The Pullover

I was driving home from work tonight, minding my own business when it happened.

I got pulled over.

As I put the car in park the panic sets in. I know what I did wrong, I just didn’t think it was a big deal. I knew when I saw those blue lights out of the corner of my eye that they were meant for me.

As traffic is whizzing past me and I wait for the rap at my window I try to think this situation through. I’ve only been pulled over once, and that was many years ago. I was speeding on a major interstate and choose to go to court to fight my ticket. I won by the grace of God – the clerk reviewing my plea had just gotten a new dog from the MSPCA. He asked me what I did for a living and “working for an animal welfare non-profit” was music to his ears. I got lucky that time.

How am I going to get out of this one? What the heck do I do? I have to present my license and registration, but god knows where that is. I start to open my glove compartment box for a thorough search and then quickly slam it shut and limit my movements – what if he thinks I’m looking for my gun? Or hiding a stash of illegal drugs and other illicit goods? I sit back in my seat and stay stock still.

Finally he approaches my car. He’s not happy. Allegedly I accelerated through a yellow light. I maintain I was in the intersection when it turned red and it would have been too dangerous for me to go back (what I like to call “committed”). In all honesty I was thinking about how I wasn’t feeling all that great, all the work I had to get done this week, and what was for dinner, so rather than fart around and screech to a blazing halt I went for it. I travel this intersection every day. It wasn’t the first time I’ve caught the light on yellow, and it’s not going to be the last. Honestly I wasn’t really thinking – and lord knows I didn’t see any cops or I would have altered my plans. While I was being lectured on my poor judgement I kept thinking, what could have prevented this from happening? I could have stayed home from work today because I wasn’t feeling well. I wouldn’t even be here right now if I had done that. I could have left work a little earlier like I had planned, I wouldn’t have been rushing to make it home if I had done that. If I was just a little bit faster I would still have had a green light. If I was just a little bit slower I would have hit the red.

yellow light

The cop walks back to his car after a roll of the eyes and exaggerated sigh (I don’t do well with authority – a blank “yes” or “no” is about all you’re going to get out of me for any question asking). I sink down in my seat as I wait for my sentence. I worry what all these other drivers are thinking about me as they go by. What did that girl do? Oooooohhh..she’s in trouble! Basically all the things I wonder about the people pulled over that I’ve passed before.

I’m a good driver, at least I like to think I am. Yes I learned to drive in Massachusetts and yes I’m guilty of going over the speed limit on many occasions (as in daily). But I don’t drive like an a-hole. And that’s gotta count for something with the traffic fairies.

He comes up to my door again and thrusts a piece of white paper at me. A warning. My driving record is “pretty good” and he’s going to let me off  – but I need to “cool it” and stop running yellow lights. He gets back into his car and we both do the awkward “who leaves first” sit and wait game. I pretend to rummage around in my purse while I glance in my rearview, willing him to leave already. He’s not budging. I decide not to tempt the fates and get the hell out of there, but not before switching on my blinker and crawling out into traffic like a 90 year old nana. The rest of the way home is a white-knuckled ride as I fret over breaking another traffic law and getting pulled over twice in one day. Surely the fates aren’t that cruel.

A big thank you to that cop – you scared the daylights out of me even if I didn’t act like it. Thanks to you I’m going to be on high alert now. You pressed my driving reset button. No more messing around, speeding, rolling through stop signs, and attempting to find something in the backseat while I’m pulling out into traffic. I’m going to obey all the laws and drive five miles under the speed limit. I needed this – and despite my embarrassment at being “THAT” guy who was pulled over today, I thank you for coming along when you did, to remind me to cut the crap.

Any maybe tomorrow it would be wise to go the long way home…and avoid that stupid light.

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

While listening to the radio on the way to work this week I learned that October is Celiac & Gluten Intolerance Awareness Month. Having several family members who suffer from such issues, it made me smile to hear it so prominently addressed. After some internet sleuthing I discovered it’s a lie and the ad I heard was some misguided attempt at a marketing promotion (Celiac Awareness Month is actually May). Still, it got me thinking about my loved ones who suffer from gluten sensitivities and how it’s impacted me in the past couple of years.

