Bananas in Pajamas

At the Mu Alpha Theta National Convention in 1996 I was in between my junior and senior years of high school and competing in the pre-calculus division. In the past I had been in the upper echelon of students in my division, but that year I knew I was facing a lot of stiff competition from my own school alone, forget the rest of the country! With that in mind I didn’t have any lofty expectations for winning awards that year. This is why it came as a huge surprise when I earned the fourth highest score on my division’s individual test, and therefore a spot on my school’s pre-calculus team. I proudly took my place on the team although I was a bit skeptical about my ability to contribute when the other three team members where way out of my league math-wise. To be honest, I don’t remember how helpful I was to them during the team competition, but one thing that happened I’ll never forget. One of my teammates, Dan (not my husband), had a Bananas in Pajamas doll with us for good luck. We always had several talismans with us during competitions, but that’s a subject for another post. The four of us were able to answer one of the team questions much faster than anyone else so we turned in our slip of paper very quickly and had a mini celebration right there at our table. The competition was being held in a gymnasium on the UCF campus and the place was filled with pre-calculus teams from all over the country frantically scribbling away, trying to answer the question at hand. It was absolutely silent in there. I don’t know exactly how it happened – the Bananas in Pajamas doll was either dropped or kicked – but suddenly it started singing, “Bananas in Pajamas are coming down the stairs! Bananas in Pajamas are coming down in pairs!” It was so loud in that gym! Dan frantically tried to shut it off, his face getting redder and redder, while the other three team members (me included) stared at him wide-eyed. When the banana finally stopped singing we all started laughing hysterically – as quietly as possible, of course. It was absolutely hilarious. It still makes me smile. I don’t remember how well we did in that competition, but I’ll never forget the Bananas in Pajamas incident.

Cleaning up

“My biggest project for the break is to clean out my room in case my parents have to move at some point in the future. Yesterday I went through two shelves on my bookcase full of old high school math notebooks, prom issues of Seventeen, and declarations of love to several different sets of initials that I have long-since forgotten. I was able to eliminate three-fourths of what was on these shelves but not without a few smiles, a happy memory or two, and more than one blush of embarrassment.”
12/22/00 webpage post

I found this quote over the holidays while re-reading some old posts. My favorite part is “in case my parents have to move.” My parents are still living in the house they bought in August 1979 when I was about seven months old. It’s the house where Kenneth and I grew up and it has a lot of memories. There have been a couple of times in the past where my parents seriously considered moving, but nothing ever came to fruition. Now that my mom and dad are both retired they are still living in that house and they have no plans to sell it anytime soon. When I was ten years old my parents redecorated the whole house. My bedroom was stripped of its yellow floral wallpaper (which was originally put up to keep me from coloring on the walls) and pink floral wallpaper was put up in its place. Hey, I was ten, of course I wanted pink! Twenty-two years later that wallpaper was still there, and not looking too bad actually, when I visited Tallahassee last month. I slept in my old bedroom when I was there, but I had to share the new king-sized bed with my cat Bob. The days of that pink wallpaper were numbered, though. Over the holidays is was finally painted over in an effort to make the guest rooms in my parent’s house less girly. I haven’t seen the end result yet, but I hear it looks good.

Regarding my own house, I’ve been doing a lot of housecleaning over the last month. Over the holidays Dan and filled up the trunk of my CR-V and made a major drop off at Goodwill. And then today I delivered all of the books I don’t want anymore to the library. That felt good. I’m trying to avoid filling up all the rooms and closets in our house with stuff this early into our home ownership. There will be plenty of time to acquire a boatload of stuff after we have kids!

Chocolate chip cookies #2

Chocolate chip cookies #2: Based on Vanilla Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod. Baked on 1/21/12.

