I hate classroom clutter.

I’m smack dab in the middle of my summer break with nary a thought toward school… at least as best as I can manage. Apparently turning off that teacher hoarder brain is hard even if you aren’t one of those dawn-to-dusk-all-summer teachers. I confess I slipped up this weekend and did make several purchases for the upcoming school year. The fabric store down the street is tragically going out of business, so I swiped up 200$ worth of fabric (for bulletin boards, I know nothing about sewing) for a measly $10. Pretty freaking cool. And yesterday, whilst browsing Zulily during Gospel Doctrine (I’m so going to hell) I purchased a giant pocket chart that effectively serves the purpose of one of those mailbox doohickeys.

http://www.zulily.com/p/organization-station-chart-set-181506-10269963.html

Only… it’s a pocket chart! A beautiful, slender, space-saving pocket chart with hopefully enough pockets to satisfy my overly large classroom.

It’s not like I am crazy about pocket charts. I love the idea of them but… a couple of years ago¬† I realized I had far too many of them and not enough cutesy things to stick in them. So away they went. But a couple remain, a couple tried and true and necessary pocket charts. I hope this one will join that order.

When I was on maternity leave this last year, an incredible teacher took over my classroom as substitute. She was a veteran teacher recently retired and did great, great things and had great, great ideas.

She also moved in like 10 extra pieces of furniture to my itty-bitty classroom that I had no idea what to do with.

The perk she had was one of those blue mailbox thingies… you know, the cardboard ones that fold up and are decently sturdy. It was nice and she even allowed me to borrow it the remainder of the year.

But… but it took up space! When you have 27 kids in a little classroom, space is precious. Add this to the fact I hate cutesy teacher stuff. This was stuck on a desk between two tables supposed to hold who knows what and, let’s be honest, the totally obsolete metal filing cabinet. Why do I have a filing cabinet in this digital age? Why?

I just don’t have a lot of odds and ends in my classroom. It’s still more crowded than I like, but my dream is to take this tiny classroom and make it more roomy, full of the essentials. Like a pocket mailbox chart I can hang discreetly on the wall.

Banana Muffins with Left-over Steel-cut Oatmeal

Some months ago whilst shopping I discovered the steel-cut oats were on sale in the bulk section. Despite being an oatmeal lover I had yet to try steel-cut. I bought them. I tried them. I may never be able to try another kind of oatmeal ever again.

The trouble comes when I make too much and I put the rest in the fridge to be forgotten about. Supposedly you can keep the cooked stuff for up to a week but… why? It’s congealed oatmeal by then.

So I thought, the stuff is cooked and soft. Can I bake with it?

Yes. Yes I can.

The oats… they give this bit of extra texture and flavor that is just awesome. I’ve tried it in a few things, but when I made these I was kind of proud of myself.

Because… banana muffins. Who does not love banana muffins?

 

muffins

1 stick of butter at room temperature

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup left-over steel-cut oatmeal

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup of baking chips (optional)

Cream together sugars, egg, oatmeal and butter. Once well mixed, add the banana and vanilla. Beat until nice and smooth. Add flour, salt, and soda and mix until just combined. Spray down some muffins papers and bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

They’re so pretty and golden and tasty.

 

My Naked Preschooler. And some ice cream.

Right now I ought to be putting my girls to bed. I’m not. Oh, the big plans I had for this summer break! A complete and utter lack of TV, an impossible balance of summer evenings and early bedtimes, and deeply organizing my house. I suppose the summer is still young and I’m not due back until the second week of August, but what effect does that have right now on the fact I have a naked 3-year-old and a 7-month-old playing with a screwdriver? (I distracted her with a crinkly book in order to remove from her grasp the offending screwdriver.)

Ruby is doing through… not exactly a naked phase, but a pantless phase. I suppose I could put this to good work and try to get her fully potty-trained with that whole bottomless strategy.

Unfortunately, this evening found me interrupting a peaceful evening eating homemade ice cream watching the sprinklers with “Ruby! Get your pants on! The missionaries are across the street!” Yes, there were four awkward young elders gathered at the apartment complex yonder. Be it also known I live on a fairly busy street.

Ruby screamed “No!” at me and waved her nether regions to everyone, Mormon missionary and not, and started climbing on the decorative stone with her butt for the entire town to see. With Jade in one arm I dragged her rudely across the porch and into the house. I’m currently awaiting my CPS call.

So, to the ice cream. What I wanted to make was this: Strawberry Ice Cream with Pink Peppercorns. Because it sounded ever so intriguing. But… where the hell does one find pink peppercorns? The lady of Measure & Whisk found them at Whole Foods. I don’t want to drive to Salt Lake City.

However, this is an incredible ice cream base that is great with just the strawberries.

And mint. Yes, I actually added 2 tablespoons of dried mint to the ice cream and it was really good.

This ice cream is wonderfully creamy and the strawberry addition is incredible.

Cast Iron Skillet Brownies with Salted Caramel Chips

As long as I’ve been married, we’ve had this basic set of Lodge cast iron skillets, sitting in storage, sitting at the back of a cupboard, utterly ignored. I knew they were there, but I wasn’t really cooking and, hey, we had the cheap set of cookware Layne had purchased during courtship. You know, the kind with the nonstick crap flaking off into your food and being generally terrifying.

But it was that cookware that eventually led me to drag out the cast iron. One old dutch oven was becoming so awful, so impossible to cook with, I turned to friends, family, and the internet for favorite cookware.

Again and again, people brought up cast iron.

Which we have. At least in skillet form. So I indulged some money in a nice cast iron dutch oven and brought out those skillets. They look so folksy, the heating is remarkable, and I just get that awesome novelty of having cooked in cast iron.

Consider me having joined the cast iron cult.

