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Monday, May 25, 2015

Homemade Samoas (yeah right) -- Fail Kitchen


"We can't use a knife. I failed too hard to use a knife."

Here's the recipe for those of you who are brave enough to try this:


For the cookies:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the coconut topping:

3 cups shredded sweetened coconut

15 ounces store-bought or homemade soft caramels

3 Tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 ounces dark chocolate (See Kelly's Notes)


Make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In three increments, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter, mixing between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the milk and vanilla extract, blending until combined and the dough begins to come together in large pieces.
Use your hands to divide the dough in half, pressing it together to compact it into two disks. Wrap the disks securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate them until firm, about 1 hour.
Once the dough has chilled, roll each disk out onto a lightly floured surface until it is 1/8-inch thick. Cut out as many cookies as possible with a doughnut-shaped cookie cutter. (See Kelly's Notes for cookie cutter alternatives.) Place the cut-out cookies on a Silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half-way through, until the cookies are pale golden brown. Transfer the cookies to a wire wrack to cool completely.
Make the coconut topping:
Spread the coconut flakes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the coconut for about 10 minutes in a 350ºF oven until toasted, stirring frequently to ensure even browning and so that it does not burn. (See Kelly's Notes.) Remove the toasted coconut from the oven and set it aside.
Melt the caramels, milk and salt in a double-boiler by placing the caramels in a medium saucepot set over a large saucepot of simmering water. Cook, stirring, until the caramels are fully melted. Remove the saucepot from the heat and combine 3/4 of the caramel with the toasted coconut in a large bowl.
Carefully spread the remaining 1/4 cup of caramel atop the cooled cookies then press on a portion of the coconut mixture. Let the cookies cool for 30 minutes. If the caramel-coconut mixture thickens too much at any point while pressing it onto the cookies, return it to the double-boiler and warm it until it's spreadable again.
Melt the dark chocolate in a double-boiler or in the microwave. Dip the bottoms of the cookies in the chocolate and place them on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Use a fork to drizzle the tops with chocolate. Let the cookies sit until the chocolate hardens fully.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Finding the new normal -- Guest post

It was a year ago at the beginning of April that Tom moved out. It's been a full cycle - summer, fall, winter, spring and back to summer. A year of holidays done differently. A year of school: Tai graduated kindergarten and is just four days short of finished with first grade, and Miriam started preschool and is almost through her first year. In this year, I've learned at least as much as the kids. Some lessons were obvious, others less so.

1) I learned that I don't have to ask permission. I adopted two cats, because I wanted to. I didn't have to make a case, I didn't have to prove anything. I have begun to make the house my own - to decorate in ways that please me, and to figure out what pleases me.

2) I learned I could do what needed to be done, even when it felt impossible. I've made it through several rounds of stomach flu with the kids without dissolving into a puddle. I even managed to hold back hair and rub backs. For an emetophobe, someone who would have a panic attack at the thought of getting sick, this was huge.

3) I learned I needed to take time to figure out who I am, on my own - to become an 'I' rather than half of a 'we'. I went on a few dates, met some interesting women who I enjoyed hanging out with - but realized quickly that I wasn't really ready yet. I haven't been on my own in more than twenty years.
4) I am learning what I want in my next relationship, and what I deserve. Someone who enjoys some of what I enjoy, who will go to concerts and musicals and the symphony and the opera and museums. Someone who doesn't hold me in contempt. Someone who is a partner.

5) I learned that I enjoy working out of the house. I've been a stay-at-home mom ever since I was pregnant with Tai. I hadn't realized I missed having a job until I went back to work. I feel like my days have a new structure, and I love stretching my brain in new ways.

6) I learned that I am the one. I make the rules, I enforce the rules. With the kids, and for myself. Not always a positive, but a part of the growing-up that I'm doing.

7) I learned that I'm grieving the loss of what I imagined I had, or imagined I could have, with Tom more than what I really had. 
8) I learned that I don't want to go backwards. I have never regretted the decision to separate from Tom, at least, not for myself. Even when I found out he was dating, when he began having sleepovers with the kids and the girlfriend, I never wanted to get back together with him.

9) I learned that I am okay alone. Even when I'm grieving, even when I am sad or scared or lonely, I can sit with that and it passes, and I am okay.

10) I learned that I am tired of keeping my life small and circumscribed by fear. I am ready to have a bigger life. To be who I am, in all of my messiness.

