Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Another Type of Baked Good

While my little man was sick a couple of weeks ago, we pulled out a DVD that we had not watched in a LONG time!! Wall-E! It is such a wonderful movie – I love that little robot to pieces and honest to God, I cried when he got smooshed by that evil Auto-Pilot.  I think it is a sweet, poignant movie about love and how we must take care of this planet. This Disney/Pixar movie is full of messages about being good stewards of our world and our bodies – I mean seriously look at them in their recliners speeding by and never looking at anything but a screen!
Of course, I am sure that these are the thoughts that are running through Jackson’s mind while he is watching Wall-E soar through outer space using a fire extinguisher. And I am positive that he is thinking about these lessons when he is giggling at the little cockroach getting run over and it pops back up…But, maybe in some way those lessons are being programmed, doubt it!
SO – anyway, I bring this up because since watching the movie basically about the problems of mass consumption of foods and goods, my Gabbiano becomes obsessed with finding his Eve toy. This poor little sick child is combing through his horde of toys searching for this one little toy – that has broken TWICE and when his interest in the movie waned last time we threw it away. We took the search to a toy store, NADA! We took the search to the Disney Store, NOTHING!! Ebay – GOOD GOLLY MOLLY!!! I am NOT spending $30 on a toy that cost $9.99 when it came out!! No way, No how, Ain’t Gonna happen!! Tears are flowing, begging has ensued…jeesh! I will point out, the child is no longer sick – can we PLEASE move on to another obsession?! Please?!?! But no, once this little man gets an idea in his head – it will not go away.
So I break out the Sculpey – now, I am going to make a MAJOR disclaimer – and I DO MEAN MAJOR!!! Despite the fact I occasionally bake and will break out clay – I am NOT crafty. I do not plan out arts and crafts, I am not a decorator – I am just a desperate mother whose husband knows such clay exists at Hobby Lobby and patient enough to attempt it. I have in the past made the whole slew of Yo-Gabba Gabba toys and also a rocking cool Larryboy – but again, not crafty, so do not be looking for some kind of instruction set to follow to make this pitiful Eve toy on your own. Also, unless you are as desperate as I am for an Eve toy and will accept anything that looks like it could pass for her – don’t ask for one.
Last night, I broke out the last of my white clay and molded an Eve – I think she turned out ok….
I baked her while he was in bed last night and this morning woke up to a VERY HAPPY child! So totally worth it! He took Eve to preschool with him this morning, so I am PRAYING, PRAYING that she makes it home in one piece (considering she is basically a SOLID piece of clay that took an hour to bake, I think the odds are good!).
I am including the pictures of the rocking cool Larry Boy as well – he was much more complicated to make – and the GabbaGabbas. The GabbaGabbas are not baked clay, just regular clay so they are smooshed now. -Sigh-
My smooshie Gabbas!

- So NOT a good picture, he was really happy!!

Before baking in front of my model!

No, I did not make the Car, but I made sure he fit.

Make it an awesome day! Maybe next will be my own little Minion from Despicable Me!
Live, Laugh, Love ~
Vanilla Mama