After my success with recipe #1 I was eager to try something a little different to see how the results stacked up. So when I saw that this recipe for Vanilla Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod included a package of instant pudding in the dough, I immediately bookmarked it. How could I not try something so unique? As with most chocolate chip cookie recipes, this one came together quickly and easily. Except for the time spent waiting for the butter to soften, of course. That always drives me crazy. But anyway, I used mini semi-sweet chocolate chips because that’s all I could find at the store, and only 1 cup rather than 2 to avoid overwhelming the dough with chocolate. The result was a soft chocolate chip cookie with an intriguing vanilla flavor. They were definitely good, but a little too cakey for my tastes. That didn’t stop Dan and me from eating half of the cookies over the weekend, though! I would still recommend this recipe to someone who’s wants to make a different kind of chocolate chip cookie, but I think it’s out of the running for the best homemade version. In my opinion, at least. The search continues!

Chocolate chip cookies #1

Chocolate chip cookies #1: Based on My Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Girl Who Ate Everything. Baked on 1/14/12.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to start searching for the best homemade chocolate chip cookies. While not officially a New Year’s resolution, still a good goal for 2012, right? Like that episode of “Friends” where Monica wanted to be the mom with the absolute best chocolate chip cookies, I too would like to find the perfect All-American treat to make for my future children (and for Dan and me in the meantime). I figured the simplest (and tastiest) way to find the best recipe was just to start whipping up batches of cookies and see which variety we liked the most. This started out very well. The first recipe I tried was My Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Girl Who Ate Everything. These cookies are good. Mine looked nothing like the ones in the original post, and I had to substitute a mixture of milk chocolate and while chocolate chips because I didn’t have any semi-sweet, but I was still thrilled with how the cookies turned out. They were buttery, chewy, and seriously delicious. Everything you could want in a chocolate chip cookie. The only down side was that the dough spread out a lot when baking which made preparation a bit difficult. Nevertheless, Dan and I ate the entire batch that weekend so there weren’t any left to share with my co-workers on Monday! Their loss (but my weight gain – get it?). While this recipe is the front runner because it’s the first one I tried, I have a funny feeling it will be the front runner for a long time. After eating these cookies I thought the search for the best homemade chocolate chip cookie might already be over, but I persevered. Come back tomorrow for recipe #2!

Foodie Friday – Carrot Soup

As I’ve mentioned at least twice before, I love this carrot soup! Too bad I don’t have a good picture of it to share. This soup is a brilliant orange, but my iPhone camera just doesn’t do its color justice. And let’s not even talk about my old, warped Tupperware. Anyway, let’s talk about the recipe. After Dan’s Dungeons & Dragons get together last month we had a large bag of leftover baby carrots sitting in the fridge. I’m not a big fan of carrots, raw or cooked, so I had no idea what to do with them. Then I had a thought – how about carrot soup? I’ve had so much luck with soups this winter that it seemed like the logical option. A quick internet search turned up this simple recipe so I gave it a try. The first time I made it I didn’t know how so few ingredients could make such a delicious dish! This soup is thick, rich, and so flavorful. I’ve made it twice and it’s already become one of my favorite homemade meals. I highly, highly recommend it to anyone who is at all inclined.

INGREDIENTS:
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 c diced onion
1 lb baby carrots, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
3/4 c heavy cream (or milk)
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
In a stock pot, melt the butter and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onions and saute until transparent, about 5 minutes. Don’t let them brown. Add the carrots and stir well to coat with the butter and oil mixture. Cook over medium heat until the carrots are almost soft, 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle curry powder over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, until spices are very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are completely soft, 15-20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and, using an immersion blender, carefully puree the mixture until smooth. Stir in the cream or milk and return to the stove over low heat just until the soup is warm. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Based on Senegalese Curried Carrot Soup from Serious Eats.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday 1/25/12

After cleaning out a whole bunch of my stuff from our game/junk room and deciding to get rid of most of it, these are the the few trinkets I can’t bear to part with. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings (Galdalf is from a 2001 Burger King kids meal), Homestar Runner (King of Town in my favorite), and Star Wars – all of the great things in life! I think I can find a few square inches of space on a shelf somewhere to save these guys from being thrown out or donated. The purpose of all this housecleaning is to eliminate unnecessary items from my house – not purge it of every ounce of fun and happiness!

