This Castle’s A Mess: A Real Life Fairy Tale

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Once upon a time, a queen and her royal family lived in a modest castle which she lovingly referred to as her “Little House on the Loop.” After a weekend of attempting to experiment in the alchemy known as “home canning” the Queen realized a sad, horrifying fact. The castle was trashed. Because the Queen and King were from a lowly kingdom near Le Ghetto (from the French), they could ill afford servants–nary a lady in waiting was to be found, which was fine, because they had those before and nobody could ever figure out what they were waiting for. For this and other numberless atrocities, the royal Auntie blamed a faraway king named Obama.

In the tradition of oppression, they had several children, partially because of their love for one another and partially for the household help they would bring.

As the saying goes, “Ain’t nobody happy if the Queen’s not happy.” When the Queen mistakenly confused her castle with the set of Hoarders: Buried Alive, she took action. Her first instinct was to recruit the children. After all, they lived in relative bliss and should be more than happy to scrub a royal commode once in a while.

To her great surprise and shock, the royal children were not overtly fond of household chores, and despite the untrue legend that pretty princesses received unsolicited help from forest animals, the Queen tried to charm her handsome prince into helping. This also was a failure. Although the King was a good and righteous leader, he had a habit of disappearing into the Royal Mancave when the dirty dishes piled sky high, pretending to be deaf to the Queen’s gentle requests.

The last idea the Queen had was to institute the black arts of magic. However, no wizards, witches or even useless fairies seemed to be on hand–neither by royal decree, Facebook announcement, nor even a royal Tweet could summon them. So the good Queen, virtuous and beautiful, was left alone once again to wash the royal dishes caked with leftover enchiladas and hours-old cereal remains.

And oh, the kingdom would pay for her angst. Between her ruby red lips the Queen made a hideous oath: the royal television would forever be parked on the Food Channel or Lifetime, cycling through endless reruns of The Next Food Network Star and Sister Wives, and oh, the prince and princesses would protest through the gnashing of teeth.

And the sun would once again set upon the mighty Queendom after all.

The End.

Smart Summer Reads for Older Teens and Adults

Originally posted on Cheshire Library Blog:

Are you looking for a great read this summer that is not pure fluff, but not so heavy that you wonder why you are reading it for fun? Here are some books with great insights about life, different cultures, history, and society. They also happen to be fantastic reads, although not necessarily fun reads. These books would be good choices for a curious high school student, the college bound, and for adults that are just looking to expand their knowledge and reading while not afraid to cross the threshold of the teen room doors.

1. Persepolisby Marjane Satrapi. The great-granddaughter of Iran’s last emperor and the daughter of ardent Marxists describes growing up in Tehran in a country plagued by political upheaval and vast contradictions between public and private life.

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian…

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Jody’s Carrot Cake (with Sarah’s Frosting)

carrot cake

For my birthday I really wanted carrot cake. But not just any carrot cake. I wanted to have a very moist carrot cake with lots of extra goodies, like pineapple. Jody was stressed it wouldn’t turn out, and so was Sarah, so she bought an extra boxed cake mix just in case. Know what happened? Deliciousness….plus an extra cake! Two cakes…you can’t go wrong.

We started with the bare bones of Pioneer Woman’s Carrot Cake (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/03/sigrids-carrot-cake-perfect-for-easter/) but we made it Texas style, wherein we added a bunch of good stuff, like pudding, pineapples, raisins, applesauce–it makes it totally different. I remember when I worked night shift at the hospital, and our charge nurse Mary would bring a carrot cake when we worked on the weekends. When word got out that cake was in the house, people would swarm the unit like the second coming–and it would be gone it seconds. I couldn’t remember how she said she made it but I remembered the pineapples.

I also remembered this old recipe I used to make that called for baby food carrots which sounds gross but is perfect–no long carrot-type hair thingies in the cake. The baby food mixes with the other ingredients to make a consistent carrot taste throughout the cake. Trust me on this.

Also I should mention: my kitchen was completely destroyed afterward, but it was worth it.