I’ve previously mentioned that being Celiac or having any sort of gluten sensitivity is my personal version of hell on Earth. My grandfather was diagnosed with the disease many years ago. At the time it wasn’t very well-known and had me and my family scratching our heads as to what caused it. Fast forward a couple of years and my father-in-law is diagnosed with it. Several years after that my sister, who long suffered from mysterious maladies, finds she’s gluten sensitive. It was her diagnosis that really woke me up to Celiac disease and gluten intolerance and what people who suffer from these issues go through on a daily basis.

What is Celiac disease and Gluten Intolerance?

A search of the interwebs found this concise little definition:

Celiac disease is a condition in which eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, causes damage in your small intestine. People who have celiac disease cannot absorb nutrients from their food, and the condition can lead to complications, such as malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility, and even cancer.

Similiar to the actual Celiac disease, gluten intolerance or sensitivity is on the rise. The symptoms are nearly identical to celiac disease, and my sister’s particular case has intensified with time. Nowadays just a hint of gluten in her diet causes her to break out in hives, get sick, or worse, have impaired judgement/mental awareness.

My sister is a frequent visitor to our home, and I’ve learned to adapt our many carb-filled meals to be gluten-free so she can continue to enjoy them. This apple crisp was my first attempt. We usually make this treat in the fall when she comes down to our house to go apple-picking. The gluten-free version is adapted from my original – with some extra butter to keep it moist 😉

apple crisp

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

5 medium-sized apples
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of gluten-free flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose baking flour)
3/4 cup of rolled oats
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons of butter or margarine

Peel, core, and slice the apples into bite- sized pieces and add them to a greased pie dish. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix them together until they form a crumbly mixture (I like to use my well-washed hands for this activity as it’s hard to distribute the butter if you use a spoon). Pour the mixture over the apples, covering them evenly and allowing some of the mixture to fall down in the cracks and around the edges. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until the apples are bubbling and the crust is brown. Serve with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

October is finally here – my favorite month!

I shared this fact today with a client at my workplace. Her first reaction, “Oh yeah? Is it your birthday?” No, that was last month. I probably should have been born in October, it would have made more sense. But no, while it’s not my birthday month, it is the month of the best holiday of the year – HALLOWEEN!

Jack Skellington Pumpkin

I made this Jack Skellington pumpkin today to “ring in” the holiday season 🙂

I don’t know when I really started loving Halloween. I remember my mom making me some amazing costumes when I was little, specifically a unicorn outfit she sewed herself, complete with a massive golden horn and little gloves and booties for hooves. We didn’t trick or treat in our town – rural Maine doesn’t lend itself to too many housing developments and the lack of sidewalks and street lights might have had something to do with it. My sister and I would stop at my grandmother’s house on the way to the annual Elementary School Halloween Party. We’d show off our costumes and get our goodies (Gram always had the good stuff) before playing games and “winning” candy prizes at the school party.

Fast forward about ten years and I’ve found my love of dressing up on Halloween still hasn’t gone away. After graduating college and being a newlywed, I spend many a Halloween going out to costume parties, coming up with crazy over-the-top outfits and amassing a collection of “holiday” TV shows and movies to watch year after year.

Now that I’m in my 30’s with my own family and home, the month of October has a whole new meaning. My husband knows that the second week of September means the Halloween decoration boxes come down from the attic (I need at least 6 weeks to enjoy them after the effort it takes to put them all out). My coworkers know they’re going to see an endless parade of baked goods in orange and black. My skeleton head earrings come out of my jewelry box and “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” is shown on my TV every day. It’s a special month, and now that Silas has joined our family it’s only gotten better. Now that he is walking you better believe I’m suiting him up and dragging him around the neighborhood come October 31st!

Looking forward to enjoying all that October has to offer, and posting some amazing Halloween-inspired blogs in the process!

Experiment #72: Yogurt Pumpkin Cheesecake

Who doesn’t love pumpkin cheesecake?

No, really, who? Because I’d like to talk to them about that. It’s like the perfect marriage. Delicious rich pumpkin tasting like everything that’s good about fall wrapped into the custardy creamy goodness of cheesecake. Whoa.

