December 28, 2011

In every pothole, there is hope.

Many, many thanks to my friend Brit - she sent me a care package last week and it included a copy of Mixed Nuts.  Not only did her package come on a perfectly perfect day in which I was exhausted and needed a smile, but the movie was really good and also just what I needed.  A slightly crazy Christmas movie that will definitely be part of my yearly holiday rotation now.

Christmas was spent in a chaotic whirlwind of family, endless logs of Duraflames, shredded tissue paper and overstimulated children.  All sprinkled generously with cheap wine, saturated fats from a variety of God's creatures, starchy carbs and enough real, pure cane sugar to make my pancreas cry, "For the love of Jesus, Uncle already!!!".  Let us not forget my personal, Sepia-toned Grinch.  One of these years, Manoj will learn the true Spirit of Christmas. Whether he likes it or not.

Despite the curry-doused, anti-thesis to George Bailey who happens to reside in my home (and happily, my bed), the holidays are quite simply, one of the very best parts of being a parent.  I relish making the Magic happen for my kids, all the while knowing that over the years, my ability to do so will increasingly diminish in their eyes.  As such, I will cherish these years with Ye Olde Team of Chaos in the meantime.

To cap this year off, this week marks a huge push toward purging -- mostly toys and whatever clutter cannot escape my wily grasp as I canvass our house armed with a fierce gleam in my eye and a black trash bag in my hand.  In our house, white bags are used for trash, but for Junk Purging, I buy special, heavy-duty black bags.  Even Arun and Anjali know to watch me carefully these days.

Ugh.  Am I the only one who approaches January with caution?  Why does January have to be such a downer?  I am fine for the week just after Christmas because New Year's Eve mutes the black hole that Christmas leaves in its wake, but then January rears her ugly mug and ruins everything.  Right?  

Anyway..... This year, I have some thoughts on how I plan to brighten my mood this year.  In the meantime,  I am open to YOUR ideas.  How do you get through January?

Santa only brought each kid one present and a bonus Christmas fish since Alex the Betta died 3 days before Christmas.  Yes, I am a mean mom and only let my kids ask for ONE thing from Santa.  MEAN.

Arun's favorite gift was the $3 set of fossilized shark teeth in his stocking. Sure, he likes his DSi (used! bargain! still expensive!), but he likes the teeth EVEN MORE.  Because they were once in a SHARK'S MOUTH.

Anjali's favorite gift was her Indian doll Nahji that cost a whole $25.  Ask me what she thought of her fancy pants American girl doll that she begged for and hand-picked from a CSI-style lineup of usual suspects.  The same doll that has TEETH which Anjali has decreed shall not be on the head of any doll SHE owns.  TEETH.  The horrors.

Guess who received a second-hand American Girl doll for Christmas from her loving daughter?

Go ahead, ASK.

December 23, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Cheat Treat

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.


My last food post involved cookies that took me two days to prep.  This post involves a treat that takes about 2 minutes to prep.  You're welcome.

Years and years ago (1999, specifically) my manager at the time brought in a treat plate from his wife.  One of the treats was something called Christmas Crackers and I was completely smitten.  I got the recipe from her and all these years thought I had this little gem of a treat that was totally speshual and uneek.  I made this treat over the weekend and thought I was sharing the secret of my Speshul and Uneek Cheat Treat with my sister (shhh!  It's a secret!) only to find out a saltines version of this is floating all over the Pinterest Universe.

So, despite my sagging balloon, I am going to share this recipe anyway -- primarily because I needed to type it out anyway since I am putting together a holiday recipe book for myself on Paper Coterie (non-sponsored, I will be paying for my recipe book my very own self.)

Seriously, this is a sweet treat even a tweaker could make without burning down the house.