Jody’s Carrot Cake (With Sarah’s Icing)

2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups All-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups carrot baby food (be sure it’s only carrots–and not a carrot-pea mixture or some other disgusting thing)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup crushed walnuts, divided into half cups (one for in the cake, one for the icing)
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 small can pineapples, crushed and drained
1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce

Icing
1 stick salted butter, softened
1 package Philly (8 Oz) cream cheese
1 pound powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, combine wet ingredients, raisins and walnuts.If you don’t like nuts you can always skip this part. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients until moistened. Batter will be very wet.

Bake until the center is dry when checked with a toothpick. This may take a while–up to an hour. When the cake is done, it will look similar to a zucchini bread consistency–nice and moist.

When it’s completely cooled, mix up the icing and spread on.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

tortilla soup chicken tortilla soup

Some might say that summer is the wrong season for soup–but I disagree! With all the fresh produce readily available I think it’s the perfect time, especially if it’s a rainy night like tonight.This is a great dish to assemble in your crock pot before you go to work in the morning. My version is super easy and delicious–and of course, Mancub approved.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 bag pre-cooked fajita chicken strips

1 onion, sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 box chicken broth (any kind is fine, but there’s a special “chicken tortilla soup flavored broth” that is soooo good

1 Habanero pepper, diced (optional) or you can swap this out with a jalapeno. Still deliciouso!

1 can Ro-tel

2 cans black beans (or you can use pinto or kidney if you prefer)

1 can sliced black olives (optional)

1 bag sharp cheddar cheese

1 container sour cream

1 bag your favorite tortilla chips

 

Add oil to a hot skillet. Next, add the chicken, vegetables, beans and garlic. Cook a few minutes until tender. Next, add the chicken broth and Rotel. Heat to boiling, then turn down to low heat.

To serve, pour in individual bowls and top with cheddar cheese, tortilla chips and sour cream.

 

The Queen’s On a Diet: A Real Life Fairy Tale

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Once upon a time, the Queen of the castle felt most chubby. She stopped asking her magic mirror if she had gained weight, because it became increasingly apparent that the mirror had a bad attitude, so the Queen punished the mirror by using off-brand mirror cleaner, just until he remembered his place.

The reason the Queen was sure she’d gained weight was obvious. Her queenly robes and gorgeous ball gowns were way too tight, and verily she was unable to fit into her royal Spanx. It even seemed her crown itself was a bit snug. Soon, the Queen was unable to wear anything except the Royal Yoga pants. And oh, did the Kingdom suffer because of it.

The Queen consulted instead her royal diet advisors. For a time, she convinced herself that Ye Healthy Choice dinners, though full of sodium managed to taste much like the wood in the fireplace, so that’s where the rest of them went.

Next, the Queen tried Smart Ones dinners, because she was placed under the spell of the bright red cartons that promised delicious lasagna and decadent desserts with no immediate consequences or calories. Unfortunately, the Queen was a regular sized person, and not a two-year-old baby as the portions recommended, and the two bites of chicken buried under the semi-frozen broccoli made the Queen throw up a little in her mouth. When the Queen finished her Smart Ones, she felt empty and sad, and to console herself from the loss she celebrated by inviting the brothers Ben and Jerry over for a late night party. Though the King also had affection for the popular brothers and their delightful Chunky Monkey potion, he invited them back to visit when the Queen could fit in her gowns again.

There seemed to be no end to the Queen’s desperation. A sparkling fairy with six pack abs and shiny teeth convinced the Queen that her magic shakes would too transform her into a pretty fairy as well. After a couple of weeks of the magic shakes and intense push ups and unflattering yoga positions, the Queen discovered that exercising sucked and the shakes tasted ever so much better if the magical Ben and Jerry’s concoction was added to the mix.

Finally, the Queen decided that she was done with dieting and just bought some bigger ball gowns. Ben and Jerry visited the castle so often it seemed like they were more family than friends, and everyone lived happily ever after, until the next time the Queen’s ball gowns shrank.

Torture for Breakast.

