Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pulled Pork-- a family favorite

I recently asked my kids what their favorite recipes is that I make.  As they recounted ravioli/pesto, chicken nuggets, and chicken pot pie.  I realized that none of these were things that I personally make-- I usually buy them pre-made.  I do switch up my recipes pretty frequently, but my meatloaf, my lasagne, my honey salmon, and my chili have been on my rotation since they were babies.  Perhaps, I just wasn't making these things enough to make them memorable.  Frankly, I was bummed and I realized I needed to come up with some yummy recipes that we can all eat and all enjoy.

Well, two weeks ago, I hit the jackpot.  I picked up a picnic pork (also known as a pork shoulder or boston butt) at the store and I made some BBQ for my little darlings.  This Southern Living recipe was LOVED by all.  KF said it was her favorite dinner ever.  The leftovers were so good that they all wanted to take sliders to school the next day.  Finally a recipe that we all love!

1/2 C firmly packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tep. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
1 (4-5lb) bone-in pork shoulder roast (boston butt)
1 Cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce

  1. Stir together first 6 ingredients.  Rub brown sugar mixture over the pork roast.  Place roast in a lightly greased 6-qt-slow cooker
  2. Clean the pork.  I remove the band of fat that is around the meat.
  3. Whisk together mustard and next 3 ingredients.  Pour mustard mixture over the pork.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours (or on HIGH for 4-6 hours) or until meat easily shreds with a fork,  Let it stand 15 minutes.  Shred the pork with a fork.  Stir until sauce is incorporated.
I serve our pulled pork with coleslaw and this is an easy recipe that can be done in advance:
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbls mayonaisse
1 Tbls honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp. celery seed
Whisk all the ingredients together.  Stir one 16oz package of shredded coleslaw mix.  Serve immediately or chill up to 24 hours.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Some things never change

I just had to laugh the other night.  I was checking on my kids before heading to bed and when I looked in on KF she was fast asleep with socks on her hands.  I promise it isn't that cold in our house.  But, putting things on her hands to go to sleep is something she used to do in Atlanta when she was much younger.

So, excuse the bad photo.  I just couldn't bring myself to turn on the light for the sake of getting a better shot

and this is her in November of 2007

String Showcase with KF!

KF wearing her Marchesa for Target dress!
KF has been taking the violin since the beginning of the schoolyear and they finally had their first String Showcase.  KF didn't seem a bit nervous the night before.  She practiced for about a half hour and then picked the fanciest dress in her closet to wear for the occasion.

When my kids practice piano, it always sounds good to great.  Even if they get a key wrong, the overall sound is pleasing.  Violin, on the other hand, can be like nails on a chalkboard and is quite loud.   KF doesn't practice as often as she should for violin, which makes her infrequent practices a little painful on all of us.  With this in mind, I was scared to ask her if she had a solo portion in the showcase...thankfully she did not!  And I have to say, violins sound sooooo much better when performed in quantities.
KF and one of her best freinds, Emma.
This was just after the concert with Mama!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hard Shoes

 KF has finally started on the hard show for Irish Dance.  It is similar to a clunky tap shoe and so far she loves dancing in it.  She loves the sound that it makes while doing her jig and she is picking up the technique very quickly.  After her first lesson, she dragged daddy to the home depot to get boards to dance on at home (because they will KILL your hardwood floors).  Since then, I can hear her in her bedroom dancing up a storm.  Below, is their hardshoe workshop.  Kathleen, the instrutor, was one of the dancers in Riverdance and is extremely talented!

Looks like we will be competing in the Feis this time next year!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chelsea Piers


We have had such a cold month here in Connecticut, that it's been difficult to keep finding innovative fun things to do inside.  This week our friend invited us to join them at Chelsea Piers for the "Adventure Zone".  The kids were in heaven.  The one hour slot lets the kids go between the Jump Zone, which is a trampoline court featuring 26 interconnected trampolines and the Climb Zone which is 22' climbing wall.

