Saturday, October 31, 2009

if poncho had a nickel

Poncho, as in serape, not Villa. This is my dad's nickname since childhood and today is his birthday.
Educator, tight hug giver, lifelong learner, Halloween baby, Aggie, athlete, inquisitive, fearless, open mind, super father, wood worker, builder, pie maker, proud and supportive father and g-dad, all around great guy. All these and more! Happy birthday Dad. You're the best.

My dad loves this song. He sings a verse or two anytime we get together. This post is named after his favorite line. I liked this version by country crooner Eddy Arnold. Enjoy your weekend and Happy Halloween!
Dadtoo hand drawn by Alan

Thursday, October 29, 2009

who needs a fancy pants recording studio?

Sadie ran across this charming musical duo, Pomplamoose, on YouTube awhile back. In their makeshift bedroom studio they cover some familiar tunes and record original music as well. The guy plays a multitude of instruments ranging from accordian to xylophone, desk tops to a tiny "Linus" piano. Any Charlie Brown fans out there? And just look at her sweet face and darling haircut! Oh, to be 22 again.....

For you Barbra!

Beyonce anyone?

Having trouble sleeping? Click here before sleepy time tonight. You'll love this version of Mr. Sandman

Thanks Sadie!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


What happened? Life ate my morning before I could run and it's almost time to leave for work. I remember my Jillian DVD. I'm always reinvigorated on Wednesdays after watching the Biggest Loser on Tuesday night. While I would love to have Bob as my friend, I would definitely pick Jillian as my trainer. I've only gotten 12 days max into this routine before straying. It's a quick, but challenging 20 minutes. She even yells at you a little bit, just like on t.v. I'm going to work with wet hair again. Oh, well. It'll be worth it in 29 days when my abs look just like this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

french onion soup

It's a tad chilly and very rainy outside. A good day for french onion soup. A word of advice. Don't grate the gruyere too early in the process or you might snack it down to nothing and have to grate again. I speak from experience.

French Onion Soup

6 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 T olive oil and 1 T butter
1/2 t. sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups of beef stock
1/2 c. dry vermouth or dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1/4. t. dry thyme
salt and pepper
french bread, sliced and brushed with olive oil and toasted
1 1/2 c. grated swiss gruyere

  1. In a large saucepan, saute the onions in the olive oil and butter on medium high heat until well browned, but not burned, about 30-40 minutes or longer if needed. Add the sugar about 10 minutes into the process to help with the carmelization.
  2. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the stock, vermouth or wine, bay leaf and thyme. Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaf.
  3. To serve you can either use individual oven proof soup bowls or one large casserole dish. Cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese. Put into the broiler for 10 minutes at 350 degrees or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned.

Monday, October 26, 2009

project siriano

We are wild about Project Runway in our house. Sewing, fashion, creativity,'s the best! If you love Project Runway too, you'll recognize this minute little fellow as Christian Siriano, the winner of season 4. He was in town over the weekend greeting clients and fans at a beautiful upscale boutique. The girls were thrilled to meet him. He loved their curls and Sadie's reinvention of my 1980 Hico Tigers cheerleader top.
Enjoy the brilliant Amy Poehler as Christian on Saturday Night Live. Happy Monday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

halloween hubbub - costume swap

Thanks so much to Ann, Dori, Liz, Pete and Randy for participating in the costume idea swap.
I love their photos, don't you?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

halloween hubbub - a party pictorial

If you're a frequent visitor to Rotten Bananas, then you might already feel like you know Dori and Jim, my fun loving, wildly creative sister and brother in law. Here's a peek inside their kids' Halloween birthday bash. Super scary! All the cool kids were there. Lots of other sights too.....

There were cats and dogs,

Friendly bats and scary, hairy bats,

Good guys and bad guys,

Birthday girls and thrill seekers,

Black lights and orange lights,

And Payton and potions!

If you're interested in seeing the whole slew of party photos, I'll post a link to Flickr for an unedited view.

halloween hubbub-recipe day

I hope you enjoy today's recipes.  Check out this mammoth pumpkin grown by Dave Stumpf in the great state of Minnesota! 

photo by aturkus via flickr

sweet potato soup

This nice fall soup is very easy to make.