Graham Cracker Christmas Crack
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
12 oz bag mini chocolate chips
15-17 graham cracker sheets(the full sheets, not broken)
1 cup chopped pecans


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400.
  2. Melt the butter and sugar on the stovetop. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  3. Line jelly roll pans with aluminum foil. Lay the graham crackers as closely together as possible.
  4. Pour the butter/sugar mixture over the graham crackers. I use a large spatula to smooth the mixture evenly over the crackers.
  5. Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes. Watch closely! I like it to be bubbly and gooey (no worries, it will harden later!)
  6. Pull the cookie sheet out of the oven. Sprinkle the pecans first, then sprinkle the mini-chocolate chips. Again, I use the spatula to spread things around.
  7. Chill sheets until hardened. Then, break the crackers up and dump them into your gaping maw of a piehole. Alternately, you can staple them to your thighs, although this method results in less enjoyment. 

December 21, 2011

Race you to the next stoplight, asshole.

Most of my past commuting experiences have been highway and interstate. This new client is in-town and the commute is all street traffic, going 35mph to 45mph the entire route. The morning drivers are quite aggressive, but it's laughable watching someone get all Lightning McQueen on your ass for an ENTIRE BLOCK. Oh, sorry about that, buddy! Here, let me eat this bumper in front of me so you can get to the next stop light THAT MUCH FASTER.

Overall, I am SO grateful for this J-O-B experience -- it is with a financial services industry client, which is something I'm quite experienced in, but this company deals in transactions which are completely new to me. My brain hurts every evening because Me No Like No Learning.  However,  I love the challenge and it certainly helps that it is actually interesting. No, really! Basically, their business is like a financial playground for accountants and it deals with the Also Actually Interesting, No Really! topic of miltary and refuelment activities. All of this is furthered by that the people I work with are generally awesome -- they work hard with minimal horseplay and there is no messing around with silly, useless meetings -- they get their stuff done within a reasonable amount of time. THEN THEY GO HOME. Imagine that! I try to get in around 7 to 7:30 and generally leave by 5:30 or I'm home by about 6pm, 6:30pm at the latest. Not bad.  Or at least, I don't think that is so bad.  I have never had a better schedule, so for me, this is what qualifies as Not Bad.

However, this J-O-B came at an awful time -- smack dab right before Christmas (Although, admittedly, I paid for our entire Christmas last week with the aforementioned J-O-B. Oh, Henry!) Fortunately, I had enough notice that I was able to finish most of my Obligatory, Not-Fun Christmas stuff -- there were some last-minute gift purchases, furious wrapping of said gifts and some shipping of packages. Still, I was really quite worried about the Obligatory, Actually Fun Christmas stuff. You know, the IMPORTANT stuff.

Friday before last, I pulled Arun out of school for some "family time" so that we could wrap up some of that Obligatory, Actually Fun Christmas Stuff. We visited the Bass Pro Santa, then had some lunch. Normally, we visit the Crown Center Santa, but I simply didn't have time for that this year. And wow -- since Bass Pro Santa utterly blew the boots off Crown Center Santa, all future Santa Visits will be made to Bass Pro. After the Santa visit, we headed to the Union Station for our annual tradition of riding the Holiday Express. I felt a little guilty pulling Arun from school, but we had such a lovely afternoon, I remain unapologetic.

Overall, Team Chaos is handling my working very well. Arun loved going to the daycare last week since it is ran by one of his classmate's mothers. It was a little tougher on Anjali. She did not cry, but was paralyzed with shyness when we went to visit. That is hard to stomach -- watching my normally obnoxious, little hellfire of a girl stiffen with fright. Sigh. I am not sure how long this engagement will last, but it seems I will be onsite for at least 2 more weeks.

If nothing else, my entire little family is getting a little flex in the muscle of Appreciation. Arun has even been HUGGING AND KISSING ME WITHOUT CAJOLING NOR BRIBERY. If you happen to have a little boy in your life, you know how poignent this is.