Of course now that the weather is getting cooler and the leaves are starting to turn I can’t help but to crave all things “fall” when it comes to baked goods. I usually stock up on canned pumpkin in September before the masses descend on it for their Halloween and Thanksgiving baking (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve entered a canned pumpkin-less supermarket and left disappointed). This past weekend I decided to make the hubby a pumpkin cheesecake.

I just got home from the grocery store and assembled my ingredients on the counter top as I pulled out my trusty cookbook. I didn’t look up a recipe for pumpkin cheesecake before I went shopping but I had a pretty good idea of what I needed. As I was riffling through the many variations of this dish that I possess a recipe for, I realized I might have been too hasty in my decision to wing it. I had a graham cracker crust, so we’re good there. I bought two bricks of cream cheese; plenty for one pie. I had eggs and sugar on hand in plentiful amounts, and my stash of 264 cans of pumpkin meant we were good to go. Except one recipe calls for 5 bricks of cream cheese (Jeez – I’m making one pie – not feeding a small country), and one needs sour cream. Damn you sour cream – I never have you when I need you. This other one lists a box of instant vanilla pudding. A rummage in the recesses of my cupboard where one such box could be hiding yields no results. Ah – this one says cool whip. I have that.

I open the fridge and fish out my cool whip container to find it 2/3rds empty. I’ve got to stop dipping my finger in there before bed each night…

My eyes rest on one of my trusty containers of low-fat vanilla yogurt. I used yogurt recently as a substitute for sour cream when making a coffee cake. Maybe it would work in a cheesecake too?

There was only one way to find out.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Yogurt Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin layer
1 brick of cream cheese (8 oz – I used low fat)
2 eggs
1/2 cup of sugar
1 can of pumpkin
1 sm container of vanilla yogurt (personal size)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves

Cheesecake layer
1 brick of cream cheese (8 oz – I used low fat)
1 egg
1/4 cup of sugar
1 cup of cool whip

1 ready-made graham cracker pie crust (I used the extra large one, or deep-dish, to fit all the batter)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Start with the pumpkin pie layer first. In a mixing bowl, beat the brick of cream cheese, sugar, and eggs together until mixed well and the batter is smooth. Add in yogurt, mix again. Add in pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and mix thoroughly. Pour the batter into the ready-made graham cracker crust and set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, make the cheese cake layer by combining the brick of cream cheese, egg, and sugar and mixing well until the batter runs smooth and has no cream cheese lumps. Mix in the cool whip by hand, folding it into the cheesecake batter. Pour this mixture on top of the pumpkin pie batter and spread with a spatula so it covers the entire top of the pie. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 minutes or until the middle is set and the top is slightly brown. Cool for 1/2 hour before chilling in the fridge.

Emily’s Tip: My craphole photography doesn’t do it justice but this cheesecake has a nice layered look – perfect for fall potlucks or dinner parties. The yogurt really gives it a little tang! Someday when I have a full container of cool whip available I will cut down the pumpkin layer and increase the cheesecake one.

Scrappin: Birthday Quiz

I never had birthday parties with my friends when I was little – my parents believed I got enough presents from my family that I didn’t need to ask all my friends to give me some too. I usually had a friend stay for a sleepover and a trip to an amusement park or some other destination. It never bothered me. The one year I was allowed to have a “party” (mom and dad speak for more than one friend over at a time), we went to the NHSPCA. Instead of birthday gifts, my friends brought dog and cat food donations.

Now that I have a little one I find I’m following in my parents’ footsteps. Silas turned one this year and everyone asked me what kind of party I was having. The looks of horror/confusion when I said “we’re not doing anything” were priceless. I always looked forward to my small family parties when I was younger, I couldn’t wait for Silas to experience the same.

Silas’ first birthday was a quiet family evening with cake and presents and lots of laughs. Post event, I had over 20 photos to scrap – none of which I was willing to “leave out” of a layout. A little digging in my cache of old scrapbooking magazines revealed a spread on “scrapping those millions of birthday party photos”, fresh ideas for scrapping a re-curing event. The Birthday Quiz was one such idea – a quick little questionnaire for the birthday boy to fill out each year so we can chart his likes/dislikes and capture a moment in time.