I thought it might be a free-for-all, but the instructors at Chelsea Piers were actually really good at organizing different activities.  In the Jump Zone they played dodgeball, chase, and sharks/ minnows.  And when they needed a change of atmosphere, they could go to the rock wall and try the four different levels of intensity there...including an overhang area.

This was a fantastic thing to be able to "drop-in" on!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Another first...

My youngest child finally took a leap and had his first spend-the-night with his buddy Jack.  We've had a little separation anxiety since the Newtown Massacre; so, I was a little concerned that he might change his mind at bedtime.  But lo and behold, he was a champ and made it through with no problem.

Baby J truly believes this is his second overnight because Jack spent the night with us once before.  I've tried to explain that while that is the case, this is HIS first time spending the night out, but somehow, he never understands that.

All packed with his P.J.s, dream light, his lovey (Lollie), and a Harry Potter wand-- my little man headed out full of determination.  I am not sure if it makes me happy or a little sad.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Darien Library

I know I must have mentioned how much we love our library here in Darien.  The DL is ranked as one of the top libraries in the country and for good reason, they have amazing programs, books and resources. 

Its small, but of the thing my kids love best is the library's checkout system.  The kids just scan their library card, and then they place their book, one at a time, under the same scanner.  Here is the crazy party, you don't have to scan the bar code it just identifies the book under the scanner by a chip that is located in the binding.  This is magic in my kid's eyes!

KF's girl scout troop took a behind-the-scenes look at the library and we were allowed down in the dungeon to look at the machine that sorts books as they are placed in the outside bin or the inside bin.  The girls watched in awe as the books came down the shot and then shot into different baskets or carts to be distributed.

Our children librarians, who mostly commute here from Brooklyn, know their books cold and can always make a great recommendation based on what you have read and what you like.  For adults, the library, offers an extensive selection of magazines, a bloomberg terminal and classes galore-- in addition to the books!

The Darien Library, it's for you!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I resolve to...

So, I am pleased to say, I didn't do too bad on my 2012 goals.  While most were completed, there were a few (like exercising) that ebbed and flowed and others that just didn't get an traction at all (reading the bible). 

This year, I hope to come up with another batch that I can work towards.  Some will continue from last year and some will be new.  Here is what I am planning:

My personal goals
  1. Photoshop-- take course at library and practice!
  2. Read through the entire Bible
  3. Teach kids psalm 23 and Nicene Creed
  4. Attend church more frequently
  5. Run in 3 races this year
  6. Lose 10 pounds (still!)
  7. Read the magazines I subscribe too!
  8. Read at least one book a month
  9. Read 15 read-aloud books with my kids
  10. DIY my kitchen
  11. Clean off my current computer and dump our two extra computers
  12. Organize my Iphoto..yikes
  13. 12 for 12 --- one new DIY project for each month
    • January-- Needlepoint Iphone case
    • February--make V-day cards on photoshop
    • March-- Sew roman shades for living room
    • April-- Make skirts for KF and her American Girl Dolls
    • May--tbd
    • June-- Paint bookcase for boys room
    • July--tbd
    • August--Canning!
    • September--Grosgrain trimmed frame
    • October--Needlepoint Union Jack Pillow
    • November--Make Christmas Card
    • December--tbd

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sweet Buns

From an early age, my mother used to make me keep my hair back from my face.  For school in particular, I wore many different hair styles, but all with the intent to keep my hair back and my eyes on their studies.  I 'm sure my mother was a little perplexed on exactly what to do with such unruly hair (she and my sister both had straight hair).   Pulling it back seemed to be the only logical solution.

As I have gotten older, I notice that having my hair in my face is quite bothersome to me.  Probably because I never worn it in this fashion.  As much as I try to embrace those messy bed head looks, I always fail, and pull it all back into my go-to pony.

In the winter time when the humidity is low, I will often straighten my hair out.  While it takes me 30 to 40 minutes, it will last 4-5 days.  That's the beauty of dry curly hair.  I have a couple of products that I use and swear by.  I use Options Soothe on my towel dried hair and once I am dry, I finish it with the Fekkai frizz control polish.

