Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

Don warns me to start drinking water every time we are about to visit Beaver Creek. Normally, I don't drink very much water. It's a bad habit of mine, and I pay for it. As soon as we land in Denver, I feel the burning eyes, dry nose and parched lips coming on. Denver is only a mile high. Beaver Creek is twice that. The condo is at 8,100 feet. The top of the mountain is 11,440 ft.

Strange things happen at high altitude. It's really hard to climb steps. Don's shaving cream explodes. Peter usually gets bloody noses. Just look at what happened to my bag of lettuce from the grocery store.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Marianne's No Good Bad Day

Just like Alexander, we all have bad days. Days when everything goes wrong. I had a day like that today. Actually, it was just the morning.

All the troops left for the slopes by 10:30. My job was to drive to Walmart and buy groceries for the week. Ideally, I would get back to the condo before the hungry troops came in for lunch. All we had available was milk, cereal and orange juice, and they had that for breakfast.

Our rental car is a very large Dodge Caravan. I don't remember my minivans being so large. I felt like I was driving a truck. As I turned in to the parking spot at Walmart, I didn't quite make a sharp enough turn. I scraped the front bumper on the cart return rack. At least it wasn't another car.

I shook it off and spent an hour in the store carefully selecting all the food we would need. I stood in line for ten minutes and then it was my turn. After unloading all the groceries and watching the very slow cashier scan half the items, it occurred to me that I left my wallet back at the condo. I stopped her and gave her the bad news. I promised to come right back if she would finish ringing me up then suspend the transaction. A manager had to get involved.

I drove back to the condo and realized at the elevator that I didn't have my key card. What in the world did I have in my purse? Apparently nothing. I went to the front desk and asked for a new key. The clerk asked me to show my ID. I didn't have my ID. It was in my bedroom upstairs. She believed my sob story, and gave me a new key.

I went up to the room, grabbed my wallet and a snack (I was starving), and headed back to the car. It was now 12:06. Given my track record so far, I didn't dare speed. The good news is that I made it back five minutes before everyone came in for lunch.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cannoli Cookies

One of the cookies I made this Christmas was from a recipe Pam sent me. She raved about them, so I decided to give them a try. They were very easy to make. I thought they would look and taste just like chocolate chip cookies, but I was wrong. They have a light, crisp texture and a zippy orange bite to them. We used mini chocolate chips instead of the full size ones shown in the photo. The recipe comes from

Cannoli Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 c. whole milk ricotta, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 t. finely grated orange zest
1 t. vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
3/4 c. chocolate chips ( we used mini chocolate chips)


In a medium bowl, whisk flour with baking soda and salt until well blended.

In another bowl, beat butter and ricotta on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar, orange zest, and vanilla; beat until blended, about 3 minutes. Scrape bowl. On medium speed, add the egg and beat until blended. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until almost completely blended. Pour in chocolate chips and continue mixing just until incorporated. Scrape dough down from sides of bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until slightly firmer, about half and hour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line large baking sheets with nonstick baking liners or parchment paper. Drop batter by rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are light golden, about 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheets on racks for 5 minutes before transferring them to racks to cool completely.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Twenty One

Daniel is 21 today. That's a big deal. He no longer has a probationary driver's license. He is allowed to order a drink. He can also gamble and buy a handgun. What fun. I liked it better when he was 12. When he was 12, he had braces and was shorter than me. He didn't even think about driving or those other things. He still kissed me good night and allowed me to throw a birthday party for him.

At his 12th birthday party, I provided big red long johns for him and his friends to wear. We blew up tons of balloons and had a contest to see who could become the fattest Santa. Not only did he allow me to orchestrate the party, but he actually enjoyed it.

His friends enjoyed it too. The one on the right (Andrew) came over tonight to help Daniel celebrate his 21st birthday. I was tempted to drag out the suits for old times' sake.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Gone are the days when the kids beat our door down on Christmas morning. Gone are the days when they were up before the sun. Now we are the ones beating their doors down to get them up. If my body would let me sleep in, I would have done it this morning. Unfortunately, I was up before the crack of dawn. I was able to enjoy watching the sun rise in the window behind the Christmas tree.

