Friday Five: Birthday Sweets

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

Guys, I hate to sound like a broken record, but I just haven’t been 100% lately. If March is supposed to go out like a lamb, I need it to be a little more lamb-like. That lion is still roaring in my head. I’m looking forward to Easter to maybe re-charge my batteries and get excited about, and plan some, new posts.

The best part of the last week has been the sugar intake. Last Saturday we celebrated Chilali’s December birthday with a big ice cream party and on Tuesday, Chris turned another year older with a delicious triple-chocolate cake. There’s really no better way I can show someone how special they are to me than by cooking, and I’ve been wanting to throw an ice cream party for a while now. It was just as old-fashioned and fun as I envisioned. Sometimes I live for that stuff.

I thought you guys might want to see what we had on tap for the two events.

And, my apologies, these are the only {bad, phone} pictures I took away from both nights.


5. Chocolate Cake

Chris, a non-lover of ice cream, requested a very chocolately cake for his celebration. This one was so. good. Especially the icing. I had migraine auras hit as I was baking it, so no pictures…I was lucky to get the icing on the cake! But trust me when I say it’s a total keeper.

Sally’s Triple Chocolate Cake

4. Sorbet

For the lactose intolerant in your life, or just a dang good summery pick, I’d go with this stunning, majorly tart recipe by Ice Cream God David Lebovitz.

The Perfect Scoop’s Lemon Sorbet

3. Sauces

Chilali picked all of the eats at her party and these two were perfect for the ice creams and sorbet available. One creamy, dreamy–the other tart and sweet. Instead of a traditional salted caramel, we made a salted version of this praline sauce, which is one of my favorites.

The Perfect Scoop’s Chunky Raspberry Sauce (scroll way down for recipe)

Joy the Baker’s Praline Sauce (or A Really Delicious Caramel Sauce)

2. Toppings

Remember when Chilali and I met Jeni, the Ice Cream Goddess? I made the Salty Graham Gravel we had at the book signing and holy cow, how have we not all had gravel on our ice cream from the very beginning. It’s a total game changer.

Jeni’s Salty Graham Gravel Topping

I also made chocolate covered potato chips, which are mentioned in Joy’s Homemade Decadence and couldn’t be easier. Melt some semi-sweet chocolate cubes in a double-boiler, remove from heat, dunk in some Ruffles and freeze for 8 minutes. Then crumble and store in the freezer. So easy, so addictive.


1. Ice Cream!

The stars of the show! (Unless you’re Chris, then see #5.) Chilali’s favorite spice is Black Pepper, so she went wild with one of David’s creative concoctions. I thought it would be spicier, but it was actually a nice, warm heat.

The Perfect Scoop’s Black Pepper Ice Cream

Her other choice was another win: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter. (I swear, she picked that on her own without any pressure from me!) The recipe was from the Ample Hills cookbook–a Brooklyn-based creamery whose secret to creamy bases is to include dry non-fat milk powder. It absorbs any excess water from other ingredients so there’s absolutely no graininess or ice crystals in the finished product. I was skeptical and there are definitely a lot more steps than I’m used to, but it was worth the effort. Everyone went absolutely nuts for this. Since it’s nowhere to be found online, here you go!

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

¾ c. organic cane sugar
½ c. skim milk powder
1 2/3 c. whole milk
1 2/3 c. heavy cream
3 egg yolks

Chocolate Paste:
1 c. organic cane sugar
1 c. cocoa powder
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Swirl:
1 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. golden syrup or corn syrup
¼ c. organic cane sugar
1 c. natural peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.

Make the chocolate paste: In a medium saucepan, bring 1 c. water to boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar and cocoa powder, whisking vigorously to combine. Add the chocolate and whisk until melted and combined. Set aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, skim milk powder, and milk. Whisk until smooth. Make sure the skim milk powder is fully dissolved into the mixture and that no lumps remain. Stir in the cream.

