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Nathan’s Favorite Pasta Salad

Recipes By June 5, 2016 Tags: , 10 Comments

I am not sure when or where I came across this recipe but I have been making it for years.  It is my youngest sons’ favorite “summer dish”. Unlike a lot of pasta salads, the guys in my family like this one…probably because it tastes like a deli sandwich.

Here is what you need to make this easy and delicious pasta salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of multicolored corkscrew pasta (or any other kind you want to use)
  • 1 small bottle balsamic vinegar dressing
  • 1/2 can of black olives – cut into piecespasta2
  • 1 cup of grape tomatoes cut into halves
  • 1/2 cup red onion – chopped fine
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese – cut into cubes
  • 1/4 pound Genoa salami – cut into cubes
  • 1/4 pound pepperoni – cut into cubes

Cook pasta until done. Drain.  Put drained pasta into a large bowl.  Pour the entire bottle of dressing over the pasta, then stir.  Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate, make sure to stir before serving. It works as a side or main dish.  Super easy!

This salad can be modified anyway you wish.  Substitute cheddar cheese for mozzarella, use different meats or vegetables.  At the deli I ask them to cut my meat in one big quarter pound chunk.

This pasta salad ended up in large plastic storage containers due to an oversized watermelon taking up space in my frig!pasta1

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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The Cleaning Bug

Grandkids By May 29, 2016 Tags: , 24 Comments

A Cleaner or not a Cleaner – That is the Question

If you google the word cleaner the definition is a person who cleans something.  In this post it does not mean a hit man or someone who removes evidence from a crime scene. You can probably tell…I raised boys.

My question is – are you made into a cleaner or are you just born that way? I suppose I never really considered the question before.  I thought all kids had to be trained (forever) in order for them to pick up their stuff, put things away, clean up their mess and wipe up that spill!

My kids were NOT natural cleaners. In order to get that result out of them, force had to be applied one way or another.   I spent over eighteen years, nagging, guilting, bribing and grounding.  The results were not always stellar.

My three year old granddaughter on the other hand LIKES to clean.  She always has – well, at least since she could walk.  For example, when she was 18 months old, as discipline for her actions, her mom had her pick up every single kernel of corn that she purposely tossed on the floor, from her high chair and deposit it into the garbage can.  She dutifully and without complaint picked up every kernel of corn (one at a time) toddled from the dining room, through the kitchen and to the garbage.  Like 25 times.  I think she enjoyed it.  I was amazed…with my granddaughter AND with my daughter-in-law’s patience.  I probably would have let her make three trips, administered praise and swept up the rest.  Possibly this is why it took me forever to train my kids!cleaning2

When she was two, my husband was at the dining room table working on his laptop, my granddaughter found the swisher broom and began happily cleaning the floor behind him, while singing twinkle, twinkle little star at the top of her lungs.  It was a sight, I wish I would have recorded it.  She was in her element.

A few weeks ago she found my stash of Clorox wipes.  She decided she desperately needed to clean the floor in the bathroom and her potty chair (both were already clean)!  There really was no stopping her, she was on a mission.  I let her finish, restricting her to how many wipes she could actually use and then washed her up when she was done.  I really think I missed it for Christmas, I should have by-passed the toys and just bought her an economy pack of cleaning wipes. She would have been thrilled.

The cleaning bug doesn’t seem to carry over to keeping the caps on markers though, which is one of my pet peeves.

I have already informed her parents that I plan to take full advance of her love of cleaning when she is old enough to earn money for chores.

So what do you think?  Are cleaners made or just plain born that way?