Random thoughts on a Tuesday

***When I went outside at lunchtime today I discovered that it was an absolutely gorgeous day. Not too hot and not too cold (while wearing a jacket, of course). Even though I didn’t need to buy lunch today (I had a bowl of carrot soup in the fridge – man I love that stuff), I walked to the corner gas station to buy a soda just to get some exercise. I enjoyed the walk so much that I left work an hour early this afternoon to make sure I’d have a chance to take another one when I got home. I just walked to Target and back, but it was so wonderful to be outside in nice weather.

***This year’s Oscar nominations were announced today and, as usual, I’m woefully behind on seeing the Best Picture nominees. Last year I’d seen six of the ten nominated movies, but this year I’ve only seen “The Descendants” and “The Help.” That probably has something to do with the fact that I’m not flying to DC once or twice a month like I was at the beginning of last year. I’ve seen a lot of good movies (and a few lousy ones) on cross-country flights. While I’d like to see “The Artist” and “My Week with Marilyn” and maybe “Moneyball” before the awards presentation next month, the only movie I’m planning to see in the near future is “The Iron Lady.”

***Dan and I went to the weekly dance party at Arthur Murray before our lesson on Friday night to practice our ballroom dance skills. Since the dance is designated for “beginners,” one of the instructors teaches a few steps in the middle to make the newbies more comfortable. After almost five years at Arthur Murray Dan and I are decidedly no longer beginners. We try to join in on the lessons, though, but we always end up doing our own thing instead. When we get bored with the baby dance moves we become rebels. As long as we’re having fun together I figure it doesn’t really matter what we’re doing. The instructor teaching the newbies might disagree when we’re dancing against traffic, though.

***I served my first frozen pizza of 2012 for dinner tonight. Shameful, I know, but I didn’t buy a single frozen pizza for the first twenty-two days of the year and that’s saying something! In my defense, I served spinach salads with strawberries, lots of vegetables, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette as a first course. At least Dan and I ate something healthy before our delicious Red Baron sausage and pepperoni pizza came out of the oven. Even though I’ve been pretty consistently serving good homemade dinners so far this year I was bound to fall back on frozen pizza sometime. I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

Manic Monday

Once again it’s Monday night, it’s getting late, and I’m struggling to write something before I have to go to bed. I’ve had a busy day. In trying to break my bad habit of sleeping in on weekdays lately I got up at 5:30 AM this morning to get to work early. This means I spent ten solid hours at work before leaving to go to the gym. Had it not rained all day it might have just been nine hours, but no way I was venturing out to lunch in a downpour. Luckily I brought a Tupperware of homemade spaghetti to work with me so I didn’t go hungry. I went to spinning at 5 PM, took a shower afterwards, and finally got home around 7 PM. Since there was a big pot of leftover spaghetti in the fridge I didn’t have to worry about making dinner (always a good thing on my crazy Mondays), but I still wanted to make a batch of carrot soup for the rest of this week’s lunches. I had a small bowl for dinner while Dan ate spaghetti. This is only the second time I’ve made carrot soup, but I’ve already decided that this is one of my favorite dishes I’ve ever made. I’ll post the recipe on Friday. While eating dinner tonight Dan and I watched two episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s new TV show, “The Layover.” Funny enough the two cities featured were Los Angeles and San Francisco. So not only did we discover two restaurants that we want to try in our own backyard (if we consider the entire LA basin our “backyard”), but also a couple of places to visit when we’re next in San Francisco. Now that it’s time for me to start getting ready for bed. After I clean up the kitchen, of course. Good night!

YouTube weekend part 2

Today we have a video featuring the Lakers’ brightest star, Kobe Bryant. A few years ago Nike made a hilarious series of commercials called Most Valuable Puppets where puppet versions of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James shared a house. I loved those commercials – especially the one where Kobe couldn’t find his three championship rings. (He has five now, for the record.) Check them out on YouTube if you’re at all inclined. This is another Nike commercial, but it’s an advertisement for Kobe’s new shoes. It’s so funny. “You’re welcome.”

P.S. Go Lakers! They could really use a win tonight after two humiliating losses to the Heat and the Magic last week.