mis·cel·la·ne·ous
–adjective

1. Consisting of members or elements of different kinds; of mixed character: a book of miscellaneous essays on American history.

2. Having various qualities, aspects, or subjects: a miscellaneous discussion.



Friday, September 16, 2011

Apples for Teachers; Pumpkins for Kiddies

For the last couple of weeks I’ve felt “left out” of the latest obsessions on my party planning/crafting/cooking blogs.  Their focus has been on Back-To-School and Halloween, as it should be.

I’m in absolutely no rush for Kyla to start school., even PREschool for that matter.  But since I always loved school right through college, I feel there is something nostalgic about new notebooks and pencils and things.  Sure, elementary school-age kids are now shopping for laptops when I was happy to get a new “Trapper Keeper” in the same grade.  But the anticipation, excitement and nervous feelings surely pass from generation to generation.

My favorite blogs presented all sorts of back to school treats, recipes for nutritious lunches and after-school snacks, and ways to say thanks to the teachers.  I looked at them, albeit briefly, wistfully thinking of what I will do when Kyla starts school.  I am insanely happy that her birthday is in March so that I can take baked goods to her class on her special day!

I realize that Kyla is still a bit too young to fully appreciate Halloween and all the fun and excitement that comes with the holiday.  This year she is learning all about the Disney princesses, and has decided that Belle is her favorite.  That will mean a trip to the Disney store for a Princess Belle costume.  (It will serve double duty when we go to Disney World for the first time with her this December.)

My best friend’s daughter Emma will turn seven in November.  Naturally she feels like a big girl around Kyla, but they have a wonderful time together whenever they play.  Now that Kyla “is older” according to Emma, she wants to go Trick or Treating with her this year.  Emma could run circles around Kyla when it comes to scoring candy.  But something tells me that true to her sweet and caring nature, she will make sure she stays in step with Kyla and doesn’t get (too much) more candy.

I read the adorable ideas for Halloween parties and treats and look forward to the days that I can plan an actual party for Kyla and her friends.  I’m sure parents who have “been there done that” will think I am crazy for wanting these things.  I am not wishing her toddler and preschool years away by any means.  It’s just that there are so many inspiring and amazing ideas out there!

I suppose that this year I will quell my penchant for parties by focusing on other “nesting” activities.  I’ll stock our pantry with all sorts of fall favorites.  I’ll do extra baking.  I’ll find cozy afghans to put around the house for snuggling, and I’ll make sure we have plenty of wood for our fireplace.  Oh, and I just might store those ideas on my computer… before I know it, I’ll be needing them!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Where have you been, Elaine?

I’ve been remiss in posting blogs lately.  It’s not for lack of activity in the Fischer home!  Kyla and I have been doing our best to squeeze in some late-summer swimming, and I’m also doing my best to get some of my DIY projects accomplished.

It amazes me, the vast amount of frugality and creativity and talent that is swirling around the blogosphere.  As I have mentioned the best I can do is copy others.  I have yet to have an original idea pop in to my mind.  I’m OK with that.  I don’t mind letting others think of things for me!  Reading all those other blogs certainly could take up my entire day, but I do my best to not let that happen.  (At least on a regular basis.)

My vintage/Shabby Chic bathroom makeover is nearly complete and I will soon post before and after photos.  I am also in the process of obsessing over a new look for our bedroom, trying to figure out how to re-do our entire living room for less than $1,500 (new furniture and all!) and trying to tie in the future look of our living room with a coordinating look for our dinette & kitchen.

When I’m not reading to Kyla or changing her wet swimsuit; when I’m not trying to find a DIY project that someone who is power tool-challenged can replicate; when I’m not going to the library for a new armful of cookbooks and decorating books I’m most likely involved in some “nesting” activity like washing all our cozy afghans to be ready for the chilly fall evenings, or looking online for a recipe containing pumpkin.

I am also trying to decide if I should move Ms. Elaine Kneeous over to FranklinNOW.com rather than keeping it on Blogspot.  I would enjoy more readership if I moved but there are some technical aspects of their system that I’m not sure I want to deal with.  You will soon find out if I’ve made the move!  Thanks for reading, in either case.

I look forward to sharing lots of new ideas and posting more fun things VERY soon!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Barking Lot (09/03/11)

Every week, Kevin & I collaborate on a dog feature called The Barking Lot.  It began as my idea since I am completely dog-obsessed.  What started as a simple guest blog on This Just In has blossomed into a widely-read, much-enjoyed regular installment.  We give the dog-walking weather forecast, then it’s my main article, then Dogs In The News which is Kevin’s contribution, a photo, and a closing video.  Let all your dog loving friends know about this special Saturday feature!

