fun

Rocky Road – a summer read worth reading – Take the ice cream personality quiz at the end

I do like to read young adult fiction, I can say it because I am pre-reading for my children but that is only a partial truth – I like the quality of the writing, the story lines and the fact that I can read it in the time I could read a Harlequin romance…not that I read those now – but I did in college – by the armful, and the occasional Danielle Steele novel, too. I did say I would read anything…and I have – if you are judging me now, so be it. I also read “grown-up” books and am reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog now. Back to YA…

The last young adult fiction book that  I read was Rocky Road by Rose Kent  – Pragmatic Mom let me borrow an advance copy back in June but I am just getting around to writing about it now – it was already published in hard-cover by the time I got the  pre-published bound copy but it was still kind of cool – I walked around with it casually…on purpose. No one asked about the advanced copy but I had fun.

Anyway,  the story involves a more than usually dysfunctional family (Note to YA writers – you know how Disney  kills off a parent for the sake of the story line? YA writers sometimes rely too heavily on family dysfunction for their conflict), having said that and loving YA the way I do, I really liked this book.  The family was dysfunctional in an interesting way with a lot going on. Tess, a seventh grade Texas transplant, whose bipolar mother (father is not involved in this family) moves them to Schenectady, NY in the dead of winter to open an ice cream shop. Tess’s younger brother, Jordan, is deaf and struggles to make himself understood by their mother who can’t seem to manage sign language. The mom is charming and high-functioning and Tess is an artsy-crafty girl who struggles to fit in.  The story is believable and you really care about the characters – and there are plenty of well-drawn characters here,  A strong sense of community and friendship and good values like hard work and responsibility also run throughout the story. If that sounds like a drag, it isn’t. I liked the characters, the writing and that the author dealt with tough topics – bipolar disorder, financial troubles and even caring for a younger sibling (when you may not really want to) are all interwoven in a way that make these topics accessible to younger readers but also engaging to – ahem – older readers, like myself.

All in all, a good read that makes me want to find other books by this author. I found this one: Kimchi and Calamari about an adopted boy who is researching his roots.

About Rose Kent  –  a native Long Islander who spent her summers in the great state of Maine. She is a former naval officer who also worked for a major food corporation. Rose’s first middle-grade novel, Kimchi & Calamari (HarperCollins Publishers) was inspired by her adopted children from Korea. Kimchi & Calamari has been nominated for the NY Charlotte Award, the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Award, and the Florida Sunshine State Young Readers Award.

Ice Cream Personality quiz that Pragmatic Mom found and I blatantly copied. Thanks, Pragmatic Mom!

It must be synchronicity or something

The world works in funny ways – I have to go to Treat Cupcake Bartreat cupcake bar needham from capabilitymom.com (I know it is a tough job but I will take a hit for the team) because I have heard about it a dozen different ways in the past weeks and because I do love cupcakes and you get to build your own cupcakes so, really, it is for the children. I will report later this week.  I also have to go to Sofra – I am picking up a friend’s farm share while they are away -and the pick up spot is in the store – tough week. Earthquake cookies to go, please.  It is our turn for our shared farm share this week as well so I would love any veggie recipes or we will be eating lots and lots of salads. More baked goods but balanced by veggies, so that’s good, right? Right?capability mom goes to sofra

Then, after I put up the Woman’s Day link to those great food bloggers, another friend sent me a link to great stuff to do in Portland, Maine…from Woman’s Day! Seriously, is it time to look into this august publication again? I don’t know but so far, very promising. The website is well organized and they even make fun of their old covers here.

capability mom finds woman's dayPost Script:
Okay, something is up – I just got back from a visit to the dermatologist’s – just a look at something I thought should be looked at – and while in the waiting room of this lovely practice, I saw, yes, you guessed it…Woman’s Day magazine – so I read it, of course. The articles are good, the writing is very good and I was all set to be tucked in to this issue but the very prompt and professional staff at Krauss Dermatology did not allow a good long read. All the better. I think I should at the very least go buy my own copy at this point.

capability mm finds two great resources in woman's day magazine

Cakes: rainbow, chocolate and other

capability mom makes the rainbow cake - spoons Here are some cake recipes that I have posted before but seem to get searched for fairly frequently. I am putting them on the front page to make it easier to find them…not because I am lazy and this is an easy way to post.

Here is the thing. I love to bake but am not especially gifted in this area. Oh, pshaw, Capability Mom, you say, it looks like you are…well, capable. I am capable but I am not inspired. I am a nervous baker and can’t easily adapt a recipe or change part of one that I like and add something else instead. I have friends who are incredible bakers and so I know the difference.

When I made The Whisk Kid’s crazy gorgeous rainbow cake, for instance, I followed her recipe exactly…except when I didn’t. Here is another thing about me – I love to read but not directions…like on cake flour boxes. So I had cake flour and thought how nice it would be to use it for a cake, logical, yes? But I failed to read the box which told you the formula (not difficult – just another tablespoon or so of cake flour for each cup called for in recipe) and when we made the first batch (yes, this was before we had no water – thankfully) – they were flat and full of airholes and some were quite raw. The colors were gorgeous but I knew the cakes were a failure. Sigh. I do so dislike failure.capability mom - cakes in the oven - rainbow cake After determining that all were mostly lost, we remade the cakes with all-purpose flour – as I should have known to do in the first place – and they came out perfectly wonderful round layers.