Below is the Birthday Quiz and my layout for Silas’ first attempt at answering it (with mommy’s help of course). Happy Scrappin!

birthday quiz

The Quiz

1. My favorite book is: __________________________________________.

2. I love when my mom makes ___________________________ for dinner.

3. I’m really good at:__________________________________________.

4. My best friend is: ________________________________________.

5. My favorite TV shows is:___________________________________________.

6. Yesterday I ate _____________________________________ for lunch.

7. The best trip I took this year was:_______________________________________.

8. My favorite snack is:__________________________________________.

9. When I grow up I want to be:_________________________________________.

10. The best movie I saw this year was:______________________________________.

11. My favorite toy or game  is:___________________________________________.

12. I love my family because:_________________________________________.

13. My favorite stuffed animal is:____________________________________________.

14. The best birthday present I got this year was:_____________________________________.

My Craft Space, My Sanctuary

This past weekend was the first two days I’ve been home, with no plans to see anyone or do anything, in almost 5 weeks.  It’s a rare occasion, and after getting the kiddo (and husband) down for their Saturday nap, I went into my craft room and sat at my desk, savoring the quiet and the chance to exercise my creativity.

I’m a very lucky gal. When we bought our four bedroom house I immediately staked out the front-facing room as my craft space.  As the smallest and sunniest room in the house, it was a perfect fit.

Fast forward five years and here’s how I’ve managed to make this space my own personal craft retreat…

Craft Desk

My craft desk, built by my dad and modeled after a drafting desk from Pottery Barn. Both the legs have nine cubby-hole units with adjustable shelving.

paper holder

Organized paper and embellishments is the first step to busting out quick and inspired scrapbook pages. My paper is organized by color and print so that when I pick a color concept, I can quickly scan through solid and print options to find combinations that work. My embellishments drawers are organized by theme (Christmas, wedding/love, travel/vacation, baby).

jars

An IKEA spice rack and a handful of clear jars make organizing my button collection a breeze!

concepts

 Color coordinating can be a challenge and I’m always on the look out for inspiration. If I find it – I tack it to the wall! Perusing my mother’s old magazines revealed home decorating tips that included color palettes. I cut them out, mounted them to cardstock and voila! Color inspiration charts!

tools

I found this tube organizer on Amazon.com after seeing it in a magazine as a way to sort kitchen utensils.  It matched the decor of my craft room and I loved how it had a flat base with angled cubbies for my craft tools so they were all pointing at me as I worked.

beadboard

The latest addition to the craft room – my beadboard wall organizer. Recently installed by dad-extraordinaire, a few hooks from the hardware store and I’m an embellishment-organizing fool!

ribbonjar

Mason jars = classy visual display of ribbon!

For more craft space organization inspiration, visit one of my internet haunts: Houzz.com.

Experiment #51: Blueberry Coffee Cake

One of my biggest bugaboos is spending a lot of money on food for my family only to watch it rot before it can be consumed.

This month the culprit in our home is the blueberry. Truth be told, we can’t eat the entire mini-container before we start seeing “the fuzz”. You know the situation, it’s day #5 after purchase, you’ve still got at least 1/2 container to eat, you tip it upside down and see one or two of the little buggers completely covered in fur. Damn!

Feeling adventurous and in some serious need of baking therapy – I pulled out a half-used container of blueberries from the fridge last week and decided to get creative before they fell victim to fuzz. I busted out one of my go-to cookbooks and scanned some of the muffin and cake recipes to see what I could make. Nothing was inspiring me. I finally stumbled upon a coffee cake recipe. No blueberries in the list of ingredients but I figured I could add them and it would taste just fine.

As I was assembling all the ingredients and pre-heating the oven I noticed a show-stopper – this recipe was for a sour cream coffee cake. Now, I don’t pretend to have any clue as to the science of baking. Sour cream, what does that have to do with coffee cake? Why include it? Added moisture? Is something in the cream reacting with another ingredient to cause the cake to rise? No clue. But it must be important enough to include in the name of the recipe, which means I better have it.

Scrounging around in the fridge yields no sour cream. Swell.

But I do have vanilla yogurt.

