After talking about it for several days, I finally got around to making Banana Cream Pie. It’s one of my favorite desserts, but I’ve never found a recipe for it that I loved. I decided to try this one from Martha Stewart. As I always do for a first time recipe, I made it exactly as directed, except I didn’t have any bittersweet chocolate to shave over the top. D’oh!
The recipe was easy enough to make, although whether or not I could put my glass Pyrex pie pan directly from the freezer into the oven cause me a little stress (it was fine, but I probably wouldn’t risk it again).
The only part of the recipe that was a little unusual was pouring the filling through a mesh strainer, because it didn’t want to go through – the filling was rather thick at that point. But if you stir the filling while it’s in the strainer most of it will go through (and what doesn’t go through isn’t supposed to go into your pie – throw it out!).
- The filling is perfection, and will probably be my go-to filling recipe from now on.
- The crust is nothing special, so if you have a favorite pie crust recipe, just use that.
- The whipped cream topping wasn’t anywhere near sweet enough, and it took away from the flavor of the filling. Next time, I’m going to add more sugar.
- Covering the entire pie with the whipped cream topping makes it difficult to store. Next time I’m just going to garnish each piece with the whipped cream and chocolate as I serve it.
Enjoy your pie!
I don’t remember exactly when they stopped existing, but I’m guessing it was about 18 years ago. If the internet had been around in any real way back then, the internet would have been all over it: petitions would have been electronically signed, blog posts and status updates would have flown around like crazy, the evening news would have picked up the story, and there’s a good chance that Pudding Pops would have been saved. But without the internet, Pudding Pops just disappeared.
Life went on, but just a little less great than it could have been.
And then a couple weeks ago, my friend Kelby posted about Pudding Pops. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but she was lamenting their nonexistence. And somewhere in the discussion, someone posted a link to this: a recipe for Pudding Pops.
It had never occurred to me to look for a recipe. I had just accepted my Pudding Popless existence without a fight. Surely there was magic involved in making Pudding Pops, or at least elves. Maybe Bill Cosby had to spit in them. There had to be some secret that kept them from being made in kitchens everywhere. But there it was. A recipe. (I don’t remember who posted it and I can’t find the thread – let me know who you are! I want to kiss you!)
I gathered the ingredients: Jell-o Instant Chocolate Pudding, 2 cups of cold milk (I used 2%), and a cup of Cool Whip.
These were ridiculously quick and easy to make. It took about five minutes, plus freezer time.
Pour the instant pudding mix into a bowl. Whisk in the cold milk and continue whisking for a full two minutes. Stir in the Cool Whip. Divide into paper cups (my cups were very small – I was able to make nine pops). Then you’re supposed to stick a popsicle stick into the cup, ideally. I didn’t have any popsicle sticks (I’m not crafty!), but plastic spoons worked great.
I put them in the freezer. Then I licked the bowl. The mixture tasted…right.
As soon as dinner was over (after about five hours of freezer time), Fiona grabbed four of the pops from the freezer and we peeled the paper cups off. They didn’t stick at all.
The kids tasted theirs and smiled, but Omer and I were the testers who mattered: we knew what the real thing tasted like.
I took a small bite of my pop. The texture was right. Smooth. Much smoother than a fudgesicle. And the taste was good. Omer agreed.
But after eating about half of it, I had to admit that it wasn’t quite chocolaty enough. Adding the Cool Whip is absolutely necessary in order to nail the texture, but it dilutes the flavor a bit too much.
I looked on the Jell-o website for other options, and I found two: Instant Chocolate Fudge flavor, and Instant Devil’s Food flavor. I’m going to try this again sometime soon with both of those. I’m hoping that their stronger starting flavors will survive the Cool Whip with more chocolate taste intact. I will definitely report back.
In the meantime, I proclaim these more than good enough.
If you want to get fancy, or if you want something reusable, you could get pudding pop molds, but personally I liked how easily the paper cups came off.
There are still five pudding pops in my freezer. Not for long…
At least once a week someone tells me they want to start a blog. Five years ago I would have excitedly invited them over for coffee and walked them through it.