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pop, Tart and Frosting

Okay – Pop, Tart and Frosting….
Monkey, Bear, Gabbiano….
Cheeky Monkey, Little Bear, Tug Boat…
What on earth am I going on about – have I suddenly developed a condition?!
Nope, I give nicknames to my kiddos, little love names that are silly and full of embarrassment for my kiddos. Hehe –
The latest nicknames are Pop – 18 year old about to graduate, heart of gold, Tart – 14 year old who thinks he should be, wise beyond his years and stronger than he knows, inside and out, Frosting – 4 year old who is the…yes, I know…the frosting, the finale of the family!
Short post, but since I will be frequently referring to them in code. (We always strive to protect the innocent of Vanilla Mama’s ranting….of course the fact that some of you know me personally won’t help them any – evil laugh ensuing!)
Meaning behind the names…Pop, Tart and Frosting – just silly!! They laugh and get it, private inside joke…we call their friends the filling or the fruit! But, if you ever hear a crazy looking woman say, “Pop – Tart!” in a weird sing-song voice, it may be me!
The only other one love name I will explain is Gabbiano  - That is Italian for SEAGULL! For you parents out there….please flashback to “Finding Nemo”…..”Mine, Mine, Mine!” That is my little man (another nickname for him!) at the age of 2! Everything was, “Mine, Mine, Mine!”
I promise that soon I will have my next Fortune Cookie post, it is stewing in my Hot and Sour brain and I am liking it.
I have a huge commitment that I am making soon – perhaps one that not everyone will approve of or understand, but I have been thinking about it now for literally years. I am not sure if I will share pictures of it or not, but it is my Willow Tree. So, I will be talking about that soon and explaining that as well.
One of the wonderful blogs that I read put out a challenge tonight about why and how we write and do what we do…I was close to just going to bed tonight having commented on her blog (http://parentingbydummies.com/) – but decided that I wanted to address it here as well.
Why-3 kids, 2 jobs, 1 hubby and an overwhelming desire to put something out there on “pen and paper.” I have always been driven to write. I have a book, a ½ book – someday it will be written - , short stories, ideas for at least 2-3 more books, poems, posts….the words inside me want to come out and find a place. Whether it will just be something that my children groan about now, or remember when they place me in my grave, it will be written.
How – any spare moment, any extra time, any napkin or scrap of paper that is idle while my brain is not. Anytime that I can spend reading books, blogs, articles I try to do it. I am constantly inspired by the women and men I meet on here in blog world, who put their lives out there. I hid a little behind my moniker, Vanilla Mama, but I know that in all honesty, if you want to find out who I am you will. I really don’t have anything to hide. I am who I am…I am the person I am because of what I have been through and the people that I love form my heart and touch my soul. And – probably more than you will ever know.
Live, Laugh, Love ~
Vanilla Mama
BTW - the YUMMY looking picture comes from - http://ediblecrafts.craftgossip.com/diy-pop-tarts/2009/04/26/! Check it out!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Miss Hattie's Minty Mints

Miss Hattie's Minty Mints -
So, it is time for a break from the deep and meaningful! After a week of sick husband and child, trips to the doctor and a night in the hospital for my little man, I figured it was time to make cookies! I have been trying to work my way through Miss Hattie’s Top Secret Cookie recipes – and this has been harder than you would think. I work two jobs, have three kids and try to have some sort of semblance of a life, so my time baking is not as much as I would like it to be.
I actually tried this recipe, Minty Mints, a couple of weeks ago….I threw the results away thinking surely I had done something grievously wrong! After the first step of mixing the cookies – I couldn’t believe that this was the result. It looked like a giant turd. Yes…cookies and turd in the same post, really…once it was mixed and kneaded, it seriously looked like a giant turd! I threw it out thinking I had done something wrong – I had to have done something wrong. It’s not like I am never distracted by a certain four year old (Gabbiano – seagull in Italian, not I am not Italian. It’s another story for another day!) underfoot. Even with my 14 year olds help, I was SURE that I had done something wrong, copied the recipe wrong, mixed too much flour…something.
So tonight I enlisted Bear’s help (14 year old), and we got out the recipe again and made sure we measured and mixed everything JUST like it said – this is what we got:
That’s right ladies and gentlemen – a giant turd! I got out the Despicable Me! Bluray disk, went to the special features and rechecked the recipe and I had copied it down right. (I’ll repost it below so you have it.) No matter what I did I could not, “knead it lightly until a soft dough forms.” I added two tablespoons of warm water to the “dough” and it was (actually what is in the picture above) a little more doughlike.
Here are all the cookies that it makes – (The larger cookies are my Veggie Tales cookie cutter! Gotta LOVE Bob and Larry, and NO, I was not going to go out and buy a Star cutter just to make these!)

