This page has moved to a new address.

You're About to be Redirected to the New Home of Ground Control to Major Mom

You're About to be Redirected to the New Home of Ground Control to Major Mom: 1/20/08 - 1/27/08

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Birthday Parties, Cary, NC Style

Today is Timmy's 3rd birthday. Today was Timmy's 3rd birthday PARTY, too. In part because of all the wonderful parties we've been invited to, and in part because this is Timmy's last birthday party while we're living in North Carolina (sniff sniff), he had a pretty big shindig.

For Jacob, a summertime birthday is pretty simple: pool, park, or backyard, right? Well, when your child's birthday is on the climatologically coldest week of the year, you don't want to risk the weather not cooperating, so you take action nice and early to book a great indoor location. I booked Planet Child in early November for today's party. I'm not making that up -- I booked this venue 3 months in advance! Everything around here seems that way -- preschools, soccer teams, art classes, swimming lessons. Act fast if you want happy kids, right?

So for this party I invited Timmy's preschool class, and several of the neighborhood friends he's known while we've been living here. I think it came to about 16 friends total.

But those friends have siblings. And many of their siblings happen to be Jacob's age.

And we don't want Jacob to not have his friends around, right?

9 friends for Jacob. So the 16 kids we invited became 25. That's a lot of kids! Add to that Jacob and Timmy, and I was planning a party for 27 kids plus their parents!

And like Jacob's birthday party (which was at a park with no limits on how many could attend), they ALL RSVPed "Yes". I never expected I'd have such popular kids. It's sorta nice -- I don't think I was ever that popular!

Unfortunately, at the last minute, 4 of the children had to back out. I was sad that they couldn't make it, but it helped keep my requirement for goody bags to the original 24. Everything seemed to come in sets of 8 or 12...ever the mathematician. I purchased some spare items for the extra 3 goody bags, but I have to admit the stuff wasn't quite as cool.

Anyway, the party was wonderful -- the facility is first class, the people helping to set up the room helped our event run smooth as silk, and (most importantly) the kids and guests had a terrific time.

Having the party at Planet Child helped me focus on the two (count 'em, TWO) cakes I made for the party. I needed enough for approximately 50 people, and one Wilton Thomas cake just wasn't going to cut it. Maryann had both the Thomas and Lightning McQueen Wilton cake pans, so I made BOTH. Thomas was yellow cake, Lightning was chocolate. Yes, I'm crazy.

I ran into a minor emergency with Thomas: because it was an egg-free cake recipe, the cake started drying out while it was still on the cooling rack, so I got to work pronto to frost the cake. The first batch of icing ended up with clumps of powdered sugar all over that would stick in the piping bags. Ugh! Out of frustration, I had to pitch that entire batch of icing and start over, remixing the icing, and re-coloring the colors I needed. But at least the 2nd time was a charm, and Thomas ended up looking pretty decent when I was done.

From 2008 01 26 Ti...

Note the ring of grease around Thomas -- I had a brain fart and failed to cover the cake board with aluminum foil. Oops.

Lightning McQueen worked out much much better. I had him iced with no problems in under an hour. The front end of the cake severed while it was cooling, but it wasn't a problem to re-attach it with some icing before I frosted the whole thing.

From 2008 01 26 Ti...

So far it's been a pretty great weekend for Timmy -- his Grammy and Grampy flew in from New York, he's been showered with gifts all weekend so far! He's making out like a bandit! And...thankfully he's been a great kid all weekend -- no meltdowns and no potty accidents (so far, knock bytes!)

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

PW Cobbler #2

Tonight I used up the rest of my blueberries and made Pioneer Woman's Cobbler #2.

It was a half recipe (I only had 3 cups of berries), which worked out pretty well, but this cobbler is definitely less sweet that Cobbler #1. That's probably why PW insists that this one be served with vanilla ice cream. She's definitely right! I didn't have any on hand tonight, but I'll pick some up tomorrow.

So here are some pictures:

From 2008 01 23 As...

Juicing the berries. See the lemon on the right -- it's been squeezed and zested.

From 2008 01 23 As...

I think my dough was a bit stickier than PW's.

From 2008 01 23 As...


From 2008 01 23 As...

...and after!


A Pretty Piece of Flesh...*

*Okay, who knows where that one is from???

(Margaret, you can't answer...I know you know this!)

So this evening I took that chuck roast out of my fridge and plopped it on the grill. In accordance with the recipe, I seared both sides on high (about 5 min. each side) then turned the grill down to low and gave it 25 minutes on each side on low.

I guess I should back up some in this story...

At about 4:50pm, I turned on the grill. Our gas grill is circa 2003, a Charbroil "Hybrid" grill (perhaps you see a trend here with hybrids?) that not only is a propane grill, but it also has an insert for using charcoal. We only do the charcoal thing about 15% of the time. Anyway, the ignitor is broken, so we have to take the riskier approach in turning on our grill: power up the gas, turn on the burners, and stick a lit lighter into this little hole at the bottom. Usually, this isn't too bad...we have one of those stick lighters with a flexible neck, so we just crane the neck into the hole, and flick the lighter on.

