Monday, July 27, 2009
But today, as I sat down to write "Martha Monday," all I could think about is how exhausted I am. Tired, stressed and way too busy. I want to write--and I have plenty of ideas and photos begging to be shared--but so little time or energy to give it my all. Naturally, I decided to consult the folks at Martha Stewart Living.
Their publication Body + Soul addressed this extreme fatigue in March 2009 with the article "The Exhaustion Cure." The article lists 10 common causes of exhaustion, along with recommendations to stop the stress and get your physical and mental well-being back on track.
Right away, I see several causes of exhaustion that apply to me: shallow breathing, not enough rest, and information overload. This is on top of a stressful job and trying to parent a toddler that is rapidly approaching the terrible two's.
Here's the question: What does Martha do when she's exhausted? Actually, I doubt Martha has this problem, but for sanity's sake, let's say she has. So, what would Martha do?
My guess is that she'd take a break. Which is exactly what I'm doing. Readers, I heart you and I'll miss you, but I need to take a vacation from some things for a while, and that includes blogging. I'll be back next week with a rested body and fresh mind for an all new "Martha Monday!" Until then, take care and take care of yourself.
Friday, July 24, 2009
To make the candy, I start by putting Wilton candy melts in a disposable plastic decorating bag. For the seashells used on the "Bears at the Beach" cupcakes, I used white, pink, yellow and chocolate candy melts. One minute in the microwave is sufficient to melt the chocolates together.
Once I've gently squeezed the bag a few times to make sure everything is completely melted and only slightly mixed, I cut off the tip of the bag and start filling the molds with the mixture.
Fill each mold to the top, tap the entire mold on the counter a few times to let any trapped air bubbles rise to the top, and stick the whole thing in the fridge, making sure to keep it nice and even.
After a few hours in the fridge, the candy is done. Flip the mold over and the candies usually pop right out. No mess, no fuss, and totally gorgeous. When I brought the cupcakes and leftover seashell candies to work, several people thought the shells were store bought. One person asked if I had bought them from Godiva. Godiva. How awesome is that?
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Take a look at Martha's shark cupcakes:
Martha's folks simply use blue paper for the shark fins. I'm not a huge fan of putting non-edible things on cupcakes--it just doesn't seem right. I knew there had to be an alternative, and I found it just in time: fruit leather. How clever is that?!
I got three fins out of one piece of fruit leather. Plus two yummy bites of scraps. Delicious!
Side note: honey-flavor teddy grahams dipped in coconut buttercream frosting are out of this world. While I was making the cupcakes, I ate about 20 teddies this way. If you have extra frosting, reach for the teddy grahams, or at least some graham crackers. It's a simple combination, but so so so good. Trust me on this.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Slap some frosting on a cupcake. Don't worry about getting it perfectly even.
Smush the cupcake into the pulverized teddy grahams, and the 'sand' distributes fairly evenly and sticks without a problem.
Seriously, once the sand was on there, it didn't come off. Not even in transit to work the next day. This technique worked really well.
To make the bears' swimsuits, I used candy decorating pens from Wilton. Simply heat the pens up in hot water, and draw on the bears. This step was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. Those bears are small, and those pens aren't the best at precision decorating. Originally, I had envisioned a beach full of 50 or so decorated bears. I stopped at 12. It was just too time-consuming.
Another funny tidbit: can you read the mug? It's that Maxine character from Hallmark, and she's saying "It's my body, I'll have pie if I want to." Anyone who knows me in real life knows that this is absolutely true. I don't think I've ever said no to pie. Ever.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Look at these adorable bears, dressed in their swimsuits and ready for the beach. The swimsuits are melted candy coating.
Monday, July 20, 2009
The cupcakes are made. I used a yellow cake mix, but added in a ton of coconut cream paste and shredded coconut. The icing is regular buttercream (one tub of white and one of blue) with coconut cream paste added in. I wanted a really coconutty cupcake, you know?
Finally, the Wilton candy pens are my secret weapon. They'll go along with the secret use for the secret ingredient. With all these secrets, my kitchen is more locked down than Fort Knox. Seriously.
I have every intention of rocking this Cutest Cupcakes contest. I'll have pictures of the completed cupcakes up ASAP. If there's any delay, it's probably because someone was peeking in my kitchen window trying to learn my secrets and I had to crush them, TMI-style. I should probably get the garden hose and pepper spray ready. You can't be too careful with this kind of thing, you know?
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Yesterday we had a lovely surprise. Here's the scoop from the local newspaper:
"A vintage passenger train will travel through Big Rock, Sugar Grove, Aurora and Naperville Saturday on its way from Minneapolis to Chicago. The cars will be pulled by Southern Pacific's massive steam locomotive, the only surviving example of Southern Pacific's GS-4 class of streamlined steam locomotives."
The railroad is only a few doors down from our house, so we had a great vantage point. You can see from the people up and down the road (on the other side of the tracks) that this was a big deal.
The train moves too fast to see many details, but we were able to see passengers hanging out in the open spaces between cars, many of them waving to their fellow train aficionados.
The video is one minute long. Enjoy!
Friday, July 17, 2009
Lately, and by that I mean just this week, not three years ago, my attention has turned to dates, times, menu and fun activities for the kids.
Menu: my ideas include easy recipes that can be made the night before or morning of the party. I'm thinking Italian Beef, mostacolli, Normandy mix veggies, salad, chicken Parmesan and some kind of pasta smothered in Alfredo sauce. Possibly some taffy apply salad.