I would have been all alone if it weren't for Riley. He was right there waiting for some action. He looks a little sleepy because he was up late waiting for Santa to arrive.

I think the best gift under the tree was one that Peter made for Daniel. It is a penny soccer game made from plywood, paint, nails and leftover Lego soccer men. Daniel and his friend Brian enjoyed playing it tonight.

My personal favorite gift was a collaboration between Katherine, Daniel and Peter. They began a notebook called "Richards Family History." Each year they plan to write down memories which I can add to the notebook. This year, Daniel wrote about the basement and all the memories he could think of that took place there: birthday parties, producing films, sleepovers, etc. Peter wrote about how I provided books on tape for him to listen to as he fell asleep. His favorites were Henry Huggins, Stuart Little and My Father's Dragon. Katherine wrote about Riley, and how she fell in love with him the first week we got him. She had been home from college on spring break, so she got to take care of him when he was a wee puppy. Even though she was away a lot his first couple of years, they have a special bond.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mary Did You Know?

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy would one day walk on water? (Matthew 14:22-27)
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters? (Matthew 1:21)
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? (2 Corinthians 5:17, Revelation 21:1-6)
This child that you've delivered.
Will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy would give sight to a blind man? (John 9:1-11)
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy would calm a storm with His hand? (Luke 8:22-25)
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? (John 1:1-2)
And when you kiss your little baby
You've kissed the face of God.

The blind will see
The deaf will hear
And the dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation? (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations? (Philippians 2:5-11)
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect lamb? (John 1:29-34)
This sleeping child you're holding
Is the Great I Am. (John 10:27-30)

           - Click here to listen to the song written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Daniel's Ornaments

When Daniel was around seven years old, he told us he wanted to be Peter Pan when he grew up. I don't think he got the irony of that statement. Everyone knows that "all children grow up, except one."

 Daniel's obsession with Peter Pan sparked a four year ornament set. I bought the whole set that year, and gave him one piece each year until he got all the pieces. It is a fabulous set including Captain Hook, a crocodile with a clock in his mouth, a ship, and Peter Pan.

Since Daniel was a soccer player from the time he could tie his shoes, he had to have a soccer ornament or two or three.

If Daniel couldn't be Peter Pan when he grew up, he would settle for being a policeman. Just in the past month, Daniel sent me a text message saying, "Is it weird that I still want to be a policeman?" I replied, "yes, and don't do it!"

Daniel is a child after my own heart. He has written some really funny journal entries documenting our vacations. I just know he will have a blog like mine some day.

This is what Daniel looks like one week out of each year.

This ornament just reminded me of someone named Daniel Sean.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out

Don and I went on our first official date in 1983 when we saw A Christmas Story.  It was a very funny movie, and one that has become a classic. The most famous line in the movie is, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid." Ralphie wanted a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, but his mother, his teacher and even Santa Claus tell him he'll shoot his eye out.

I thought of that line tonight when I saw Riley sprawled on the floor in the family room with one of his stuffed animals. He'd been busy chewing on it for days, digging it's eye out. If I were a good mother, I would have told him not to chew on that stuffed animal because he might choke. But I know Riley. He doesn't eat eye balls. He spits them out. He's resting up before he starts in on the other eye.

His toy doesn't look quite as content.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peter's Ornaments

I dug into Peter's ornament box today. He has about as many polar bear and Coca-Cola ornaments as Katherine has in Wizard of Oz category.

When Peter was in Kindergarten, he had to have plastic surgery on one of his ears. His dear teacher, Mrs. Reno, bought him a polar bear puppet to help him through the recovery. That puppet became his alter ego, so much so that she finally had to require him to keep it at home!

You can't have polar bears without Coca-Cola!

According to Peter, the best chicken nuggets come from Chick-fil-A.

Peter and I enjoy the same kind of movies. Ratatouille was right up there on the list with Wall-E and Up!

It doesn't get much better than S'mores and golf.

Peter loves to play card games and any other games for that matter.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Perfect Pot Roast

I really shouldn't watch the Food Network while I'm working out. It seems a bit counter productive. But cooking shows are about the only thing I like to watch on TV. Yesterday morning, I purposely waited until noon to get on the treadmill because that is when the Pioneer Woman Christmas special was on.

