Thursday, January 29, 2009

Audience Participation

I found out today that Domino Magazine is being cancelled. I never loved it as much as Blueprint - but I'm sad it's going as well. I kept meaning to give away a few subscriptions to that magazine on here but I guess it's a good thing I didn't!

I am trying to think up an idea for a give away though. Stay tuned!

So, I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to write my next blog entry about. I haven't really cooked anything new/exciting in the past week. So - you get to ask questions! My favorite spice? How often I clean the bathroom? My favorite pajamas? What I got for Christmas when I was ten? (My mother required photo documentation - I could tell you!) Go for it!* It would probably be better with the whole theme of the blog if it was at least somewhat related to domesticity - but whatever!

So - ask away. Lurkers (and I know you're out there! Stat counter tells me you come here by the droves searching for ways to boil eggs and hang picture frame collages) feel free to show your face and ask something.

I'll compile the questions and make a new post in a day or so with the answers.

Happy Questioning!

*No promises to if I answer your crazy questions of course ;-)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Homemade Biscuits

I was blessed to have a childhood where I had many opportunities to travel to the quintessential Grandparents' home. Outside there was a chicken coop where I learned to gather eggs, a barn with cats and a tractor, and rows and rows of crops in every directions from the house. I shelled beans, husked corn, and picked cucumbers on that farm. Inside you could often find a quilt on a large frame that filled the back room, fabric lying next to sewing machine, and my grandmother in the kitchen cooking something. I would set myself down at the kitchen table and watch her every move as she worked in the kitchen - while she constantly told me to get my hair out of my face.

The picture above is from long before I knew my grandmother - in fact - it's before my father was even born. However, it's one of my favorite pictures because, despite the obvious timing issue, that is how I remember my grandparents.
When it was time to make biscuits she'd open a bottom cabinet and pull out a large shallow wooden bowl that had flour and who knows what else in it. She'd add other ingredients - milk, butter, shortening, and other things that my childhood memory does not recall. Eventually she'd have a ball of dough that she'd kneed for a few minutes and then move it to the tabletop to roll out into a flat sheet. She'd use the top of a glass to cut out small circles before placing them in the oven. The biscuits always came out fluffy and golden brown with a light dusting of flour still clinging to them.

I don't know my grandmother's recipe. I don't have a wooden bowl (or a rolling pin for that matter), but I attempted to make some homemade biscuits of my own and here's what I did:

First, I pulled out my America's Test Kitchen cookbook and followed their recipe. It pretty much seems to be the same as this Quick Biscuit recipe from except that America's test kitchen uses all purpose rather than self-rising (plus the stuff to make it rise). Although - the recipe at the site tells you to need for 5 minutes. Don't do that. Just kneed for about 30 seconds until it's smooth. Kneading too long will de-fluff your biscuits!

And, since I didn't have a rolling pin I just patted out the dough into a circle about 3/4" thick and then cut the circle into 8 wedges for the biscuits. (This avoided the whole "cut circles out, re-pat dough, cut circles out, repeat" process) Try not to drag the knife as you cut - rather just push straight down and then pull straight up. Dragging through the dough will cause it to rise unevenly.
Then you put them in the oven and bake.

I love how they look coming out of the oven. I felt very "rustic" serving wedge biscuits. And, they tasted great! 3 cheers for heavy cream rather than butter/milk!

Coming Up Next: Italian Roast Beef, Potatoes Au Gratin, and a few cake tips I've learned since I last posted a Chocolate Layer Cake. (I invited my parents and a friend over for dinner on MLK day since I had the day off - you now get the blog results of that meal!)

Vegetable Beef Soup

On a rare very cold day here in Georgia I decided to make some warm and comforting vegetable-beef soup. As a child there was a lady at our church that would bring us a HUGE container full of vegetable-beef soup at times when my mom was in the hospital. It was amazing. I've never had any soup quite that good - but the batch I threw together with what I had in my fridge and pantry was pretty good!


How To Chop An Onion:

This is something I just learned how to do a couple of months ago. You should also make use of your non-cutting hand to hold the onion secure. However, I would like to emphasize the "single" part of my blog name. I only have two hands and I have yet to train the cats to take photos.

Brown beef. Add garlic and onion. Cook until onion is tender.

Add vegetable juice. Stir in the rest of the ingredients starting with what will need to cook the longest. I also threw in about a tbs of fennel seeds.

Boil for a few minutes stirring often and then cover and simmer until carrots and potatoes are tender AND you can taste the fennel flavor throughout. The vegetables will be done before then - but, really, wait on the fennel. It's worth it. (about two hours for veggies - about 3 hours if you have the fennel)

Be comforted and warmed by the amazingness.

