Saturday, April 4, 2015

Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

Many years ago I found this recipe in a magazine.  It was created to sell peanut butter and it does a very good job of it.  It's been a family favorite for three decades.  We love these cookies.  They are a bit more time consuming than a drop cookie, but that peanut butter filling makes it so worth the effort.


 Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

Dough:
1 1/2 c flour
1/3 c cocoa
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter
1/4 c peanut butter
1 t vanilla
1 egg

Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.   Cream the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and sugar.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Sift in the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.   Then make the filling by beating together in a small bowl:

1 c peanut butter
1 c powdered sugar

Shape 1 T of the chocolate dough into a flat, oval disc and wrap it around a 1 inch ball of the peanut butter filling.  Be sure to seal the edges so you can't see the filling.  You can add or pinch off dough as needed to make a smooth ball.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  The cookies should be about 3" apart.    Dip the bottom of a glass or flat measuring cup in sugar and flatten the cookies.   Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.   Do not over bake.  It's easy to do so watch them carefully.  They are done when the tops look somewhat dry and the dough is set.

Have fun and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

He's Not a Loner


I'm a substitute teacher and that means I get to spend time with the teachers at my younger son's school quite a bit.   One day my son came up in the conversation (because I find lunch a good time to check and see if he's up to date on his work) and one of the teachers called my son a loner in passing.  The teacher was trying to be helpful and had a suggestion for helping him find friends, but still the comment bugged me.  I let it go in the moment but the longer I thought about it the more it rankled.

First:  my son is not a loner.  If you see him with his friends he's happy and very involved in the interaction.  You can almost see him recharging from the energy of being around people who like him and enjoy the things he likes.  He brings his best friend over to our house nearly every day after school so they can spend more time together.  At home with the family he's almost never alone in his room.  He's out interacting with us, having conversations and looking for hugs.  If he has the choice, he'll chose to be around people nearly every single time.

Does he have a lot of friends at school?  No.  He doesn't.  He has three, and two of those are more in passing friendships. They don't spend a lot of time together.  His other friends are either home schooled or attend a different school.  This has been very hard for him.   Because he is a little different (he's weird and proud of it) and he's so small, he's a target for harassing behavior.  Kids want to touch his head and tease him.  Nothing that would be overtly seen as bullying, but over time it adds up and it tears him down.   He hates it.  He wants more friends and he wants the kids at school to treat him better.

Second:  When you label someone a loner you are saying that you think they are choosing to not have friends.   Loners want to be alone, right?  But that's not always the case.  Actually, a person choosing to never spend time with anyone and not wanting any friends at all is vanishingly rare.

When you say "he's a loner," you're saying: "He wants that.    No one is doing anything wrong.  I don't have to change what I'm doing. We can all just go about our business and continue ignoring this kid."  "Loner" is a way of abdicating any responsibility for the situation.

I see these kids who are alone at school.  I see the hurt in their eyes as they walk the halls without friends.  I see the way certain children latch on to the teachers, desperate for some positive interaction during the day.  I watch them try to interact with their classmates and be rebuffed.  Do those kids sound like loners to you?  Just because a child doesn't have friends at school, it doesn't mean they are choosing for things to be like that.   Most kids want to have friends.  We are wired as human beings to be social creatures.  When our society blocks a person from that social interaction, it's harmful to them.   The pain can be long lasting and affect their relationships long into the future.

Third:  When you call my son a loner you call up all the denotations our society has for that word.   Loner is what we call the guy who hurts other people.  The one who just snaps and makes the evening news with tragedy and pain.  You make other people think of those kinds of loners and associate them with my son.  Then my son suddenly isn't just a boy who sits alone in class, he's the boy with the potential to cause harm.  They might not say it or think it overtly, but you can't live in America and not have that association with the word loner.   Calling a child loner can make other people treat them differently, as if that child has the potential to cause harm just because the other kids don't want to be friends with the "loner" child.  Kind of messed up, isn't it?

Stop.  Stop calling kids loners.   How about instead we notice who is alone and find a way to help them be part of the group?   Instead of labeling, can we try to heal?  Please, for the sake of my son and the sake of all the children who play alone.

They aren't loners.  They are people who need friends.  Be their friend.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Family Rules--Geek Style


Yeah.  I don't do cute, overly sentimental sayings.  It's not my style and it's also not my style to have my wall say things everyone else's wall says.

What I do enjoy doing is making sure our home reflects us as a family.   We are a geek family.  We love Douglas Adams and Tolkien.  We spend way too much time playing Minecraft and Zelda and lots of other video games.  We do not choose between Star Trek and Star Wars.   We are a dual Star loving family.   Agents of SHIELD is appointment television here for everyone.  And if we have a couple of hours of time on a Sunday, we may just be playing board games.   

So I made a sign that is all us.  I had the the kids help me come up with the rules so it reflected everybody.  I love it, even though it was the biggest pain to make.  The vinyl didn't cut cleanly.  The board warped.  The stupid clear contact paper stuck too well to the vinyl when I tried to transfer.  It was a mess.  Honestly, I should toss it and start over, but after spending hours on a project that should have taken me 30 minutes tops, it's a victory just to have it done.  So enjoy, wonky letters and badly made font and all.  

Then make your own Family Rules.  What does your family love?  Sports?  TV? Movies? Books?  Board Games?  Make your rules about you.   Have fun, and I hope your vinyl cuts properly and your transfer sheets work right.  Also, the font Episode I is badly kerned.  Skip it even if your family loves Star Wars.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sun Dried Tomato and Artichoke Pasta Alfredo

There are nights when I haven't the slightest clue what to make for dinner.  Sometimes that means we get something basic like chicken Alfredo, spaghetti, or even *gasp* buttered noodles (that's what happens when I don't feel like cooking and the 13 year old takes over.)   Tonight when I was lost for what to make, I just started pulling things out of the fridge and came up with a dressed up pasta Alfredo.




