Friday, June 29, 2012

Cooking for 100 (or so)

Daddy and I are both on the local volunteer Fire Department. Daddy has been doing this for a long time, and can be seen on just about every call. I have been doing it for a year and a half, and...I sometimes remember to turn my pager on. I would like to go on more calls, but either a) they happen when I am at work and about to go into a program, or b) they happen when we are home with the kids, and M. is not around to take over for a bit. When there is a fire, it makes a bit more sense to send the person with some actual experience, so generally I stay home.

Sometimes it's pretty quiet. And then there's the past week, when we have had at least a dozen fire and EMS calls. We have been joking that people want to personally say good-bye to the Assistant Chief, who is retiring as of the end of this month. Our Chief of many years is also stepping down, although he will remain on the force.

Mountain folk! We have good news for you! Rather than have an accident or set something on fire, you can just come to the community cookout tomorrow to tell them you appreciate them! You don't even have to bring anything (although desserts would not be turned away). We have approximately a metric TON of food waiting for you, and if you don't come help us eat it, I am going to get very tired of potato salad very quickly.

I have literally been cooking all day, but that's not a complaint at all. I love to cook, and if I can't make it out on calls, at least this way I can feel like I've contributed something useful. Following are recipes for the three main things I made today (you really don't want a step-by-step on slicing onions for burgers, do you?). Tomorrow...or possibly Sunday...I hope to post some pictures of the actual event.

First up:

Crazy Madeleine's Potato Salad

Madeleine is great. She's...well, she's crazy. But, crazy in a make-sure-she's-coming-to-your-party way, not a hide-the-guns-and-prescription-bottles way. And if she is coming to your party, make sure she brings this! Come to think of it, there may be a myriad of things Madeleine makes well, but once everyone tasted this, it became her mandatory contribution. I have taken some liberties, so if yours turns out great, she gets the credit: if it's awful, I'm to blame.

Start with twenty pounds of potatoes, any kind, really. I like to bake the potatoes, rather than boil them, because I think they have better flavor that way. You can do it either way, of course. You can season them now if you like, but I didn't - there is plenty of flavor in the sauce.

You might want to be smarter than me, though, and cube them BEFORE you bake them. And I thought I was being so efficient by putting them on trays in the oven the night before, so I could let them bake while I bathed and got dressed in the morning.

They did, but then I had to wait for them to cool before I could cube them. Oh, well, there were plenty of other things to do.

I hard-boiled the eggs (twenty) the night before. Yes, I know there are only ten in the picture, I did two batches. This morning I peeled and chopped them - with help. If I give S. a hard-boiled egg to eat, I get "it's yucky". When she thinks she's getting away with snitching something, though, she'll gobble up hard-boiled-egg pieces as fast as she can.


The kids thought this egg slicer was the coolest thing since...well, since sliced eggs. I think this one looks like a mummy, with a little yellow face peeking through.

Slice or chop your eggs, and dump them in with the potatoes. I hope you are using a really big bowl, by the way.

I also cut and then fried up the bacon the night before - about five pounds. I say "about" because, if you have bacon stealers in your family, you may want to cook six, just in case. I do. So I did. Toss the bacon in with the potatoes and eggs, reserving a little to sprinkle on top.

Bonus: a whole quart of critter bait. Sorry, we're rednecks.

Next, mince up about 5 cups of onions and toss 'em in.

Now for the sauce:

In a separate bowl, mix...
10 cups mayonnaise,
20 Tablespoons vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar - yum),
15 teaspoons salt,
10 teaspoons sugar,
3 teaspoons black pepper,
and 4 teaspoons paprika.

Looks yummy. Do NOT taste test it. It will seem incredibly salty and throw you into a panic, because you don't HAVE another ten cups of mayo to redo this, and Walmart is a half hour away! Trust me. It's all good. Just gently stir it into the potato mix. (You may need to do it in halves - or quarters - depending on the size of your bowls!)

Then, if you are concerned with presentation, transfer it to a cleaner, prettier bowl, and sprinkle the leftover bacon on top.

You can try covering it with foil and putting it in the refrigerator, but be aware that your husband is going to come home for lunch at this point and valiantly offer to taste test a large bowl of it. If you are wondering, it met with his approval.

Once the littles were napping, and Daddy was back at work and it was safe to cook bacon again, we moved on to

Jalapeno Poppers

Step one: Put gloves on.

Step two: No, really. Put gloves on. Don't be one of the millions of us who had to learn the hard way. You don't want to spend the rest of the evening googling ways to make your fingertips stop feeling they are on fire, especially when it hurts to type. And none of the remedies work. Worse, you could be one of those who absentmindedly wipes their eye or scratches their nose. Oh, and definitely take care of bathroom business before you begin.

Step three: Gloves on? Okay, basically you need to cut the tops off of,

cut in half,

and scrape the seeds out of 75 jalapeno peppers.

Make sure you save the scraps for the mulch pile!

Then mix five packages of softened cream cheese with about four cups of shredded cheddar cheese - or just about anything else that strikes your fancy. Other cheeses, spices, pimientos, whatever. You can just leave it plain, too.