For some reason, today it decided to grace me with a fireball. The sides of my hair were hanging down a little, so the ends got slightly singed. My eyebrows took it a little, too...but no visible damage. Since my hair has a pretty blunt cut, I don't think there's any visible damage to it, either. Just stinks horribly.

Back to the story -- after the searing process, I stabbed the probe end of my thermometer into the roast and set the temperature alarm to 140 F -- medium rare!

Of course, what good is the temperature alarm when the thermometer was outside, and I was inside preparing the rest of dinner?

When I gave the roast its flip after the first 25 minutes on low, I couldn't help but take some pictures of how good looking this was becoming. The meat had taken in enough of the dark marinade to darken quite a bit, and the grilling was making it even darker in color. Nice!

From 2008 01 23 As...

From 2008 01 23 As...

From 2008 01 23 As...

The center of the roast was 125F when it was time to flip it over.

After the 2nd side did its 25 minutes, I checked the thermometer and it was reading about 138. Due to "carryover", I decided it was a good time to take the roast off the grill and bring it inside to rest. I brought it in, tented it with foil, and by the time I was done tenting, the thermometer was up to 140 and the alarm beeped ("MOOOOM! Dinner's ready!" -- my boys' typical response to any alarm in the kitchen).

From 2008 01 23 As...

From 2008 01 23 As...

(Pay no attention to how dirty my thermometer/timer looks here, it's grubby from my meaty hands, and has since been cleaned :-)

I worked so hard on a good roast, I merely served it up with salad and rosemary ciabatta rolls (like that bread you get at Macaroni Grill?) The guys devoured the meat...the boys complained about the rosemary flavor to the bread. Whatever.

I think this would work out really well on a London Broil.


Floating Heads

Dave said I should talk about this one. The boys and I were looking at the scrapbook my Mom made for my 30th birthday (it's really really awesome -- covers through age 8!), and Dave comes across this portrait. It was taken in summer 1981, so I was 7.

"Who's that little boy in the upper right corner?"

I replied, "That's my sister, silly*!"

*I might have said something more severe than "silly", I can't remember.

Who remembers these kinds of pictures? I think they were all the rage in the 80s. Aren't they the most ridiculous thing??? I'm sure the Sears Portrait Studio was showing off this incredible technological breakthrough: take two separate portraits, and merge them into one! WOW!

To put it in perspective, this is what my sister looked like when she isn't a floating head in my thoughts. She was about 2 1/2 here:

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mellowing Spirits Since 1866...Now it's mellowing my beef roast.

So tonight I'm going to use my other chuck roast. When I bought the chuck roast expressly for the Pioneer Woman pot roast recipe last week, I found a great buy-one-get-one-free special, so the 2nd one has just thawed and is ready for action.

(NOTE: The pot roast was delicious, but I think I might have gone a bit nuts on the rosemary. That's the only herb left that hasn't been killed by the drought.)

I'm hesitant to make the exact same recipe twice in a row, so as much as we loved the PW Pot Roast, I searched for something different. And different this will be...Jack Daniels Chuck Roast! The roast is now marinating in my fridge and we'll grill her up tomorrow for dinner. I can't wait!

Bathing in my recently-cleaned fridge...

Note how I stuffed the roast into a small dish, to squish the marinade up the sides as high as it will go. Maximizes the surface area getting soaked. I should only require one flip tonight just before bed...or tomorrow morning, depending on when I remember.

Pioneer Woman I am not when it comes to close up photography. I was trying to show the lovely marbling of my roast, but instead you're mainly seeing plastic Ziploc bag. Oh well.

Stay tuned for the continuing saga of Patricia's attempts to show the world her cooking prowess...or lack thereof.

Posted by Picasa


Monday, January 21, 2008

On this cold day, let's think about something warm!

In this cold weather, I was thinking fondly about the butterfly garden I had planted in my backyard in Florida. I planted most of the stuff in July 2003, after my summer veggie crop croaked from either baking to death in the hot FL sun or rotting to death from torrential FL rains.

But these plants flourished all winter long and by spring 2004, we had several species visiting us. I'd run outside with my HP Photosmart and go snap-happy. This was a great camera for outdoor 16x zoom.

One of my neighbors, who was homeschooling her kids, brought her 9-year-old son over to observe the life cycles in fall 2004. A great science lesson! I wish Jacob was a little older so he could appreciate them more -- he enjoyed naming several of the caterpillars after his Thomas and Friends engines!

From 2003 10 13 Bu...
This is a white peacock butterfly on a butterfly bush.

From 2003 10 13 Bu...

Gulf Fritillary on a pink lantana.

From 2003 10 13 Bu...

Monarch on a milkweed.

From 2003 10 13 Bu...