It has been 14 months since Tom moved out, since the kids have been traveling between our two houses. We've learned and we have found our own routine. We have made a new normal.


Aubrey Harmon is a mother and writer who blogs at World Split Open.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Feminist Flames of Pentecost -- Guest Post

Sunday is the feast of Pentecost, the day that falls forty-nine days after Easter. It is remembered by Christians as the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples of Jesus as tongues of fire.

At my Roman Catholic alma mater, there was a stained glass window of the Pentecost event that featured the apostles and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Red, disembodied tongues floated piously over their heads, and with a stretch of the imagination they could be said to look like flames. It seemed to me a rather gruesome image when I was an undergraduate.

Now, as the feast of Pentecost approaches, I recall that window as a powerfully subversive image: the God whose word has been enshrined on the page had given ordinary human beings the authority to speak on God’s behalf. What kind of God would do that?

Maybe a God who wasn’t afraid of the alleged imperfections of ordinary human beings would. Maybe a God who wanted to empower ordinary voices to be extraordinary would. I think of Mary, mother of Jesus, and I imagine a woman—of all people--being given the power to speak for God. Then I look at my two small daughters, and I imagine their voices being given the very same power—to speak boldly, with authority. What kind of God would do this? The kind of God who was willing to share power and authority. The kind of God who valued what each voice could bring to the conversation. A feminist God. Am I right?

As I celebrate Pentecost with my daughters, I will share with them the story of the tongues of fire, and I will tell them that Pentecost was the day when the most powerful voice of all invited those who weren’t powerful to speak up, loud and clear. And maybe they’ll learn from their God a lesson in listening to the voices of others—and most importantly, listening to their own.


Kate is the married mom of two precocious tots. When she's not chasing them or dancing around them or singing at the top of her lungs with them, she likes to drink coffee, make yummy food with her hubby, edit other people's writing, pray, and write edgy pieces on religious topics. You can check out her blog, Thealogical Lady, at (And, for the record, that "a" in "Thealogical" is no accident.)

Show Dad You Really Care this Father's Day

Father’s Day is coming up on June 21! Don’t wait until the last minute to choose a gift. Instead, make this the year you do something extra special for the dad in your life (whether it’s your husband, your own father, or both!) by planning your Father’s Day gift ahead of time. Check out these ideas to get started with gifts appropriate for a range of budgets.
Come Up with a Handmade Gift
If you’re the crafty type, try to come up with something unique and thoughtful for Dad. Consider his interests and make him something to show you are taking an interest in his interests. If you sew, make him a mini quilt with the pattern of a golf ball on a tee. If you do paint decals or stamps, make him a hat to wear while working in the yard.

Get your kids involved in the project! Do flower or potato stamp paintings or tee shirts as a gift, for example.
Go Personalized
On Father’s Day, Dad should feel special and like his family gets him. Come up with some personalized gifts that really show that he has your understanding and respect. For example, make a customized gift basket full of things he can use, both fun and practical: a few books for his summer vacation, accessories for his favorite hobby (lures for the fisherman, camera film for the photographer, tees and balls for the golfer, etc.). Put it all in a customized container labeled “Dad.” You could go with a nice basket that he could keep for holding his socks or bedside books, or you could use something like a golf ball bucket.
Take Dad on an Outing
Nothing will make him feel quite as appreciated as getting to spend some time with his kids doing his activity of choice. This will be especially meaningful if you’re normally not so interested in his activities of choice! Pick something you will both enjoy like going to the batting cages or playing tennis, and then do something that he loves but you normally don’t do together. So if you are bored silly by fishing trips, make it a celebration of Dad. Go along and help out with all of the hard and less fun parts to keep him from doing any work on his day.
Make Dad a Nice Meal
No dad should have to work on Father’s Day, so help him out around the house with any chores he has to do, and then make him a nice meal to end the day. Consider his tastes and then try out something new that complements those tastes. For example, if he loves BBQ, buy a new marinade or spice rub to try out and grill some new items like corn on the cob or skewered shrimp along with the standards.