A little substitution here, a little addition there and some fudging of the instructions and I have some excellent tasting batter to pop in the oven.  Forty minutes later and out emerges a golden brown masterpiece. The husband tastes it, the office consumes it, thumbs up all around. I completed two tasks – I used up some pesky fruit that would have otherwise been thrown out, and I came up with a new recipe to add to my rotation. Another kitchen experiment success!

Below is the recipe for my version of Cinnamon Blueberry Coffee Cake. No sour cream required. 😉

Cinnamon Blueberry Coffee Cake


Cinnamon Blueberry Coffee Cake

2 sticks of butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3 eggs (or egg beater equivalent)
1 cup of vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (give or take) blueberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cream butter and white sugar.  Beat in eggs (I used egg beaters to get rid of some extra I had) and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and baking soda and add to the wet mixture. Mix well, adding in the vanilla yogurt as the mixture gets dry. After all ingredients are thoroughly mixed, fold in blueberries until distributed well (don’t stir too hard or the almost expired berries will explode). Transfer the batter to a greased 13 by 9 inch baking pan – leave about a cup of the batter behind in the bowl (its fine if there’s blueberries in it). To this remaining batter, add the brown sugar and cinnamon and mix well. Spread this as a layer on top of the batter in the cake pan and spread evenly over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes until a top is a golden brown and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Makes approximately 20 slices.

Why the layer of cinnamon and sugar? I added this step because whenever I try to “cut in” cinnamon and sugar into a coffee cake recipe I screw it up. This baking technique eludes me so I added a cinnamon layer to the top instead and it came out just fine. If you can handle the cutting/swirling in of the cinnamon and sugar mixture in your version – go for it!

Making lemonade out of cinnamon toast

I drove home from work with a smile on my face and a tune on my lips. Traffic was light and I was on my way home to see my family.

I had a good day. Things were quiet in the office and I got a lot done; I felt energized. I made much-needed plans to see long-distance friends. I called in a vet appointment for the cat and went to BJs on my lunch break. I even stopped at Qdoba on a whim to pick up a burrito for lunch. The guilt of veering from my low-calorie diet plans was cancelled out by the price tag – $2 for a plain bean and rice wrap. The day had been good to me and I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my husband all about it while kissing my baby hello and preparing for a relaxing evening.

I pulled in the driveway and screeched to a halt as my jaw dropped. The extremely overgrown hydrangeas in the front-yard had been destroyed. Granted, I had just spent the previous weekend pointing out how much I hated said hydrangeas because no matter what I did each fall, they came back twice as big then the year before, all but obliterating the path to our front door. Clearly my husband was listening. The bush was now 1/2 its original size. It looked like an orange that had been sliced in half – the side flowing over the walkway was now sheered off to the ground while the other side bloomed in it usual gigantic splendor. Giant leaf fronds and still beautiful purple blossoms littered my yard. It looked like a hurricane had come through town and only caused damage to our yard. Biting back a scream I jumped out of the car and marched in the side door.

The smell of burnt bread was in the air. Not one but two pairs of my husband’s pants, with belt still attached, were sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor (My husband suffers from a problem known as “pants-off-itis”- as soon as he enters the house he sheds his lower clothing like a banana peel – stepping out of his pants and leaving them wherever they drop to walk around the house in his underwear). The display on the stove read 6:30pm and my cats were sitting patiently in the kitchen looking to be fed (they usually eat at 5). My son was asleep (ASLEEP!) in his pack-n-play in the living room. Any parent knows this is VERY bad. 6:30pm nap can only mean one thing – a very very long night ahead.

My underwear clad husband waltzes in to greet me with a big smile on his face and I resist the urge to shake him. “Did you see all the yard work I did?” he asks, displaying a big grin and a facial expression that can only mean “Praise me please“. I bite back a retort as I picked up the day’s mail. My hand falls on a stack of coupons. From BJs. I just CAME from f-ing BJs, I could have used those coupons.

I explode.

This is what I think I am.

This is what I think I am.

And this is what I REALLY am.

And this is what I REALLY am.