At the beginning of Christmas, I had made a little Holiday Bucket List for all of the FUN stuff I wanted to fit in (a wee tyke of a Draft that never quite matured enough to be Published). Considering the addition of the J-O-B, we have done pretty good:
  • Attend the Liberty Hall Christmas Tree Festival in Lawrence KS ( this always kicks off our holiday season -- tradition!)
  • Decorate gingerbread cookies
  • Decorate gingerbread houses
  • Bake the kifli
  • Do some Christmas sticker crafts
  • See the Gingerbread House Exhibit in Lawrence KS
  • Drive through and see the Plaza Lights (However, Mama ain't crazy enough to try and PARK)
  • Do some shopping in Brookside
  • Attend the Nutracker Suite performed by the KC Ballet at the Kauffman Center
  • Do some shopping in downtown Lawrence (sadly, I had to nix this)
  • Make Christmas Crack (post on this is forthcoming)
  • Visit Santa
  • Attend Average Jane's fantastic Cookie Soiree
  • Make a snowflake garland
  • Drive through the Neighborhood of Ridonkulous Decorations (seriously, this neighborhood is so over the top that one year, my sister and I nearly got plowed over by a freaking TOUR BUS.)
  • Christmas Books Extravaganza (I've posted some of our favorites in this post)
  • Christmas Movies Marathon
  • Playing outside in the cold, then drinking hot chocolate after (this is something that Arun insists upon doing for some reason)

We still need to make a snowflake garland (I love, LOVE cutting out snowflakes) and do our neighborhood lights cruise.

Fortunately, my family is low-key when it comes to Official Christmas festivities -- we do appetizers/snacks at my dad and step-mom's on Christmas Eve. Then, I host a traditional mid-day dinner on Christmas day where everyone brings a little something. Addtionally, that side of the family is low in the drama-department.

Bring it ON, Christmas.

I'll race you to the next stoplight.

Team Chaos was very conscientious in bringing Santa thank you letters and candy (they did this for Halloween at Boo at the Zoo, too -- taking candy WITH them to hand out as thank you candy to the folks handing out candy.  The year before, Arun handed out thank you letters on Halloween night as well. WEIRDOS.  Polite, sure.  But still....WEIRDOS)

Riding the Holiday Spirit at the Union Station.

See!  They DO love each other! 

Wait a second.  False Alarm!  Arun is doing the obligatory move of filial love called "Why you hitting yourself?"

Anjali got all dressed up for her school Christmas concert and willingly posed.  What a treat, baby girl!

However, one's party dress is not complete without boots.
It just wouldn't do, otherwise. 

Of course not, silly!

December 18, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
The Late Edition

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.


Last year, I wrote about the Story of the Kifli, which included a bit of my baking history and my hopes for my friend Jolene as she fought pancreatic cancer.  That post is still hard for me to read because a year later?  My friend is gone.

Also, inexplicably, I now bake -- even when it is not Christmas.  It started off with cookie dough from Papa Murphy's.  Then, I tried out some Amish Friendship bread.  Even the over-ripe bananas on the counter are getting nervous, folks.

These past few weeks, I've had the pastry mat out more times than I can count for baking gingerbread cookies (again, via a tub of dough,  Although, I have grand plans for next year and have been researching gingerbread recipes.  Yes, ME.  The Non-baker.)  Anyway with practice, I've gotten to know my oven better and have learned that one of the tricks with baking is that the item continues to bake a bit AFTER being pulled from the oven.  I have definitely gotten better at gauging that precise moment when things should be pulled.

The original recipe that I've linked to in the past never quite worked.  For one, the measurements were WAY off and I was left with a ridiculous amount of the nut filling.  This year, I took careful notes so that from now on, I will not have to dig into my addled memory to figure out what I should be doing.  After all, I'm not getting younger.

Romanian/Hungarian Kifli Recipe

Ingredients for 1 Batch of Kifli Dough
(I make 4 batches of dough for 1 batch of filling)
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup butter
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
(Note: I make each of the 4 batches of dough separately with a hand mixer using dough hooks. If you have a fancy mixer, you may be able to make all 4 batches at the same time. This dough is super sticky and at the end, is VERY hard to mix. Trust me, you want dough hooks and NOT beaters for this bad boy.)