This week, I say "goodbye" to a VERY special dog in my life.  And, there are lots of good stories in Dogs In The News, too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is it September 23rd yet?

In my blog Mars VS. Venus, I discussed how, in my opinion and by my observations, men & women strongly differ in their love of seasons, specifically summer and autumn.  In my home, while Kevin does not welcome the coming of fall, he does welcome some of the treats that have become staples for us when the weather turns chilly.

I also have a strong fondness for all things British.  I fulfilled an item on my bucket list before I even HAD a bucket list, and that was a trip to England the summer I graduated from college.  When I was introduced to this blog by my best friend (and travel partner to England) I fell in love instantly.  I don’t consider myself a vintage housekeeper, so to speak.  But Alison’s ideas are heavenly even to a “Yank” and I can’t wait to incorporate some of her ideas in the coming months.

So put some mulling spices on the stove to simmer, pour yourself a mug of tea or cider, and plan to follow Alison’s tips AND make my recipes…

When I read the recipe for these gorgonzola phyllo cups, I knew it would be perfect.  It contained all my favorites in one delicious little bite and happily announced “Fall is here.”  A few notes from my personal experience:


·       I did not specifically use Gorgonzola when I made this. “Regular” bleu cheese was just fine.
·       A 6 or 7 oz package of cheese crumbles would be sufficient, if you’re wondering what “1-1/3 cups of cheese” equates to.  Personally I found 1-1-/3 c. makes almost too much filling.
·       I toasted the walnuts at 400º for about five minutes before adding them to the mixture.  You don’t have to do this, I just prefer walnuts toasted.  Alternately you could toast them in a pan on the stovetop, watching closely so that they don’t scorch.
·       As stated in the recipe, they are great both warm AND at room temp, which in my opinion makes them a perfect appetizer.

I enjoy watching Ina Garten every chance I get.  Sadly that is not as frequent as I would like.  However, I managed to catch a fantastic episode one day and thought, “This recipe would be excellent for a thank-you luncheon for my best friend & her mom for all the ways they help me with my daughter.”  I was right.  I actually served two halves as a lunch portion for each of us, and had warm rolls on the side.  FABULOUS.  And by the way, you’ll already have the bleu cheese, walnuts, and dried cranberries on hand from making those amazing phyllo cups!

Since you’ll want a perfect Fall dessert, I can provide a recipe for that as well!  I always keep a couple cans of solid pack pumpkin in my pantry because there are so many delicious recipes that call for it.

I have mentioned that my favorite go-to baking book is Good Housekeeping’s “Baking.”  This is just one of many recipes that has been made time and again, as the sticky page will attest to.  My apologies for the format of the link but you get the recipe for Pumpkin-Spice Cake and I get to save myself the hassle of typing it out.

I will admit I have never made the glaze, although it sounds delicious.  I made this once as directed in the Bundt pan.  After that, I started making it as cupcakes.  Since it is a Bundt pan recipe, it does yield a lot of batter.  Be prepared!  It makes four dozen mini cakes plus 1½ dozen regular cakes.  (I think it would also be fun to make them in mini size Bundt pans, but I don’t own those.)  If making cupcakes, I highly recommend topping them with Glory’s (from Glorious Treats) cream cheese frosting.

I think fall is a wonderful beverage season.  In the morning you can warm yourself with a cup of tea.  From plain black tea to special blends, it’s a perfect sipper.  Spiced cider is a treat, and for the “over-21 and after-5:00 pm crowd” you can’t beat a shot of brandy or rum added in.  But really, what says “Fall fabulousness” better than a pumpkin martini?  I’ve seen a million recipes online but decided to create my own a couple years ago.  Kevin prefers a “clear” pumpkin martini to the “creamy” recipes out there that include using half and half and whipped cream.  You could rim your glass with a combo of sugar and graham cracker crumbs if you like.

Jennifer’s Soon-To-Be-Famous Pumpkin Martini is just the thing to top off a warm and comforting fall meal:

Pumpkin Martini
Serves 1

3 oz. Vanilla Vodka of your choice
2 oz. Hiram Walker Pumpkin Spice liqueur
1 oz. Amaretto

Pour into an ice shaker to blend and chill.  Strain into a well-chilled martini glass and garnish as desired.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do.  When you make them, please leave a comment and let me know how your family liked them!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mars & Venus VS. Summer & Autumn


I always say that I never complain about the heat and humidity because I complain about the cold and snow.  I figure I only have the right to whine about one season’s extremes and I choose winter.  I really dislike winter.  Once the charm of the first snowfall has worn off (that takes about 30 minutes for me) and we have (or don’t have) a white Christmas, you can keep all that white fluffy stuff.  I detest winter sports even more than summer ones and we don’t exactly live in a ski lodge in Denver.  I have no use for snow and ice.  None.