Cake: this, more than any other birthday component, will drive me nuts. The cake will be homemade, naturally, but I'm thinking of trying a shaped pan. I have several Sesame Street character cake pans, but my decorating skills are not up to par to making the cake into a recognizable Sesame Street character. To become good enough so that the Little Guy and guests can tell it's Big Bird, and not a big yellow bus holding balloons, I'm going to have to practice. Probably twice a month for the next three months. At least. Just in case, I'll have cute little Elmo cupcakes in addition to the Big Bird/yellow bus cake.
Fun Activities: we know people who own a bouncy house, so if the weather is nice, we'll borrow that. I'm also planning a small and easy craft. Since this party will be a Sesame Street theme, each child will have the option of making a letter or number magnet. Get it? "This party is brought to you by the letters L, G, and the number 2." Gosh, I do love Sesame Street.
Of course, this craft will have adult supervision and include truly washable markers.
Stay tuned, folks. There's three months to get this party planned, organized and completely ready for the grand entrance of the Terrific Two's into the TMI Household.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I wish I could have bought something from every vendor, but time and budget forced me to be very conservative. I bought a great piece of pottery from Willey Pottery. They make all kinds of things: mugs, plates, bowls, soap dispensers, toothbrush holders, vases and more.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
It was so very Martha.
But the Little Guy wasn't interested in all that fancy arts and crafts stuff. No, sirree, this wee one was focused completely on the band.
The Little Guy was intent on getting up close. As close as possible. He grabbed my hand and pulled me all the way up to the stage.
I think he wanted to get in on all that singing and dancing action. After the show, one of the sisters said that the Little Guy was so focused on the performance, she was ready to let him onstage to see if he'd jump right in and start singing.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Such as, What is Martha up to these days? Here's the answer: Cupcakes, cupcakes and more cupcakes.
But it is true, Martha is into cupcakes in a big way. Last month, Martha came out with her Cupcakes book. This week, it's cupcake week on the Martha Stewart Show. And on Martha Stewart .com, she's having a Cutest Cupcakes contest.
And you know what that means, my dear readers: If Martha is into cupcakes, I'm into cupcakes. Like this coconut cupcake:
Other than wanting to be just like Martha, and other than wanting to win the Cutest Cupcake contest, I do have a great reason for having cupcakes on the brain: two coworkers have birthdays in the next week, and I want to bake something special for the two people I have come to rely on for laughs and camaraderie here at work.
Perhaps the vanilla letter cupcakes are the way to go?
But I do want something fun and playful. I really like the theme Martha has with these shark and beach cupcakes. And since we work right by the Lake, these make perfect sense.
My current plan: use Martha's coconut cupcake recipe with this beach theme. If everything goes according to plan, I'll bake and decorate terrific cupcakes, give a great gift to my coworkers, win the Cutest Cupcakes contest and begin Phase 2 of my plan for world domination.*****
Friday, July 10, 2009
Then I remember, Duh! Fried rice! I should make fried rice! So I do.
TMI's step-by-step fried rice recipe (serves 2)
1. Cook some rice. You'll need about 2 cups cooked.
2. Gently beat two eggs.
3. Get out the soy sauce...you'll need it later.
4. Finely dice 1/2 onion and 1 entire green pepper.
5. Spray a non-stick frying pan. Turn on the heat.
8. At this point, you might be getting hungry and anxious for your delicious fried rice to be ready. That's where the carrots come in. Have some on hand to munch.
15. If you were adding cooked chicken or shrimp, you would throw it in now. But trust me, this recipe stands on it's own just fine.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Sit down, readers. Get comfortable, because I have a story for you. It's a story of fresh produce, thievery, shady (or at least confused) salespeople, finding that which is lost and having the courage to get it back. Mostly, it is about a mother's deep and abiding love for her child. And tomatoes. Two pounds of tomatoes.
This is the story of my trip to the farmer's market.
Only one vendor was selling tomatoes this week: $3/pound for regular, $4/pound for on-the-vine. As I was picking out three wonderful, perfectly ripe and non-bruised tomatoes (shown above), there was a Tomato-Taking Woman (I'll call her TTW) right next to me making a large purchase. The saleswoman weighed TTW's on-the-vine tomatoes and totalled her order. The saleswoman then weighed my regular tomatoes, gave me my total, and then took money from TTW for TTW's order. In the ten seconds it took me to take my wallet out of my purse, BAM! My tomatoes were gone.
I stood there, stunned, with my money in my hand. "Where are my tomatoes?"
At that moment, the saleswoman took my money for the now-gone tomatoes, and I noticed TTW was gone. I raised a ruckus, and we surmised that TTW had 'accidentally' taken my pound of delicious red fruit.
I had the saleswoman weight the new tomatoes to make sure I was getting what I had already paid for. The totalled one pound, and she said to me, "That'll be $3.00."
The Little Guy is currently on a tomato kick. He can eat an entire one in one sitting. And since that is the only fruit/veggie he is hooked on at the moment, it's important that I have them on hand to make sure he's getting some super healthy food in him.
The Little Guy just love his tomatoes. Six months ago, it was green beans. Then it was peas, then broccoli and cauliflower, then just broccoli. Now, he's on a tomato binge.
"TTW tried to take our tomatoes? Oh no! That's not nice."
"But you found her and got the tomatoes back. Way to go, Mom! I love tomatoes."