While I burned calories, I watched Ree make Perfect Pot Roast, Duchess Potatoes and Blackberry Cobbler. The recipe that really caught my eye was the one for Pot Roast. I've never conquered the Pot Roast, and she made it look so easy. Guess what we had for dinner tonight? And it received rave reviews.

Perfect Pot Roast

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-5 lb. Chuck roast
2 to 3 T. olive oil
2 onions, peeled and halved
6 whole carrots, unpeeled, and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 cups beef broth
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. 
Generously salt and pepper roast. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions, browning them on both sides. Remove to plate. Throw carrots into same pot and brown for one minute.
Remove carrots to plate with onions.

If needed, add a bit more oil to the pot. Sear meat for a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown. Remove to plate.

Pour 1 cup of beef broth into pot. Use a whisk to deglaze the pan, loosening all the brown bits. Place the roast back in the pot. Pour remainder of broth in pot to cover the roast halfway.  Add onions, carrots and herbs.

Put the lid on, then roast for 3 hours for 3-pound roast. If using a 4-5 pound roast, leave in oven four hours. The roast is ready when it is fall-apart tender.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Riley Santa

Please don't report me to the Animal Protective League. I couldn't help myself. Target had the cutest Santa outfit in Riley's size, and I bought it.

He'll do anything for a cookie! And I mean ANYTHING.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ornament Tradition

I've told my kids for years that they will thank me some day. Each year when they open their special Christmas ornament (or two), they set it aside like it were a pair of socks or something. In 2012, Katherine will have her first Christmas tree with Josh, and she will thank me...I'm sure of it.

In the past 23 years, she has collected 47 ornaments. Most of them are from her dear mother. They are not just any ornaments, either. They will do double duty by decorating her tree and reminding her of her growing up years.

This is one of many Wizard of Oz ornaments Katherine has. When she was two and three years old, Katherine truly believed she was Dorothy. I've never let her forget it.

Katherine has played piano most of her life. So she had to have a piano ornament.

She got this ornament the year she was obsessed with riding a motorcycle. She still hasn't been on one (as far as I know.)

The fuzzy dice ornament was given to her the year she got her driver's license. 

This one was for the year she started taking guitar lessons.

And one of my favorites (1-800-MOM) was her gift the year she went off to college.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Easy Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

Chef Anna Weisend of The Grand Finale in Brunswick taught the class last night that Carol, Pam and I attended at Loretta Paganini School of Cooking. We wanted to learn how to make easy treats to give as gifts to our wonderful friends.

On the menu were the following delights:

    Blackberry Stuffed Lemon Shortbread
    Luxury Brownies
    Pecan Blondies
    Truffled Brandy Balls
    Apricot Almond Brittle

After sampling a small portion of each dessert, I have decided that the Pecan Blondies are my favorite. Here is the recipe:

Pecan Blondies

1 c. butterscotch chips
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
4 eggs
6 T. bourbon
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. ground cinnamon
2 c. pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment paper, and then grease and flour.

Stir butterscotch chips in the top of a double boiler until melted. Cool 5 minutes. Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in melted butterscotch chips. Add eggs and bourbon, and mix well. Sift together flour and cinnamon, and gradually fold into mixture. Stir in pecans. Spread batter evenly in pan.

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until center springs back when gently touched. Cool in pan to room temperature.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Even More of My Favorite Things

A sample of Downy Unstopables came in the mail one day. I added some of the beads to a load of stinky laundry. When the laundry came out, it smelled wonderful. These things really work!

I love my Kitchen Aid mixer. I have the paddles that came in the box, which are fine. When I saw this one that has extended rubber wipers to scrape the bowl as it mixes, I had to give it a try. No more scraping down the bowl!

If you never want to clean up the mess on a cookie sheet again, these SILPAT mats are for you. They wipe clean with a damp rag. Cookies don't stick, and they brown evenly too.

Cloth drawstring gift bags are the best way to wrap a present! Big Lots had some really cute ones for $1.00 each  in early November. I bought out the store. This would be a very easy thing to make.

