Friday, July 23, 2010

Tastespotting. It's that good.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Tastespotting? If you haven't ever been there, go right now. I'll wait....

(taps foot, hums a tune)

...did you try it? Actually, if you'd never seen the site and you clicked over you'll probably be there for a while and won't come back to this post so I should have said goodbye.
If you haven't seen it before it is basically a foodie site. It hosts a million (ok, not literally) but a LOT of pictures from food sites anywhere in the world that you can click on and be sent to a corresponding site to find the recipe. I could spend hours clicking from page to page, opening tab after tab after tab, exploring the various sites, going back to tastespotting, finding more pictures, which leads to more can get lost after a while if you're not careful but I love getting lost in that world. What makes it even better? I notice that a VAST majority of those pictures/recipes are of sweets. Brownies, cheesecake, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, tarts, chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate...and hence my addiction. It is a well-established fact that I am a lover of baking. I'm not fabulous at it, but you can nearly always find some sort of baked good at my house. And I love that. I want people to come to my home and be able to look forward to something sweet or gooey or moist or chocolatey, as long as it is homemade. OK, there is plenty of the other stuff at tastespotting--rices, salsas, salads, meats, veggies, grilling, you name it. But I have to confess I usually pass over most of those (except the Asian dishes--most of them come from authentic Asian sites so the people actually know what they're doing--I tend to pay attention to those) in favor of the baked goods. It's the chocolate. I can't get enough.

For example, after putting kids to bed this evening I decided to relax by browsing through tastespotting. And after looking at just 2 pages I had opened up separate tabs for blueberry cheesecake squares, peanut butter cookies, bruschetta, spicy coconut noodles, spicy sesame-roasted sweet potato chips, some sort of chocolate cake and a couple others that I can't remember because my brain is full of recipes right now. Then, if something catches my eye on the food site I'm on (like the one for blueberry cheesecake) I wander around that site for a while until I remember what I was doing and find myself back at tastespotting, looking at luscious pictures and dreaming about making dessert tomorrow. In fact, just writing about it, looking at the pictures again, I may not be able to wait. If I start something now (around 9:30pm) what are the odds I'll finish and be in bed by a reasonable hour? And what are the odds that I won't eat half of the goodies right before bedtime? Hmmm...all signs point to slim-to-none.
I think I'm OK with that.

Speaking of food sites, I also find some great things at Tasty Kitchen, like these Muffins That Taste Like Doughnuts that I made this week and were, I kid you not, one of the EASIEST recipes in existence, and were also one of the best things I've ever made in my life. Seriously, try them TODAY. This has been a public service announcement.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Conquering the Elements

I love to bake, but I don't really bake pies. Once a year I'll do pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving and I love it, but I'm hesitant enough about it that I stay away the rest of the year. Today, however, I found myself with a TON of blueberries that were going to spoil if I didn't use I made a pie. With TWO crusts (top & bottom), something I don't have to do with pumpkin pies. So it was a double effort, double win. As I pulled it out of the oven, I felt like my mother. Triple win. (Not that she bakes pies either but she's amazing and seemed to bake a lot when I was a kid so when I bake something I usually think of her). It was beautifully golden brown, piping hot steam was wafting through the vents I cut in the top, and the solid weight of it made my mouth start to water, just knowing that heaviness came from fruity, juicy, blueberry goodness.
You remember that scene from Cast Away where Tom Hanks' character works & works & works & finally sees a spark of flame that he builds into an enormous fire:

"Fire! I. Make. Fire!" he says, as he beats his chest in a way that can only be described as manly. As I pulled my blueberry pie out of the oven, I felt the triumph that only comes from creating something.

"Pie! I. Make. Pie!" I shouted to no one in particular. My kids don't even bat an eye anymore. They've learned to ignore their crazy mother.

(by the way, I used THIS recipe, if you're interested...easy as pie)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Need a Lift?

We went to Payless Shoes today to look for another pair of sandals for Peanut. Her current pair is white--or at least they used to be white. After being worn every day for 2 or 3 months they look more like a pair of sad, saggy elephants. Anyway, as we were leaving, she caught sight of this ad, at which she quickly exclaimed: Look, mommy, it's YOU!

Ummm...OK, if she was vying for favorite child she wins. She is now officially my favorite person in the universe.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

A little politics on a Sunday afternoon

Michael and I teach a Sunday School class at church every few weeks. I realized that we are teaching next week so today while everyone took naps I started reading our designated chapters in the Old Testament as well as some supplemental material. The subject of next week's lesson is "King Solomon: Man of Wisdom, Man of Foolishness" and describes the ascent and downfall of Solomon (who, incidentally, followed exactly in the footsteps of the previous two kings--his father, David, and Saul). And although the lesson really focuses on the spiritual aspects of humility and pride, I found an interesting quote that I thought pertained rather exactly to the state of our nation and, really, our lifestyle today that I wanted to share. It struck me because we seem to have sunk into a one-track mind regarding government, leadership, stewardship, and prosperity with no understanding of the variety of philosophies that exist regarding economy, wealth, growth and progression. It almost--ALMOST--makes me want to study economics, just to feel I have a greater grasp on the history and philosophy of the subject and therefore have a more valid voice to stand up and be heard.

As a preface, this is in reference to the remarkable fame that Solomon experienced due to his renowned wisdom, his remarkable building projects, and his unprecedented wealth. Unfortunately, these latter two achievements came at the expense of his people. He began taxing them heavily and relying on forced labor to see the fulfillment of these grand designs. So if you're feeling in the mood for a little politics, here is a (long, sorry) quote from "People of the Bible and How they Lived" from the Reader's Digest Association:

"The life of the common man had been disrupted. In the past a man's wealth had been calculated mostly by the land he owned, the number of flocks he had and the size of his family. Solomon's sweeping economic changes altered that system. Land was no longer of supreme importance--in fact, it may have become somewhat of a burden. The more land a man owned, the more crops he could grow, and thus the more he would have to turn over to the king's officers when collection time came around every 12 months. Likewise, flocks were surrendered to tax collectors and sons were forced to serve on month of every three in the king's labor force.
"Now wealth was calculated not by property ownership but by the amount of money a man controlled. Certainly more and more money in gold and silver came into Israel every year, but very little of it ever filtered down to the average Israelite, who had to surrender so much of his livelihood to the king's coffers. Instead, the money was used to pay growing international debts, salaries for the full-time government officials, commissions to merchants and artisans in the king's employ, temple and palace upkeep and other expenses."
For the first time in Israel's history, there began to be a distinct difference between 'rich' and 'poor.' The king and his household were rich; the common people were poor. In between were the salaried civil servants and the merchants and artisans, many of whom had organized craft guilds by that time. Such class separations had not been know in the Israel where a shepherd boy like David could be anointed king--only 50 years earlier." (emphasis added)

I'm not going to start waxing philosophic about politics and pretend like I know what I'm talking about. (Although I have been pondering lately about the difference one voice can make and the responsibility we have to speak out, but that deserves another post all to itself.) In this case, I merely wanted to observe that the more things change, the more they stay the same. That is all.

Good night, Gracie.

Friday, July 02, 2010

A Matter of Perspective

Most moms I know can never hear this too much. It helped me tonight, I hope it helps someone else.