What I put in Mine:

1.5 lbs ground beef browned
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced.
6 cups of V8 Juice
5 carrots
5 small red potatoes
1 small can whole kernel corn
1 can stewed tomatoes
kosher salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tbs fennel

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Adoption in the movies.

Over the past year or so I've run across a number of movies that deal with adoption on some level either by purpose or by chance.

The first one was Martian Child starring John Cussak as the recently widowed single adoptive father of a boy from the US foster system. The movies is based on a true story. It's been so long since I watched this movie that I need to watch it again. I watched it at the beginning of my research - and now that I've done so more research I'd like to watch it again. Like with Pumpkin Patch, it's just nice to peek into the lives of people who have "been there, done that."

I also watched Juno, which is the perspective of the birth mother for the most part, but in the end the baby goes to a single mother. Though - the birth mother originally chose a couple. I won't spoil the ending for those of you who have yet to see it. As I'm realizing that many international countries are closing to single parent adoption for whatever reason - I'm beginning to also research the domestic process. My heart is still in international - but - can't hurt to know things, right?

I ordered Losing Isaiah from netflix and remembered why I'm scared to death of domestic adoption. The movie is heart-breaking in some places. Especially when the court decide that it's more important for a baby to grow up in a home where his skin matches the adults than to grow up in the home of parents to whom he is healthily attached. However, there is a learning point there - the adoptive parents are white and the baby is black. One of the things the birth mother's attorney uses is the fact that the white parents do not have any black role models in the baby's life. I'm very committed to preserving as much of the heritage of my child as possible - I agree that it's important that the child have that "people like me" connection. (I don't think it trumps attachment, but whatever) The movie has an ok ending - but the middle of it just makes me want to throw things at the television and rant about the idiotic adoption laws in my country.

And, I caught the very end of Mom at 16 on lifetime the other day and I'm going to spoil the ending of that for you. The young girl chooses a couple to adopt her baby but after the birth decides to keep the baby. A number of weeks later she is watching a DVD her younger sister was making during the pregnancy to give to the baby's adoptive parents and the birth mom is reminded of why she was going to choose adoption and decides that really is what is best for her son - so she calls the couple and the adoption goes through. The end of the movie jumps ahead five years to the baby's first day of school. You see the adoptive parents and the birth mother there (home from college) - and a rather healthy looking open-adoption scenario. I'll go ahead and admit that Open-adoption doesn't really appeal to me. I know there is much support for it - but I'm selfish. I don't want to share. It scares me. There's a podcast waiting for me on open adoption - I need to listen to it - because maybe it's not as scary as I think it is. (Another reason I really like international - open adoption is not as common there)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Just A Couple Of Things I Want To Remember

I was listening to some of the podcasts from today as I was doing some driving and heard a couple of things that I just want to make a note about in hopes that I remember them years down the road.

1. Using a bottle as a tool for attachment. Dawn Davenport, the host, had on a guest that's an expert on adoption attachment. One thing they brought up was the idea of giving your adopted child - even older children - a bottle. Not as a feeding tool but as an attachment tool. put juice or something in the bottle, give the nipple a small opening, and then take the time to rock and hold your child while s/he drinks. On the show they said that this was acceptable as long as the child was comfortable with it. I think it's a cool idea.

2. In another podcast they were discussing how/when to bring up the adoption story with your child - and the general consensus is to make words such as "adoption" and "birth parents" common and normal from the very beginning - just by saying them even before the child understands what they mean. They talked about having a "life book" with pictures from the home country in it and reading children's books about adoption. So, the idea hit me, I want to make a "just for us" Children's book about whatever the adoption story ends up being. Of course - my mind starts dreaming wild dreams - but I think it would be cool to take some pictures and simple wording and tell the story and then it get printed off at a place like in one of their "book" formats for the child. I'd love to do a story that shows the two time lines of me getting to the child and then the timeline of the birth mother having the child and the child going to the orphanage/baby house/etc and then when our time lines meet in the same place. I can write the first two pages at this point. haha. "In America there was a woman with dark hair. She lived in an apartment and had two cats. She worked at a school teaching children. She was happy but she thought it would be wonderful to have a family and started thinking about all the ways there were to create families." . And then later, "One day the woman knew it was time to start her family so she called a place that helps families find each other and . . . " Anyway. That's the English-major side of me coming out. Depending on the history I get on my child we'll see how the "two time lines becoming one" thing goes - but right now I really love the idea. My "dream" level of the book is to take real pictures from the journey and have an artist "illustrate" them into children's book type images that still resemble me and my child and then fill in the gaps of the story for which pictures most likely will not exist. (My child's birth for example)

On a completely different note. I'm still completely undecided about if I want to pursue the adoption of one child or two at a time. i know I eventually want at least 2. However, I've decided that's something else (along with country) that I'm going to stop trying to figure out until I get closer to beginning this process.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Herbed Chicken-en-Croute

I had an extra sheet of puff pastry left over from making the baked brie so I went hunting for a recipe on (yes, there IS such a thing!) and found one for which I had all the ingredients.