Clip a candy thermometer to the saucepan and set the pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often with a rubber spatula and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking and burning, until the mixture reaches 110 degrees (F), 5-10 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. While whisking, slowly pour in ½ c. of the hot milk mixture to temper the eggs. Continue to whisk slowly until the mixture is an even color and consistency, then whisk the egg mixture back into the remaining milk mixture.

Return the pan to the stovetop over medium heat and continue cooking the mixture, stirring often, until it reaches 165 degrees (F), 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate paste and vanilla.

Pour the ice cream base through a wire-mesh strainer into a storage container and place in the prepared ice bath and let cool for 30-40 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, syrup and sugar; cook over low heat stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, but not a moment longer. Remove pan from heat, add peanut butter and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Set aside

Transfer the cooled base to your ice cream maker and churn it according to manufacturer instructions. Transfer to a container, stirring in the peanut butter swirl gently. Do not overmix. Freeze for 8-12 hours.


# tale of two houses

While I was in Oklahoma last week I was able to see the two new houses in my family.

First up, my dad’s remodel, which turned out stunning. They pretty much redid the entire house minus a few rooms, forcing them to move into an apartment for 6 months. Well worth it, though, to see such a gorgeous, well-used space.

This is the new living room, which used to be a smaller room that we named the “Christmas Room,” because it was pretty much the only time we used it. They knocked down the wall between it and the kitchen, creating an open floor space that maximizes the entire lower level.



Hi, Maggs.


The former living room is now a quiet reading/sitting area. It’s my dad’s favorite space in the house and I agree it’s one of my favorites too.


Especially since it’s sporting two subway prints I made them based on their favorite travel spots. 🙂


Sprinkled around the house are canvas prints of my dad’s trip photos — a great touch!


But, the best part for me has to be the kitchen. As I kept telling them, I could do some real damage in here.


D R O O L I N G.  The kitchen envy is strong right now.

I know they’re really happy with their new spaces.


Even though they weren’t in town, we also visited the site of my sister’s new house.




We went poking and prodding through the site with me saying “I think this is my room” about every five minutes seconds.



It’s also going to be a gorgeous place for them, complete with lots of land and a pond, or Lily Lake, across the street. Such exciting times for everyone!



In light of recent events, it was nice to see their safe room underway. Who knows…this space might save the lives of my four faves. (Thankfully, after this week’s storms, all family and friends are okay.)


Excited for them to be in this house so *I* can be in it with them. When do we move in??

Friday Five: Kid’s Books

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

I have a little over a month until my next Shelf Life, but you know books are never far from my mind…or heart. Just today I received three…THREE…notifications from the library that more books are in for me to pick-up. Cue me reading like a mad woman.

Earlier this week I saw a great Buzzfeed post about What 17 Adults Learned From Rereading Their Favorite Childhood Books. (Tagline: It’s never too late to go back.) It immediately made me so nostalgic and wanting to find comfort in my familiar friends. With so many new books I want to read, it’s hard for me to think about taking that time to reread books I loved, but I think that’s important. I found that I do want to revisit these world, even if I haven’t been back since I was in the single digits.

I’ve written about the classics I still shoud read, but here are my classics I’m suddenly dying to reread, complete with the exact covers on my tattered editions. (Separate topic: How much I love book covers.)

5. The Mouse and the Motorcycle

Circa 1986-1990, Beverly Cleary was my jam. I was practically part Quimby, but it’s this little mouse and his adventures that really stole my heart. I still have all of my old copies sitting in my bedroom at home. Tempted to pack ’em up and bring them to Utah to see what I can glean from Ralph almost 25+ years later. Is it weird that I can still remember reading this book–where I was, what was happening, etc. I swear, my memory can really freak me out sometimes.


4. Shel Silverstein poems

Yes, The Growing Tree is very nice and touching of course, but his whimsical, edgy poems always cracked me up and I even knew a few by heart years ago. It would be fun to relive them and then recite them.


3. To Kill a Mockingbird

This isn’t really a children’s book, but I guess when you’re pushing 34 high school can count as childhood, right? This is a must reread before Go Set a Watchman comes out this summer.