 

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My Favorite Aquarium

Family By May 22, 2016 Tags: , , , , 14 Comments

My three year old granddaughter likes aquariums and so does my husband.  Consequently, I have visited 4 aquariums in the last year, in 3 different states.  That is more than I have visited in the two previous decades!  It’s not that I don’t enjoy marine life, it just hasn’t been at the top of my ‘to do’ list. I might write about all my aquarium adventures in a future post but now I want to share about my favorite aquarium to date, the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, NY.fish2

For my birthday my husband took me on a weekend trip to Long Island.  We had never explored this area of New York before, we took the ferry over in order to drive around and take a look.  We brought our oldest granddaughter (the one who likes aquariums) with us, she had fun and we were able to spend some quality time with her.aquarium-fountain

Since it was my birthday (weekend) the aquarium let me in free, a nice saving off the admission price.   I had already booked our ferry passage home, at a specific time, therefore we allotted 2 hours for the aquarium visit. This was not nearly enough, a family could easily bring lunch and stay for 3 or 4 hours.  We arrived when it opened and since it wasn’t crowded, we could move freely and quickly.  It’s not that the aquarium is huge but every bit of it is designed to draw you in.  The first thing you do is take a walking bridge across a pond that has skates and various fish swimming in it, ending at a waterfall.  They have beautiful murals painted on some walls and the other walls are encrusted with sand and shells, with huge seashell wall sconces.  Whoever designed the aquarium focused on detail and it definitely enhances the visitor experience.atlantis3

My husband really likes rays, he finds them fascinating.  They had a ray touch tank (as most aquariums do) but they also let you feed them.  Wow!  In fact you were able to feed a variety of animals.  I remember when I was a child, my grandmother would take me to see the seals at the zoo.  She always purchased the seal food, so I could feed them.  I loved it and have fond memories of her and I doing that together.  I am glad they do that here.penquins

Besides the general aquarium fare, they have a reptile house, a Japanese Snow money exhibit and a building from the lost city of Atlantis with Poseidon sitting on top.  This building is designed for the budding archeologist. Kids can dig through ruins, shift dirt looking for artifacts and find  ‘gold nuggets’ (aka small rocks) in the gold mine.  Awesome idea.

This is a beautiful and interesting aquarium inside and out.  If you ever find yourself in Long Island, NY this must be on your list of places to visit.

Here is their website in case you are interested – Longislandaquarium.com

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Movie Review – East Side Sushi

Family By May 15, 2016 Tags: , , 11 Comments

My youngest son just returned from a visit to Japan.  He met a friend from college, who is working there as a teacher.  After a ton of walking and hiking, he lost 10 pounds, in 2 weeks.  According to him, not from lack of eating.  That is a new one – The Japanese Walking Diet!

He came over to the house, bearing gifts from his trip as well as take-out sushi and wanted to watch a movie.  I browsed Redbox real quick and found East Side Sushi. It had a subtitle –not your typical Mexican cuisine. Now we were all intrigued and it seemed appropriate – considering.  We rented it.

The movie is about a single mom who lives with her widowed father, trying to make ends meet and raise her daughter.  When her current work becomes too dangerous for her to continue, she stumbles across a job in the kitchen of a sushi restaurant.   She is drawn to the art of making sushi, as she watches it being prepared.  She studies the sushi chefs and teaches herself how to make it.  As she pursues trying to become a sushi chef, she runs into road blocks in this male dominated world.

We all enjoyed the film.  The movie shows her struggle to provide for her daughter, while wanting to do something more, not just have a job.  She battles with doubt, her dad’s opinions and the limitation put on her at the sushi restaurant. However, she is determined and stronger than she realizes.  Of course it has a satisfying ending – because I am all about that!

Unless you are fluent in Spanish keep the closed caption (or subtitles) on and just ignore the English.  They speak Spanish during a few scenes in the movie but do not translate it.  I know, right?  Maybe they thought it would be more authentic or maybe they forgot to include the translation. But, you will want to know what they are saying during those parts of the movie.  Its a small inconvenience and you get used to it.

If you want to watch a movie about determination and not giving up (without boxing, warriors or blood and guts), then this is a good one.

Enjoy!

 

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Food Triggered Memories

Recipes By May 8, 2016 Tags: , 30 Comments

My Aunt Gertie’s Molasses Cookies

When I was a child, my grandmother would take us to visit her sister, my great aunt.  She lived in a small town, about an hour’s drive outside the city.  Aunt Gertie was stocky and had a long salt and pepper braid that she coiled and pinned neatly at the back of her head.  Without fail, she had fresh, home-made molasses cookies ready for us to eat when we arrived.  Neither my mother, nor my grandmother baked much, so this was a real treat for a bunch of hungry kids.  These tasty cookies were firm on the outside and chewy on the inside. Oh so good.