Here's what you do!

Thaw a sheet of puff pastry.

Season halves of a chicken breast with pepper and fry in a bit of olive oil until brown. Put that in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees.

Now, take your thawed puff pastry and roll it out to a 14" square and then cut that into four smaller squares. In the center of each square, spread about 2 TBS of a flavored spreadable cheese and top with a sprinkle of parsley. (I used garlic and herb flavored cheese) Put one of the chicken pieces on top of that. Brush the edge of the pasty with a mixture of egg and water and fold up and over the chicken.

Place seam side down on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy the amazingness! (Those are DIFFERENT silicone baking mats if you're wondering..)

(Ok, so it's actually called "Herbed Chicken In Pastry" - - but "en Croute" sounds so much better!)

Friday, January 9, 2009


I've been trying to get my guest room in a bit more order and part of that was re-organizing my bookshelf. I've always been a bit confused as to how to order my books. Genre by author? Completely by last name? Do books without authors go under the title? Do they get mixed into the authors or do they go in their own section? I finally found a solution! Sort them by color! I thought it was fool proof. Little did I expect to be sitting in the middle of a pile of books asking myself, "Is that a pale green or blue? Or....purple? hmm..."

Anyway. Here is what I came up with:

And then I realized I forgot about a number of books. So, it looks like this.

I totally used books as shelves up there at the top.

And here are a few close-up shots of some of the "colors." (If you're a "book person" I think you can click on these to make them bigger. You book people can tell me which books you love/hate, ask me questions about books, whatever. Have at it!)

Oranges and reds.

I like this shot. The aesthetics of the two colors next to each other appeals to me as does the small amount of diversity of the titles.

Seemed appropriate for the top of a color-coded bookshelf. And I love the little vase.

The yellow section is so much brighter in person.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Well, hello there. You look good enough to eat.

During a "there's got to be something to eat in here!" scavenge through my cupboards the other night I came across a hidden container of a few chocolate chips. Cookies! I pulled out my trusty America's Test Kitchen cookbook and looked up their recipe. I followed the recipe exactly and what came out of the oven were The. Best. Cookies. Ever. No, seriously - they were like the kind of cookies you get from a fancy bakery. So. Amazing. They were firm on the outside and chewy on the inside. Let's just say that it's a good thing that I only made a partial batch.

Side note: I baked the cookies on a silicone mat and the cookies cooked SO WELL. The bottoms were that perfect shade of brown and they came off the mat without the aid of a spatula. Very cool.

I did some googling to see if I could the recipe online somewhere else and the only place i found it was locked down under America's Test Kitchen website. (They do free 14 day trials, but after that you have to pay!). So, because I have much love for America's Test Kitchen because I have never once had a recipe turn out badly thanks to all of their time they put into their recipes - I'm going to respect their copyright on the recipe.

However, you too can get the recipe (and many others!) via these options:

1. Website - 14 days to get as many recipes as possible for free - plan your trial period wisely!

2. Buy the cookbook - for only about $20 on

3. Drive to my house and get the recipe!

Don't hate me for not giving you the recipe. Love America's Test Kitchen.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Roller Coaster

I knew that adoption was going to be a roller coaster. I just didn't expect to be on the "roller coaster of emotions" so soon.

I was looking back at my list of countries from a few entries prior to this one that were currently open to singles and began to further research a few of them. The more I researched about Kazakhstan the more excited I became. I even loved the approximate 6 week trip to get my child - I loved knowing that I would be able to spend that long in the country that held the heritage of my child.

I began searching out agencies that placed children from Kaz and looking for groups and blogs that dealt specifically with Kaz adoptions. I pulled out my copy of The Complete Russian Adoption Handbook" and began reading. I spent days looking at photos of children home from Kaz and getting that "in the gut" feeling that "yeah, I can see my child looking like that." I started looking up the info about the country and searching to see if there were any children's book concerning Kaz adoptions.

As I was browsing one of the message boards I had found that deals with Kaz my stomach sank when I saw the topic of one of the threads: "Kazakhstan closing to singles?" And, indeed, it seems that they are. There is chatter and people seem to think that they will indeed close to singles very soon.