Yes, that’s it…that’s all it makes. Now the frosting…OMG…the frosting, YUMMY!!! How on earth can you go wrong with cream cheese, butter, powered sugar and VANILLA?!?! The answer – YOU CAN’T!!! One thing I did do different is I added the crushed peppermint disk candies to the frosting, because I figured that it would make it more “Minty.” The results:

Bottom line, will NOT be making these again – although I will probably make the frosting again to put on store bought cake mix! That frosting is amazing! The cookies though are way too dry and in all honesty you seriously need the frosting to get them palatable.
I do have another Fortune that I am working on, it is a good one! I am looking forward to writing it up, but it is taking time to digest…hehe, get it Chinese food, fortune…(stomach flu for the past week!).
Until we meet again,
Live, Laugh, Love~
Vanilla Mama

Oops - Almost forgot:
Minty Mints
½ c butter chilled and diced
1 ¼ c all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ c powdered sugar
4 oz cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 ½ c powered sugar
8 peppermint disk candies crushed
Blue and pink sprinkles
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder and powdered sugar. Cut in the butter using an electric mixer, a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Knead lightly until a soft dough forms. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
In a medium sized mixing bowl beat cream cheese on medium speed until creamed. Then add butter and mix together on high speed, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides until well incorporated.
Add vanilla and mix again on medium speed until well incorporated. Add powered sugar one cup at a time first at low speed and then on high once the powder is absorbed until desired sweetness and consistency is achieved. Refrigerate with cookie dough.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove frosting from fridge and set aside. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to ½ inch thickness.
Remove top layer of parchment paper. Using a star shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many as possible, slide a thin flat spatula under each star, peel away scraps and slip star over onto parchment lined cookie sheet, placing them two inches apart. Gather scraps and repeat.
Bake for 12-15 minutes just until edges begin to darken. Remove from oven and slide parchment paper and cookies onto counter top and let cool completely. Frost cookies and sprinkle with crushed peppermint and colors sprinkles. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Touching Fortune

“You have the ability to touch the lives of many people.”
How true is this? I think that this is true of everyone. From the cashier at your local retail outlet to the President of the United States – everyone has the ability to touch the lives of many people.
How do we touch people? Do we make a minimal impact, barely remembered after the door closes? A negative impact – cringing and avoidance? A positive impact that makes people actually smile on the inside when they think of you? Do people put their guard up around you or do they look forward to being around you?
Ugh – really this one is so sappy that it is a tough one to write and dig deep about.
Honestly, I know I have the ability to touch the lives of many people. If I didn’t realize that what kind of bubble would I be living in?
I don’t have the same chance that the President, a CEO or priest has, but I have my own little corner of the world that I touch. I have my family, my friends, co-workers, random strangers that I come across on a daily basis. In all truth, the random strangers are probably the hardest to “touch.” Mainly because so many of them at this point irritate me to no end…Ouch, did I just type that? Yes, Yes I did.
There seems to be a thoughtless stream of totally selfish, self absorbed, self centered people that I come across constantly. I am going to guess that they haven’t given a whole lot of thought about how they touch the lives of people around them – or if they have I don’t register on any kind of scale that matters.
In all seriousness, what kind of consequence am I to a total stranger as they are driving down the road and cut me off as I try to merge on the highway, to the point I am going to run into a concrete barrier? What kind of consequence am I to a rude person who swears at me over a DOLLAR price mistake (really happened – in front of a lot of people!) – the answer? None! Did they touch my life? YES – especially the overweight, middle aged, obviously balding man in a baseball cap that was so frustrated over a dollar that he felt like he had to yell and swear at me in front of an audience.  (The driver might have made a little more impact if I had crashed into the concrete barrier, but eventually he flipped me the bird and gave a little.)
To that person driving down the road who really felt it necessary to give me a parting gesture and then tailgate me to show his irritation that he had to actually obey the laws of traffic and force me into a concrete wall, to that person who apparently is so frustrated with their own menial life that he feels it necessary to belittle a lowly retail clerk – congratulations!!!  You have touched my life!!
“You have the ability to touch the lives of many people.”
Did you even realize that? Wow – you touched me, heart and soul, and have made me strive to be nothing like you and to never treat anyone that way. My hope for you is that you don’t have to have someone treat you like that to have that particular wake up call. My response to both of these situations could have taken that moment in a totally different direction. I could have flipped off the driver in return and slammed on the brakes, letting him crash us both into the wall…ummm, not a great idea! I could have gotten hostile back at the aging, turkey-hiney of an excuse for a man and called him out then and there for being a rude person – but, I did hold my tongue in check. Yes, I am going off a little right now, but I don’t honestly think this person would ever check out a silly little blog called Vanilla Mama’s Stuff – and if he ever did, he has probably done it to SO many other lowly clerks in his quest to feel better about his life, he wouldn’t recognize me! I offered to take care of the problem – I offered to fix what was wrong, but that was not what was wanted…I couldn’t make him happy, unless I was crying…that might have helped him feel better?!
In both cases it came down to a choice - and, I'll continue to make the same choice (I hope!).
“You have the ability to touch the lives of many people.”
So, if I have touched your life in some way, shape or form – I really hope it is positive. I hope that when you think about me you smile a little. If not, if for some reason you cringe when you think of me or you avoid me at all costs – I am sorry. I know that I am not everybody’s cup of tea but I will treat you to a cup of coffee and we can chat.
Live, Laugh, Love ~
Vanilla Mama
Lucky Numbers (cause think of the lives you could touch with a million dollars!): 16, 19, 35, 38, 42, 46.
FYI – I do not have anything against retail clerks – I am one! I do however notice that many people seem to think we as a customer service profession, are human targets to vent at. Next time you check out at a store – smile J! Most of us do this job because we like people – we’ll smile back. (At least I will!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Twisted Fortune

