Friday, June 27, 2014

Pesto Cream Pasta.

[Originally posted here on April 5, 2014.]

Confession: When it comes to cooking, I like to cheat.

There are some things that are better made from scratch (like pizza dough), but if I can take a shortcut by using something pre-made, or dried instead of fresh (I killed all my herb plants), I tend to do it. It's easier, and often cheaper, and those are things I value more highly than making a dish taste marginally better by sticking to a complicated or labor-intensive recipe.

I still remember the day I discovered The Pioneer Woman. I was still in the "PIN ALL THE THINGS!!" phase of my Pinterest relationship, and I admit I went a little nuts. I even went so far as to print off several pages of cut-and-paste recipes gleaned from her website, some of which I managed to maintain the momentum to actually try within the week. One of those was her Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce.

Pesto Cream Pasta.

I love pasta alfredo, but my hubby finds it too plain, so the pesto in this dish gives it that extra kick of flavor.

I'm sure it's better her way. But making pesto from scratch? Fresh basil is pricey, and homegrown, in my house, is, well, dead. (Seriously. Black thumb here.) And pine nuts? I think that was the deciding factor in going with jarred pesto instead of attempting to make it myself, because I have no idea what aisle the pine nuts are in at the grocery store. (And I really am lazy enough for that to scare me away.) So I cheated.

I'm glad I did. Simpler works better for me, and this dish is still really good.

Here's what you'll need:


  • 8-12 oz pasta (we like veggie pasta)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp jarred pesto

Cook pasta according to package directions. (I went with about 8 0z this night--for me, the amount depends on whether this is the main course or a side.)

Most things that start with butter and heavy cream end well.

While the pasta cooks, heat the butter and heavy cream over medium-low heat.

(I get so bored waiting for things to melt or boil. Not a patient person.)

Once the butter has melted, add the pesto and parmesan.

Stir to mix.

When the pasta's done...

...drain it.

You know how when you make a sauce, and then pour it over something, there's always quite a bit remaining, clinging to the sides and bottom of the saucepan and refusing to drip out at a reasonable rate? (Again, not a patient person.) There are two ways around this: either dump the pasta into the sauce (instead of the sauce onto the pasta), or...

Dump two-thirds of the pasta back into the pot it cooked in (or into a serving dish), and pour the sauce over it. Dump the remaining third of pasta into the sauce pot, stir to coat...

...add it to the rest of the pasta and sauce. No sauce wasted!

Pouring the pasta into the sauce is simpler, but I always end up cooking the pasta in the bigger saucepan and the sauce in the smaller one, and I've learned the messy way that there is not room to stir the pasta and sauce in my small one.

And there you go! Easy pasta, but not alfredo-boring. I love it!

And for your cut-and-paste convenience:

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce
  • 8-12 oz pasta
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp jarred pesto
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
  2. Heat cream and butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat.
  3. Add pesto and parmesan; stir.
  4. Toss pasta in pesto cream sauce.
Enjoy! (And if you have time to try it the "real" way, I'd love to hear from you how they compare!)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

"I don't want to be a princess. I want to be a pirate."

[Originally posted here on April 2, 2014.]

It's something of a tradition among the women of my husband's side of the family: little girls get a dress-up box on their third birthday. My mother-in-law suggested it to me ages ago (I don't remember if I was even pregnant yet at the time), and, as I thoroughly enjoyed playing dress-up as a child, I loved the idea. So I'd been keeping an eye out for thrift store finds and post-Halloween sales for quite some time, and both my mother and mother-in-law made considerable contributions as my daughter's third birthday neared.

Kaylie's birthday is still a week away, but my mother-in-law, who is a teacher on the other side of the country, visited us last week on her spring break. It seemed a good opportunity to celebrate a little early, so she could give Kaylie her contributions in person, so we planned a pre-birthday--complete with cupcakes--for this past Saturday.


She was, as any child her age would be, very excited to open presents!

I thought she'd also be excited at all the new stuff inside.

Flipping through the contents.


She opened and quickly discarded a set of fairy wings from Grandma Carol, and then started on the first of three wrapped boxes. She opened mine first, and, in record time, emptied it by fistfuls, ignoring my attempts to interest in her individual items. "Kaylie, look! It's a ____! Would you like to try it on?" "No, no, no!" And she moved on to the next box.