My Aunt Gertie died when I was a teenager.  There were no more home-made molasses cookies after that. When I was a young bride, I asked my grandmother if she knew the recipe.  Not only did she send me the recipe, but the actual handwritten one my aunt had given her.  Years later I realized that having the actual handwritten recipe was a treasure. Of course, by this time it had cookie batter and grease stains on it. I finally copied it and put the original away.  I estimate Aunt Gertie’s molasses crinkle recipe to be over 90 years old.

I began making them for my new husband and then my children. On occasion, my mother would ask for them and I would make her a batch and put them in the mail.  This simple cookie has been my most requested over the last three and a half decades.  I plan to continue making them for my grandchildren, sharing the story of my Great Aunt Gertie.   My children never met my Aunt but they have a memory of her because of a delicious cookie she baked for me fifty years ago.

My Aunt Gertie has been and will continue to be, fondly remembered for her love, kindness and molasses cookies.

Aunt Gertie’s Molasses Crinklesmolasses-recipe

Bake 375 degrees

Mix together :

  • ¾ c. shortening
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ c. molasses

Then stir in:

  • 2 ¼ c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Mix thoroughly, then chill the dough for about an hour.  Roll into balls the size of walnuts.  Dip one side in white sugar and place sugar side up on a greased or parchment covered cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  The cookies should be set but not hard.   Let them cool for a minute or two and then remove to a cooling rack.  After they have cooled – store the cookies in a sealed container – if you have any left.  My Aunt Gertie kept them in an old fashioned Rooster cookie jar on a kitchen shelf.   🙂

rotated-aunt-gertie

 

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Confessions of a Travel Wimp

Family By May 1, 2016 Tags: , , , 25 Comments

I am cringing at the title of this post. I never considered myself a travel wimp but the experience I had over the last weekend has made me reconsider.

I traveled to Las Vegas from New England for a blogger conference (BAM – Bloggers at Midlife).  Las Vegas is on Pacific Time, I am on Eastern Time – which is 3 hours earlier. I didn’t think much of this until I actually had to live it.  Since I am paying for this conference myself, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on airfare.  The compromise was a reasonable fare with a four hour layover in Denver.  Denver has a beautiful airport, it could have been much worse but still, four hours is a long time.  I chose to take a soft sided carry-on bag (no wheels, I might add) that got heavier and heavier as we explored the airport, looking at the shops and trying to find things to do.  By the time we got on the connecting flight my hand hurt and my palms had red marks from the straps.

We finally landed in Las Vegas, got our rental car and headed to the hotel.  This hotel was beautiful and huge – a resort with golf course and spa facilities.  We managed to park and haul our luggage (I also brought a massive and heavy lap top bag) into the lobby to check in.  That was the easy part. treasure-map2 Once we checked-in the cheery, smiling desk person tells me the room number, hands me the keys and pulls out a map.  I really, honestly thought he was just going to circle the room and point to the elevators behind me but no, this was an actual map of the huge facility.  Then to my horror he started drawing lines to show me the path I had to take, in order to get to the next tower, where my room was located. Lots of long pen marks through multiple building. I looked at him with a blank stare – are you kidding me?  Now, I have to actually travel to my room?! AND, it’s going to take a map to get there!  By this time I was in charge of our entire luggage pile, my daughter-in-law had booked a hair appointment at the spa facility and she was late for it.  So no, he wasn’t kidding as he gleefully handed me the map.  I had been up since 5 am, it was now about 8 pm on the East Coast, I AM TIRED, I am low on coffee and food.  I forced a smile, took the treasure map and drug the luggage the 3 miles to my room.  Geez…now all I want is a nap.