Sweet Potato Soup

1 T unsalted butter
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2" chunks
7 c. chicken broth
3/4 c. heavy cream (you could substitute fat free evaporated milk for similar effect)
1 T salt
pepper to taste
1/2 c. shelled pecans, toasted and chopped
2 T chopped fresh sage
1 T chopped fresh rosemary
  • Melt butter in large pot over medium high heat. Add the garlic and saute for 15 seconds. Add the onion and saute until softened.
  • Add the sweet potatoes and chicken broth, cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered until potatoes are soft.
  • Puree the soup until smooth. Place in the pot and stir in cream (or evaporated milk), salt and pepper. Warm over low heat.
  • Mix together the pecans, sage and rosemary. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the pecan mix.


This gooey glob of fun is NOT edible. Beware: it will stick to clothing and furniture.  But please don't let this dissuade you. Kids love it.  Once, we mixed up an enormous batch for a halloween party and added lots of plastic spiders to the mix.  It was great.  

Gak - Temple Emanu El preschool cookbook 

1 c. water 
1 c. white glue 
food coloring to your liking 
1 1/3 c. hot water 
4 t. borax 

Combine 1 cup water, glue and food coloring in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix 1 1/3 c. water with Borax until it dissolves.  Slowly pour water and glue mixture into Borax and water mixture. It will form a glob. Roll it around with your hand a few times. Remove the glob from any excess water and knead it a few times.  Have fun with it!  Store in plastic bag for next time.  
Note - if mixing a large batch, I was able to find elmers glue by the gallons at a teacher supply store.  

pumpkin planets

Once upon a time I attended chef school and worked in a lovely bakery. We made these treats for Halloween.

Pumpkin Planets

2 3/4 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 c. raisins
2 c. walnut pieces
2 sticks less 2 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. unseasoned canned pumpkin (not preseasoned pie filling)


6 T unsalted butter, melted and kept hot
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt into a mixing bowl. Set aside. Combine the raisins and walnuts and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar. Using a hand held mixer set on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until fluffy and light, about 5 minutes. Continuing on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled. Beat in the pumpkin and mix just until combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, one third at a time, alternating with the raisin/walnut mixture, which should be added one half at a time. Beat well after each addition until thoroughly incorporated. The batter should be quite thick.
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper and grease them with butter. Drop mounds of batter onto the prepared sheets. They should be spaced about 1 1/2" apart.
  • Bake the cookies in the top third of the oven until lightly browned on the bottom and the tops spring when touched, approx. 15-18 minutes.
  • To make the glaze, place the hot melted butter in a bowl and gradually whisk in the sugar to form a smooth, flowing glaze that isn't too thin. It should have the consistency of chocolate syrup. If yours is too thick, whisk in a little milk or water.
  • Using a spoon, drizzle over the tops of the cookies.

Monday, October 19, 2009

halloween hubbub

Welcome to my week of Halloween posts. I know it's a little early, but if you like anything you see, you'll have some time to pull it together before the big night.

who doesn't love a dog in costume?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

happy cake

A colorful cake for my colorful girl. Happy birthday Sadie!

We love Ina. She never steers us wrong.

Beatty's Chocolate Cake - Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home

Butter for greasing pans
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour, plus more for the pans
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. good cocoa powder
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 c. buttermilk, shaken
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 extra large eggs, room temperature
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans. (Or take the easy route and spray with Bakers Joy or similar product instead of prepping your pans.)
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine.
Pour the batter into pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack for finish cooling.
Top with frosting of your choice. We love cream cheese. Have fun decorating your cake. Nothing is off limits. I used a sea of Jelly Bellys for a blast of color.

Here are the ingredients I had on hand today for the frosting. Feel free to alter the proportions of the ingredients to suit yourself. Mix ingredients until smooth.

1 block of cream cheese, softened
bag of powdered sugar
stick of butter, softened, not melted
splash of half and half

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

sentimental soup

As the State Fair wraps up this week, I thought this post was worth repeating.
The only ribbon I've ever won in The State Fair of Texas cooking contest was in 1998 for Chick pea, swiss chard and porcini mushroom soup. It was a proud moment. With my mason jar, red ribbon and two curly top daughters we slurped the prize winning contents under the blue October sky alongside Big Tex.