I’m not the kind of person who explodes. I am my father’s daughter, I usually let things fester for months until one little thing strikes the match (usually something innocuous – like BJ’s coupons) and I engulf in anger flames. This happened to be the moment. I march around the house and start noticing more things to piss me off. J made Silas dinner – a toasted cheese sandwich (which likely caused the burning smell I encountered earlier). But rather than look for normal bread, he made it on cinnamon toast. After a five minute tirade on the stupidity of this move, I see the vacuuming I asked to be completed while I was at work for the day had not been. Toys littered the living room floor and a used diaper was festering on the mantle. The fan was on level 3 (emitting the noise of a 757) and the TV was turned up to accommodate. I wanted to run from the house and scream until my lungs burst.

I spend a lot of time trying to be a positive person. It may not sound like it from this example, but in my daily life I enjoy looking on the bright side and making the most out of any situation. I don’t like stress (who does?) and I enjoy a good laugh at least 10 times a day. I guess this is why when I’m disappointed, I’m REALLY disappointed. And usually this disappointment lands on my husband.

After a big glass of wine and some silence (which would be me not talking and my husband sleeping on the couch), I calmed down. You see, this is somewhat of a trend in our house. I usually come home with all kinds of grand expectations and end up being disappointed. So I started trying a different approach. I don’t expect anything less than chaos. I expect that my child is still alive (as well as the cats) and that’s it. The house could have burned to the ground – I will take it in stride.

As I start making dinner I notice the silver lining – the positives that I managed to overlook in my haste to find everything wrong. Silas wakes up from his nap a very happy boy. He eats his cinnamon toasted cheese with gusto – I try a bite and admit it’s not bad. I open up one of our kitchen cabinets and notice 12 new cans of cat food. They’re exactly the brand I asked for (a rarity when J does the shopping) and they’re in the right place. I go upstairs to put on my PJs and the vacuum is out. The upstairs has been taken care, it was just the downstairs that wasn’t done. The recycling had been organized and was ready to go out for pick-up. And the laundry had been brought down to the basement.

As I headed back downstairs to finish dinner, I had a smile on my face. Despite my quick retreat to bitchy-ville as soon as I walked in the door, I was able to see the good things midst the wreckage. I walked down the hallway to hug and kiss my husband an apology and trip over a pair of his pants.

Scrappin: The Power of 3 – First Fourth

In honor of the Fourth of July holiday tomorrow, I thought it would be a good time to post yet another scrapbooking layout from my Power of 3 theme. I’ve already posted several ways three photos make an amazing layout, and this one is very similar to my first post on Donald Duck.

First Fourth

first fourth scrapbooking layout
On my son’s first Fourth of July I propped him up for a patriotic photo shoot. Being 3 months old at the time, he wasn’t really interested in posing for the camera. My husband bought a cute mini American flag at the local hardware store that day so I stuck it in Silas’ hands to see what he would do. Over the next 5 minutes I just snapped picture after picture as he warily checked out the waving peice of fabric and then became quickly fascinated and delighted with its movements.

When it came time for me to put together this layout – I originally pictured a nice 5 by 7 single photo page with some journaling and a big title. However, as I browsed all the photos I took, I was struck by how cute it was that I was able to capture the moment Silas noticed the flag and the subsequent discovery of how exciting that was for him. I had an action collage on my hands – now how to best scrapbook it?

Enter my old standby – the three photo layout!

By lining up three of my favorite shots, I was able to convey a sense of action – Silas turning toward the flag, noticing it, and then being awed by it. The three-photo layout is great for these types of stories – and it lets you off the hook when you can’t decide which one photo you want to use in a layout.

Here’s some more information on this layout:

PAPER: Since I rarely get to use holiday-themed paper in my layouts – I found this neat quilt-like printed paper online at my favorite scrapbook outlet, Scrapbuck. The pattern looks like a bunch of different papers were used but since it’s just one sheet, it cut down significantly on the assembly time. I added a white peice of cardstock behind the photos to give it some frame and to make sure the busy background didn’t overpower my subject.

TITLE: I have a wooden star cut-out that I keep meaning to use on a layout but instead have been utilizing it as a tracing template. This layout used said template to create a red star background to my “4th” sticker. I also had some glittery blue stickers with major vowels missing (a sure-fire way to relegate the whole sheet to the “What can I possibly do with this now?” pile). Thankfully there was an “i” so I put it to work for my “first” part of the title.

Happy Scrapping!

