Under Construction

Well, HALO! friends.  I know, I know, long time no post on this blog, right?  Well, that’s because I’ve been under construction.

What?

No, not me personally.  Stuff at my house.

No, not my house.

Gingerbread structures.  Barns, to be persact! 

Oh yes, every October, ‘round the full moon, I get this itching to make gingerbread.  Houses.  Or Barns.  Or churches.  Or London Bridges.  Or the Leaning Tower.  Or, SOMETHING out of gingerbread.

So I got to it.  Here they are so far.  13 little barns to build.  So, build away I did.  They are still under construction. 

“Where?” you ask………

In the dining room. 

Where else does one build a barn?

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Little horsies, too—these are horse barns……..

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Below, partially constructed.  (Note how clever I am with the scaffolding.) 

Yes. 

Yes, they are. 

Spice jars and cans and whatever I can find to hold things in place while the frosting dries……..

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No.  I am not going to sit there and hold each slat for the roofs (roofes?  roofies?  rufs?  oh, who knows?) in place while the frosting dries.  I do believe that is in the category of ‘watching paint dry’ only maybe slower?

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Making progress: 

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When I’m finished making them, the Cherubs (aka grandchildren and some friends, too) will decorate them.  And then, I suppose, eat them.  They are really fun to do!

For gingerbread instructions, look back at this blog here:

http://harpethview.com/2012/10/21/of-gingerbread-and-all-that/

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Simple Birthday Supper

 

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Here is the menu:

Salad (lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese)

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Green beans (fresh, steamed in bag, from Costco—delicious!)

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Salmon with pesto—on outside grill

(homemade pesto slathered on top of salmon; double fold aluminum foil and roll up edges.  Grill salmon on the foil—the pesto oils the aluminum and your salmon won’t stick.  The best result is this—the kids LOVE the salmon!)

Before:

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After:

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Rosemary/Olive bread (wrap in foil, heat in oven about 8 minutes on 400 degrees)

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Wild Rice (from the box!)

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Cake (see previous post) and ice cream

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For a more celebratory table, use some fun plates:

 

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These are Williams Sonoma chef plates—acquired you-know-where (yard sale).

Add a few flowers and votive candles:

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And a fun centerpiece:

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A simple birthday supper for six.

Homemade 3 Layer Cake

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Daughter’s birthday is today. 

A 3 layer cake—the top and bottom layers are chocolate cake, the center layer is yellow cake.  The frosting is homemade chocolate topped with nuts and toffee pieces.

Here are some tips:

The cakes are from cake mixes.  They are as good as any homemade recipe and certainly a bit easier to do. 

1.  Set oven to temperature and lightly spray cake pans.  Cut a circle of wax paper for the bottom of the pan and strips of wax paper about 2 inches wide for the sides.  I like to clip the strips of wax paper so that they will flatly adhere to the inside edges of the pans.  Clip on both sides of the strips.  Your cakes will be very easy to remove from the pans.

Note:  Parchment paper could also be used.

2.  Mix one cake mix, gently and carefully pour half of the batter into each of the prepared pans.

3.  I have these to wrap around the cake pans—not sure what they are called. 

image  Insulated strips—well used!

Immerse them in water for a while, then squeeze them out, wrap around the cake pans just before placing in oven.  Secure the strips with the pin or whatever closure device are on the strips.  (These are years old, so the new ones may have different closures.)

Using these will ensure your cakes bake evenly with flat tops.  Be careful placing the pans in the oven so that the strips stay in place.  The extra effort is well worth it.

Bake as directed.  When the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done.

4.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack about 5 minutes, then carefully invert the pan and remove it and the wax paper from cake.  Let cool completely. 

5.  When cool, wrap in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, set on a cookie sheet, and put in the freezer. 

I generally make the cakes a day or two ahead of time.  Freezing the layers makes them very easy to handle when frosting and decorating.

Select the cake plate you wish to use. 

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Frosting recipe:

I keep my special recipes in ‘sleeves’ in binders—do you?

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Place 2 2/3 cups confectioner’s sugar (no need to sift) into a bowl.

Into same bowl, add 1/3 to 3/4 cups coca powder—I use Hershey’s cocoa, unsweetened, and for this cake I used about 3/4 cups of the cocoa.