As crazy as this sounds, when I style my hair curly, it takes about 10-12 minutes and will only last 2 days.  After that, the frizz from sleeping on my hair (and not brushing it...yes, you read that right, I don't brush it) becomes too much and I have to wash it or pull it back.  Something tells me that I need to invest in a silk pillowcase (note to self).  I have easily used Paul Mitchell Sculpting LOTION for 20 years.  It works for me and trust me, when you find something that works on your curly hair, you stick with it.  I think any other wavy hair gals would agree.
For me, the biggest challenge is finding nice ways to extend the life of my wash and dry-- especially when it's curly.  While a ponytail works for casual days, I want something a little more refined for church or work.  French Twists are one of my tricks and they always look nice, although maybe a little too mature.  So, I was thrilled when I started seeing this top knot item pop up on pinterest.  It started with an image that I pinned for KF and it looked like this

But after looking to see how to  make this "rudoplph hair", I found a product that was exactly what Yours Truly needed.  It's called Bored with your Hair? and it's a kit that includes everything you need to make a top knot in less that 2 minutes...seriously.  What I love is that you can make your top knot on top of your head for a flirty and cute look, you can wear it low for a more demure look.  The bun can be sleek or messy-- It's up to you.  This product comes in three different colors to match your particular hair color and it won't add but a couple of minutes to your morning routine.  

Of course, you know I love a good deal.  Well, it happens that over Christmas I was doing a little shopping and I hit H&M for some teachers gifts.  Wouldn't you know, they have a version of this for just $3.99.  Full disclosure, you will have to supply your own bobby pins and hair bands, but I think we all have a few dozen of those in our bathroom drawer. 

And here are just a couple of cute looks you can create with this product.  Cute, right?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

In the South, we eat pork roast, black eyes peas, collard greens and cornbread for New Years day.  Tradition says that the black eyed peas represent the pennies you will make and the collards represent the dollars you will make in the year ahead.  This year, we were actually at home and I was charged with making a dinner that my mother usually spearheads.  Truth be told, I love being at my mom's house on January 1st because it is usually a lazy day and I can relax while my my dear mom makes a dinner thats as easy as pie for her.

Collards must be started early because they require a lot of cleaning and a good amount of cooking.  I used a recipe from the Lee Brothers cookbook and loved it.  In fact, they have one small trick that I think makes collards even better than most, they remove the spine of the collard .  It's a little more labor intensive, but only took an extra ten minute.  Removing the rib, makes them cook more evenly and the texture is more consistent.  Now, once, you are done serving your collards, don't throw that pot likker out, it is great to use in soups...just throw it is a container and store it in your freezer.
These are my collards after cutting out the spine
The black eyed pea recipe I used is also from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook.  The recipe is called Hoppin" John.  The Hoppin' John and Collards both start with one key technique, creating a seasoned stock that is rich in flavor.  This dish is wonderful because it contains all 14 amino acids our bodies need to create a complete protein!
Soaked overnight

I took a shortcut and skipped my mom's cornbread-- which is a blog post all to itself.  Instead I threw together a Jiffy mix.  I also made a simple pork loin seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper.  Here was the final dinner
Not my best picture, but yummy!
If you are not familiar with southern cooking, there really isn't much to it.  There are three cookbooks I would recommend.  The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Matt and Ted Lee know their stuff and are very talented. They were born and raised in the Charleston, but live in Brooklyn now (I believe).  I've met them both and can say, they are the nicest guys and have nailed the hummer (a desert drink served at the Piedmont Driving Club).  These books don't fall short of directions, they are very detailed which I love.
Southern Cooking from Mary Mac's Tea Room:  Mary Macs Tea Room is an Atlanta institution and this cookbook has tons of everyday, no frill recipes.  Basically, it's just like your mama's food!  If you're ever down south, try this tea room out!
Thank you Lee!
Last, the annual Southern Living cookbooks are always a favorite.  The recipes are tried and true.  I pick one of these up every year and always use it a ton.  I like that their recipes are categorized by month, which helps to work with in-season ingredients.  When I am bored with my own recipes, I open this book to whatever month I am in and pick a recipe. 

Happy New Year, Y'all!