Fill the pepper halves with the cream cheese (you can take the gloves off now), top with a piece of uncooked bacon, and place on a cookie sheet. Set in the broiler, as far away from the heat as you can, on low, and watch them. Take them out when the bacon is cooked, the cheese has bubbled and browned, and the pepprs are starting to blacken here and there:

Yum! These are best when warm, but a warning from the white chick from Ohio: the hotter they are temperature-wise, the hotter they are pepper-wise! That's hard to remember when they are just out of the oven, and they smell sooooooooooo good.
Last I made a tropical trifle, and since I did it in the middle of switching popper pans in and out of the oven, I don't have any pictures except this one:

Wow, it's frozen so solid, it doesn't even spill when you tip it sideways. Er.

This is just your basic trifle, starting with some pineapple coconut cupcakes that I made a while ago, and which didn't turn out like I wanted. Too soggy for cupcakes, but perfect for this! I did
a layer of cupcakes pieces,
a layer of tropical frozen fruit mix,
a layer of whipped cream,
a layer of cupcake,
a layer of whipped cream,
and a sprinkling of fruit.

Then I ate the rest of the whipped cream. Waste not, want not!

So, are you hungry yet? If you're local 'mountain folk', or work in fire and EMS, or with the forest service, or the county, or just want to stop by and tell these two guys "job well done!", then head on over to the main station on Railroad at 5:30PM Saturday night. See you there!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Reading - Week 4 (with apologies to Bieber fans)

Halfway through! We have about 10% fewer kids signed up right now than at this point last year, but they have read a LOT more books. I ordered t-shirts and prizes based on what we used last year, and we are running out of both! Whoever decided the fiscal year should end in the middle of summer was NOT a children's librarian - all purchasing ended earlier this month, and we can't do anything new until July 2. I have given stacks of orders to the person who does our purchasing. Fortunately she is very organized, and has everything ready to where she can just hit a few buttons on the computer early Monday morning!

The city pool opened last week, so we've seen a slight dip in attendance - but just slight. We're still the only free air-conditioned place to hang out, even if the AC is struggling at times:

This was in the children's room, just before Teen Cafe. Ick. So, obviously, we needed ice cream!

Cherries, nuts, milk, and 'nilla wafers are like bread. A well-balanced meal.

The theme for tonight was pajama party, so I cast about for something to pin a tail on, and came up with a Justin Bieber poster. We tossed around various ideas (pin the mustache, pin the funny nose and glasses, etc.) and finally decided to let the teens do whatever they wanted with him.

Meghan gets an anonymous thumbs-up.

And here we have the Biebs, ready for a night on the town.

We also played Chubby Bunnies, which, it turned out, only one person in the room had ever heard of. What ARE they teaching these kids?! In case you, too, led a deprived childhood: Basically, everyone puts one marshmallow in their mouth, and says, in turn, "chubby bunny". Then everyone puts a second marshmallow in, and says "chubby bunny". And so on. It's funnier than it sounds, I promise. You get disqualified if you eat the marshmallow or if you throw up. One of the guys informed me that some kid somewhere died playing this, so I told them if they choked to death, that would also disqualify them.

The girls, who couldn't stop laughing, all topped out at 4 marshmallows each. Two of the guys lasted to six, then one gave up.

You probably didn't need to see that.

The winner, btw, was still speaking quite clearly. I'll leave it to his sister to make comments as to what that implies.

We also made bubble bath and bath salts. Not the kind that will cause you to chew somebody's face off. That didn't stop the conversation from turning to a) plans for the zombie apocalypse (several teens have quite detailed ones in place), and b) natural causes of a possible zombie plague. We pulled out Scott Westerfeld's Peeps, and read some of the passages about real mind-controlling parasites. See, Teen Cafe does promote literacy skills!

Next week is our movie night, and I had a suggestion sheet up for movie choices. The first one listed was The Princess Bride, and when we discovered someone in the room has made it to the ripe old age of twenty without knowing who Inigo Montoya is, that became the only choice possible. What have these kids been DOING???

A small group tonight, but we had fun. Later in July, we will have our Zombie Apocalypse Survival Training, and I suspect that will be a bigger crowd. M. wanted to bring her knives/bow/guns, and mean old Mommy kept saying no. So she worked up a couple real tears.

See them about to drip off her chin?
Impressive. But the answer is still no.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Reading - Week 3 - Andy Mason!

Another busy week! Four story times now, a movie, sand painting with the tweens, and then somebody tried to kill the prom queen at Teen Cafe:

There would have been more pictures, but my camera battery died. We spent an hour looking over clues, and man, were those guys meticulous - down to comparing handwriting on notes, to see if anything could have been forged. And at the end of it all...nobody guessed whodunit! In fact, they were all nearly positive it was a girl who HAD AN ALIBI. If any of these teens are ever in my jury pool, remind me to have my lawyer request they be dismissed.

This morning we had the much-anticipated Andy Mason (aka The Pizza Guy - I wonder if he ever regrets writing that song?) After last week's crowd packed into the multipurpose room at three times the legal limit, we decided to have this one on the lawn. It was perfect, just a little bit breezy, and the shade was placed just right. Doug climbed up onto the roof to get a good crowd picture:

Yup, that would have been a little crowded inside.  