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In mixing bowl, cream 6 Tablespoons butter until very soft,

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alternately add cocoa powder/confectioner’s sugar with 1/3 cup milk. 

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When all mixed, add 1 teaspoon vanilla.

For two cakes, double the recipe.

Place bottom layer of cake on plate.  Under it, place small pieces of wax paper so that the plate does not get frosting on it.  Frost top and then sides of this layer.  Remove the wax paper strips.

Place second cake on top of first, frost top of this layer and then sides, smoothing to blend with bottom layer around sides.

Repeat for top layer.  You may add whatever extras you wish—I had some toffee pieces and nuts.

Note:  If you have more than 3 layers OR your cake layers seem to want to slide to one side or the other, use a couple of dowels—these were specifically made for cakes. 

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Insert in bottom two layers of cake to secure.  They won’t show, but they will secure your cake.  Be careful, of course, when cutting into the cake.

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Birthday Cake for a Very Special Daughter.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Homework for Kids

Is overwhelming!

This is a huge dilemma—not just for Grandson and his family, but evidently for the entire country. National Public Radio mentioned it the other day.  Parents (and grandparents), you are not alone in your frustration with the sheer VOLUME of homework your child must complete every night!

Perhaps the new intensity of education has not been properly explained to us?  I had a Eureka! moment yesterday—and maybe this is the reason behind the change in schedule for schools and the curriculum.  It’s my BEST GUESS.

Grandson goes to Tae Quon Do (also spelled Taekwondo) twice a week and I sometimes take him and watch.

Master Instructor (Tae Quon Do instructor) sat the children down for one of his talks yesterday.  (One of the reasons I think this is such a great program for children!  He emphasizes many important life lessons.)

The topic was setting goals.  He asked all the kids what a ‘goal’ was.  One girl stood up and said it was to decide what to be when she grew up and work towards it.  So then, each child stated what his goal was (career).  Grandson said, “to be an artist’ which I found interesting and somewhat perplexing.  I think he really means to be an engineer to create things—his obvious talent!, but ‘artist’ also applies here.

At any rate, Master then spoke about growing up in South Korea as a child.  He left his house at 5:30 a.m. and his mother packed his breakfast, lunch and dinner (I’m sure it was rice balls mostly or whatever—certainly not Snackables or some such!).  He returned to his home at 12:30 a.m. the next morning.  He slept and got up and did it all over again.  When he was not in class, he studied.  He had 4 days off a year.  School was held the rest of the time, including weekends evidently.

He said there was intense competition to get into the universities—650,000 people competing for 150,000 slots.

He was thrilled when he got in.  (So was his mother he laughed!)  Everyone wanted to go to the university. 

Funny thing is, university was relatively easy.  It was the preparation to get in and the competition TO get in which was very very hard.

This got me to thinking about the schedule our schools have.  Short summer break (relatively), then a very intense period of time learning, then two weeks off for fall break, another intense learning period, then a break (2 weeks?) during the holidays, and so on.

Why has there been this change in school schedule and what basis is there—what studies which show this is a better system?

And then I realized that indeed there have been MANY studies which show that retention of education (any subject) is better when the student is more or less ‘bombarded’ (‘immersed” is a nicer term) with the information, must repeat it/practice it over and over to be proficient, but then is given a period of time of ‘rest’.  Long term results are much better this way rather than the old system of long summer breaks when MUCH of the already taught information is forgotten.

Think about building one’s muscles—intense exercise, then rest for a day or two……….’rip’ those muscles slightly with weights, then give it a rest for a day, then do it again.  This builds muscle and strength.  Once they are built, you CAN take more time off and they will ‘come back’ in strength because they remember (muscle memory)—you have already done the hard part.  The long-term retention is there.

Further, when you begin again (after, say a week off), you do not begin where you originally started—your muscles already know what to do.  You start closer to where you stopped.  Each time!  You get stronger.

It is exactly the same with the mind:  intense exercise, then a brief period of rest and recovery, then intense involvement again.  And retention is much improved over the old system.

At any rate, this is my best guess.