“Be careful! Straight trees often have crooked roots.”
My first thought – DUH! Doesn’t every tree have crooked roots? Have you ever in your life heard about a tree having straight roots? For that matter, any living green thing with straight roots?
So, why would you need to be careful? Makes it sound like the crooked roots are dangerous –
If we compare ourselves to trees, and from time to time I identify myself with a willow tree, I am grateful to have a complex root system that I can feed from and get nourish from many different sources. Sometimes water is scarce and roots have to adapt in order to continue feeding the tree.
My sources in my crooked roots – I have my Bible, my faith, my family, my friends, my writing….all sources of strength and nourishment for me. Are my roots crooked? You betcha! There are many times in my life that I am in serious need of the strength that I can draw on from all my roots.
I have always read that in a forest many trees have a connected root system so that they can communicate and draw on each others resources – isn’t that how we are all? We are all connected somehow, deeply or more shallowly, and I am able to take nourishment from them and I hope they take nourishment from me.
 “Be careful! Straight trees often have crooked roots.”
What’s so dangerous about that?
I was talking to my 14 year old son about this, it is the fortune that he picked for me to write about – “What you see is not what you get.” So what if the crooked roots hide a dark and twisted nature? He has watched a few movies lately, The Stepfather and The Sitter, where you have seemingly perfect people enter your life and they turn out to be anything but. I will readily admit that I have not watched these movies, but based on his description (blow by blow), I see his point.
We all know these people that are not what they seem to be…we may even have a sense of it. They seem perfect, wonderful, but when you get a little deeper with them, their dark and twisted roots are a little scary. Then there is a choice to make, take them at face value and don’t dig deeper or weed them out of your life and root system. They are not nourishment for your tree (soul), they are a parasite that feeds off your energy.
There is one thing that I rely on, and in fact most trees do – my Tap Root. My relationship with Christ. It doesn’t matter how much I rely on my root system if I allow my Tap Root to wither. If it did then no matter how deep and complex my root system is – a strong storm may blow me over or tear up my root system.
I can’t speak for everyone, but honestly we all probably have a secret/twisted root that we hope never comes to the surface – but in the long run, it is part of who we are. I am a product of what I have done, where I have been and how I was raised. Everything I have ever been through is in my root system – everything you have been through is in yours.
Am I totally proud of everything I have done, of everything that is hidden in my root system – my crooked roots – of course not! I have made a very conscience choice though to let my tree grow straight (or straightish)!
Live, Laugh, Love ~
Vanilla Mama
Despite the constant mess that my desk – kitchen table – is in, I did manage to hold on to this fortune.  The lucky numbers are: 10, 23, 29, 31, 35, 40.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Changing Fortune