I put a positive spin on even the muggiest August days by saying you don’t have to shovel humidity.  You can put your air conditioning on and sip cold lemonade (spiked or virgin) and feel completely comfortable.  As my husband Kevin says, at least it doesn’t HURT to go outdoors in the summer.  Sure, snow can be pretty… if you have the luxury of never having to shovel or never have to run to the store because you’re out of groceries.  If you don’t have to work and can essentially hibernate, sure, winter is just fantastic.

“Oh, I could NEVER leave Wisconsin  I’d miss the change of seasons!”  If I had a dollar for every nutbag I’ve heard that from I could easily retire and live in Hawaii which is ultimately our goal.  Yeah, I’d really miss salt stains on my black pants, frostbite, wind chill factors colder than Alaska, and having to warm up my car for 10 minutes before I can comfortably drive over ice-covered roads, risking my life for a loaf of bread at the store.  I’d HATE watching palm trees sway in balmy breezes, swimming in the ocean daily, and eating fish so fresh it was in that same ocean swimming with me an hour before it landed on my plate.  That sure would be torture.

Having said all of that, I truly love Autumn.  I love it as much as Kevin hates it.  He sees the end of summer as nothing more than “winter is here.”  I see the end of summer as cooler evenings that we can sleep with windows open.  I see vibrant colors of leaves, smell the crispness in the mornings over a cup of hot tea.  I find even more reasons to bake and our kitchen is usually filled with scents of cinnamon, allspice and cloves.  I welcome the opportunity to wear jeans again, and even a sweater.  I don’t have to worry about tan lines any more.  My hair returns to a somewhat manageable condition not battling humidity.  My nesting instincts are in full swing and there is such a feeling of accomplishment when I do my fall cleaning and annual “pantry purge and rearrange.”

Kevin says the only good thing about fall is college football.  He moans and groans each evening as the sun sets minutes earlier than the night before.  He grumbles about what our heating bills are going to be in the coming winter.  (Mind you he never complains about the increased cost associated with using air conditioning 24/7.)  That man will wear shorts and flip flops into October, some of the same days I am wearing jeans and a long-sleeved top.  Of course Kevin says I could sit on a stove and still be cold, so I do tend to dress “toastier” than he does.

On chilly fall evenings, Kevin will glance out the window and mumble, “Look at this…  a couple months ago we were outside grilling at this time, Kyla was running around in the grass and I was drinking a Tanqueray and tonic.”  I will look out that same window and say, “Look at those gorgeous leaves.  Tomorrow Kyla and I will rake them up and jump in them and we’ll come inside and drink hot cider.”

Part of the difference is just me and Kevin… he prefers warm weather and summer fun, I prefer fall.  I am the eternal optimist, he is my Eeyore.  But I do believe that in general, men favor the warm weather and women look forward to chilly days and cozy nights.  I think we’re hard-wired that way.  Men are happy when we’re in our little tank tops and short-shorts, and we can’t wait for the days we can wear leggings and over-sized sweaters.  They want to make man-food over an open flame, we want to braise meat in our cast-iron casserole dish.  They want to toss back a couple cold ones, we want to mull cider.  They want to cut grass, we want to carve pumpkins.  Every man/woman combo I talk to operates this way.  I don’t think we will ever change.  Which is why I think I could make millions with my own book:



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Perfectly Pink Details - A Tea Party

I am not a professional party planner, baker, photographer, or writer.  (If you’ve read ANY of my blogs not only do you realize this, you understand why.)  But I would be remiss if I didn’t publish the recipes and photos from my tea party to celebrate the memory of Ava.

I wanted touches of pink everywhere for obvious reasons.  I learned of the annual tea party celebration too late to plan anything elaborate so I made things easy for myself.  I chose two strawberry desserts because both Little Misses like strawberries and it was natural for the pink theme. 


Once again, Glory from Glorious Treats provided an excellent recipe for cupcakes and frosting.  I followed her recipe exactly, but I made MINI cupcakes in 2-inch liners.  The recipe produced 48 minis AND four “regular” size cupcakes that served as take-home treats.  I baked the minis for 15 minutes and they were perfect.  I topped them with strawberry cream cheese frosting.  I used Smucker’s spreadable fruit rather than preserves because I wanted a totally seedless experience.  I found that 3 tablespoons of fruit provided the perfect amount of strawberry flavor but it did make the frosting slightly softer than the “pure” recipe.  Placed in the fridge for a few minutes, the frosting still piped perfectly however.  I did add some paste color for the pink tint and topped them with pink sparkle sugar.