Tina Bausinger:

Haha! I don’t know that I’ve experienced this specific smell with Cheerios!

Originally posted on afroirox:

I try to be a cool mom every once in a while. Not too often, because I don’t want my kids getting confused and thinking that we’re friends or something. We’re not friends, The Destroyer. Playing a Mortal Kombat together does not a friendship make. Especially since I rip you to shreds every.single. time. Bwahahaha. Raiden wins.

Evil laugh aside, I thought that I’d be completely unlike my own mother and get my kids the junk cereal of their choice as a treat. That’s a cool mom thing to do, right? They chose Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which I felt was a bit of a cop out. I mean, CTC is pretty close to Life cereal, and I wouldn’t put Life in the complete junk category. I couldn’t believe it. What kind of kids do I have? I was like, “You guys, how about Coco Puffs? Froot Loops? (Called such because to…

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Living in the South: Creekside

 

It's pictures like this that inspired our own creek visit.

It’s pictures like this that inspired our own creek visit.

A couple of weeks ago I innocently asked my cousin Rachel if we could visit the creek she’s always talking about when we visited.

Let me tell you something: the Bartons and Hignites take such a request SERIOUSLY. Before I knew it, we had three cars, two trunkfuls of BBQ supplies, rafts, and other sundry creek essentials piled to a precarious capacity. The girls, Mancub and I showed up with nothing but the 110 SPF sunscreen I found especially for my skin tone: pale Irish vampire. This is a necessity if we don’t want to end up the shade of red usually reserved for fire hydrants or Target insignia.

It’s not that we MEANT to be a pack of freeloading panhandlers. We just didn’t know what we were in for. We thought we’d show up, swim around for a couple of hours in the hot Missouri sunshine and be done with it.

Oh no my brotha.

Instead, we were able to intertube, eat a giant feast, and even jump off a bridge. That took some persuading on Rachel’s part. I wasn’t sure that the good people of Missouri were quite ready to see my over 40 self in all my glory dangling off the precipice over the roaring waters.

I’ve seen footage of this event, but I’ve paid big bucks to have it burned.

I can’t describe how graceful I looked as I sank like an anvil to my death. I lived to tell about it, but just barely. When Rachel was able to take a breath (not because she was drowning but because she was laughing so hard), she offered her assistance (she’s always nice to the elderly) as I hobbled from the water like a wrestler who just had his man parts handed to him. I’m sorry but that’s what I looked like: my hair piled in a wild nest suitable as a habitat for local wildlife as I navigated over the jagged rocks barefoot, searching for the beach in my blinded state, the subzero creek water still swishing through my ears in a deafening roar.

It was super fun. I’m serious though. Rachel is the ONLY one who can talk me into such craziness.

Did I mention that right before I hurled myself toward my icy death, much like Rose on the Titanic, Rachel asked me “What are you thinking right now?”

All I had to say was, “I’ll tell you exactly what I’m thinking…” and Rachel spit beer all over a small child who was innocently wading nearby. Paying for the poor kid’s therapy is really the least she can do.

After the jump, we all gathered around the coveted picnic table (there are only a few, and Uncle Gene staked ours out with all the vigilance of his Army Reserve training.

Would you fight him for a picnic table? I think not.

Would you fight him for a picnic table? I think not.

 

In seconds, the table top was covered with every kind of snack ever created, including Aunt Mollie’s freshest produce, sliced and ready to go. SOOOO good. Our Redneck Hotdog is pictured below.

Top it with freshly sliced tomatoes and onions and...cilantro?

Top it with freshly sliced tomatoes and onions and…cilantro?

Paul didn’t let the “No bbq grills allowed” rule stop him. He grabbed a spare tire rim, filled it with bbq coals and BAM. Hot dogs that were just as delicious as if Bobby Flay himself materialized to tape his cooking show. It was pretty ingenious.

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Even though our party was prematurely rained out, we still were freaking exhausted when we returned to the hotel. I felt like I had just been through rigorous exercise. On second thought, I really had.

Thanks family for the memories! I can’t wait to do it again.

