Highlights Parents Memorial Day Ideas

Me, Hubby and two daughters. Lucy looks winded from our walk along the Hudson River in Manhattan.

Me, Hubby and two daughters. Lucy looks winded from our walk along the Hudson River in Manhattan.

Top Ten (plus One) Ideas of What to Do Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day is coming up and I have ideas of what to do.  Eleven, in fact.  Here’s a link to  my 1st article published in Highlights Parents online magazine titled 11 Crazy-Fun Ideas to Make Memorial Day Weekend Special.

Have a nice holiday, hon!

Delicious Fish Dish (and Tartar Sauce)

Baked Cod with Steamed Green Beans.

Baked Cod with Steamed Green Beans.

We recently had dinner at Chez Oskar in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I ordered fluke baked with rice and veggies in parchment paper. The dish was so delicious, I tried to replicate it at home. Hon, this is a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants recipe, which means there aren’t exact measurements. The good news:  you don’t need exact quantities to make this healthy Delicious Fish Dish.

Happy cooking!

Step 1.  Wash fish and pat dry.

1. Wash fish and pat dry.

2.  Gather ingredients:  rice, sauteed veggies, spices, parchment paper.

2. Gather ingredients: rice, sauteed veggies, spices, parchment paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Line glass baking dish with large pieced of parchment paper. Spread rice and veggies on top.

3. Line glass baking dish with large piece of parchment paper. Spread rice and veggies on top.

4. Lay fish on top of rice and veggies.

4. Lay fish on top of rice and veggies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Add a bit of butter, a few capfuls of lemon juice, maybe some white wine and parsley.

5. Add a bit of butter, a few capfuls of lemon juice, maybe some white wine and parsley.

6. Wrap fish in parchment paper.  Bake

6. Wrap fish in parchment paper. Bake.

7. Carefully open parchment, allowing steam to escape.

7. Carefully open parchment paper, allowing steam to escape.

Serve fish directly from parchment paper.

8. Serve fish directly from parchment paper.

Delicious Fish Dish

Ingredients:

Fish Fillet–I used a little under 2 pounds of cod in the dish above.  I might try this with tilapia and sea bass, but I’m not sure about flounder or sole which are much thinner.

Rice and Veggies–Cooked rice and steamed or sauteed vegetables. (any rice and whatever veggies you think will go with the fish)

Spices–salt, pepper, ground Sage, Herbs de Provence, parsley or spices you like.

Lemon Juice, Butter and White Wine–I didn’t use white wine in the dish above, but next time I will.

Parchment Paper–enough to wrap fish in

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.  (Start at 400 degrees if fish is thick, like cod, tilapia or sea bass, lowering to 350 after about 15 minutes. If fish is thin, bake at 350 degrees F the whole time.)

1.  Pre-cook rice, and steam or saute vegetables.

2.  Wash fish fillet and pat dry.

3.  Line a glass baking pan with parchment paper, making sure the piece you use is big enough to fold over the fish.

4.  Spread rice and veggies on top of parchment paper, sprinkling with desired spices.

5.  Lay fish over rice and veggies.  Sprinkle remaining spices, small scoops of butter (about 1-2 teaspoons a scoop), a few capfuls of lemon juice, and white wine (maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup) on top of fish.

6.  Fold parchment paper up and over fish lengthwise, then fold ends.

7.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Lower oven to 350 degrees F and bake for about another 20 to 25 minutes.  Check fish for done-ness and bake longer if necessary.

8.  When done baking, open parchment paper carefully to let steam escape.  Fish will be very hot. Serve directly from parchment paper.

Note:  I started cod at 400 degrees because it’s thick. If you use a thinner fish, then I recommend baking it at 350 degrees F the whole time.)

Tartar Sauce

Here’s how I make quick and easy Tartar Sauce:

Combine approximately 4 Tablespoons of mayonnaise with  2-3 Tablespoons relish, Sprinkle paprika.  Mix and serve.  (Yield–about 2)

 

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Dahlia.

Dahlia.

Happy Mother’s Day–dedicated to my mom.

This poem was tacked to the bulletin board in our kitchen.

No Child of Mine Poem

My dad and mom with the triplets.

My dad and mom with the triplets.

Me, my mom and my son.

Me, my mom and my son.

Grandma and granddaughter (my Plus One), matching.

Grandma and granddaughter (my Plus One), matching.

Butterflies on Cone Flowers.

Swallowtail butterflies  on Cone Flowers.

I hope you have a lovely day, hon. 

Quick and Easy Candy Jars

Mason Jar

Candy Jar

Little Shop of Horrors Congratulations Goodies

In my last post, Creative Cupcakes (Little Shop of Horrors), I experimented with fondant. I admit it. It’ll be awhile before I make cupcakes as elaborate as those again. If you want quick and easy favors, give-aways, congratulations goodies or party activities, these DIY Candy Jars are a cinch to put together.

In lieu of gift cards for my middle schooler’s friends, I decided to make my own Congratulations Goodies. I already owned the mason jars, ordered the candy, and asked my in-house graphic designer (aka Hubby) to print labels.