The recipe for the strawberry tarts was literally stumbled upon through a search for another appetizer.  But I tucked it away in my “someday this sounds good” file.  I was right.  They were really tasty and incredibly easy to make.  I found the following hints will make an even better experience next time:

  • The berries get VERY juicy.  Cook at a higher temp or for a longer time so that the liquid reduces substantially.
  • Beat the cream cheese very well before adding the berry mixture.  Otherwise it takes a long time to incorporate and the cheese remains lumpy.
  • Since the shells are so small, trim the berry pieces to fill nicely in the bottom.  The quarters to TOP the shells can stay the full piece.
  • The cream cheese mix makes far more than what fills one box of shells.  It would easily fill two boxes to yield 30 tartlets.
  • These can’t be made too far in advance or the shells will get soggy.



I served Earl Grey tea with traditional accompaniments of cream, sugar, and lemon slices.  This was clearly not my most detailed soiree but it was simple to put together and relaxed, and that's what an afternoon tea should be.


Tea & Love

Yesterday I hosted a tea party for my best friend Michele, her six-year-old daughter Emma, and Michele’s mom Mary.  It was to honor the memory of little Ava.

In the morning while I was making cupcakes and strawberry tartlets, Kyla was beyond perfect.  Usually when I am cooking or baking and she knows “something” is going on that is out of the ordinary she is underfoot, needy or otherwise distracting.  Not yesterday.  She was angelic.  She sampled the strawberry cream cheese frosting for the cupcakes and responded with, “Mmmm, dish-ish Mommy!”  Yes, that would mean “delicious.”

I told her that Emma was coming for a tea party and she kept repeating, “Emma, tea party!” as if chanting that would make it happen faster.  She was happy to get dressed in her pink plaid shorts and t-shirt that says “I © Cupcakes.”  She also wore a new necklace Daddy bought her over the weekend at Irish Fest.  It was from our favorite jewelry vendor there that annually makes Mommy & Daughter smile and Daddy wince at the sales receipt. 

Emma & Kyla spent the afternoon playing and Michele, Mary and I chatted about everything under the sun.  It was a perfect time.  I always love having those ladies over but yesterday it was all about celebrating the love you have for your daughter(s) and cherishing them.  We toasted Ava’s memory and wished her happy birthday and silently counted our blessings.  I plan to make this an annual event for us.  It will be a lovely “just before back to school” tradition.  The three of us moms don’t need a reason to hug & kiss our daughters but a reminder about how precious and fragile life is, that’s something everyone needs occasionally.

Last night as Kyla was winding down and getting sleepy, she called in to the kitchen where I was tidying up:  “Mamma, snuggle…”  So I dropped what I was doing and went to the living room to lie down next to her.  I was rubbing her back and stroking her hair and I asked, “Am I snuggling OK?  Am I doing this right?”  A contented “yes” was her answer and that was all I needed, at that moment or ever.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm Planning To Be More Spontaneous!

I have the most amazing sister in law.  Actually I have an equally amazing brother in law.  I often say that I married Kevin only because Greg was already taken!  But Greg and Bernadette (Bernie to all the family) were childhood sweethearts so I never really stood a chance with Kevin’s brother.  ;-)

Bernie is amazing to me for so many reasons.  She is a very hard worker in all aspects of her life, with her paid job and several UNpaid jobs.  Her kids are grown and (mostly) out of the house but the Fischer door is always open, especially to them.  She is always tackling some sort of home improvement project with Greg.  She keeps a very neat house despite caring for an aging Yellow Lab who has her share of messes and accidents.  She has been a caregiver to both her mom and our mother-in-law by taking them to multiple appointments, shopping for them, running errands, etc.  She never complained about all the sacrifices of time and money those caregiving roles meant.

In addition to Bernie’s heart being always open, so are her ears.  If she gets wind of something you want, need, saw but didn’t pick up, or haven’t seen but want to, trust me you’ll have it in less than a week.  I don’t know how she does it, I really don’t.

I swear, if this woman would rip open her shirt, there’s another layer under there and it has a big “S” emblazoned on it.