At some point my enthusiasm gave way to just giving interested people links to sites that might help them, and wishing them luck. But I would politely decline to help them myself – except for one person, every single blog I’d helped start had gone nowhere. The reality of how much work and dedication it takes to keep up even a simple hobby blog would usually hit people in the face after two or three posts, and they’d drop it.
And that tells me that they never really wanted to write in the first place. They just wanted to be a blogger, which is different. Its kind-of why I took up flute in high school: I wanted to say I was in the band, but didn’t really want to do the work. I finally dropped it in college when “being in the band” meant hours and hours of practice. I didn’t really want it once it got hard.
At this point, when someone tells me they want to start blogging I look them in the eyes and ask “What do you want to get out of it? What do you want to be the blog’s purpose?”
And the answer is usually not “I want to share my story” or “I want to express myself through writing” or “I want to help people (craft/travel/whatever).”
It’s usually more along the lines of “Bloggers get to do a lot of fun stuff. I want to do that.” Or, “Bloggers get free stuff. I want to get free stuff and write about it.”
And I’m here to tell you, those are completely shitty reasons to start a blog.
I’m sure that the next great blog is just waiting to be written, and it could be written by you. But for every great blog that starts on a whim and grows into greatness organically, thousands and thousands more get started by people who have nothing to contribute, who just want to take. Don’t be one of those blogs.
I can’t even tell you exactly why I started to blog. I just fell into it, first writing about our house renovation, then about movies and TV shows that were filming near my neighborhood, then finally here on Selfish Mom, about whatever I wanted. If someone asked me now why I’m blogging, I’m not sure I could give them a good answer, and that’s a problem every time I have to pitch myself to a client.
But I love what I do. I’ve been doing this for long enough that I can be very choosy about which events I attend, which trips I go on, which products I write about. But it took years to get to this point. If I didn’t like was I was doing, those years of scrambling would have been torture.
So have a reason. Have a point of view. Have a plan.
Write about what you know and love, so that if having a few readers and a small community is all you ever get out of it, you’ll be OK with that.
Because the free stuff and trips? IF you ever get to that point, you’ll find that all of it comes with massive obligations and takes a lot of time to deal with. And if you’re actually trying to make money blogging, you’re going to spend way more time dealing with the business side than on the writing. Know that going in.
Reasons To Start A Blog
|You want to tell your story||You want likes and retweets|
|You love to travel and want to write about it||You want to take free trips|
|You love writing about and reviewing products||You want to get free shit|
|You live and breathe Disney and want to blog about it||You want to get free Disney shit|
|You love TV and movies and would be excited just to be near a celeb – you’re a total fan girl!||You think getting your picture taken with celebs will make you famous|
|You’re a coupon goddess and want to share your money-saving knowledge with the world||You heard somewhere that coupon bloggers make a shit ton of money|
|You love writing about parenting issues and want to connect with other parents||Your kids are the cutest kids in the universe and you want to write about them because OMG who wouldn’t want to read about your special snowflakes?|
|You want to help people||You want people to help you make money|
[This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my site.]
I did what I could to solve the problem myself. I disabled all of my WordPress plugins (no change). I called Go Daddy, my blog host, to see if the problem was on their end (it wasn’t).
I ate M&Ms and tried not to panic.
I waited, thinking it was one of those things that would correct itself a few hours later if I just left it alone.
It did not correct itself.
That evening, Techy Dad contacted me and offered to help. Before we started I didn’t even know what a MySQL query was, but he talked me through everything. We explored different possible problems: Had I been hacked? Was my database size over the limit? We kept checking out different things until finally, he found the problem! And walked me through a really easy fix.
And if none of that works, or things get too complicated for you, you can contact him for tech support.
I’d assumed while Techy Dad and I were troubleshooting that he was on the clock and charging me for the excellent help, but he didn’t charge me. So I’m writing this as a thank you, and hopefully if you have the nightmarish problem I did, you’ll go to him for help.
I spent a good part of that day thinking that my posts were gone. My web designer did a free scan of my site, and found that it had been blacklisted on some search engines due to malware. That wasn’t good, but it also wasn’t clear that that issue had caused the problem.
Still, after the whole disappearing posts thing was solved, I decided to have my site cleaned up so that I could get un-blacklisted. I didn’t have to do anything (except pay). I think $89 per year is a fair price to pay to know that my site won’t infect someone else’s computer.
