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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I LOVE Being Followed!

I love it when strangers follow me!

Not in that creepy, stalking sense that screams “restraining order.”  I love it when I get a new follower to Ms. Elaine Kneeous.  It makes me feel like I truly belong in the blogosphere. 

Since I am very, very new to all of this, my heart sings when I get a sweet email from a new reader telling me they are my latest follower.

Sadly, that is the only way I know who my followers are.  Thanks to glitches in the Blogspot system, I can only tell the NUMBER of followers I have, and nothing shows up on my main page to indicate that I have any.  So I look like the unpopular kid in school.  Really, REALLY I’m not.  I have friends and followers and I am so going to go to the cool kid’s party.

So if you decide to follow me, and really why wouldn’t you want to, please leave a comment or send me an email to let me know you’ve come along for the ride.  Otherwise I’ll have flashbacks to that Jr. High dance when Rudy kissed Katie and I was just waiting for Doug to hold my hand.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Barking Lot (07/23/11)

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, July 22, 2011

Don't Waste It On Bagels!

I usually don’t keep two bricks of cream cheese on hand.  However there they were, in my fridge, calling my name…  “Use me… use me… and not on bagels!”  Needless to say a Google search for cheesecake bars yields about a thousand recipes.  I didn’t have a “go to” recipe for cheesecake bars that I could pull out.  I DO NOW!

If you are an authentic baked cheesecake purist you’ll probably wince at the thought of making cheesecake BARS, not in a springform pan and water bath.  If you are pressed for time and just love a good cheesecake “anything” you’ll jump for joy when you make this recipe.

I followed the directions and ingredients exactly.  Oh wait, no I didn’t.  I used two teaspoons of *GASP* bottled lemon juice because that’s what I had, not fresh.  The three sweet freaks in our house didn’t seem to notice a difference.

This is the first recipe ever that I have made from this blog.  But I guarantee it won’t be the last.  I can’t wait to peruse other recipe categories and find more winners!  Oh wait… it gets better…  She’s from WISCONSIN!  So you know the girl knows a good dairy anything recipe.

Let me know what you think of this recipe when you make them.  Cuz you know you’re running out right now to get cream cheese, if it’s not already beckoning to you.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Name Is Jennifer, And I'm A Party-Planning-aholic

If someone creates a 12-step recovery program for party planning addicts, I really should be the first to sign up.  I’ll admit, I’m a junkie and I’ve gotten at least one friend hooked:  she too, now needs a daily dose of fete fantastic and gleefully sends me updates about her quadruple birthday summer soiree planning. 

I thought, if I can get one friend hooked, why not get more friends hooked?  So, my dear friends & readers, I have compiled a “brief” list of amazing sites for you to visit, swoon over, and be inspired by.  You will either love me, or curse my head.  Or maybe a bit of both.  When you visit these sites, you can also “like” them on Facebook.  So, the problem is, when you “like” one, several other FB friends can post on that status, and you discover even MORE great sites. 

Pretty soon you’ve “liked” dozens of blogs & sites that you never knew existed.  In the morning you hop on the computer eagerly checking FB not for your friend’s review of whatever movie they’ve seen, not for your cousin’s update on her triathlon success, not for your niece’s cryptic message about some guy who has “the hots” for her.  NOPE.  Not you.  YOU check for the latest post on a free printable, a dessert table inspiration, a DIY centerpiece and a cupcake recipe.

What starts out as a casual use soon becomes a much-needed fix.  Yep, that’s addiction.  And it is wonderful.  This is the honest truth:  The very next day after my daughter Kyla’s second birthday party, I was online researching a theme for her third birthday party.  The balloons were still up and the remnants of a good time were still lingering and I was already thinking about next year.

The following is only a sample of the amazing sites and blogs out there for party planning, cooking/baking and DIY purposes.  Please, if you happen to stumble upon one that you find noteworthy, post a comment or send me an email.  Add fuel to my fire!  So without further adieu here are some sites to get you started down your own path of creative destruction:

I call this one “party porn.”  The submissions & photos are so amazing you wonder how people can be so talented.  I look at this frequently to swoon and then realize I will never duplicate a thing posted by Amy Atlas.