Did I mention she is an incredible cook, baker, and hostess?  Oh yeah, that too.  I LOVE going to their home for holidays and get-togethers.  She always makes things look so easy and effortless.  Even any new and previously untested recipes turn out perfectly.  When I’M hosting something I run around like a chicken the last 30 minutes before guests are due to arrive.  I’m firmly convinced that 30 minutes to HER guests arriving she is lounging in a lavender-scented bubble bath.

Recently she had out-of-town relatives visiting.  On Friday afternoon our phone rang, Bernie inviting us over for a farewell party the following afternoon.  I asked, as always, what I could bring.  The immediate response was (naturally) “Nothing, it’s all planned.”  But I pressed the issue, knowing that with a group of at least 30, she could certainly use one more dish.  Finally she relented and asked for a pasta salad that I make.

Knowing Bernie as I do, this get-together was a last-minute idea tossed together over lunch on Friday.  So that meant in about 24 hours she’d be hosting a party for a house full of friends and family and everything would be perfectly executed.  If I were in her shoes I would either have a nervous breakdown trying to accomplish the same thing, OR most likely I wouldn’t even attempt something like that without at least a week to plan.

You see, Bernie is all about casual ease and minimal effort.  She has learned through the years that it is OK to ask for help, and perfectly acceptable to order large quantities of food from a caterer.  She has made peace with paper plates and mismatched plastic cutlery.  Everything is always delicious, pulled-together and enough to literally feed an army.

I wish I could be more like her in so many ways.  I want to learn to embrace her efficiency and spontaneity.  I don’t think I ever will.

Excessive planning and minute details seem to be part of my hard-wiring.  I’ve read so many articles with menus that tease “Host an impromptu dinner party for eight…”  I just laugh.  Not only does impromptu NOT fit in my vocabulary, I never EVER have all the things in my pantry and freezer that I am supposed to for these drop-in dinners.  Really, with everyone’s lives crazy busy, is it even practical to think you can host this kind of get-together?  Unless you’re Rob & Laura Petrie people just don’t live that way.  Or at least I console myself with that thought as a way to excuse my obsession with long-term party planning.

I think I am going to start a planning binder on how to be more spontaneous.  Maybe if I work on it a little each day, say 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon and 10 minutes in the evening…  Maybe I could get some books on organization and efficient planning…  Maybe I could start a list of things I need to do to embrace all things last-minute… 

I have to go.  If I start my prep work now, I should be ready for that impromptu dinner party in a couple weeks.

No KIDding about these cooking classes

In the August 17th edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the FOOD section had an article, “Finding fun in food.”  The story was about cooking schools for children.  Nancy Kopperud who operates Petite Chef, a cooking school for kids in Oconomowoc, tells her students, “You’ve got to eat three times a day.  You’d better figure out something besides a chicken nugget and a french fry.”  Similar words of wisdom come from Carol Burkert, owner of Kids Can Cook school in Elm Grove:  “It’s a life skill.  If kids learn to cook, they’re going to survive.”

I’m a strong supporter of local businesses and I am always happy to read about successful ventures.  (Wisconsin does not have a very small-business-friendly climate but hopefully our current governor, Scott Walker, will change that.)  I think it is wonderful that these women are teaching important skills AND making it fun for the kids.

Public television has hosted cooking shows since Julia Child came on the scene.  But it was the Food Network who inspired the masses to elevate their skills & knowledge in the kitchen.  Since kids watch what their parents do, it’s only natural that even the under-12 set wants to grow up to be famous chefs.  Or at least know how to make an omelet and frost a pretty cake.

I think it is admirable that Nancy Kopperud and Carol Burkert are helping kids learn their way around a pie dish and stock pot.  What I found disturbing was a part of the article talking about how cooking is a great way to reinforce school-learned concepts such as math, reading and chemistry.  “But, to the dismay of many parents, it’s also messy and time-consuming.  And that may deter parents from making meal preparation a family activity.”

So basically kids’ cooking schools can find a niche because parents are impatient and lazy?  You can’t tell me that even a 9 to 5 mom or dad can’t find a few minutes on a weekend showing their children how to do more in the kitchen than open an Oscar Mayer Lunchable.  What’s next?  A school that teaches your kids how to get dressed, brush their teeth and wash their faces?  Perhaps one that teaches them how to ride a bike?  (Insert the sound of a forehead slap here.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Very Special Tea Party for Very Special Daughters

I have mentioned that I enjoy reading lots of baking, cooking and party planning blogs.  “Enjoy” is a rather mild term for me.  “Obsess over” is probably more accurate.  Many of these wonderful blogs have given me great recipes and have inspired me to try creative crafts.  I have “liked” several of these blogs on Facebook so that I get real-time updates and every day leads to more inspiration and more great blogs that I didn’t know existed.