The result? Sweet gifts for a creepy show–creepy in a good way!

Hon, you know what this means? I LOVE a theme!

Here’s what you need to make your own Quick and Easy Candy Jars:

Mason Jars–available at craft stores

Candy–candy and colors to go with your theme, I used green M & M’s and Frankford Gummy Body Parts Candy

Labels and Ribbon (optional)

That’s It.  Happy DIY’ing! (and enjoy some show pics)

Gummy body parts.

Gummy body parts.

Labels.

Labels.

Fill the jar.

Fill the jars.

 

Audrey II, the man-eating plant, in Little Shop of Horrors.

Little Shop of Horrors’ man-eating plant, Audrey II. See what I mean by creepy?

Seymour and Urchins.

Seymour and Urchins on Skid Row.

DSC_1251

Curtain Call.

Curtain Call.

My little Urchin!

My little Urchin!

 

 

Creative Cupcakes (Little Shop of Horrors)

A Sun Star plant along with Brussels sprouts and cabbages welcome theatre goers. "Audrey II's" and photo care of my friend Lynn.

A Sun Star plant along with Brussels sprouts and cabbages welcome theatre goers. “Audrey II’s” and photo care of my friend Lynn.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS + CAST PARTY = AN AWESOME THEME

Hon, you know how I love a theme?  

There’s someone who loves themes even MORE THAN ME!

I asked Lynn, mom of “Seymour” in our middle school’s production of the macabre musical Little Shop of Horrors, to show me how to work with fondant. We tag-teamed baked and decorated 100 cupcakes for the cast party.  My Plus-One (as in Triplets Plus One) was an Urchinette.  She wore a gold sequined dress and teased hair (shout out to Emma’s grandma) to Doo-Wop her heart out along with the other Urchins.  The cast and crew’s hard work paid off.

The show was excellent!  Our kids were stars!  What fun!

Creative Cupcakes

Here’s how we made edible “Audrey II’s,” the mysterious man-eating plant in LSOH.

Step 1.  Gather your ingredients.  Rather than make fondant from scratch, we used Fondarific. Supplies included cake mix, baking cups, canned icing, Wilton icing, food coloring, rubber gloves, romaine lettuce, spoons,wax paper, Wilton Decorating Bags and Tips, Swedish Fish candy and Cake Boxes.

Icing and Fondarific.

Icing and Fondarific.

Baking cups and food coloring.

Baking cups and food coloring.

 

 

 

 

 

________________________________________________________________________

Step 2.  Prepare fondant decorations.  After the Fondarific was warmed and softened, rubber gloves were donned, and food coloring was mixed in by hand.  Small balls of fondant were pressed onto spoons. Then romaine leaves rubbed onto fondant created leaf impressions.  After carefully lifting fondant leaves off of spoons, they were layered with wax paper and left to set.  (I put them in a container covered with foil, not refrigerated, overnight.)  The leaves needed to be stiff enough to stand up, but pliable enough to form LSOH’s man-eating plant.

Add food coloring to icing and softened fondant.

Soften fondant.  *Put on rubber gloves BEFORE blending food color into it.

Form leaves--or whatever shape you want--and let them set a bit.

Form leaves–or whatever shape you want–and let them set.

 

 

 

 

 

________________________________________________________________________

Step 3.  Bake cupcakes according to package directions. Food coloring was also mixed with vanilla canned icing then spread on cooled cupcakes.  Icing the cupcakes kept them fresh while the fondant leaves set overnight and formed a base to work on.

Bake cupcakes.

Bake cupcakes.

Ice cupcakes once they've cooled.

Ice cupcakes once they’ve cooled.

 

 

 

 

_______________________________________________________________________

Step 4.  Assemble Audrey II’s (or whatever decoration goes with your theme).  Lynn said that, though the canned icing was good for a base, the stiffer Wilton icing made better leaves surrounding the “plants” and fangs on the Audrey II’s.  She used Wilton Tip #103 to form surrounding leaves and Tip #4 for the fangs.  Mini Swedish Fish candies became tongues.  Eww and yum!

Assemble cupcake decorations.

Assemble cupcake decorations.

IMG_7206

 

"Whatever you do, don't feed the plants!"

“Whatever you do, don’t feed the plants!”

Headed to the cast party.

Cupcakes with bite!

 

Cast and crew.

Cast and crew.

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Have you ever worked with fondant?  Did you find it easy or hard to use?  What did you make?  Thanks for sharing!

April Showers

Magnolia Monday

Magnolia Monday

Hon, you know the saying…

April showers bring May flowers.

It’s April and it was definitely raining today, but you don’t have to wait until May to see the flowers just as happy as we are that Old Man Winter is taking a long-needed nap!  These  Magnolia blooms danced then curtsied, waving their pretty pink petals at the audience– blades of grass, branches with buds, a little black doggie chasing a tennis ball and me.