Got Your Attention?  OK, Get Ready…

These are a little more “down to earth” and user friendly.  I’m all about the free printables that they offer on their blogs.  You don’t have to think or work at all, you just print out their hard work and talent. 

Living Locurto (Great bits of “EVERYTHING” make this site almost one-stop shopping.)

Hostess With The Mostess (affectionately known simply as HWTM on the blogosphere.)

Pizzazzerie  (Not only does she have an amazing blog she recently got an English Springer Spaniel puppy and frequently shares super-cute photos of him.)

Tomkat Studio (If she was clearly not so sweet and lovely, you’d almost hate her for her talents!)

Eye Candy Event Details (A-dorable!)

Buckets of Grace  (She has a fantastic blog AND she’s from Wisconsin!)

Polkadot Market (I purchased some things for Kyla’s second birthday from her, and she is delightful!)

How Does She (offers bits of all things useful for a fab, pulled-together event) 

If you want to design your own invites or just want some fun fonts for other stuff, fonts for peas is amazing.  I’ve downloaded tons of their fonts and nothing has ever goofed up my computer.

For Cooking and Baking these sites take the cake, pardon the over-used pun…

Even if you feel your cookie decorating skills are WAY below Glory’s (and really, whose aren’t?) you will love her beautiful photos and extremely detailed how-to’s.  Someday I hope to get up the courage to try her tips & techniques.  Until then, I just drool over her posts at Glorious Treats.

It’s tough to write humor.  It’s tough to write great recipes.  It’s tough to take great photos of food you’ve prepared.  Somehow, Kristan manages to do all of these and more.  She is downright hysterical.  You’ll love her at Confessions of a Cookbook Queen. 

So are you goo-goo eyed yet?  Have you “liked” these ladies on FB yet?  Are you planning the next ten years worth of parties for your family?  Not only will you enjoy these sites you will find their authors are fun, approachable, down-to-earth real women just like us.  It’s not possible, you say?  No one could have a blog/site like any one of these listed above and be a regular person?  They are infinitely cooler than we are?  I thought that too, until I read this post by Glory. 

Lastly, if you send these great ladies a message, please tell them you read about them on this post of Ms. Elaine Kneeous. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Barking Lot (07/16/11)

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!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Just My Shade of Green

As I’ve said in my bio and my blog, I love wine.  So, I could certainly call myself an oenophile.

Definition of OENOPHILE: a lover or connoisseur of wine

Besides sounding too similar to another “---phile” I don’t like the term because I think it sounds snooty.  And while I DO love wine, I am by far a connoisseur.  I consider myself always in the learning process, and I’m not afraid to ask for a recommendation if I’m not quite sure of a food and wine pairing.

There are many online resources for food & wine pairings.  A few years ago, however, I was introduced to this book:

It has become my bible for everyday wine references, for learning about new types of wine, and for can’t-go-wrong wine & food pairing advice.  Occasionally I come across a suggestion from a site I stumble upon, jot it down on a scrap of paper and hope that I remember to try it “some day.”  I had such an experience recently and picked up my first bottle of vinho verde (“green wine,”) this one by Gazela.  For those of you who like white wine but stick to your basic blancs, I would like to recommend this as a refreshing change of pace.  It is fun & fizzy and easy to drink.  I enjoyed it will grilled chicken a la Kevin, but it would go equally well with light pastas and seafood.

But don’t take MY word for it.  Let the 30-second Wine Advisor tell you more. 

Let me know what you think of this if you try it.  Better yet, buy a bottle and invite me over for a glass!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Loaf Of Bread, A Jug Of Wine

I love wine.  So much so I have a Christine Alexander top that states, “Wines Constantly.”

And I love bread.  However I do not, and do not plan to, own a top that states, “Full of Sugar and Doubles in Size.”

I’ll leave grapes & fashion to combine and, well, I’ll just eat the bread.  Occasionally I think I can actually BAKE bread.  I feel so pioneer-like and domestic when I get the urge to create a loaf.  The ingredients are simple, of course, as is the concept.  Flour, sugar, yeast & liquid; mixed together and allowed to rest; eventually turned out & kneaded; baked & enjoyed.  Yet somehow the whole kneading thing intimidates me so I shy away from regular bread baking.