Now, onto brownies.

I have been craving brownies for awhile now. I tried cake, and while it was yummy it was still not a brownie. So last night I gave in and whipped up some brownies, poured the batter into a cast iron skillet, and the result was tasty.

skillet brownies

 

1/2 cup coconut oil, softened or even liquefied

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

2 eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 salt

1/2 cup salted caramel baking chips (or any chips, but the salt… so good)

Mix oil and cocoa together. Add the extracts and set aside. Mix together sugar and eggs til nice and yellow and pretty. Now combine those with the chocolately oil stuff and mix well. Mix the flour and salt together, then mix with the rest until just blended.

Now, pour into an 8-inch skillet. Sprinkle baking chips on top. Bake for 30 minutes at 325 degrees.

My ugly lawn

Today, I hated my lawn. I looked upon my backyard and saw that it was awful as far as I was concerned, as awful as a random surge of jealousy can be. Failed fertilizing, failed overseeding, (both purely on lack of time and interest on our part) plus a broken sprinkling system that we simply cannot get fixed… and there it is. A patchy lawn my husband does not want to mow until after the sprinklers are fixed, patterned with weeds.

I rather wanted to cry upon seeing it. For a most of minimal, unexplainable reasons, I have been feeling sorry for myself the last couple of days. Apparently I’m unfit to be a stay-at-home mom simply because I don’t have the practice time and just sort of have the deal shoved upon come summer and school’s out. I don’t know how to keep my house clean and I certainly don’t know what to do with the stupid lawn. I’m a working mom, which means I’m a horrible person, I don’t have the giant house other people have, I’m clearly a failure at life.

In fact, at one point this afternoon I just wanted to scream and break something.

On Sunday, our Relief Society lesson was, pretty much, a book report on Elder Uchtdorf’s book Forget Me Not. I had in on my Kindle, and today I read the short little book of thoughts, finally completing that bookaday challenge I’ve also been failing at this summer. It was a good read, one I needed. God does not think I’m a failure. God does not care about the state of my lawn or how much we have to show off for our income. God has not forgotten me or my sadness.

In the evening, I went out to do some planting. I looked at my lawn and realized, it wasn’t so bad. A little wild-looking, but hey, that’s how it goes. It wasn’t so patchy and it really just needed a bit more attention of me bringing around the hose with the sprinkler head.

My lawn was rather pretty, in that anti-establishment manicured lawn look. There’s clover, little wild flowers, the baby trees growing up the trunks of our lindens.

I pulled out a couple of the dresser drawers that had been sitting on our patio for nearly a year, remainders of a failed furniture incident, and planted some basil and spinach in them–because apparently I can be creative and use old dresser drawers as planters, played with Baby Jade as she fiddled with the tall grass, and realized, things aren’t so bad.

 

Chocolate Cake

Last night, I was bored. Perhaps boredom might be the wrong word. Lonely. Yes, a much preferable word. School has been out a little more than a week and being the social hermit I am I was missing the interaction of people. Layne was at work and while I love my girls I found I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and my lack of a proper social network, something I truly need to work upon. I tried to lure my sisters over with my ice cream maker, but it never actually happened.

Still, out of curiosity, I decided to look at ice cream recipes for a later date. Like maybe an activity the following day. Which happened to be Sunday. And I am trying oh so very hard not to shop on Sundays and I didn’t want to gather up my girls to go to the store.

You see, ice cream involves whipping cream, as most recipes told me. I did not have whipping cream. Surely… surely Google had somewhere a food blog telling me how to make my own whipping cream.

It was a dead end. The closest I found was a way to make a substitute for heavy cream, which is not the same as whipping cream. Apparently I need a cow or a goat or some other lactating animal and my town doesn’t allow such opportunity.

So I made the heavy cream substitute, halfway through realizing it just wasn’t set up to be in an ice cream recipe. But still, I had made a heavy cream substitute! It had to go in something. This led to be at 10:30 at night baking with no real hopes of doing anything good.

I surprised myself.

Chocolate cake.

1 1/3 sticks of butter, melted

1 1/2 cups of whole milk

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1 1/2 cups of sifted flour

3/4 cup of cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup of baking chips

First, make that heavy cream substitute by whisking together the melted butter and milk. Add the eggs, sugar, and vanilla and mix well. Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the mix. You’ll wind up with a fairly liquidy stuff, that’s okay. Sprinkle on the baking chips. Poor into a greased 9″ pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

It’s moist, just the right level of dense, and the chili powder just does something extra.

 

 

 

Tossing Cinderella

Ruby loves Cinderella. I’m not sure where it began, probably just an innocent viewing of Disney’s Cinderella that repeated itself over and over again. She has a Cinderella nightgown. She had a Cinderella cake for her birthday. She has several Cinderella toys.

Including The Cinderella. An innocent little plastic doo-dad that came with a Play-Doh set along with her best friend Ariel. I received these via Amazon Vine for her, and honestly may be the best Vine product I’ve ever received, as far as Ruby is concerned.

Cinderella has been lost. We turn the house over looking for her. Cinderella flushed down the toilet. We actually gave the doll back to Ruby. Cinderella everywhere.

Till a few days ago.

Ruby is on the spectrum of toilet training. This is not ideal, suffice it to say. I generally keep her in panties, but accidents still happen. Somehow, she pooped on the floor… then stuck her Cinderella doll atop the book. This Cinderella has a hollow base.

I decided to not try to rescue this Cinderella. Nope and never.

I mean, just imagine this. An entire Cinderella filled with crap.

I did not even apologize. I did not even show Ruby. I just got rid of that doll.

And now I find myself hunting the internet for a way to replace the beloved doll without spending 15 bucks on a new Play-Doh Palace set.