My ribbon hangs in the kitchen over the top of a cocktail shaker, between a silver pitcher badly in need of polishing and the tiny milk frother I use to attempt a Starbucks experience. It's the perfect spot.

Chick pea, swiss chard and porcini soup - by Viana la Place

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 bunch Swiss chard, about 1 pound
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 14-oz can chick peas
4 canned imported Italian tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
2 1/2 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese

Place the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl with enough hot water to cover. After 20 minutes, carefully lift the mushrooms out of the water and place in a fine-mesh sieve. Run cold water over the mushrooms, carefully feeling for any remaining sand. Strain the soaking liquid through several layers of paper towels or cheesecloth. Cut the mushrooms into strips.
Strip the leaves of the Swiss chard from the stalks. Reserve the stalks for another use. Put water to measure 1/2 inch in the bottom of a medium braising pan. Add the Swiss chard leaves and a little salt to taste. Cover and cook over high heat until the chard is tender. Drain and chop coarsely.
Place the olive oil, butter, and onion in a soup pot. Cook over low heat until the onion is tender and golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the garlic during the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking.
Add the mushrooms and saute them for a few minutes. Add the chard, stir well, and let cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chick peas and let them absorb the flavors for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and raise the heat to high. Add the water and the porcini soaking liquid. Bring to a boil, then simmer the soup for 40 minutes with the lid partly on.
Before serving, grind black pepper over the top and stir. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese on the side.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

legendary encounter

I went for a run yesterday while the girls were with Kelly, our beloved math tutor. In a neighborhood far from my own, I sized up the options. Path A would lead me to sketchy territory in a hurry, while path B offered a radical change of scenery with views of estates and perfect lawns, fountains and swans and bronze sculptures of children chasing butterflies with nets. B it is. Plodding along, slack jawed at the sights, I spied Dallas Cowboy legend Roger Staubach wheeling out his garbage bin. First of all, don't you just love him for wheeling his own garbage? And he recycles! I smiled and kept going, but quickly turned around to say hello. This friendly gene often induces eye rolling from my kids. Just as I imagined, he was friendly and polite, even to a sweaty babbling stranger. Dad, how cool is that!?!
As a kid, I loved watching football. In hindsight, maybe I loved spending Sunday afternoons with the McCormick sisters, eating queso and taco salad drenched in catalina, light on the greens and heavy on the fritos.
Smiling, I made my way back to reality.

Note to Mike W. - Don't take me off your list!

Friday, October 9, 2009

sadie's bat mitzvah - rotten bananas style

One year from today our family will be celebrating Sadie's bat mitzvah. Over the next year I'll be planning this event right along with you. While Sadie tackles the study portion, I'll be planning her party. I'll share ideas on throwing a fun, beautiful resourceful party with lots of personal handmade touches and family involvement. We'll talk about developing party themes, decorations, table settings, food and entertaining a bunch of big and little kids. If you've got an important event coming up, I hope you'll bookmark my site and visit often. This won't be our first go round as Sophie had her bat mitzvah in 2008. I hope you enjoy these few shots from Sophie's party. Details coming in future posts. Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Anthropologie is the store I've missed the most during my self imposed ban on new clothing. Not only do I love the clothes with their special hand details, but the store itself and especially the windows are just phenomenal. If you've ever wondered about the visionary behind the look and feel of the place, you should love this new show, Man Shops Globe. You'll have the chance to live vicariously through Keith Johnson, buyer at large for Anthropologie, as he spans the globe in search of treasures. Here is a sneak peek.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

wild thing

My wild thing turns 12 next week and we're having a party! Here is her invitation.

We started with this wonderful illustration out of the book, Where the Wild Things Are, by the marvelous Maurice Sendak. We are over the moon excited about the movie coming out next week and decided to build her party around it.

Savvy Sophie plopped Sadie's head right on top of this monster with a a few short mouse clicks. Aren't kids so smart?

I picked some great threads and oil pastels and started stitching. I love sewing paper.

I wanted the border to resemble jagged monster teeth.
With Cray-Pas oil pastel, I added some color to Sadie's cheeks and lips.

Let the wild rumpus start!

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