I closed my computer for a while and then took a drive down some long country roads. As I was driving and trying not to be depressed at yet another country that may not be an option for me - God reminded me that if Kaz, or any country, is closed then all that means is that that country is not where my child is. And, I should be happy that I got the warning after only a few days of growing an attachment to Kaz rather than after months or even years of growing an attachment to that country.

There are other countries available. There is the domestic adoption which, although that is not where my heart is currently at, could also be an option. And, there are four years to wait and sift through the ever-changing IA laws.

So I've pretty much decided I'm going to stop actively trying to "decide" on a country until the end of my master's degree is in sight. I'll just poke around in all the countries for now and trust that when it's time to get my child that the right door will be open.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Brie with Jam and Bread

Actually, it's Brie with Apricot Preserves and Puff Pastry - but that loses that whole "Ti, a drink with jam and bread" flavor a la Sound of Music.


Here is one of the appetizers I made for the New Year's Day party that turned out fabulously.

Here's what you need:

1 Wheel of Brie
1 sheet of puff pastry
A few tablespoons of preserves (apricot, raspberry, whatever you want. I used apricot)
optional - chopped nuts of some sort - I didn't use any.

Preheat oven to 350

Thaw out puff pastry and lay it in a greased pie plate.

Slice wheel of brie in half so that there are two wheels.

Place bottom of wheel on top of puff pastry rind side down.
Spread preserves over brie, sprinkle nuts.
Place top of brie on top of all that rind side up.

Fold over puff pastry around brie, seal seams with fingers.

Bake for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes. Serve with crackers or bread or whatever strikes your fancy.

Everyone seemed to like this a lot - and it's really best HOT.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Calendar!

New Year, New Calendar - and I particularly like this one that is now hanging in my kitchen!

The May photo (beginning of second row here) has an oven that I want! It has like four compartments for cooking!

Anyway. I really enjoy vintage advertisements so this seemed like a great kitchen calendar for me :)

I bought the calendar at a store but I also see this one online that looks like fun: Kitchen Kitsch

And see lots of vintage ads at

Now I'm off to prepare for a New Year's Day Party. The hostess has asked me to prepare a couple of appetizers so I'm doing Baked Brie and Spinach Balls. The Spinach balls have the special honor of being the first thing I made for a "grown up party" back in my student teaching and they were a hit. Hopefully they'll go over as well tonight. I'll be back with recipes, pictures, and such later!

(technical question for other blogspotters - whenever I use a picture in the "compose" window rather then the "edit html" window I get really random spacing - anyone know what's up with that?)

Book Review: The Pumpkin Patch

After ringing in the new year last night with a friend I started 2009 by finishing the book you see pictured. It's the story in journal form of a single woman in her mid 40s who travels to Ukraine to adopt two unrelated children. She goes hoping for two girls and returns with two boys.

There wasn't anything "new" in this book in terms of single parent adoption information - but it was nice to read the actual story of a woman who took the journey - especially one who adopted two at once - especially because in my heart I'd really like to do the same thing - though I don't know how wise it is for me to do that.

Oh! There was one thing I read that was "new" to me in all of my readings - one of her sons developed a bad case of "exploding diapers" after they returned home. Months and Months of tests and no answers until finally one doctor realized it began when she transitioned him from underwear back to diapers after they left the orphanage. His brain didn't know what was going on and caused his intestines to hold it in and then when it finally came out it exploded. (Look at me..not yet a mother and already talking about poop!) So - mental note tucked away to watch bowel movements carefully if I switch the types of underwear on my child once we leave the orphanage ;-)

This woman was able to take a few months off work to help her children transition and then hired a nanny to watch them once she returned to work. Those of you who have done this before? Do you have any control over requesting travel windows? (Or - I guess - if certain countries have more stable "time charts" I can just choose when to submit my paperwork and hope it works out...) I can maximize "transition" time before returning to work if I travel to get the child in Feb-April is the only reason I ask. I'll obviously pack up and go whenever my child is ready - but I would prefer 5 months of transition time rather than two of course. ;-) If I travel near the end of the spring semester I'll have all of summer off without losing any paycheck before returning to work in August.

I highly doubt I'll be able to afford a nanny once I return to work - but I'm hoping that at least there will be a friend who will keep my child in her home rather than going to a daycare.

In general - it was a good book to read to kind of get a glimpse inside single parent adoption. I'd encourage you to read it to just kind of give your brain a glimpse into the world. I really appreciated how honest she was with her emotions and thoughts.