Black Swallowtail caterpillar on a dill plant.

From 2003 10 13 Bu...
Black Swallowtail on parsley.
From 2003 10 13 Bu...

Very young black swallowtail larva on flatleaf parsley. Darwin at work -- it looks like bird poop, doesn't it?

From 2003 10 13 Bu...

Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed. Darwin at work again: the larva's mouth is on the right side in this picture, but the long antennae-looking appendages on the left are meant to trick predators.

From 2003 10 13 Bu...
Gulf fritillary caterpillar feasting on my purple passion vine.
From 2003 10 13 Bu...

This is the entire passion vine plant that the Gulf Fritillary caterpillars were eating. I think this was taken on December 14, 2004...the sun would only directly hit the right side of the vines, so that's where the caterpillars would congregate. Consequently, the right side of the plant looks less lush than the right -- it got devoured on the right side!

From 2003 10 13 Bu...

By the way, this is the same plant from October 13, 2003. It was about a foot tall when planted in July 2003.

Labels: ,

Is this lazy?

Who thinks this might be a lazy thing to do? This is a first for me, making uniform thank you cards.

But HOLY COW, thanks to Google Picasa and Walgreen's, it's quite easy to do. I was able to do everything while sitting on my ass at the computer...and the next time I swung past Walgreen's, all I had to do was pick up the prints and pay the cashier.

I wish there was more space to write text, though. I'm not a fan of saying "Thanks". I'm more a "Thank You" kind of person. 55-character limit.

Posted by Picasa


Sunday, January 20, 2008

So much for original...

Came across this tonight.

As Paul would say: "Pleh."


Pioneer Woman's Cobbler #1, Take Two

So tonight I attempted PW's Blackberry Cobbler #1 recipe. I attempted it earlier this month without the self-rising flour and it was not quite what we were expecting. I don't even think I posted about it, it was so disasterous.

So this week I picked up a small bag of self-rising flour (I'd never purchased it before) and tried it again. It was a hit! I used the remainder of my frozen blackberries from when I went pickin' in June, plus a cup-or-so of frozen blueberries from the same trip.

In the Oven...looks just like hers (the cobbler, not the oven -- don't look at the oven), doesn't it?

However, unlike hers, the batter on the edges began rising so high, it enveloped the fruit almost entirely.

The edges browned quite a bit before the center had a chance to set. You like my Pooh Bear potholder? I do. I like how he's staring at the cobbler, looking a bit puzzled. I have placemats & napkins to match. I think it's the only thing I've ever purchased from Stein Mart...Beavercreek, OH, circa 2000. But back to the cobbler.

Here's a serving -- I say, the gloppier it looks, the better it tastes. And it was quite the winner in the Vollmer house yesterday and today...and probably tomorrow too.

I have just enough frozen blueberries left to attempt PW's Blackberry Cobbler #2 sometime. That one seems to take a bit more skill -- not every recipe requires a Microplane, after all. Do you have yours? I love mine!


Thought You Might Want a Laugh...from May 1994

My Mom took me to do Glamour Shots just before she and my sister moved to Guam when I was in college. Enjoy!
Posted by Picasa


Vacation to CHINA!

My attempt at another high-class activity posting.

Wouldn't it be cool to get to spend the Year of the Dragon Chinese New Year in BEIJING, of all places? Well, Dave and I had that privledge, but the Chinese tour guide didn't think there'd be anything for us to see in that department, so we didn't see anything related to Chinese New Year.

In February 2000, while we were stationed in Korea, Dave and I went with two other Air Force couples on a 4-day tour of Beijing via a Korean travel agency that catered to English-speakers. It was neat to spend time with non-military English speakers living in Korea, such as English teachers from Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

The tour was a cultural experience in and of itself. They were very strict about what we were and weren't allowed to see. All of our shopping experiences were regimented and we went to these state-run souvenier stores. Souveniers were definitely more expensive than necessary. Lucky for us, one of the AF gals with us launched a cultural revolution of her own and threatened the tour guide and bus driver that she wouldn't get back on the bus at the Great Wall until we went to a "real" tourist shopping area. It worked, we went to this area of tents nearby and got SO MUCH for probably 10% of what we would have had to pay at the state-run stores!

I came back with some awesome souveniers -- it's funny, a lot of the younger people on the trip were buying things like stuffed panda bears with light-up red eyes, Little Red Books, and Chairman Mao hats. I was looking for art and jewelry. And that's what I found. We got a plum blossom watercolor art print from a street vendor for about $5 that we framed up back in was gorgeous. Unfortunately, the movers between FL and NC lost it!

I brought back cloissone vases, silk kites and a wonderful jade bracelet.

So enjoy these pictures and go here for some more.

With Chairman Mao at Tiannamen Square.
From 2000 02 06 China

At the Great Wall. The climb was quite challenging...we were warned to dress appropriately, although some of the girls still wore high heeled shoes on that day.
From 2000 02 06 China

Labels: , ,