I am an early riser, Las Vegas was made for night owls.  I woke up at 3:00 am PST ready for the day!  Of course, the Starbucks in the hotel won’t open until 6 am and its dark outside.  Oi!  However, I did finally rally and managed the rest of the weekend without any additional drama but then… I had to travel home.

airport-sign2For some reason, that I do not remember,  we decided to take the red-eye home to arrive early on Sunday morning. This overnight flight left at 11:30 pm – there is a reason it is called the ‘red-eye’!  If you do the math, that would be 2:30 in the morning ‘my time’. I am not a good late night person.  I couldn’t sleep very well on the plane, the seats had these monitors in the back of them that glowed all night (nobody was watching them) and then we had to literally run half way across the airport to catch our connecting flight!  We were almost the last ones to get on before they closed the hatch.  We were determined NOT to miss it.   I thought I was going to throw up (probably from sleep deprivation and running a sprint) – luckily I didn’t –that may have delayed us.

Here I am (a few days later) just starting to feel normal again.  However, since my husband and I want to travel more and we also would like to travel with our kids and grandkids, I have to analyze and deal with my issues over the past weekend.

Here are my ideas.  Purchase a reasonable WHEELED carry-on, get a lighter laptop or just don’t bring it and use my smart phone (I will just have to manage the much smaller screen), NEVER, EVER fly a red-eye flight again and always make sure there is a reasonable layover time between flights. Oh…and drink more water.  I got dehydrated because I didn’t want to drink anything on the plane and have to crawl over people to use the bathroom. Sigh…

 

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Hungry Baby to Happy Baby

Babies, Grandkids By April 24, 2016 18 Comments

How do two men feed a hungry baby?

My daughter-in-law and I went out of town for a conference last weekend.  This left my son to watch the kids (a one year old and three year old).  Usually it is my son who goes out of town for work and my daughter-in-law is left to manage the kids alone.  She is used to it – he is not.  This is how the story went….

We left on Thursday and by Saturday my son had arrived at my house with the kids in tow, to find grandpa.  I had innocently asked my daughter-in-law what everyone was doing – she responded that they were at my house. A little surprised, I asked ‘why?’  She responded (with a smirk, I might add), ‘he needed back up!’  What mom or grandma wouldn’t grin at that one?  And I did.

As soon as I arrived home my husband informed me how much my youngest granddaughter likes rice.  Apparently, dad and grandpa had decided to order Chinese for dinner.  You didn’t think they were going to cook – after watching the kids all day?!  I probably mumbled something like ‘oh?’.  Then he promptly pulled out his phone to show me pictures.  This surprised me because grandpa doesn’t usually take pictures AND there was an accompanying video!  I looked though the pictures, tilting my head sideways a little as I am trying to comprehend what I am looking at.  resized-eating rice4My youngest granddaughter is sitting in the middle of the table surrounded by rice, some on the table and some on her clothes.  Then it dawned on me.  I looked at him, a little surprised and asked, ‘you sat her in the middle of the table to feed her?’.  I am sure you already know the answer, it was a pleased, ‘yes’.  My son and husband sat down at the table to eat and instead of pulling out the high chair (yes, we do own one) they just sat her in the middle of the table to feed her and I don’t mean with a spoon.   However, she does seem to be having a good time.

My husband looked so cute telling me the story and showing me the pictures.  I just smiled and said ‘it looks like that worked’.  My granddaughter was feed and the mess was cleaned up before I got home. What else is there to say?resized-eating rice

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My Granddaughters Finger Polish

Grandkids, Toddlers By April 14, 2016 24 Comments

My three year old granddaughter came home from daycare (called school) and burst into the bedroom where her mom was folding laundry.  “I need fingernail polish!” she declares.  My daughter-in-law replies, “What do you mean?”  She excitedly explains, another little girl at her school has painted fingernails and now my granddaughter wants GREEN fingernail polish.   My daughter-in-law informed her that she doesn’t have green fingernail polish and she will have to discuss it with daddy.  The answer satisfied my granddaughter and it was assumed the topic was closed (hopefully for quite a while).  It wasn’t.