Don’t forget to compliment the meal with some interesting drinks. If he likes mixed drinks, look up some interesting cocktail recipes. If he likes beer, wine, or bourbon, check out some new and interesting looking ones to try out together.
Thinking About Store Bought Gifts
On Father’s Day, stores will be full of silly items targeted specifically for last-minute Father’s Day shoppers. Be smart and plan your gift giving ahead of time so that if you do want to give Dad something store bought, you can make sure it is something personal and meaningful, rather than something too silly. Ideas might include:

  • If he loves technology, go shop around for some interesting, unusual items or some techy accessories. For example, you could get him something practical like a new wireless mouse or phone charger, or you could buy something quirky; something that is not necessarily useful but would be fun for a person who loves gadgets.
  • Gadget lovers may also be interested in unusual puzzles or games. Go to game stores or shop around online for highly rated puzzles and games, especially ones that are for groups so you can try out the new game together.
  • For the hobby artist, consider going with gifts that complement his interest like paint brushes for the painter, or go with gifts that might encourage him to expand into new areas to broaden himself. For example, the painter might enjoy an airbrush kit.
  • For the music lover, consider a gift that might make his music listening experience better. You could go with some nice, unique headphones or a special case for his headphones (you can even get headphones molded to the shape of the ear for really exceptional listening!) or you could get something new like a record player that connects to his computer or a spinning record cleaner.
  • Just pay attention to what he asks for! If he has asked for anything in particular, keep that in mind for Father’s Day!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Grocery shopping as a parent -- Guest post

Ever hear that saying, "don't go grocery shopping when you're hungry"? There's an even more important saying. "Don't go shopping with kids when you're hungry."

It's not just that you'll make poor choices, nutritionally and financially speaking. It's that shopping with kids is a soul-draining exercise, and you need to be prepared mentally and physically.

Think I'm joking? You've never been shopping with my kids.

(As I write, I am reminded of how hard it used to be. The best shopping trip then is equivalent to the worst one now. When the twins were two, and my eldest was being home-schooled for a year, I would often arrive home from shopping, park in the driveway, and sob for several minutes, from sheer exhaustion. Sometimes I don't know how I survived. One time I did the shopping, carried all the bags upstairs, put everything away, went outside to hang up the never-ending laundry, and came back inside to discover that they had squished an entire packet of tomatoes across the kitchen floor. With a rocking horse.)

Earlier this week I made an emergency post-school-pickup stop for eggs. The twins are exhausted after school, so I try to avoid it if at all possible. My boy twin attempted to kick me the entire way around the supermarket, and when I held his arm to make him walk without my shins being battered, he took to wailing "You're hurting me! You always hurt me so much!" He lay on the floor at the checkout, kicking the floor and repeatedly screeching in tones so irritating as to be beyond description. The check-out operator gave me a wide-eyed stare of sympathy. Or maybe it was accusation. I'm not sure; I was too busy unhelpfully hissing "You're too big for this. Get UP!"

My girl twin is nurturing, sweet and thoughtful, except when she's a rampaging shriek-fiend from Tantyville. Complete with foot-stomps. When the Beast comes out, there is little that will appease it.

One of the things that brings out the Beast is when her big brother gets to go on "missions" at the supermarket. This is usually something like "dagnabbit, I forgot the rice bubbles. Go get some, please?" He's twice her age, so while I am comfortable with him popping back an aisle, it's not an option for her. Oh, the fury. Oh, the injustice.

Unfortunately, while willing to please, my eldest is cerebral, often to the point of forgetting to look out for other people. I spend as much time apologising for his dreamy clumsiness as I do for his little brother, who careens through the crowds with gusto and glee.

Perhaps most frustrating, however, is my eldest's habit of needing to explain, in explicitly painful detail, his latest Minecraft creation. His timing is impeccable; "blah blah desert temple ocean monument redstone blah blah" always comes at the peak of my muttered mantra of "stay close, stay quiet, pointing not touching", as I become increasingly overwhelmed with the multiple stimuli of the commercial environment, and the twins' exuberant behaviour.

It's all too much for me.

Add a dose of hangry to the mix, and it doesn't end well. I will be snapping and grumping, and internally despairing of my children ever being fit to be in public.

Though it used to be worse, it can still be very difficult. A recent shopping trip with the entire family ended with fuming silences, and no screen time for ten whole days. Hubby and I shared meaningful glances that said "There better be gin at the end of this day, or there will be trouble."

And thus we discovered another important truth.

Going to the liquor store after grocery shopping with kids, is like going to the grocery store after not eating for a week. Everything looks good.


Donnelle Belanger-Taylor is a mother and writer living in New Zealand.


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