So my problems were all fixed, everything was restored, and blogging life went on as normal. But what IF I had been hacked, and some pimply fifteen-year-old had deleted thousands of posts just for fun?
I highly recommend that you back up your posts regularly, so that if disaster strikes, they’re stored somewhere.
Or you can do what I do, and use a service that automatically backs my blog up for me, every day. Why? Because I can never remember to do basic things like this with any kind of regularity, and the automatic set-up I linked to up there seems too complicated for me to bother with. So, the $5 a month I pay to have this done every day is more than worth it to me. I’m a set-it-and-forget-it kind of person.
Whichever method you choose for back-up, just do it. I wasn’t paying enough attention to website security and back-ups before my posts disappeared. Now I can at least rest easy knowing that if disaster strikes, I’m covered.
[The following post is sponsored by Kidde]
I live in a tinderbox. At least that’s how it appears in my nightmares. My house is narrow and tall, four stories, with front and back doors on the bottom floor and a front entrance on the second floor. Getting trapped on the third or fourth floors in a fire scares me so much I can’t put it into words. And those two floors are where we all sleep.
One of the first things I did when we bought this house was buy escape ladders – plastic and metal ladders that hook on to your windowsill in an emergency. The only problem is, the ones we bought are huge and heavy, and the hooks didn’t actually fit on our giant pre-Civil War windowsills. They’ve been gathering dust, completely useless. (Incidentally, if you’re looking for escape ladders and don’t have ridiculous windowsills, Kidde sells great, compact escape ladders.)
And while getting those ladders working is still a goal, I’ve tried to compensate by making sure that we have many, many Kidde smoke alarms – about half from the Worry Free line of smoke detectors and half hardwired – and that they are all in working order.
But the one BIG thing missing in our house? A fire escape plan.
We had nothing. We hadn’t even discussed a meeting place outside with the kids, at least not recently. I remember talking about all of this stuff with the kids years ago, but none of us can remember where the original meeting place was, it’s been so long. And nothing was down on paper.
Recently I sat down with the kids to make a plan. But first, I prepared myself with these:
- Some great info about fire safety for kids from the United States Fire Association.
- I just skimmed this one, but if you have babies and toddlers, there’s more fire safety info for you here.
- I also looked over this escape planning info.
- There’s also a ton of fantastic fire escape planning info here, including resources for parents of special needs kids.
- Finally, I printed out four copies of this planning grid.
The planning session
I gathered the kids and had them watch this video.
It’s geared more towards the parent who’s planning the fire drills, but since my kids are a little older, I wanted them involved. I wanted them invested in this process. I wanted them to take it seriously! And I was also counting on the know-it-all factor: “Mom, YOU don’t do that!” Accountability, people. Kids love to point out when we’re not doing something right. Plus, Fiona was delighted that the little girl in the video had the same doll house. :-)
We went over some important points, like feeling doors for heat, and closing doors as they escape to keep the fire from spreading. And we had to have a very sad talk about how if there were trouble, our cat would probably hide, and it would be really dangerous for us to look for her – every second counts. Neither kid really wanted to accept that they would have to leave KitKat behind in a fire, and this really worries me.
Our escape plans for each floor – not our first drafts. :-)
We talked about having two escape routes from each room, but until we get those ladders working, that’s going to be impossible, so we also talked about opening windows (the kids had a hard time getting the old screens open – another item that went on my to-do list), and waving clothing or a towel out of the window to get attention.
Jake, of course, wanted to try to practice getting from his bedroom window out on to the roof. Um, no. Like climbing down the escape ladders, that will not be practiced, much to his disappointment. There’s only about two feet of roof in front of his window, and then a four-story drop. That’s an exit of last resort.
Next I put blindfolds on them, and we practiced scooting down the stairs and getting to the closest door. I’m not going to lie: it was hard to get them to concentrate for this one – the blindfolds were a distraction (but necessary). But I explained how dark the hallways could be if there were a fire, and how easy it would be to fall down the stairs. Besides, smoke rises, so low is the way to go. This was our first time practicing anything like this, but it won’t be the last. I’m hoping that next time they take it a little more seriously.