Fiddlehead Frenzy

Fiddlehead Ferns

A feast for my eyes and my tummy.

Starting in mid-April I become somewhat of a produce aisle monster when visiting my local grocery store.

I zoom over to the mixed greens or seasonal section (you know the one – over in the corner with all the green beans, brussel spouts, okra and what have you) and scan like a robot for my elusive friend, the Fiddlehead Fern. This year was no exception. In 2012 we had a good year for fiddleheads up here in New England – I got them as early as the first week of April and well into May and early June. This year…not so much. Every week I visit grocery stores within a 25 mile radius of my home, scanning the produce sections once, twice, sometimes even four or five times to make sure I haven’t missed them.

Then, about a month ago I was out for the day with my family when we passed a local produce market. Feeling lucky I pulled over and ran inside to see if my precious ferns were there. Sure enough – a ice mountain display had a dirty piece of wax paper on it with probably 50 fiddleheads and a small sign declaring the season had started. Fifty fiddleheads is not a lot – it’s like 100 lima beans. So I body-checked a few old bats and a woman with a massive carriage out of my way and I grabbed the entire tray and poured it into a produce bag – high-tailing it outta there before any of the other customers got feisty. When I got the the checkout the 15 year old cashier gave my goods a hairy eyeball and asked me what I had there. Knowing full well I had a bag of produce that could cost upwards of $8 or $9 a pound, I said “green beans”. The girl didn’t even bat her eyes as she checked me out for $2.14 and I booked it outta the store – a massive grin of victory on my face and a bag full of goodness (albeit partially stolen goodness)  in my hands.

What the heck is a fiddlehead anyway?

A fiddlehead is simply the newborn sprout of a fern as it first emerges from the ground and before it actually blooms into the real deal (i.e. a frond). Since it looks like the end of a stringed instrument – it gets a super-cute name to go with it’s amazingly tasty goodness. They tend to come out in April, May and June – and since they’re seasonal, are a pain in the patootie to track down. It’s a rare day when I find someone who knows what they are, let alone what they taste like or how to cook them. Most of the time there’s a small basket of them to the left and in the shadows of the produce aisle – sitting among other vegetables of their color and making people go, “those look dirty and gross…pass!”

What does it taste like?

That I can’t really tell you – to me it’s a cross between broccoli, asparagus and spinach. It doesn’t really have a taste as far as I can tell – it just tastes “green” – if that helps (which I’m sure it doesn’t). I don’t like a lot of vegetables – but I do like anything green – and these are my go to for all my spring cooking when I’m looking to add some healthy accompaniments to my dinner menu ideas.

I heard they’re poisonous – is that true?

I like to tell people they’re poisonous just to get a kick out of the reaction I get. For a long time my husband thought they were and every time I made them, would eyeball me like I was secretly planning to end his life for not taking out the garbage that week. I’m fairly certain they can’t kill you – but they CAN make you super sick if you don’t cook them appropriately. Thankfully I’ve yet (knock on wood) to get ill from my fiddlehead consumption – and considering I eat my weight in fiddleheads every year I’d say that’s pretty good.

fiddlehead warning

So how do you cook them?

Fiddlehead cooking is a pain in the butt as they need a good cleaning and boiling before even beginning to flavor them up for addition into your favorite dishes. Here’s how I cook mine:

1. Rinse the fiddleheads in warm water.
2. If you’re super picky like me, cut the ends of them off as these tend to be where the most dirt collects in the picking process.
3. Boil for at least 10 minutes. The water will turn brown like the backyard pond – that’s good – all the crap is coming off of them (and the parasites or heebie jeebies that could make you sick).
4. After boiling – rinse in cool water to wash off the dirty water.
5. Add the fiddleheads to a pan with about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a teaspoon of minced garlic. I also add a generous sprinkling of garlic salt to mine for extra flavor.
6. Saute for 5 minutes or so and you’re done!

A long process – but so worth it. I tend to make mine in batches and add them to pasta dishes, as a side, or in salads.

Now that we’re nearing the end of June, fiddlehead season has come to a close. Although I haven’t been able to find any for the past week, I still check the produce aisle of every store I’m in – just in case some late bloomers were able to grace us with their presence. Heaven help you if you’re standing near the display.