However, I have found two fantastically delicious and incredibly easy recipes that I feel confident AND happy with the results every time.  The first recipe is from the Summer 2010 issue of Sendik’s Real Food Magazine.  The link is not available for the entire magazine, so I have retyped the entire recipe to follow.

Smoked Cheddar Cheese Bread
Makes 1 Large Loaf

Cubes of smoked Cheddar cheese form pockets of melted cheese and a crisp browned cheese crust all around this loaf.  Try this bread toasted or use it to make the best grilled-cheese Panini you have ever tasted.

Cubes of other cheese work well, too.  Smoked mozzarella, sharp Cheddar or Swiss cheese make good choices. 

This recipe uses instant yeast for a faster rise.

1 c. whole milk
2¾ c. AP flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
2¼ instant (fast-rise) yeast (one 7-gram packet)
1 large egg
8 ounces smoked Cheddar cheese, cut in to ½-to-¾-inch pieces
1 tbsp butter, melted, plus more for pan

1.        Butter a 9X5X3 loaf pan or a loaf pan with a capacity of 8 cups.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
2.        In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until the mixture is hot and measures about 130ºF on a food thermometer.
3.        In the large bowl of an electric mixer on low speed, mix together 1 cup of the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.  Mix in the hot milk to combine the ingredients smoothly.  Add the egg and continue beating for 2 minutes.  Add the remaining flour and continue mixing for 5 minutes.  The dough will be soft, but will come away from the sides of the bowl.
4.        Scrap the dough onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle with the cheese pieces.  Push and fold the dough over itself several times to distribute the cheese.  Some pieces of cheese will poke out of the dough.  The dough will firm slightly as the cheese is worked into it.
5.        Use your hands to pat the dough into a loaf and fit it into the pan.  The loaf will not completely fill the pan.  Brush the top with one tablespoon melted butter.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise to within an inch of the top of the pan, about 45 minutes.
6.        When the dough has risen for 25 minutes, preheat the oven to 375ºF.
7.        Bake until the top feels firm and is lightly browned, about 45 minutes.  Cook pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then use a sharp knife to loosen the bread from the pan.  Turn out onto the wire rack to cool thoroughly.
8.        The bread can be stored in a plastic bag at room temperature for up to three days.

The next recipe is from one of my favorite sites, Real Mom Kitchen.  I love her recipes because they don’t require graduation from Le Cordon Bleu or a hundred ingredients that you’ll never use again but for that one recipe.  The bread recipe follows her foccacia sandwich recipe.  This bread lasted about a day and a half in our house, and I also discovered it is delish lightly toasted.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lists and Timelines and Binders, OH MY!

“Every vice is only an exaggeration of a necessary and virtuous function.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals, 1836

MY vice?  Planning.  Parties & get-togethers of all sorts, trips & vacations, décor re-do’s, dinner menus, milestone celebrations, packing lists for any event…  I LOVE to plan.  I have lists and notepads and binders; my “favorites” menu on our computer is highly organized & categorized.  (Just don’t look in my pantry or in any of our closets because you will never believe that I am organized OR categorized!)

I think part of this comes from my many years as an event coordinator for several non-profit health organizations.  I was responsible for every detail of annual fundraising events.  If I didn’t keep track of donors, participants, volunteers and timelines, my event would fail.  My binders were my bibles and I thrived on planning & executing the details.

However, in my introspective moments, I realize it runs much deeper.  My lists help me to remember things, of course.  But my binders, my planning…  These things are my way of controlling an otherwise out-of-control world.  This does not mean I am a “control freak” in the sense that I have to have everything my way.  It’s just that I can crack open a binder and start planning my Thanksgiving menu in August and I have the brief illusion that I’m prepared & ready to take on anything, including a 20 pound bird and sides.  For a moment, I feel like Martha Stewart and a 4-Star General rolled in to one, preparing my own personal holiday/event battle plan.  Seriously, does anyone NOT know that they will serve turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie on the 4th Thursday of November?  But for me, pouring over new twists on classic recipes, finding a fun “favor” to give our family members as they depart, reading how others in the event-planning world are going to celebrate; that’s my way to relax, & enjoy myself PLUS bring pleasure to the rest of my family.  It is my respite from the swirling chaos happening outside my humble home, the sane and safe means of retreating from too much of “everything.”  In the midst of U.S. economic crises, atrocities against children, and an overload of Too Much Information on every topic known to man, this is the one thing I am in charge of.