At this point we called it a night. I had made the base butter cream frosting from The Whisk Kid’srecipe – my first ever – and was thrilled because it was delicious.  I covered it and put it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, I made the top coat of butter cream frosting and waited for the under or crumb coat frosting to come to room temperature. Despite the heat of the day (and it was so hot), that butter cream remained unspreadable. Rookie that I am, I was too nervous to do anything to it other than jab at it with a spoon (this does nothing) and make 3 or 4 more batches of the top coat (because I had started frosting with that and was now committed to it). Luckily, I had tons of eggs and sugar (and a container of egg whites that vaguely felt like cheating). Why did I not just go to the store and buy Duncan Hines? Because I am stubborn and I was making this cake and it would be from scratch because that would show my daughter that …what, exactly? The lesson learned was that her mom is, if anything, determined and stubborn, yeah, like that is news. I was pretty flustered but mostly capability mom's rainbow cakekept it together (except when I gave up and enlisted two middle schoolers to frost the cake because this is an area of great weakness for me) and I was putting together a party with a moonbounce, cotton candy machine and no water, thank you very much.

It was a success and thrill and surprise to most of the guests and worth the eggs, sugar and time spent. Next time I might read the directions, too.

capability mom rainbow cake

nabisco famous chocolate refrigerator roll We love chocolate at our house – well, except my husband and instead of deeming that a character flaw (which it surely is), I have decided to embrace the positive result of this particular preference which basically means…more for me. It does mean I don’t have to hide chocolate (except from the children…not that I would do that) and I know any stash (if there were such a thing) would never be disturbed even if discovered. So – all good for me. Above is a picture of a easy fun cake to make with kids that a friend just reminded me about (we made it last for a favorite stuffed animal’s birthday party).

Basically it is Nabisco FAMOUS chocolate wafers, whipping cream and vanilla. Here is the recipe from NabiscoWorld.com including the nutritional information – oh, come on, there is some vitamin A in there and some calcium.  My mom made this with us when we were young (it is a classic) and it is so easy (whipped cream and chocolate cookies). Let even the youngest of toddlers stack the cookies and spread the whipped cream. Sure, it’s a little messy but the little ones can make their own and will be so excited about it. Freeze for about 4 hours. When cut on a diagonal (by an adult) it is really cute. Almostrainbow cake cute but a black and white version.  A good project with no baking but you still get a cute, fun cake.

I made the following amazing (I am so modest) chocolate ship cookies for the same friend (a while ago! but talking to her just now made me connect the two) and just made a batch for teacher gifts on Tuesday. Best chocolate chip cookies ever. From the Ghiradelli bag of milk chocolate chips and the Ghiradelli website.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

11 1/2 ounce(s) Milk Chocolate Chips
1 cup(s) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup(s) sugar
3/4 cup(s) brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon(s) vanilla
2 1/4 cup(s) unsifted flour
1 teaspoon(s) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1 cup(s) walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

Directions
Heat oven to 375ºF.

Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. I use the milk chocolate chips – or semi-sweet if you must. Really, really good.

I was asked by a friend (the one who also reminded me about the refrigerator cake – we called it zebra cake) if I was going to put this up. I found the recipe in The Boston Globe magazine – it is from the Hi-Rise Bakery in Cambridge and I have been making it for years. I make it as a welcome to the neighborhood cake, a sorry you-don’t feel-well cake, an all-around great dessert. I call it Vanilla Bread – maybe I should rename Brownies as Chocolate Bread.

Vanilla Bean Loaves

Cake:
3 cups flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp.
2½ cups vanilla sugar (1 split vanilla bean stirred into the sugar and left for a few days*)
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped*
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
8 eggs

Syrup:
1¾ cups sugar
1 cup water
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped*

For the cake:
Heat the oven to 325°. Generously butter two 8½ x 4½ x 2½ inch loaf pans.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a heavy-duty mixer, using the paddle, cream the butter and vanilla sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla bean seeds to the mixture along with the vanilla extract and eggs. Beat to mix.

Add the flour mixture to the batter and beat with a few turns of the paddle until it is just smooth. With a rubber spatula, fold the batter from the bottom of the bowl into the mixture to make sure it’s well blended.

Divide the batter between the pans. Bake the cakes for 30 minutes, turn the pans around, and continue baking for 25–40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out almost clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Turn the loaves out of their pans and return them to the rack.

For the syrup:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. Add the vanilla beans and stir so the seeds disperse. Remove from the heat.

Place the cakes on the rack over a piece of wax paper. Brush generously all over—tops, bottoms, and sides—with the syrup. Brush with more syrup as they cool. Cool completely and slice.

BP Coffee Spill – UCB Comedy via Verbatim

From Verbatim – someplace I always check in on….I didn’t think I would laugh either but I did.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AAa0gd7ClM%5D

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