My hair tends to flip up and get frizzy. Must be the natural curl I inherited from my mom. It is particularly bad in the summer. To tame it, I work in some of this Smooth Infusion from Aveda. It adds just enough oil to my hair to calm it down.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Don't Stand in Line

I went to the post office to mail a package for Don's mom today. The line was out the door, and it wasn't even lunch time yet. While standing there, I thought about the five or six packages I need to ship for Christmas. I dreaded the notion of visiting the post office again.

Then I remembered that the United States Post Office has a website, and I wondered what kind of services it might offer. When I got home, I checked it out. I won't be standing in line after all.

At the online post office I can print labels with postage and schedule a pick up at my home. All I need is a postal scale which I can pick up at Walmart for $35. I'll be using this to mail all boxes and oversize envelopes from now on.

Stamps are available for purchase online as well as free boxes which can be used to ship priority mail at a flat rate. When we go on vacation, I can set up dates to stop and start mail delivery. Why didn't I think of this before?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

No Words Needed

Friday, December 9, 2011

Behold Our God

Tonight was opening night for the Parkside Christmas concert. Katherine was in the choir which was made up of over 150 people along with a full orchestra. As usual, it was a treat to sit and listen to all those talented people. Violinist, Karin Harrell, was simply amazing. My favorite song of the evening was Behold Our God. Not really a traditional Christmas song, but it was my favorite, anyway!

Behold Our God

Who has held the oceans in His hands?
Who has numbered every grain of sand?
Kings and nations tremble at His voice
All creation rises to rejoice

Behold our God seated on His throne
Come, let us adore Him
Behold our King - nothing can compare
Come, let us adore Him

Who has given counsel to the Lord?
Who can question any of His words?
Who can teach the One who knows all things?
Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds?

Who has felt the nails upon His hands?
Bearing all the guilt of sinful man?
God eternal, humbled to the grave
Jesus, Savior, risen now to reign

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Food Blogs, etc.

Before I get into some food blogs I've found recently, I want to tell you about a website that indexes cookbooks. I haven't signed up for it, but it sounds very interesting. I have rows of cookbooks on my shelves with lots of post-it notes sticking out of them. When I want to find a recipe I remember seeing months ago, I have to go through all the cookbooks to find it. With Eat Your Books,  I could type in some key words and locate the recipe in seconds. For $2.50/month or $25/year, I could access all my cookbooks from the site. Eat Your Books does not keep the actual recipes online, just the index and ingredients. I would have to get my cookbook off the shelf to actually make the dish.

Now for a few cooking blogs:

The Crabby Cook is written by Jessica Harper, a mom who has picky eaters. I can relate.

Three Many Cooks is the blog written by cookbook author Pam Anderson and her two daughters. I have a couple of Pam's cookbooks (Perfect Recipes for Having People Over & How to Cook without a Book) and I took a class of hers at the Western Reserve School of Cooking a few years ago called The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great.

She Cooks is a blog for normal cooks like me. Nothing fancy, just plain good food people will eat.

The Brown Eyed Baker I didn't trust this blogger at first because she's too skinny to be an expert in the baking field. However, she seems to know her stuff. I like the fact that she has tutorials.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Perfect Present

When kids are little, it is so easy to find a Christmas gift that will make them smile. Sometimes it will make them jump for joy. As they get a little older, it gets more difficult to find the perfect gift. These were the easy days:

Although she could have used "her two front teeth", Katherine was still pretty happy with her first camera.

Daniel couldn't have been more thrilled to open up his Playmobil Fort Glory.

Peter was pretty excited about his Stomp Rocket.

Monday, December 5, 2011


When she was two years old, Katherine's favorite book was The Real Mother Goose. She carried it around with her, and when she wanted us to read it to her, she would say, "Goosey". We would read this book to her almost every day. It turns out this was a good thing. Research shows that nothing boosts language development early in life more than nursery rhymes.

After I became a librarian, I found many more versions of Mother Goose that I liked better. Here are three of my favorites:

This one would have been more appropriate for a two year old.  The rhymes are simple and the illustrations are more baby friendly.

Arnold Lobel is one of my favorite children's authors. His illustrations are humorous, and the rhymes in this book appeal to older children.

The "You Read to Me, I'll Read to You" series was a favorite in the library. The rhymes are set up so that the parent reads part of the rhyme, and the child reads the other part. At the end of each rhyme, parent and child read a line together.