Friday, February 26, 2010

A Little Bit of Everything

Another hectic week for the Brock's, including another bout of sickness for poor little Madeleine. I was called at work this afternoon to come pick up my 102 degree temperature little one. On the bright side, it was an early release day for students so Maddy saved me from having to go to afternoon meetings. Perfect timing!

Since Madeleine went straight down for a nap when we got home I was able to start reading my book club's next pick, "Cry, the Beloved Country" by Alan Paton. I know it's a classic but I have somehow never read it and am thoroughly enjoying it. The novel takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa on the brink of apartheid and follows the story of a pastor and his son. The author paints a beautiful picture of South Africa and I know it's a place I would love to visit someday. Has anyone else read this? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Now, here is where I need some help! My book club is fantastic because not only do we share a common interest in our love of literature we're also all foodies and love to try new things. We usually match what we eat for dinner to the book we're reading. In the past we've eaten French, Chinese, Indian, Russian and Japanese food but I don't have any South African recipes. I have an Ethiopian cookbook but I know that's not the same thing. I would love to bring something really authentic so if you know anyone from South Africa or have visited yourself and have an idea, please share!

Last weekend we got together with a new Ethiopian adoption group which was so much fun. I don't have any pictures because I thought it would be a little odd to say, "Nice to meet you, mind posing for my blog?" But, I will attest to what we all know to be true: there's a lot of cuteness going on in Ethiopia!

Right Maddy?
"You know it, Mama!"
At Madeleine's 15-month check-up she was a superstar! 70%ile for weight, 50%ile for height and 95%ile for head circumference. She is 2 oz./day away from being weaned off of formula (Goodbye $30/box of Organic Similac!) and is working on her self-help skills. She is learning how to take off her shoes and socks, can get a kleenex and attempt to blow her nose and is even trying to clean her own ears with a Qtip. Yay Madeleine! I'm all about independence as long as she doesn't stop the snuggling.
Finally, there was a request for my sugar cookie recipe so here it is. WARNING: You will need to run an extra mile (or ten) to burn off the calories in this one!

Super Yummy Sugar Cookies
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
32 Tbsp. (4 sticks) unsalted butter
6 oz. cream cheese
2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Over a sheet of parchment paper, sift together the flour and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the cream cheese and continue beating until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla.
Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions, beating in each addition before adding more. Beat just until combined, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Using floured hands, form the dough into a smooth mound and divide into 2 equal portions. Shape each into a disk and wrap separately with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove 1 dough disk at a time from the refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes. Place the dough on a clean, floured work surface and roll out to a thickness of 1/4-inch.

Dip the cookie cutters into flour just before using and cut out the shapes. Using an offset spatula, carefully transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies until lightly golden on the edges, 14-16 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool for 5 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets, then decorate as desired.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Next time I'll post my French Onion soup recipe!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Love Was in the Air

What a busy week we had getting ready for Valentine's day! Isabelle and I love to do little crafts together and making cards for her friends as well as my students seemed like the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Isabelle took her time signing her name on each card.
They said "Be My Sweetheart" and we attached sweetheart candies to them.
It only took us the better part of two days to finish. :)
When we were done Isabelle helped keep Madeleine occupied while I finished the Valentine preparations. They're my two little bookworms.
I baked sugar cookies for Isabelle's preschool class and my friends at work.
FYI #1: I would choose sugar cookies over a box of chocolate any day - especially these since they call for a pound of butter and cream cheese!
FYI #2: If sugar cookies are not available I will eat that box of chocolate.

Isabelle also wanted to take sparkling cranberry juice for snack to stick with her pink theme.
It was my turn to bring soup last Thursday for soup club at work (the day we all celebrated Valentine's day since there wasn't school on Friday) so I made French Onion which called for onions...
...white wine, sherry, cognac and a little beef stock. Now you don't need to wonder how teachers make it through all those Valentine parties!
Disclaimer: I promise all the alcohol cooked off!
I topped the soup with rosemary croutons. Yummm!

Then, on Thursday, it was off to celebrate! Judging from the direction of Isabelle and J.J.'s roaming eyes the boy they're ga-ga over must have just arrived. Anyone else think they look a bit opportunistic?
On actual Valentine's Day we stayed home and enjoyed a visit from Grandma and Papa who arrived with gifts from Eugene from Great-Grandma and Aunt Bonnie. The girls sure loved their presents! Thanks guys!

Madeleine did some serious contemplating on how she ended up with a handful of candy... ...and then settled in for a few serious snuggles.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It's Been Awhile...

...the common cold has done us in around here. After the girls have gone to bed this week all I've had the energy to do at the end of the day is tuck into bed and watch Tivoed episodes of General Hospital. I know what you're thinking - I pretend to be all literate and worldly and then I go and admit to watching mindless soap operas. I shan't be judged. After all, I did read a whole book last week.

Before illness struck we were busy last weekend celebrating Madeleine's graduation from her class at The Little Gym. Starting this week she'll no longer be a "Birdie" - she'll be a "Beast"! Here she is showing off her skills.

The forward roll!
Holding hands and walking!
Looking cute!
Her first ribbon - better get the trophy case ready.
Isabelle was so proud.
Speaking of Isabelle, she had her good friend Laney over for a play date last weekend. They had lots of fun eating lunch,
baking cookies,
eating the cookie dough,
and jumping on the bed.
They even treated us to an interpretive dance.

This just in - Madeleine is officially a walker! Check her out! (Please ignore the crazy Mommy-talk.)