few years I have been on the official pace team as the pace setter for those wishing to finish the half marathon in two hours and thirty minutes. I was initially disappointed to not be pacing this year, but in retrospect, I have a new found appreciation for my sacrifices as a pacer. I didn’t have to work the expo. I didn’t have to get to the start line an hour early and stand out in the cold by myself. I didn’t have to run for 13.1 miles carrying a stick with balloons on the end. And I didn’t spend the entire race obsessing over my watch and how fast I was running. I just ran with my mom and enjoyed the scenery.

The race offered some interesting firsts for me this year. It was my first real race run in the rain. I’ve trained in the rain and I may have done a 5K in the rain, but never a longer race. This was the first marathon where the runners kept their trash bags on for the entire race. For those of you not familiar with marathoning, often runners will cut a hole in a trash bag and wear it over their body at the start of the race to stay warm. They (I am one of them, actually) then discard the bag at the start of the race. Its a lot cheaper to throw away a trash bag then to throw away a shirt. I actually forgot my trash bag this year, but lucked into a group of runners who were discarding ponchos that my mom and I claimed and ended up wearing the entire race. I also saw many other forms of plastic bag rain wear on the course.

One of the aspects I’ve always loved about the OKC marathon is the crowd support and the excellent water stops. Amazingly, this year was no exception. In spite of the horrible weather, thousands of people still came out to watch the race and cheer the runners on. When you are running for such long distances, it makes a huge difference to have people cheering for you the whole way. The volunteers were even more amazing. The marathon has water stops almost every mile (around 20 total) and all of them were well manned. Many of those volunteers were standing in the cold and rain for 7 hours handing out water. They even got hailed on at one point. I think the race directors ought to give them a medal for their efforts this year.

I did have a wonderful and very memorable race. The only down sides were the 30 minute delay (I really would have liked to sleep in an extra 30 minutes, if only I’d known), and the extreme cold once I stopped running at the end. The wonderful course, the great crowd support, the even more wonderful volunteers and the opportunity to run the race with my mom again after several years running separate more than made up for any negatives. In the end (for me at least) the 11th running of the OKC Memorial Marathon did live up to the race directors’ musical choice. It was a beautiful day, even if it was a bit wet out.

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Perspective

I think my son is a genius. I also sometimes think that the reasons I label him a genius are pretty amusing. For example, if you came up to me and said “no food” and fully believed that I should understand you were actually saying “fish are friends, not food” (its a line from Finding Nemo), I would probably think you were an idiot. But when my baby says “no food” and then five minutes later I finally realize he’s quoting Finding Nemo, I think he’s a genius (I’m also pretty proud of my translation skills). I’m sure the belief that my son is a genius is due largely to the fact that I am his mother and love him more than the air that I breathe. But I also think it’s a matter of perspective. Just a year ago I could probably count the number of words in his vocabulary on my hands, and now he’s quoting movies.

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Happy Birthday Baby Sister

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My baby sister turned 27 today. No, I don’t mean the youngest one. I’m actually talking about my oldest little sister, Carina. By the time my younger two sisters were born, I no longer went to stay with my dad, but when Carina was a baby, we actually shared a room. By the time the others rolled around, I was too old (and probably too cool) to play with them. When Carina was younger, I was still young enough to actually play with her. She was my first little sister and the only one I actually lived with, so although she isn’t the youngest sister I have, she will always be my baby sister. Even though she’s almost thirty … and I’m way older than that.

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My four sisters and I a little over a month ago (Carina’s the one on the far right).

I hope you have a wonderful birthday, baby sister. I love you.

PS. If you are wondering why so few pictures: Carina, like her mother before her and her daughter after her, is not so fond of cameras.

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Composting

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Here on the “farm” we compost. Okay, so I don’t actually live on a farm. That’s just what we call our vegetable garden (we tell the baby we’re farming). But we do really compost. Since before we built the farm, actually. You should try it too. It’s very easy if you do it the way we do. And you get some awesome, free soil and don’t end up with 500 giant bags of lawn trash every summer.

My compost method is what I would refer to as “lazy man’s composting”. I throw my yard trash (plus some food scraps) in a large pile at the back of my yard and maybe once a year I use a pitchfork to turn over the pile. The one drawback to this method is that it takes a while. I started the pile when I bought the house three years ago and this is the first year I have had usable compost. I probably could have used the compost earlier if I had realized you should actually have at least two piles for the technique to work best. One pile that is just “cooking” and one that you are continuing to add to. If you only have one pile, you can never really get good, clean, usable compost.

Earlier this year we finalized the compost layout and we actually have three piles. One that is “cooking”, one to add new stuff to and one for sticks. The stick pile came about after I tried to flip the pile the first time. I had just been dumping my sticks in with the rest of the yard trash. Over the year the sticks managed to weave themselves together in the pile, turning the compost into one giant mass. This isn’t necessarily bad for the compost. It just made the compost very heavy and very difficult to turn over. Also, sticks take longer to break down and if you just put them in the pile you will have to pick out a few from your compost when you put it in your flower or vegetable beds.

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This is our newly renovated compost area. The pile on the far left is the cooking pile. The larger pile in the middle is the pile we are currently adding to and on the far right are my sticks. When I started the compost pile, it was all located in the area on the left. There was a small fenced in area there when I bought the house. It seemed like a good place to put the pile since it was already blocked off and it was as far away from our house as I could get. Last year we added the pallet to create the second pile and this year we added a second pallet as well as a border on the front of the original pile. I would like to extend the front border farther across to keep the compost contained.