Long story short, several days later my granddaughter did a few chores to earn her fingernail polish.  They went shopping and found a “kid friendly polish” in blue and pink, which included (much to my dismay) a dispenser with teeny, tiny little sparkles to attach to the polish.  This happened on the way to grandma’s house.  Grandma DID NOT know anything about it.

My granddaughter runs into my house, precious package in hand, telling me ‘WE’ are going to paint her finger nails. Oh!  Meanwhile her parents drop and run (they have a dinner date—chickens).  I raised two boys, they never asked me to paint their nails (braid their hair or dress and undress a baby doll for that matter), so this is a new experience for me.  However, I am  honored that I get to be the first one to apply polish (shiny blue) to my granddaughter’s nails.

I was up for this – I did the fingers in blue and the toes in pink.  Although, I never realized how small her nails were, I think the brush was bigger than they were.  My usually energetic granddaughter was very patient and sat still as I carefully applied the paint.  A miracle in my book, she even let it dry.  I was actually kind of excited and I thought I did a great job.fingerpolish1 THEN – she said it was her turn.  What do you mean?  She proceeded to paint the tops of her fingers with the blue polish.  Very carefully, I might add – keeping her fingers stiff and separated so it could dry properly.  Over the next hour she kept looking at her hands, admiring her work! You got to love it.

Fortunately or unfortunately, it all washed off in the bath that night, expect for one blue finger nail and one pink toe nail.  Which she proudly showed everyone the next day.fingerpolish2

My conclusion is that my granddaughter interpreted Finger NAIL polish to mean FINGER nail POLISH.  She is probably reasoning the girl at school didn’t have a clue what she was doing because she only did half the job (just her nails)!

And yes, I did text a picture of the blue fingers to the parents while they were at dinner, as a comment on -“What were you thinking?!”fingerpolish3

 

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Tasty Granola Bars from Scratch

Recipes By April 8, 2016 Tags: , , 18 Comments

I found this recipe for homemade granola bars at Grammie Time.   I’m always on the look out for easy and delicious snack ideas. You can see the original recipe here.

I changed it up a little. My version is below.

The almond butter I had on hand was too unruly to use.  I ended up splashing myself with the almond oil while I was unsuccessfully trying to stir it back together.  I decided to go with peanut butter, which was much better behaved.  I didn’t find dried cherries at my grocery store, I substituted dried cranberries.  I went with ½ cup of roasted almonds, put them in  a sealed baggie, then I smacked it several times with a rolling pin to chop them. It worked great.  Since I  don’t have a food processor I was a little bit concerned about all the ingredients blending well, but they did. I just stirred it all up with a spoon and scraped it out with a spatula.

Here is my variation of her recipe.

Tasty Granola Bars from ScratchGranola-bar2

2 ½ cups old fashioned oats

1 cup raisins

¾ cup peanut butter

¼ cup honey

2 tsp. vanilla

½ cup roasted almonds – chopped- anyway you like 🙂

3/4 cup dried cranberries

½ cup dark chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place oats on baking sheet, toast in oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and place them in a medium mixing bowl. They cool quickly.  Note: I wasn’t going to do this (toast the oats)  but I decided to do it anyway.  I think it probably gives the bars a better flavor and consistency than using the raw oats.

Cover raisins with hot water for 10 minutes, then drain.granola-bar3

Line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper letting it hang over the edges slightly.

Add the raisins, peanut butter, honey, vanilla, almonds, dried cranberries and chocolate chips to the toasted oats.  Mix well.

Spoon mixture into parchment lined pan.  Press into pan with back of spoon or piece of wax paper (as you can tell, I didn’t want to use my fingers for this job). Let stand for at least an hour to let them set up.

Pull them out of the pan using the overhanging parchment.  Cut into bars.

These turned out delicious.  They even passed the fussy family test.  Meaning – they ate them and liked it.

*If you want to spend a little less on the almonds buy raw ones and roast them yourself.  Place raw almonds on a baking sheet in a cold oven set to 350 degree, bake for 15 minutes.  Easy.

 

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