This pin-on flower was the first thing she expressed an interest in.

Dresses, scarves, tutus, boas, hats, skirts, shawls, and more, and every time, "No, no, I don't want to!"

Until this little pin-on flower. Finally, we got a "Wear it, please?"


Of course, she wanted it right off again within a minute.

A fan!

And she liked this feathery fan.

"I can do it myself!"

Not wearable, but at least she didn't toss it aside.

In the end, this cowgirl hat was the only thing we could get her to wear. She LOVES all the Toy Story movies, so she's a big fan of cowgirls and cowboys (like Jessie and Woody).

Cowgirl Kaylie.

She fetched her horse, Rody (of whom she always says, "His name is Rody, but I call him Bullseye") and rode around the living room for a while.

Our little cowgirl.

How we do birthdays with family long-distance.

She did eventually get off the horse to put on every single necklace she got in this haul along with what she already had.

(And this, by the way, is how we do birthdays with both sets of grandparents living across the country from us--Skyping on multiple mobile devices. What a world our kids are growing up in!)

So, my daughter has a dress-up box overflowing with princess dresses, tutus, fairy wings, and sparkly magic wands....and, in the days since, it has been like pulling teeth to get her try on anything but the cowgirl hat, the only things she has asked to dress up as are a cowgirl and a pirate (which we don't have costumes for), and she uses one of the wands primarily as a "bat" to whack a ball around on the floor.

Disappointment and pride have warred in my soul these past few days.

On the one hand, we acquired all this adorable girly dress-up stuff that I would have loved wearing as a kid. I especially love the princess dresses--and, in our defense, Kaylie did ask just two weeks ago to dress like a princess! (She had just met a girl in our neighborhood who was dressed as Cinderella.) So I'm disappointed that this gift that I've been putting together for literally months was such a flop.....

But I'm also the mom who dressed her as a pirate for Halloween when she was one and too young to give her own input, mostly so I could dress like a pirate and take her trick-or-treating--and then let her re-wear the costume the next year, because she asked to. I'm the mom who has been stockpiling classic My Little Pony toys from garage sales and giving them to her at birthdays and Christmas in the hope that she'll love horses like I do, and now sits through the 1986 MLP movie because she likes it better than the new series (I grew up on it; it has a special place in my heart; but after 50 viewings, it gets a little rough). I'm the mom who has swordfights with her, makes toddler armor out of empty toilet paper tubes, and crawls around on all fours to give her horsey-back rides. So when my little girl takes one look at a boxful of girly princess-y things* and says, "I don't want to be a princess--I want to be a pirate!", I can't help but feel proud of her. She's being her own person, and I love it.

It helps that I love pirates and cowgirls, too. I also like princesses. I hope I do a good job teaching her that she can love both...but that she also doesn't have to love either. There's all this discussion going on these days on gender assumptions and expectations, and the only extent to which I wish to weigh in on that is that it's perfectly okay to like girly things, it's perfectly okay to not like girly things, and it's perfectly okay to like boyish things.

It's also okay that she was more excited about the wonders of Scotch tape, and wanted to play with the pieces instead of unwrapping the rest of the first present. She's two. Well, almost three, but still. The point is, kids will like what they like, and that is okay.

Anyway, I did manage to talk her into trying on one of the princess dresses yesterday.

Angel princess!

She actually wanted the angel wings and halo to go with it! Progress!

(If it seems like I'm pushing her, you should know: Kaylie is often extremely reluctant to try new things. We have to push. If she doesn't want to do it again, that's fine; but half the things she loves to do, we had to make her do the first time.)

"I'm Jessie!"

I convinced her to try on the Merida wig by reminding her that Jessie (from Toy Story 2 & 3) has red hair under her cowgirl hat.

Admiring herself in her new mirror.

Of course, while I am confident that she will come to enjoy dressing up in the clothes she now has (if we can just get her to try it a few times--that's typical Kaylie for you), I also want to encourage her to dress up as she wants to dress up. So last night, after much fruitless online shopping, I dug up the Halloween costume she'd worn the last two years (it's a little small now, but the other pirate costume I'd already bought for her is still way too big), and I found pair of cowgirl boots I bought ages ago that are still a couple sizes too big.