Last, we talked about a meeting place outside, so that there’s no confusion about who got out and who didn’t. If the only escape is to the backyard, that’s going to be tough, because it’s fenced in all the way around. We can get to our neighbors’ backyard, but if they aren’t home, they we’re just stuck in a different backyard. I don’t have a good answer for that one. But assuming we all make it out the front door, we meet on the corner, in front of the day care center.
I know the whole process of planning for a fire should help put me at ease, but I know from my experience fighting small fires in North Carolina that until you actually try something like this, practicing just doesn’t quite cut it (although it’s definitely better than nothing). The heat, the panic, the fumbling…it can be overwhelming.
I’m going to spring a few surprise fire drills on the family in the coming weeks, and I’m hoping that as these get more routine, they’ll take them more seriously. I’m trying to walk the very fine line between scaring the kids too much, and driving home to them just how important all of this is.
The other day my friend Shannan posted this revelation on Facebook:
“So all my life, I have been leaving the paper liners inside the foil cupcake wrappers when I bake. Guess what, y’all? YOU AREN’T SUPPOSED TO!”
I chuckled to myself. Of course you’re supposed to remove them. It says so right there on the package!
“Remove paper separators”
I thought Shannan and my husband were the only people who didn’t know this. But based on my extensive research (which consisted of reading the comments on her Facebook post) I realized that most people were doing this wrong. Am I the only person who reads instructions?
Those paper separators are just there to keep the foil liners from sticking together. Even though they look the same as the regular paper liners, they’re not. Paper liners are usually coated with either quilon or silicone, both of which keep your muffins and cupcakes from sticking to the paper liners. The paper separators don’t have that coating.
Will they work? Sort of. They won’t be terrible, but they won’t be great.
Cupcake baked in a paper separator:
Cupcake baked in a paper liner:
But what about the other directions on the foil liner package?
“No muffin pans needed!”
That’s right, you’re supposed to put the foil liners on a cookie sheet!
Will it hurt anything to use the foil liners in a muffin pan? No. But you’re wasting money. If you have muffin pans, you can use paper liners, which are cheaper.
And there are some pretty paper liners out there! Here are some I grabbed from my cabinet:
Now, Shannan pointed out that she doesn’t put her foil liners on a cookie sheet because she’s afraid that they will spread out flat. They won’t. But, they will spread out.
Here are cupcakes baked in foil liners. The ones on the left were baked in a muffin pan, the ones on the right baked on a cookie sheet.
I’d filled all of them 3/4 full, but because the ones on the cookie sheet spread out, those ended up being 42grams, versus 31grams for the ones in the muffin pan. A huge difference.
Of course, you could just fill the cookie sheet ones half-way instead. They’re very handy if you want to do a lot of cupcakes at once, and don’t have that many muffin pans.
Or, you might actually want a bigger muffin or cupcake, in which case go ahead and fill them 3/4 full and bake them on a cookie sheet. Just remember that you’ll end up with fewer cupcakes.
There are also foil liners that have decorative paper on the outside. Not only are these pretty, but I’ve found that they don’t spread out quite as much when baked on cookie sheets. The foil combined with the paper makes them a bit stiffer than the ones that are just foil.
The bottom line is, even if you’re doing it wrong, you’re still going to wind up with something delicious and acceptable. But if you want your cupcakes and muffins to be prettier, follow the instructions!
[I received a complimentary AeroGarden and starter seed kit to review.]
Usually around this time of year I’m looking wistfully out of the window into my backyard, wondering when I’ll be able to get out there are start planting. But not this year, because I’ve been growing things all winter!
I was really excited when my AeroGarden arrived, because I caught the gardening bug a few years ago, and winters since then have seemed extra long.
Unpacking and assembly took less than five minutes. Super easy. Things got even easier once I plugged my AeroGarden in, because the screen led me through everything step-by-step.
I placed the seed pods into the holes, covered them with their little plastic caps, filled the reservoir with water and plant food (which came with the seed kit), and then it was waiting time.
There was literally nothing I had to do at this point. The grow lights go on and off themselves. The water circulates when it’s supposed to. There is NO dirt to deal with!
In less than a week the first tiny little sprouts started to appear in the pods. Once they’d grown enough to almost touch the plastic caps, it was time to uncover them.