Last night I read an entry from Kiss Me Kate (website to launch in a few weeks,) who I found through Amy Atlas Events.  KMK’s entry “…while we will be celebrating with a little tea party, we will also be remembering little Ava (Ava's Tea Party), sending her some fairy dust and sharing some little cupcakes in her memory xxx” intrigued me, so I clicked on the Ava’s Tea Party link.  I’m glad I did, and I’m NOT glad I did.

After reading Ava’s heart-wrenching story I went in the living room and hugged my precious daughter (and cried) and told her just how very much I love her.  I do that constantly now, but I just didn’t want to set her down from my lap.  I just wanted to hold her forever.

I know there are, sadly, hundreds of “heart-wrenching stories” involving children whose lives are stolen from them through illness, natural disasters, accidents and, most atrociously, through abuse.  I could make myself completely crazy if I think about all the little souls who didn’t get the chance to flourish.  A few weeks ago I read another blog about a woman who was the victim of domestic violence and leaves behind two beautiful little children.  I cried all day, and hugged Kyla extra close that day too.

(On a side note:  My husband Kevin has blogged for several years.  Our family has been the target of every nasty comment you can imagine and it is usually from someone who is brave enough to spew hate but cowardly enough to not use a real name.  I was disturbed to find that even on little Ava’s blog there was at least one vile comment regarding Ava’s mom’s parenting skills.  WHY must people be that way?)

In my opinion, Ava’s tragic story is not about neglect or bad parenting.  It can’t be put in the same category as the loser “mother” who wants to go tanning so she leaves her baby unattended in the car.  No parent is going to write about their family’s heartbreaking loss and set up memorials if they are neglectful.  It is not a way to assuage their guilt; it is a means of remembering a precious little girl who meant more than the world to her family.

So, after reading about little Ava,  please mark your calendar for Monday, August 22nd.   (For the moms who are a “9 to 5” in addition to being a “24/7” at home, celebrate this weekend instead.)  You can follow my lead by inviting your best friend and her daughter over for tea, or make the party as intimate as just you and your daughter(s).  You can make things as elaborate as you’d like by bringing out china OR as simple as using a cookie cutter on a PB&J sandwich and putting milk in a tea cup.  Just make sure you hold your little girl(s) extra close, and cherish every moment.

And by the way…  You don’t have to be the mom of a little girl to take part in this special tea party.  What daughter wouldn’t cherish a moment or two with her mom over a cup of tea?  She doesn’t have to be two, she can be 22!  A mom’s love for her daughter doesn’t stop just because she gets older and any mom will say her daughter will always be “her baby.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

TISSUE ALERT!

Note to my readers:  Tomorrow, I promise, a heartfelt and tear-wrenching blog.  But important and worth it.  I'd write it now but my eyes are too tired from crying after reading the inspiration for aforementioned blog.

Stay tuned.

Forgotten, or Never Learned?

I have a couple of “go to” cookbooks when I need inspiration and new ideas and a foolproof recipe.  You can easily identify my favorite baking book by its broken spine and stuck-together pages.  I’ve made notes beside recipes to mark which ones are successes and which ones are failures.  ***Note to the editors of Good Housekeeping:  I’m sure the failures were due to “user error” not due to anything in your cookbook:


While I consider these books invaluable in creating tasty treats for friends and family, I do NOT consider them fascinating reading.  They have straightforward recipes, nice photos, and if I’m lucky a helpful hint or two.  I guess that’s what a cookbook should be.

I am currently in the process of devouring Darina Allen’s “Forgotten Skills of Cooking.”  Devouring is the key word here.  Part cookbook, part memoir, Darina takes me to places I’ve never been (Ireland) and helps me envision things I’ve never done (kill a chicken with my bare hands.)  While the former is on my Bucket List, the latter can pretty much stay not a forgotten skill for me, but one never learned.  That kind of poultry prep is a little TOO free range for me, thank you.


I will admit this is the first cookbook I’ve read that has this narrative style so perhaps there are many more out there that I am missing.  But it is a lovely read and I can only try to understand why she misses the “old days.”  I never HAD those kinds of “old days” but I do appreciate how she brings them to life for her readers.  I think it is wonderful that she is teaching Ireland’s younger generation how to raise farm animals, how to use what you have and not waste, and how to look at her country’s history through food & cooking.

There are several things this book will NOT inspire me to do, such as preparing stuffed beef heart.  (Not to mention the fact that my local Sendik’s doesn’t have a meat counter filled with bovine organs.)  But the rustic and charming ideas of making my own butter, my own bread and growing some simple vegetables, now THAT appeals to me.