"I'm a cowgirl!"

She LOVES the cowgirl boots! I couldn't find an affordable cowgirl or cowboy costume online, so now I'm brainstorming how to make her dress-up chaps or something.

Really, the hat and the boots are what make the outfit, anyway.

And this morning, as soon as she got up, she asked to dress up like a pirate. So we went straight from pajamas to this:

That's my girl! My stubborn, independent, contrary girl. :-) Gosh, I love her.

*Just to clarify: There were actually a couple of "boy" outfit pieces in the box, too; just not, apparently, ones she was interested in. (And she's had a set of fairy wings with a matching tutu since Christmas that she regularly wears around the house, so getting her more girly things didn't seem unreasonable!)

Command center: take one.

[Originally posted here on March 31, 2014.]

Well, I got halfway through writing a different post yesterday, but then I spent the rest of my afternoon cuddling with my puking nine-month-old, both of us covered in vomit for several hours (it's pointless to try showering until he's done; as it was, I misjudged it and we ended up taking two showers). Full-time mom, right? (He's fine today. Apparently he hasn't outgrown his intolerance of/aversion to grains yet, so it was yesterday's lunch that set him off.)

So, instead of finishing that post (I haven't had time yet), I'll give you a brief update on that sign I finished last week, now that it's made it onto the wall alongside my menu board.

Our command center.

Of course, it being me, as soon as it was on the wall, I thought, "You know, I should actually......" So, when I have time, I have some changes I intend to make (hence this being "take one").

I'll post "take two" once that's finished. Hoping to get to it this week!

Friday, June 20, 2014


[Originally posted here on March 27, 2014.]

I finally made a Shutterfly photo album of our honeymoon in Scotland! It only took me six years to get around to it....

We flew into London, took a train to Edinburgh, and took almost two weeks driving from there to Aberdeen, up to Aviemore (in the Inverness area), down to Glasgow, and back to Edinburgh, then took a train back to London to fly home. Going through all these pictures has me aching to go back! I loved Scotland.

I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos from the trip.

Sir Walter Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland.

Dunnottar Castle was built on a peninsula on the eastern coast of Scotland. Now in ruins, it was the most picturesque castle we visited.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland.

Edzell Castle and Gardens, Scotland.

Edzell Castle was one of the ones we hadn't planned to visit (we'd never heard of it), but we bought a historical explorer's pass at our first stop--Edinburgh Castle--which included a ton of smaller, off-the-beaten-path sites. A lot of these ended up being my favorite treks, because they were largely unpopulated by tourists (we were the only non-staff at Edzell that day) and only the really unsafe parts were roped off, so there was a lot more to explore than at a lot of the more tourist-y castles.

Huntly Castle, Scotland.

Huntly Castle was another that we had nearly to ourselves.

Elgin Cathedral, Scotland.

Elgin Cathedral was burned down, rebuilt, and then left to crumble for centuries. (Also, northern Scottish accents are the best. And the Glasgow accent is the hardest to understand--even I had trouble at times!)

Elgin Cathedral, Scotland.

Elgin Cathedral, Scotland.

Elgin Cathedral, Scotland.

Glamis Castle, Scotland.

Glamis Castle is the setting for Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Loch Ness, Scotland.

No monster sightings, unfortunately!

Urquhart Castle, Scotland.

Urquhart Castle is on the western shore of Loch Ness.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, Scotland.

(Urquhart was one of the most disappointingly tourist-y castles--plastered with signs, railings, and cement, and crawling with people.)

Doune Castle, Scotland.

Much of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed at Doune Castle. It was my favorite castle to explore--tons of nooks and crannies, and out-of-the-way doorways that led to hidden hallways and unexpected rooms!

Doune Castle, Scotland.

Wallace Monument, Stirling, Scotland.

We watched Braveheart around when we were beginning to discuss where to honeymoon; hence, Scotland. Also, William Wallace is one of the several Williams that influenced our decision to name our son William.

Stirling Castle, Scotland.


And, of course, my favorite shot of us. Dunnottar was gorgeous!