Ingredients for 1 Batch of Kifli Filling
3 egg whites
2 cups ground pecans
1 cup white sugar
(Note: Walnuts and almonds can be substituted for the pecans)

2-3 cups confectioners' sugar for rolling and decoration

Preparation for the Dough
  1. In a tall-ish mixing bowl with high sides, cream the butter and cream cheese. Stir in the egg yolks, vanilla, baking powder and salt.
  2. Gradually add in flour mixture a little bit at a time until everything is mixed well.
  3. Divide dough into 5 parts, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate overnight (Keep in mind that you will have 20 of these dough thingies, since you are making 4 batches of the dough.)

Preparation for the Nut Filling
  1. Beat egg whites to soft peaks and add sugar a little at a time.  Continue to beat the eggs into stiff peaks. 
  2. Fold in the ground pecans, and set aside. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake the cookies for 9 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Roll in confectioners' sugar when cool.  This recipe makes approximately 300 cookies.

And now, for the pictures!

The kifli production line.  I only get out each section of dough one at a time.  As they warm up to room temperature, they get even stickier

I roll out a bunch of 1 inch balls at once and line them up.  Then, using a pastry roller, I roll each ball into 2x3 inch ovals to about a 1/4 to 1/8 inch thickness. Instead of flour, I use powdered sugar for rolling to keep the stickiness under control.

I add a 1/2 teaspoon of filling, then I fold it over and pinch the sides.  Then I continue rolling it over, then I pinch the ends.

Little soldiers, all lined up to march into the oven.

The finished product, all dolled up in confectioner's sugar.  Ready for a hot date with my mouth.

Wait a second, that sounded dirtier than intended.

December 9, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Working Girl

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.


So, I have a J-O-B. In an actual O-F-F-I-C-E.

The past few weeks have been a flurry of interviews, arranging for childcare, finishing up the Christmas To Do List and most importantly, examining the recent update to the SAS 70 --- its sparkly new sister, the SSAE 16 (non-sponsored!).  It's a short-term contract and I will talk more about that next week.  After all, today is Friday and I'd rather discuss FOOD.

Yesterday, as Manoj and I were talking about how next week was going to work for us, he mentioned the dreaded word......Take-Out.  We already have one day of take-out -- it's Friday -- where I cruise by Papa Murphy's and pick up our usual pepperoni and mushroom deLITE (Non-sponsored! Seriously!)  I LOVE this pizza.  However, I really still want to have a regular meal Monday through Thursday. (Sidenote: Yes, I realize the same day I purport to know anything about food is the very same day I regularly pick up a pizza.  Oh, the irony!)

Listen, I love take-out.  And I am certainly willing to fit in one extra day to pick up a piping hot styrofoam box filled with fattening goodies not prepared by Yours Truly.    However, I do not want to be eating out for four straight days. Folks, these hips don't lie.

So!  My new best friend is the Dinner Spinner app (Non-sponsored! For reals!), where I have been digging up some new ideas.  I will also probably depend on some of my favorite stir-fry recipes by doing the prep in the morning -- I do see some pad prik kai and kai kratium in our future (Non-sponsored!  Duh!)   Additionally, I recently purchased a Crockpot (Non-sponsored! Cross my heart, and all that jazz!).  This is my first ever Crockpot, so I am still pretty clueless as to what I am supposed to be cooking in this programmable bad boy.  I have already made a few of my favorite recipes from Rick Bayless (Non-sponsored! Back off FCC!) with tasty results , but I am ready to branch out.

Gentle Reader, this is me, coming to you with my Santoku knife in hand.

Wait, that sounded more threatening than intended.

Anyway!  I need help, folks! What are your favorite quickie, go-to recipes for those days when you are in a hurry?  It does not have to be slow cooker recipes.

December 1, 2011

Wrapping Up More Than Presents

This is not the "I've Been Too Busy To Post" post.  Promise.

I thought, perhaps, I would rather write a "What I Have Been Up To Post" post.  October?  I hardly knew ye.  And November?  Did that really just happen?  Really?