In the following weeks I hope to begin a culinary endeavor guided by Ms. Allen.  You will read about my triumphs as well as my attempts that end up with a notation “Don’t make this again.”  Hopefully the next series you read won’t be my attempts to lose weight from all this great cooking!




Monday, August 15, 2011

How To Permanently Mess Up Your Daughter

How to Permanently Mess Up Your Daughter In 10 Easy Steps:

1.  Let her follow in the footsteps of Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau.

2. - 10.  See Step 1.

I am already prepared for the battle ahead with Kyla and wanting to grow up too fast.  There will desires of pierced ears, makeup, high heels, and clothes that are trendy but certainly not age-appropriate.  Hey, I’ve been there.  I remember what it was like.  I never thought for ONE SECOND that perhaps I was not old enough, mature enough or ready to handle something in my all of thirteen years on this planet.

What do you MEAN I’m not old enough to attend a concert (unescorted/unchaperoned) with my best friend at Alpine Valley?  After all, I AM in fifth grade; I’m not a little girl!  Seriously, I will never forget that time in my life.  I truly could not believe that my parents were so ridiculously strict that they wouldn’t let me go to a dirty outdoor concert venue known far more for its perpetual cloud of cannabis smoke than for any of its musical acts.

And things are far worse now than they were when I was growing up.  What was the worst thing I had in the 80’s?  MTV?  Madonna?  The Simpsons?  There were no reality shows to tell me what “reality” isn’t, no Abercrombie & Fitch stores to tell me that at the tender age of eight I needed a padded bra, no internet predators to seep in to my on-line world and steal my innocence.

Our daughter is going to be RAISED, she is not going to just grow up.  She will be exposed to all that is good and pure.  She won’t live in a bubble and be an easy target for all the crazies and sicko’s, but she won’t be street-smart beyond her years, either.  She will be raised in a faithful, God-loving house with morals and values and kindness.  She will be taught all the basics that seem to have disappeared from our kids’ lives these days:  manners, a healthy fear of (and respect for) adults who are “in charge” no matter what the situation is, and enough intelligence and confidence to say no to a slew of nasty things that could hurt her body, mind, or soul.  In short, she is going to have role models like Hannah and Regis Giles, not like Miley Cyrus.

If there is so much junk out there these days, why on EARTH would any self-respecting parent force things on a child that would make them grow up WAY too fast and end up creating a mind that is too screwed up to ever know what is “normal?”

“This isn't edgy. It's inappropriate, and creepy, and I never want to see a nine-year-old girl in high-heeled leopard print bedroom slippers ever again.” Chloe Angyal

WHY would you ever think that letting your 10-year-old daughter wear more makeup than Lady Gaga is smart?  WHY would you ever think that letting her wear stilettos instead of Keds is wise?  WHY would you ever think that her laying across a tiger pelt to stare seductively into a camera for a fashion magazine is a good parenting choice?  The world is full of sicko’s and pervs.  WHY would you want her to help their cause along?  Toddlers & Tiaras is disgusting enough, THIS just pushes it way over the edge.

Would I allow any of this in my daughter’s life?  To quote an age-old parentism:  “Over my dead body.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Barking Lot (08/13/11)

Every week, Kevin & I collaborate on a dog feature called The Barking Lot.  It began as my idea since I am completely dog-obsessed.  What started as a simple guest blog on This Just In has blossomed into a widely-read, much-enjoyed regular installment.  We give the dog-walking weather forecast, then it’s my main article, then Dogs In The News which is Kevin’s contribution, a photo, and a closing video.  Let all your dog loving friends know about this special Saturday feature!

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Beautiful Quote (Thomas S. Monson) and A Beautiful Daughter (Mine)

That's My Style: A Series. (A Thoughtful Process.)

No truer words were spoken than from Dorothy:  “There’s no place like home.”

I love my home.  I love the fact that it is a respite from all the craziness of the outside world.  I love that it is where I create memories with my husband and daughter.  I love that it is OURS.  (Well, for the time being it is still the bank’s, but you know what I mean.)  I love opening its doors to friends and family and welcoming them in for fun & food.  But my house needs a little “spiffing up.”

After I wrote this blog, I started searching… soul searching and style searching.  I have never been the type of person who tries to impress others.  I am a “take me as I am” kind of gal.  If I am not to your liking, then you don’t have to be part of my world.  I am not high maintenance.  And now more than ever, I want to spend my time enjoying life rather than being a slave to polishing surfaces and chasing dust bunnies. 