And we are in world-wide competition to survive, be smarter, be quicker and more resourceful, fewer ‘slots’ to get into the ‘universities’ too.  So, now I somewhat ‘get’ it……………

(As an aside, we can ‘bemoan’ all we want our ‘lost’ childhoods and so on—but this is reality in most of the rest of the world and it has come to us now.  The past is over.  Nothing we can do about that.)

Tell me, what do you think?  Are your children and/or grandchildren struggling with homework ‘overload’ as well?  Did you come to the same conclusion?  Do you think the philosophy and educational basis for this more intense system should be better explained to parents and grandparents?

Some simple tips

Three simple ideas which may make your life a little bit easier:

image  Use bungee cords to keep a patio umbrella closed.

We have a long and narrow back deck which seems to be in a ‘wind’ tunnel.  Even with the umbrellas lowered, the wind would get under them and pull them up.  Sometimes the wind blows so hard this umbrella is lifted up out of its stand (at the base under the table) and threatens to topple over, taking the glass-topped table with it.  And I don’t need to explain what a mess that might be……..

TMWLH often was asked to take down the umbrellas (there are two on our deck)—what pain to have to take them down, then put them back up all summer!

Solution!  Use bungee cords to keep the umbrella closed!  A wind can’t easily pick up the umbrella and lift it for a flying adventure now.  And the bungee cords are so easy to put on and take off.  This has truly solved a dilemma for us.

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A very clever cousin of mine (also very thoughtful) sent me a unique singing birthday card.  Inside she signed the names of herself and her husband—on heart-shaped STICKERS!  This way, I can simply remove the stickers and put new ones inside with our names if we wish to reuse the card.  I had never thought of this method to recycle those EXPENSIVE, but oh-so-unique birthday cards! 

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Finally, this isn’t so much a unique idea as a reminder—about two weeks ago I decided to plant some lettuce seeds.  It is fall and lettuce likes cooler weather, generally—but I seldom remember to plant it late summer/early fall.

Lettuce seeds are very tiny and I had two packages which had been partially used, but still had some seeds in them.  (The packets had been around for quite a long time.)  I also had a pot on the deck in which I had nothing growing, but it did have soil.  I simply sprinkled the seeds on the soil, covered with plastic wrap, left in the sun (it had plenty of moisture in the dirt) and left it alone. 

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Now I have lettuce coming up!

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How simple can this be?  I didn’t even get my hands dirty by covering the seeds with dirt. 

Reminder:  now is a good time to plant your garlic bulbs, too.  I think I’m going to plant some in a pot this year and leave it on the deck for the winter as well.  (Make sure it is a plastic pot if you get freezing weather.)

Grilled Chicken and Grilled Cauliflower

 

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I bought these chicken quarters at Kroger’s—a ‘manager’s special meaning they needed to be cooked that day or the next day (or frozen).  They were about $1.25 each.   They were pre-seasoned, so all I had to do was grill them for about 45-55 minutes.  They were very good!

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Here is the cauliflower grilled.  Recipe is so simple:

Clean/wash cauliflower and remove stem and leaves.  Brush on melted butter, sprinkle with seasoned salt (I had some Lawry’s seasoned salt on hand) and shredded Parmesan, wrap up in foil and grill on hot grill about 45 to 65 minutes.  (I did turn the cauliflower about every 15 minutes.)

YUM!

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We also had baked beans (just heated some on stove) and bread.  Banana pudding for dessert.

There you have it—a simple and inexpensive supper for six.

 

 

Pretty Fall Wreath

One of my very talented Granddaughters made this for me—out of burlap ribbon, a wire wreath frame, and fall foliage.  It’s perfect for a fall/Thanksgiving wreath hung on the large mirror near the dining room.

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(No, we are not Hindi nor Buddhist.  I just happen to like the statue—it’s for ‘good luck’!)

 

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The initial to our last name is “F".  This wreath could hang on the front door—

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but it is much too pretty to risk having wind or rain damage it; and hung between the front door and storm door, its flowers would be crushed.

  Besides, now I can enjoy it as well as anyone who comes by for a visit.  If it hung on the door, it would only be visible outside.

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No hot glue was used on this, so that the bows, flowers and letter may be removed and the wreath redone for another season.  I’m thinking Christmas!

THANK YOU GRANDDAUGHTER!  IT’S VERY PRETTY!

 

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