Sun Dried Tomato and Artichoke Alfredo

1/2 lb chicken cutlets (should be about one medium chicken breast sliced in half)
3/4 c cream
1/2 c chopped artichoke hearts
1/2 c sun dried tomatoes, cut into strips
1 T garlic
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c grated mozzarella cheese
1 box whole wheat penne, cooked (the company I use packages it in 12 oz packages)

I seasoned my chicken with Montreal Steak Seasoning from McCormick, but a basic seasoning with salt and pepper would be fine.  Then I pan fried it in a touch of olive oil until just cooked all the way through.  I pulled the chicken from the pan and added the garlic.  Cooked it for about 30 seconds and threw in the artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes, frying them until they were just turning brown.  I added the cream and let it simmer until it reduced just a bit.  While that was reducing, I sliced up the chicken into bite sized pieces and stirred it back into the dish. Then I stirred in the Parmesan and the pasta.   Lastly, I spread the mozzarella over the top and broiled it just until the cheese started to brown a bit.

If you start your pasta water boiling right before you throw your chicken in the pan, the pasta should be done right about the time you need to stir it into your frying pan.  The whole dish takes less than 20 minutes to prepare, which is exactly about as much time as I want to spend cooking on a weeknight.

As to the flavor, it is really rich.  Next time I might cut the cream with a bit of chicken broth.  My family said not to touch it though.  They love it the way it is.  Even my super picky 13 year old ate it and he doesn't eat anything except Hot Pockets, bread, and oatmeal.  Feel free to add as much artichoke and sun dried tomato as your family will eat.  You could up the chicken amounts if you wish, but with the extra protein in the dairy, it's really not necessary.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bling, Baby!


I've been doing a bit more sewing for pay recently.  Mostly just repairs, but a couple of months ago I was asked to make a blessing dress for a baby.   A blessing dress is for an LDS baby.  LDS baptize children at eight, but we still have a small tradition of introducing our child to our fellow church members by having the father give the child a blessing during our church service.  It's usually the baby's first blessing from the father.    A blessing is when the father places his hands on the child's head and prays for them.  The prayer gives the baby's full name, and then asks for the blessings the parents want for the child in their future life, things like having God's spirit with them, finding a good person to marry, blessing the child to make good choices and have happiness in their life. It's very special and sweet.  Traditionally in the US, babies are blessed in a special white outfit purchased or made for the occasion.

This little dress was made from her mother's wedding dress.  I took apart the skirt and had plenty of fabric and lining to make this lovely little number.  The rhinestone accent is straight off the wedding dress.  Luckily they were originally sewn to a small piece of sheer fabric, so I was able to reuse them in the exact same design.    They are even in the same place they were on Mommy's dress.

I'm very happy with the final outcome and it's even prettier in person.  The mom is thrilled and honestly, that's the best you can hope for when sewing for someone else.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Jammies


Thanks to our new son in law and his vowel initial our Christmas Jammy Weasley shirts (my kids names for them) spell the most appropriate word ever:  Jammers.    Pretend that we have a second M in there ok?  I have about five years before we can add another initial in there.

The shirts were super easy.  I cut the letters using the Cameo.  They are all done in the HP font available at dafont.com. I did have the adjust the settings on the machine to the heavy fabric setting.  The flannel did not want to cut nicely.   I don't use Silhouette's special fabric medium.  I just use standard Heat n' Bond.   I left the paper on the back to cut and then "R" did the ironing for me.  I did a super close zig zag applique with my sewing machine.  The whole project took me two days.  One day to cut out and one day to do all the sewing.  I did get some help from the kids on the shirts and cutting project.   "M" tried to help with the sewing.  He did two seams on "A"'s pants before he decided it was too big of a project for him.

The fabric is all JoAnn black Friday flannel.  It's not the greatest quality, but it wears well for pjs.   I am having a harder and harder time every year finding more grown up prints for my kids.   The boys prints are the hardest.  There are always a few that work for my girls, but the boys prints all seem to be for boys ages 1-5 or boys into sports.  Neither works for me.   Some nice neutral plaids, fantasy themes (swords, armor, magic etc.), music, books, etc.  would work for all my kids and it would be great to see them.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A t-shirt for my Star Wars fan

My son has Constitutional Growth Delay.  It's not a syndrome.  It's not a disease.  It's basically what we used to just call being a late bloomer.  He grows more slowly than the average kid his age,  but for my son it's a bit on the extreme size.  He looks like a nine year old but he's actually 12.  Needless to say, he gets twitted about his size a lot.  A lot.  Older girls squeal and say things like "he's so cute!" but the boys tease and no one takes him seriously.  It's hard being 4'10" when your best friend is 5'8".

So one of his heroes is Yoda.  Of course.  Yoda is awesome and the fact that he's small makes no difference whatsoever.  He also has some awesome things to say about size.


Matt designed the shirt himself.  He chose the quote and I helped him work out the design.  We had a lot of fun with it.  And he loves it!


He was so excited to wear it to school today.

The design itself was so easy to do.  First I found a picture of Yoda on Google image.  I used this one because it gave me a great silhouette of Yoda and the extreme ears really worked for me. I imported the JPG into my Silhouette software.  Then I traced the image and chose for it to just trace the outer edge.   That was the shape of my letters.  Then I used pretty much the same technique as you would to make a circle monogram.   I stretched and shaped the letters to fill the shape and then used the crop tool.   It's a really fun technique to use and it would work for just about any shape.  I can't wait to use it for other quotes.

I'm really happy with this project and Matt has already come up with another design for me to do.