10 Books We’re Looking Forward to in July

Originally posted on Cheshire Library Blog:

How’s your summer reading going – need some fresh ideas? Well you’re in luck!

Every month, librarians from around the country pick the top ten new books they’d most like to share with readers. The results are published on LibraryReads.org. One of the goals of LibraryReads is to highlight the important role public libraries play in building buzz for new books and new authors. Click through to read more about what new and upcoming books librarians consider buzzworthy this month. The top ten titles for July are:

  1. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  2. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
  3. The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day
  4. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  5. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian
  6. World of Trouble: The Last Policeman Book III by Ben H. Winters
  7. California by Edan Lepucki
  8. Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal
  9. The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by…

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My comfort food favorite…no bake cookies

Tina Bausinger:

These are SO GOOD. Thanks for sharing Jennifer!

Originally posted on all things messy...:

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Apparently I can’t be bothered with wax paper either

So last night I had a full blown food breakdown and broke all of my own rules…I made spaghetti (just noodles, sauce and Parmesan cheese, I can’t be bothered with meat apparently) and then I had a HUGE craving and made my all time favorite – No Bake Cookies.  I would venture to guess that most of you have had these before, a kind of childhood right of passage I would say.  The simple ingredients, short cooking time and divine flavor are a cooking trifecta in my book!

No Bake Cookies

1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)

1/2 cup butter (I used margarine…and yes I know it’s bad for you – I’ll try coconut butter next time)

2 cups sugar

4 TBS cocoa powder

3 1/2 cups Quick Cooking Oats (I used 4 cups)

1/2 cup Peanut Butter

2 tsp…

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5 Tips for Traveling With Teens

I'm including this picture to show you a few of my gorgeous (and tanned) relatives. Yes, I am related. Shut up.

I’m including this picture to show you a few of my gorgeous (and tanned) relatives. Yes, I am related. Shut up.

Enjoy this clip from National Lampoon’s Vacation with Chevy Chase: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HbBL62IiRE

It’s that time of year again. Roadtrip! Nothing says summertime like voluntary confinement in a car for hours on end!  Because most of my family lives in Arkansas and we’re in Texas, it’s a necessary evil if we want to see them. Because I don’t want to end up like Clark Griswold’s family in Vacation, I have certain rules for the road. There is a certain freedom you achieve when your kids aren’t babies anymore–for example, nobody’s gonna poop their pants (unless you stopped at that food truck you passed, then all bets are off). However, traveling with teens can create a whole other set of joys and challenges. For your amusement, here’s 5 easy tips for traveling with teens.
1. Make sure everyone’s showered AND is wearing deodorant. Yes, this seems like an obvious thing, but sometimes with teens regular hygiene can be dicey at best, and nothing puts pain into hour three on the trip like the rugged aroma of the unwashed masses. Unless, of course, you’re recreating Civil War America and want pure authenticity then go for it.
2. Crank up the tunes. I always think that the driver has first dibs, unless of course I’m not driving, then I institute the “oldest person picks” rule. I like the Eagles channel on iTunes. I feel that it’s my duty as the most musically educated (ok, except for Jody and Sarah but who’s writing this blog anyway?) to spread my knowledge of 1970s rock to the next generation. The Eagles, The Beatles, pretty much any band that represents a bird or insect if up for grabs. I also love me some “Sweet Home Alabama” type music. I see it as my duty. They can’t learn it all from Rock Band. Take some responsibility, parents.
3. If music gets old, have an audio book handy. We listened to “Insurgent” on the way last time. It’s the second book in the “Divergent” series. Good stuff, and Mancub didn’t mind. He actually turned it back on after a pitstop.
4. Take a few short breaks and let everyone switch seats. Those long teen legs need to stretch out periodically, preferably NOT in my back.
5. Have lots of snacks on hand. The last thing you want to happen is to break down on some deserted road. That’s how Texas Chainsaw Massacre starts, people. With Mancub’s appetite I can’t afford to take chances.I don’t have bumper stickers but if I did it would say “The cycle of cannibalism stops HERE.”
Be the change, people. BE. THE. CHANGE.