Bridesmaid Bug notwithstanding, October was ridiculously FUN.  We did all the usual fall activities -- pumpkin patch, Boo-at-the-Zoo, pumpkin carvings, multiple dishings of pumpkin curry, a hayride and a bazillion trick-or-treating events, including the extravaganza that happens in our neighborhood every year.  Man, I love living in this suburban prairie, soul-sucking it may be.  Oh!  And we also celebrated Arun's birthday AND I ran slowly jogged the Waddell & Reed 5k (one of the best 5ks I've ever done -- GREAT course).

November?  Rose to the challenge of the gauntlet that October threw down.  I walked the Jeff Taylor 5k with Average Jane.  Later that day, I took the Team of Chaos to see Yo Gabba Gabba Live which was as awesome as Lance DJ fucking promised.  The next week, we went to the Shriner's circus which totally delivered.  The elephants provided Team Chaos' favorite act of the day by delivering huge, steamy piles of poo during their performance (Sidenote: I am still skeeved about the animal acts and allegations of animal cruelty.  Animal acts are NOT necessary and therefore, I remain conflicted about future circus attendances.)  I also attended a theatrical organ concert hosted by The Kansas City Theatre Pipe Organ group.  On the way home from that concert, I am pretty certain I was about to be carjacked, but I am not comfortable writing about it yet.  This is the 2nd time I have had a suspicious event like that happen in Kansas City in the past few years.  However, considering how often I go to Kansas City, I suppose those are still pretty damned good odds and I have no intentions of limiting our trips into the city Sigh.

December is shaping up to holding its own against October and November (I have a December Bucket List brewing)   Perhaps, it is the CPA in me, but overall, I simply adore 4th Quarter.  It's the most wonderful time of the year!

So!  As you can see, I haven't posted not for the lack of fodder, but simply because I did not feel like writing here.  I did, however, write in my journal for the month of November. Each evening, I took a minute to jot down the favorite part of my day.  It was a peaceful exercise, even on a few crummy days, to focus in on the little things in life that make It All Worthwhile.

Before I get back to my Words With Friends queue (ahem), I would like to give a shout-out to a locally owned business.  As many of you know, I crave handbags like a tweaker craves Walter White's Blue Sky.  For a few years now, I have been on the hunt for a red handbag, but I was looking for a particular shade of red -- a deep, deep hue. Awhile back, I began to think of going handmade instead of designer and  I was going to put a call out for local places to hunt (particularly, in Lawrence, KS).  Then, I noticed my sister Jill's handbag.  As I was inspecting the stitching and hardware, I spied the label.  It was none other than Dawn Shew of Growing a Pair, a fellow Kansas City blogger I have known for years.    She sells her bags in a shop in Lawrence, but she has an Etsy site, Seams Fine KS, for her bags.  I noticed that she did customs.  I decided to contact her since I was already impressed by the sturdy stitching, gorgeous fabric and quality hardware on my sister's purse.  A custom order would be perfect.  I contacted her about a custom order and we began talking fabric and exchanged some photos - I was really impressed with her advice for combining types of fabric in conjunction with colors -- all in relation to how the fabric will wear over the years

A week later and I now have the purse I have wanted for all these years:

The actual red is a just a tad darker and deeper than this shows.

Interior includes a zippered interior pocket and dual accessories pocket.  I love how the fabric is pretty thick and the bag has a "structure" to it -- it holds its shape and does not crumple.  Also, after all of my years buying designer bags, I am very particular about hardware.  The hardware on this really impressed me and the magnetic closure is really strong.
My Pretend Lawyer Made Me Write This: I paid full price for this bad boy and it was worth every penny. I did save on the shipping because I drove to Lawrence to pick up the bag personally, not because I am some Special Bloggy Type

There is such a huge movement toward buying local these days.  It's nice when it works out even better than buying from a department store!

Left on my local shopping list?  I need to troll the entire downtown of Lawrence KS, per my shopping tradition.  And most definitely, I will need a gander at Stuff and World's Window in Brookside.

Where is your favorite local Kansas City destination for holiday shopping?  I'm always on the hunt for new local goodies.