And here's Mr. Andy himself:

If you aren't local, you can check him out at his web site - although he has also been spotted in places like Phoenix, Arizona...Lubbock, Texas...and Warrnambool, Australia! The guy gets around!

The kids' faces say it all:

Yes, that's S. What can I say, my kids are photogenic. Except for the slobber thing going on. Where's my photoshop...

Poor skinny baby. I had to zoom out to fit all the rolls in:)

The adults enjoyed themselves, too. He had us laughing,


and even sticking our tongues out at Mom!

 A great end to the week. Now for a much-needed rest.

Tons of Trucks - Review

Every once in a while, a patron will ask me, "where are your pop-up books"? My general answer is, "in the trash." Library usage is not kind to pop-up books, and we usually don't even bother adding them to the system.

That doesn't mean we don't LIKE pop-up books, though! One of S's favorites is a pop-up, interactive version of Going on a Bear Hunt that her Great-Grandma sent her. That one is kept out of reach of L., for very obvious reasons. This one is a bit sturdier, though, and since we won't be adding it at the library, I think I will keep it and let him enjoy it. (Hear that, IRS? I am keeping a $13.99 review copy. Knock yourself out taxing me on that.)

book cover

We reviewed Shoes for Me, an earlier Sue Fliess book, a year ago, and have since purchased "A Dress for Me" for the library. This has the same fun, simple spirit and easy rhyme that make it a read-over-and-over choice. The pages, as I mentioned, are nice and sturdy, and offer a variety of motions for little fingers to practice (pull the tab out, spin the wheel, etc.) There's even a 'sticky' page where the tar truck has dumped its load (it's sticky right now, at any rate - I make no promises after it is introduced to my cat-and-dog-hair household).

If you have a boy...or a girl...of any age below 40...this one is well worth the purchase! It would make a great birthday gift, especially paired up with any type of toy cars and trucks. "Scuse me, now, while I go spin the cement mixer some more.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bite Me, Martha

It has been a while since we had a theme dinner. This one got thrown together on short notice, and rather than center on a movie, it went with a book. This book:

Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs!

E Mcdo

Or, if you want the back cover:

All these books and...yes, this one again. Because we haven't read it in at least ten minutes.
This has definitely been the book of the week, and was just begging for a meal of bugs to go with it. I'm actually not averse to feeding my kids real bugs, but Walmart doesn't exactly carry them, and as I said, this was last-minute. So, we began the evening with:

Maggots in a hearty swamp sauce, sprinkled with cricket legs and chopped cockroaches.

On the side: individually prepared two-eyed spiders (because Mommy couldn't decide what she was making).

And, of course, the classic bugs on a log. Some had squished flies in peanut butter, others were filled with cream cheese and crumbled grasshoppers.

 Everything was a big hit!

Tasty spider legs

tender maggots

and sweet squished flies.

So how come I'm stuck with mashed 'naners???

Monday, June 18, 2012

Repurposed Storage

Minor continuation of the kitchen/hallway redecorating. Our entire entryway/hallway is a narrow, awkward mess. Muddy shoes get kicked off here  - and then kicked all over as people pass through. There isn't room for shelves on the side, though, and this end is the only spot for the litterbox, so I couldn't put some here - until I hit on the idea of hanging crates:

Mom gave me one, and I found the others for $3 and 50 cents at two different thrift shops. They are perched on screws, so I can take them down easily when I need to relight the heater to the right!

The plastic bag holder is a hanging plant basket I bought for 80 cents and repainted. I bent the chain holders to the side and used those to screw it to the wall.

I also found two brown wicker baskets (not pictured) that look like they might have been bicycle baskets. Those will hang on the wall for hats and gloves this winter, after I give the insides a quick coat of water sealer. Those were 50 cents each.

Have I mentioned I'm a cheapskate? :) And don't you 'love' those handy do-it-for-less articles on Yahoo that think a $100 throw rug is a great deal???

New Toys

Two cute new puppies in the house, and the kids can't tear themselves away...

...from their kennel.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Tonight I completely abandoned my family when six healthy young men appeared in the yard and started modeling for me.





Jasper Elroy was hoping the wet look would detract from his slight dorkiness.

Um...Elroy...scratching yourself in public is not hot.

His buddies definitely knew how to work it, though.


The shy look.

The serious look.

Which is better? My left side?

My right side?

Or just all of my gorgeousness at once?

Taking time to stop and smell the...scrub oak.

Kota really wanted to play. Kota was born without a brain.

While I was busy taking pictures of Elroy, I heard a noise at my left shoulder.

Oh! Well...hello there!

Sorry for the blur - neither one of us had time to focus!

While I had abandoned my family, they had not abandoned me. They took pictures from the window of me taking pictures of the male models, and yelled supportive things like, "Mommy, you didn't finish your corn!"

It's probably a good thing I had already finished eating my...well, let's just say those weren't teriyaki beef strips we had for supper. Awkward.