Once they’d started growing, all I had to do was add water when the screen told me to, add plant food, and prune the taller plants to give the shorter ones time to catch up. It’s been the easiest thing to maintain ever. As long as you follow the instructions, it’s basically idiot-proof.
My herbs have been growing for 71 days now, and they’re just beautiful!
Now, everything was not perfect. Two of the pods – savory and chives – never really did much of anything for whatever reason (I think I could have contacted the company about that, because the pods are guaranteed to grow). But that actually works out OK, because I use basil like crazy. So now I’m looking in to cloning the basil and adding two more pods of it. I’ve ordered a grow anything kit from AeroGarden that doesn’t come with any seeds – you can use your own, or use plant cuttings. I’ll let you know how it goes.
In the meantime, I’ve been using fresh herbs all over the place. Usually in the winter if I want fresh herbs I have to buy a pack of them for $3-4, and most of it goes to waste. With my AeroGarden, I just cut off exactly what I need!
I can sprinkle fresh basil on pasta, and put it on delicious homemade pizzas:
I also put basil in sauces, and I make a lot of sauce. Can you see why I need to grow more basil?
My husband’s favorite fish recipe uses a ton of thyme, and the AeroGarden has plenty.
And parsley goes in so many different recipes. So useful!
I can honestly say that having all of those fresh herbs available at a moment’s notice has transformed my winter cooking. I’m still looking forward to spring, but now I’m not as desperate for it.
I highly recommend the AeroGarden. It’s something that I would absolutely spend my own money on. In fact, I’m thinking of buying a second AeroGarden, just so that I can have fresh tomatoes year round!
Something to keep in mind: Think about where you’re going to place your AeroGarden, because when the grow lights are on they are very bright, and the sound of water circulating through the system can be loud as well. Ours started out in our dining room, and we ended up moving it to the pantry due to the bright lights.
[I am a member of the Invisalign Moms Advisory Board and am receiving complimentary Invisalign treatment.]
A few days ago I went to my awesome orthodontist for a regularly-scheduled check up on my Invisalign progress. I was wearing trays #20, meaning I’ve been doing Invisalign for 40 weeks. On the little plastic bags that the trays come in it says “of 31.” As in tray number 20 out of 31. So, I thought I had at least 22 more weeks of new trays to go.
Imagine my surprise when Dr. Hung told me that I was probably only two or three trays from the end! He said that he usually orders more trays than he thinks he’ll need. Huh.
My teeth, at this point, are just about as straight as they’re going to get. The rest of the trays are for fixing my bite – rolling my teeth back or forward as a group so that the top ones hit the bottom ones the right way when I chew. And he said that right now, they’re just about where they should be! Whoo hoo!
Now, he warned me that that doesn’t mean I’m almost done with treatment. Whatever my last trays end up being, I’ll be wearing that set for several months as my teeth completely heal in their new positions. At first I’ll wear the trays for 22 hours a day, just like now, then 18 hours, etc. etc. until eventually, I’m just wearing a retainer at night.
We also talked about my crooked front tooth. What? But Amy, you said your teeth were now straight! Well, they are. Except for that front tooth. That one used to overlap the one next to it really badly. About 15 years ago, to make it look better, a dentist filed it down to appear straight. So, making it straight with Invisalign made it…crooked. Make sense?
Dr. Hung suggested bonding. To show me what he meant, he took a little piece of wax and molded it onto my tooth to make it look straight. Voila!
I agree, that’s the way to go. And I think my other front tooth might need a little evening out as well. This is one of the problems you run into when you wait until you’re 40 to get your teeth straightened: they’ve been wearing away for decades and won’t be “straight” when you straighten them, but Dr. Hung warned me about this right at the beginning. This, at least, seems like an easy fix.
He wants me to get it done sooner rather than later. He said he can cut a hole into my last Invisalign trays to accommodate it.
So, I’m giddy. I’m not quite at the end of my treatment, but I’m at the beginning of the end!!!
I am a member of the Invisalign Moms Advisory Board. I am receiving complimentary Invisalign treatment as part of this program. All opinions are my own and based on my own treatment experience. Full disclosure can be found here: http://shout.lt/ggGP