“Change has both physical and psychological attributes.”
I have been working really hard at changing my body and trying to get healthy – I have lost almost 100 pounds. I have twenty more to go and I am sure that these last twenty will probably be the hardest twenty that I lose. This is a very physical change for me.
Physically I wear smaller clothes, I have more stamina, my blood sugar is stable (we will not discuss my blood pressure – for whatever reason, it has a mind and plan of its own!), in general I have a longer lifespan at this point after dropping this weight.
This very physical change began with a psychological shift, a change. I had to make the choice that I wanted to be healthy. A complete change has to include both – if you make a physical change without a psychological change then will it last? It happens every day, people lose weight….people gain weight…people lose weight….people gain weight. I have been through it for years! I have lost weight, I have gained weight, I have gone back and forth so many times in so many extremes that my skin may never be the same again. Probably a visual you didn’t need to have, right!
Losing weight has had other psychological attributes for me as well. I feel more confident in my abilities, more comfortable in my skin, more like who I always saw myself as being.  Every so often I catch a glimpse of myself and I do not recognize who I see. Then there are other times that I still see the fat person in me. I still have a hard time believing I do not have to shop at Lane Bryant!! I can shop at normal stores (mostly – I do have a 36”inseam and that limits me somewhat!) The thing is, I have not changed on the inside, I am still the same person.
When I asked some friends what changes they have been through lately, the vast majority of them responded that they had gained weight (except one, she told me she opened a twitter account!). What kind of psychological change happens with that?
These are changes, for the most part, changes we have control over, these physical changes can be altered by ourselves. What about the changes that we have no control over or are caused by things outside of our control?
The spouse that has to face the fact that their partner has committed adultery…what changes might happen here? The woman in a car accident that leaves her face scarred for life? The cancer patient that loses their hair? The family that must face the death of a loved one, whether anticipated or sudden? These changes cause psychological and physical attributes to be sure. If one suffers a psychological trauma, can that cause physical changes? If one suffers physical trauma, can that cause psychological changes?
“Change has both physical and psychological attributes.”
Can I go a little darker here?
Does an alcoholic or drug addict experience changes? Physical? Psychological? An addiction affects both, so it has to have attributes of both. What about the family members of the abuser – it is a major change for them as well. When the choice is made to fight the addiction, more changes happen.
What changes, physical or psychological, occur to a young person after they are molested? This is a major event that changes everything…let that sink in just a minute.
 A physical event, a psychological event – a change…
Many people who have experienced abuse try to block that memory, wipe it from their minds. This is a coping mechanism that works for a time – until something triggers that memory. Some are unable to move past the event and it becomes all encompassing, all devouring, all consuming – the pain and shame become too much to get past. Others are able to pick up and fight and become a voice for the victims, they refuse to give up, they refuse to allow the abuser to continue.
“Change has both physical and psychological attributes.”
I have honestly struggled with this fortune cookie for a couple of days, events have happened, conversations have taken place that make me look a little deeper. My memory takes me places – a simple, trite little reflection seems inappropriate. I have talked to so many people who have experienced major events, major changes that have physical and psychological attributes that I am truly humbled by their experiences – my heart and prayers go out to them.
Let me make one thing very clear – My Life as a Fortune Cookie is not just a silly little thing about a random fortune cookie…I really take time and think about these. Whether or not that is what the person writing them intended, it is something that I am doing. I have been through some major life changes in my years on this planet, and they have left their mark on me. I am also sure that my life is not complete in the changes it will undergo – is yours?
If you answered yes to that question, then you must already be DEAD!
Are you?
Have you shut down? Have you closed your heart and mind to everyone around you? Have you encapsulated yourself to be immune to any changes? If so – seriously? Seriously? Message me, text me, comment to this post and I will physically come and make sure you are still alive!!
Live, Laugh, Love ~
Vanilla Mama
(I would love to give you lucky numbers for this, but….honestly, I can’t find the Fortune – if you could see my desk – kitchen table- where I am posting this from you would understand and nod!) What I will say in its place…make your lucky numbers the birthday days of the people you treasure and love.