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This is the compost’s before picture. Yard trash, an eggshell, a teabag, etc. The heat of the sun and the weight of the new material will help this decay and form a very nutrient rich soil.

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And here is the after picture. Beautiful compost on its way to top off our vegetable beds.

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This is what the pile looked like at the beginning of the year. The sticks were technically separated, but without a divider wall they sort of fell into the compost. The pile itself was spilling over onto the ground in front because I did a lot of yard clearing and had to clear out our “cooked” compost pile to make room for all our new yard trash.

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Here is the last of the usable compost. I used it to top off our 4 vegetable beds and one flower bed. It was some very nice compost. And it didn’t smell nearly as bad as the stuff you buy at the store.

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This picture has nothing to do with compost. It’s Toby’s rain barrel. He wants to be able to keep the veggies watered with just collected rainwater. Last year it was more of a toxic cesspool. It collected rainwater, but it sat on the ground and we had no way to use the water. Now it’s elevated, has an overflow valve and a hose attached. I’ll let you know how that works out for us.

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I’ll close with a picture of one of our compost pile’s many admirers: the little robin. The pile is a great source for big, fat, juicy worms and grubs. The local wildlife’s admiration for the compost is the one potential downside to composting. It’s also why you should place the pile as far away from your house as possible. Our pile is apparently a nice winter haven for the friendly neighborhood rat. I don’t really mind so much. The way I see it, the rat is going to be in the neighborhood regardless of whether or not I compost. This way he has a nice warm home with plenty of food and that home is far, far away from my home. If that sort of thing bothers you, than you might want to shy away from the compost.

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Hair update

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I posted a few months back that I had decided to stop cutting my hair for 2 years. I do realize that a girl not getting her hair cut is not especially noteworthy, but I am a girl who hasn’t had long hair since I was 15 (over half a lifetime ago). I am now 25% of the way through my challenge, so I thought I would post an update. Also, it is my weekly blogging day and I am too tired to post anything more interesting.

My hair doesn’t seem that much longer than it did in the original post, but it does fall well below the collar now and it was just brushing the collar in the original pictures. I am also in the middle of a hair care experiment. I will post more on that in a couple of weeks after I have decided whether it was successful or not.

Happy Sunday!

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41 fun facts about Toby

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1. He’s Steele’s father.
2. The picture at the top of this post is one of my all time favorites (yes, that is more about me than Toby, but the picture is of him. That counts, right?).
3. He’s from Turley, Oklahoma. Okay, so he just lived there for a while, but I think it had a big impact on him.
4. He used to be really into cycling (which came in really handy today when I was trying to assemble a bicycle for Steele).
5. He used to perm his hair.

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6. He rarely poses for a serious picture.
7. Toby isn’t short for Tobias. That’s just his name.
8. He also used to bleach his hair.
9. And shave his legs.
10. And his arms.
11. He’s musically gifted. Hopefully that’s hereditary.
12. He is very good at fixing the automobiles. He even replaced my clutch, which involved removing the engine (I did make him test drive the car before I would get behind the wheel again).

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13. He fixed my sister’s car after she killed it (I’m pretty sure that’s part of it pictured above, but I wouldn’t swear to it. I’m not so good with the automobiles).
14. He also talked his friend into driving his truck to OKC to tow her dead car back to our house.

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15. He made me order this crazy boat full of sushi for his birthday last year.
16. He’s a very good cook.
17. He’s a dog person, but he loves my cats. Even the crazy one.
18. He’s missing one of his front teeth. Fortunately he no longer feels the need to repeatedly take the fake tooth out to impress me.
19. He’s allergic to my cats. Not so much as he’s allergic to other cats, but he’s allergic all the same.
20. He’s allergic to the grass clippings. They make him wheeze. He mows my lawn anyway.

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21. I told him what I wanted the pictures to look like and where I thought the camera should be and he built me this awesome photo booth for Steele’s 1st birthday.
22. He had a strongly Christian upbringing.
23. His mom has since converted to Islam.
24. He used to play the Tuba. He was also on the small side, so I’m guessing that was an amusing site to see.

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25. This is what Toby looked like when I first met him. You can see why I fell in love with him … right?
26. He willingly went by the nickname Dr. Filmgood.
27. He didn’t have fingernails when I met him (they’ve since grown back).

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28. This lovely mummified rat was living under his house for several years.
29. My mom once introduced him to her friend’s mother as the sperm donor. I thought it was pretty funny (Toby not so much).
30. He gets his love of football from his mother (my dad also inherited his love of football from his mother).

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31. He can fix more than just cars. He replumbed the upstairs bathroom drains a week after I moved into my house because they were leaking into the basement bathroom light fixture.
32. He made my sister’s graduation the lovely event that it was. He was responsible for all the sets. I’m just idea person. He makes them all possible, no matter how difficult.
33. He introduced me to fried okra.
34. And fried plantains. We should get some more of those …

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35. This is one of the few pictures we have of the two of us together. We were doing the party pics for a fundraiser and I think this was a test shot.
36. He recently told me that at 16 he and his friend didn’t think it would be at all stupid to drive into one of the large piles of snow that you find in a parking lot after it has been plowed. Turns out they were wrong. Who knew?
37. He’s a youngest child (in case that wasn’t obvious to you).
38. His favorite color is orange. Oh wait … that’s me, not Toby.
39. He used to foster greyhounds. I’ve always wanted a greyhound. He actually fostered the dog I wanted. Small world, huh?
40. I think he’s probably a keeper, even if he is, sometimes, a bit obnoxious.
41. He’s 41 years old today.

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