I never looked at a Victoria’s Secret catalog and thought, “Why can’t I look like her?”  I realize that publications like those are a wicked combination of fantasy and PhotoShopping.  But those practical understandings didn’t carry that over to my drooling and swooning over these:




(By the way:  I do have a Christmas tree from these folks.  That does not translate into my sitting outside on the terrace of my villa in linen slacks and a silk tank top!)

So, I believe I have finally found a “look” that I can both relate to AND recreate in our home.  Little did I know that there is name for what I like and for what I have yearned for in my own home.  Call it vintage, cottage, shabby chic, flea market chic, perhaps even eclectic.  All these style terms mean, by my interpretation, use what you love and what you have and don’t worry because it will all come together and reflect your personality.  Follow those decorating guidelines and you certainly will have a unique décor, fun and functional, a welcoming and enjoyable place to call your own.

This epiphany certainly works well with my current budget.  Since I am a SAHM there is less play money in our house.  I am proud to say that I purchased our bedroom set and Kyla’s bedroom set when I was still working full time.  But now I can’t run out and spend a few thousand dollars to update our living room without batting an eye.  Time to rethink how I will spend our money!  Time to let others inspire me with their creativity and frugality!  Time to let myself set the tone instead of a catalog telling me how my house should look!

I have “just” two challenges:  I’m not a DIY kinda gal and I can’t thread a needle.  I am seeking to change both those things quickly.  My best friend reminded me today that somewhere nestled deep inside me, I must have those qualities.  My dad was always EXTRMELEY handy when I was growing up and we never hired out for improvements or repairs.  My mom sewed everything for me from Halloween costumes to a complete wedding ensemble for my Barbies.  We’ll see.  I’ve decided to start small.  I’m researching a basic, “idiot proof” sewing machine and I’m going to try to hang my own brackets for a café rod in the bathroom instead of calling my wonderful brother-in-law with my usual cry of “HELP ME!”

For every decorating dilemma there are a hundred online solutions.  There is no shortage of information and inspiration in the blogosphere.  Just when I think I have found them all, a link within a favorite blog leads me to a fresh idea and new resource.  One of my regular drool sources is The Lettered Cottage.  My husband and Layla’s have a lot in common.  Layla’s hubby is named Kevin, is in a band, and very handy with power tools.  My husband is named Kevin too!

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Um, did I mention that MY husband is named Kevin, too?


So, dear readers, that’s where I stand.  In the coming weeks you will witness and perhaps help in the transformation that I am determined (make that HELL BENT!) to create in our own special castle.  Like that little train once said, “I think I can, I think I can…”

Monday, August 8, 2011

That's My Style and I'm Stickin' To It

As I mentioned in my first blog, “I am the STAY AT HOME mother of a 2-year-old.  Some days I am happy that I am showered and dressed.  I don’t need a wardrobe redo with every new season.  I am happy with jeans that fit, tops that hide fingerprints, and shoes that can be stepped on.”  Naturally I like to look nice when I go out.  If possible, I coordinate my outfit with Kyla for special occasions.  But these two would have a field day with me…



If I spent as much time thinking about how to revamp my wardrobe as I do contemplating how to bring beauty to my home, I would no longer be a “before” ad for a fashion makeover.

I want a home that is comfortable and welcoming.  I want family and guests to feel that they are able to enjoy themselves and not worry about a crumb dropping or leaving a fingerprint.  I think that at the very least I have accomplished that.  However, I will not be asked by Better Homes and Gardens to do a photo shoot any time soon.  I do not have a look for my home.  And I want one.  Badly.

When we built our home six years ago, I was living in an apartment and truly had no idea of what kind of “look” I wanted to accomplish in our home.  I chose very neutral everything… countertops, carpeting and walls.  I figured it would be an easy palette to work with when the time came to choose furnishings and accessories.  There are times I’m glad I made that choice and times I feel like I’m the container of vanilla at Baskin Robins.

When I read other blogs about what I call “homekeeping” I am at once inspired and filled with feelings of inadequacy.  These blogs cover everything from baking bread to refinishing a table.  And they are not from multi-millionaire domestic mavens a la Martha, they are every-day types, fellow stay-at-home moms; some of whom also manage to home school their children!

Some got it, some ain’t.

I would desperately like to move from the “ain’t” column to the “got it” column.  I’m trying, really I am.  And I’d like you to join my in my quest for a sense of style.  (Or at least semi-style.)  A series of blogs is on its way including some before and after photos.  Perhaps you can offer your insight & ideas and together we will create Chez Fischer!