Do I set myself up for failure as I read other blogs about women who create culinary miracles & entertaining extravaganzas in the blink of an eye?  Of course.  Despite all my obsessive, detail-driven, over-the-top “organization” for ANY event/holiday, I will forget to put the rolls in the oven.  I will run out of time to paint family member’s names on hand-made place card holders.  I will have to use our master bedroom walk-in closet as a last-minute stashing place for an extra load of laundry that didn’t get folded & put away.

There are two reasons why this doesn’t send me in to a tailspin of self-loathing and disappointment:  My family is wonderful and forgiving and is just happy to be together, sharing laughter & telling stories and creating memories.  It also helps that they had no idea I was planning on sending each of them home with artisan-style-but-made-in-my-kitchen chocolates nestled in original/heirloom/not mass-produced boxes tied with vintage ribbon.  Maybe next year.  Hmmm…  Back to the binders.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Barking Lot (07/09/11)

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, July 8, 2011

Elaine Welcomes You!

Welcome to Ms. Elaine Kneeous! I am starting this blog because there are so many times I think, “If I had a blog, I would write about that…”  My husband Kevin has a blog on FranklinNOW.com called This Just In.  He inspires me because he writes well and writes often.  So I will share some of his popular regular features on MY blog too!

The name of my blog came from a discussion I had with Kevin.  As I was trying to think of a catchy title, he asked me what it’s going to be about.  I told him recipes & entertaining, mommy stuff, random thoughts… “Miscellaneous.”  And so, Ms. Elaine Kneeous came to be.

Let me tell you a few things you will NOT find on my blog. 

Beauty and Fashion tips.  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. 

By the way…  I’ve been using Bare Minerals makeup for years.  I’m STILL waiting for them to live up to their commercial where a woman states, “Bare Minerals will change your life!”  Hmmm…

Organizing tips.  As previously stated I am the mother of a 2-year-old.  My priority during the day is enjoying my daughter, not rearranging my pantry.

Diet & Exercise tips.  Miss Piggy’s “Never eat more than you can lift” is about as close to any diet tip I can offer you.  My exercise routine consists of chasing aforementioned toddler around the house trying to change her diaper.

Gardening tips.  If I could plant plastic, I would.  I HATE gardening.  I have seasonal allergies AND an irrational fear of bees.  Digging in dirt is not my idea of a good time.

Home Improvement projects and DIY ideas.  I don’t know which end of a hammer to pick up, I refuse to get on a step ladder over two feet tall, and the only screwdriver you will ever find in my hand is made with Absolut and OJ.

Sports commentary and analysis.  I don’t know a basketball from a meatball.  (I guess that means you probably don’t want to read my cooking posts, huh?)  I root, root, root for the home team only because I have state pride. 

Vegan anything.  I believe we, as humans, are at the top of the food chain for a reason.  I am a proud omnivore and don’t ever plan on changing.  I often say PETA stands for People Eating Tasty Animals.

Reducing your carbon footprint tips.  I don’t think having a child is the worst thing you can do for the environment, and the last worry in my mind is global warming.  If I’ve already alienated your tree-loving soul then this blog is not for you.

So, once again, welcome!  I won’t make any claims that this blog will change your life, help you live the American Dream, or make the perfect pie crust.  While I could have the “It’s MY blog, I can write what I want to” attitude, I hope to do more than that.  I want to offer tidbits of useful information, inspire you to try a new recipe, encourage you to enjoy your family (whatever “family” is to you,) and hopefully make you laugh at least occasionally.  If you enjoy my blog, please invite a friend or two to read as well.