IMG_3598IMG_3594IMG_3596

Crayon Box Burano, Fishing Village (Part 2)

Burano, Venice, Italy

Burano, Venice, Italy

Crayon Box Colored Homes

Burano, an old fishing village in the Northern Venetian Lagoon, is famous for its brightly colored homes as well as its lace-making. Legend has it that fisherman couldn’t recognize their houses through the fog, so they painted their homes bright colors.  It’s said that house colors have been with families for centuries. Today, if someone wants to repaint his house, he must send a request to the government, who will let the him know which colors are permitted for that lot.

When we toured the islands of Murano, Torcello and Burano, I’m glad our vaporetti, or water taxi, stopped at Burano last. It was definitely the jewel-in-the-crown.

Previous Post:  Crayon Box Burano, Venice, Italy (Part 1)

Striped curtains match house colors.

Striped curtains match house colors.

Many houses and buildings are adorned with religious wall plaques.

Many houses and buildings are adorned with religious wall plaques.

Laundry lines are a common sight.

Laundry lines are a common sight.

Pink up close.

Pink up close.

Colorful canal.

Colorful canal.

Crayon Box Burano, Venice, Italy (Part 1)

Burano, Venice, Italy

Burano, Venice, Italy

Burano is a photographer’s delight, a lagoon island filled with crayon box colored houses. Is it a tourist destination? Yes. Does every shop carry similar merchandise? Yes.

Yet, it was still an interesting place to visit.

We had booked tickets for a water taxi tour that made stops at Murano, Torcello and Burano. Of the three, Burano was the only island that felt inhabited. It’s known for its lace-making, so you can guess what most shops featured. Inside some shops were older women actually making lace, and I met a twenty-something salesgirl who showed me the lace earrings she was working on.

Between my interest in photography and my appreciation for needlework, I was in thrall at every turn.

Shops along the canal, Burano.

Shops along the canal.

School boys meeting by a first floor window.

School boys meeting by a first floor window.

Photographer's delight.

Photographer’s delight.

Hubby and daughters.

Hubby and daughters.

 

Religion in Rome, Michelangelo’s Pietà

Dome of St. Peter's

Dome of St. Peter’s

Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter's Square)

Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter’s Square)

Vatican Museum, Rome

Vatican Museum, Rome

The Vatican Museum was one of my favorite places to tour! I’ll definitely share some of my favorite sights in a later post, but in honor of Easter weekend I wanted to show you Michelangelo’s Pietà.

Michelangelo carved this beautiful Renaissance Carrara marble sculpture in less than two years, from 1498-1499. Our museum guide said that after Michelangelo heard people attribute the sculpture to another artist, believing Michelangelo too young to complete such a masterpiece, he decided to “sign” his name on the sculpture so no one would ever doubt that HE was the artist. He carved his name of the sash running across Mary’s chest. This is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed.

I was amazed by how fabric, muscles, veins and expression could be rendered lifelike in stone.

Have you seen this sculpture? What did you think?

Happy Holidays, hon!

Michelan

Michelangelo’s Pieta (professional photo source below*)–Mary and Jesus after the Crucifixion.

Michelangelo's Pieta

Michelangelo’s Pieta (There was a big crowd around this statue.)

 

*Sources: Photo attributed to Stanislav Traykov and Wikipedia

 

DIY Floral Arrangement

DIY Floral Arrangement

DIY Floral Arrangement

I love flowers and so does a friend who just celebrated her birthday.

When it comes to flowers, I usually just trim stems and place flowers in a vase.  But I got in the mood to dress up a pretty, ceramic bowl. This easy DIY Floral Arrangement is a perfect birthday, holiday or hostess gift as well as a centerpiece idea.

Happy creating (and Happy Holidays), hon!

Oasis floral foam.

Oasis floral foam.

Carnations and daisies.

Carnations and daisies.

 

 

 

 

 

Oasis cut to fit in small bowl.

Oasis cut to fit in  bowl.

Pretty in Peach!

Pretty in Peach!

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday bouquet.

Birthday bouquet.

Supplies:

1.  Vessel–this could be a bowl, vase, mug, glass or anything else you want to give as a gift.

2.  Floral Foam (Oasis)–can be purchased at a gardening center or craft store.

3.  Flowers–they must have sturdy enough stems to withstand being pushed into the foam.  I chose smaller flowers to complement the size of the bowl.

4.  Tape–the gardening center didn’t have floral tape so I used Scotch Tape.

5.  Pruning Shears or Scissors.

Steps:

1.  Cut floral foam to fit vessel.

2.  Sit foam in vessel and tape in place so it won’t shift.

3.  Trim flower stems to desired lengths.

4.  Insert flowers in foam, carefully, starting in the center and working your way out.

5.  Water flowers by pouring water in space between foam and vessel wall.  The foam will absorb a lot of water.  Holding flowers in place, pour off excess water.

Related Post:  DIY Clean-Lines Centerpiece

Please let me know if you have any floral arranging tips. I’d love to hear from you!

Mischievous-looking gnomes caught my eye at the garden center.

Mischievous-looking mini gnomes caught my eye at the garden center.