2. The Phantom Tollbooth

Never has one penned a more clever tale. This sits on my bookshelf here…IN UTAH…AS AN ADULT. That’s how much I love it, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read it. I’ll need to fix that, maybe this summer.


1. Matilda

Old Faithful. The only kid’s story that made my Top Ten Books list. I don’t know what happened to my copy, but I’m in the process of getting a new one…or two…because, you know, there are some new covers since I first read it and I just can’t pick a favorite. That’s normal, right? (Truth be told: I have multiple copies of both The Phantom Tollbooth and To Kill a Mockingbird. *le sigh*)


# goodbye, dickie

Earlier this week I made a whirlwind trip to Oklahoma for my Uncle Dickie’s funeral. It was wonderful to be there with family to celebrate one of the most exquisite men I’ve ever known.

Dick was actually my great-great uncle. As the second-youngest of nine, he spent a lot of time at my great-grandmother’s house—his eldest sister—who had two young children just his age, Jack and Patti (aka Memaw).

Dick - Morris family

{Dick is standing on the far left, my great-grandmother is seated on the far right}

He adored my great-grandmother, Pauline.

Dick - Pauline Disneyland

I’m told he practically grew up at her house with these two. They have always been thick as thieves.

with Jack and Dick

A small town’s Three Amigos until my grandpa arrived on the scene and they became The Four Musketeers. One of my favorite photos is this from their high school days, where Dick and Pops played basketball together. I believe it was this photo that started the nickname “Hot Uncle Dickie,” because, well, he was!

wetumka basketball

{Pops is second from the left on the back row, Dick is two over from Pops, peering over #55’s shoulder}

A natural athlete, Dick was recruited to play football for the University of Washington and OU by Bud Wilkinson before eventually playing quarterback for the army.

Dick - football

Dick - football army

{Dick is standing in the center, #88}

After serving in Italy during the Korean Conflict, Dick worked in the electrical business, which is pretty apt. I’ve never known anyone with as much spark as him.

Dick - 1947


02-16-2008 07;34;08PM

He and Beverly celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary earlier this year. Decades of love and adventures between them and she took such good care of him throughout a series of ongoing health struggles.

Dick - wedding



He was equally at home in being a ladies’ man and a guy’s guy.

Dick - Pam


Dick and Phil - golf

And a huge OU fan — Boomer, baby.

Dick - Aldo OU


My mom and her cousins (and me and mine) have looked to Dick like a father/grandfather in our lives. We benefitted greatly from his fount of never-ending generosity and humor. For being considered extended family, he showered all of us with the most immediate of loves.

Dick, Pops and Jack were unbelievable patriarchs. Pam nailed it this weekend when she said, “Families are lucky to have one of these men in their lives. We had three.”

Funny Man

In a family that prides itself on making others laugh, I swear Dick’s objective was to always make himself laugh first. I’ll miss the way he’d say something so inappropriate and then when he had your mouth-gaping attention, he’d close his eyes, open his mouth in a knowing smile and quietly chuckle to himself.


When my now brother-in-law joined us for his first Thanksgiving, Dick walked over, outstretched his hand, and said, “I’m Dick Morris. Who the hell are you?”  Here he is at a much earlier Thanksgiving, sitting at my great-grandmother’s table that now sits in our dining room and eating off the Desert Rose dishes we still use for holidays.

Dick - thanksgiving table

The day my sister got married was also the day of my prom, so while family gathered at my aunt’s house after the reception, I changed into a new dress and posed for photos on the lawn. Before getting into the car to leave, Dick came up to give me a hug and told me to give him a kiss. I tiptoed for a peck on his cheek and he yelled out “on the lips!” for everyone to hear. That guy. There’s no one like him.

He was always having the most fun in the room. Can you tell?



His lines, his stories, his lists of the world’s most important things…they will live on in beloved infamy.

Candy Man

Dick was the master of peanut brittle.

02-16-2008 07;04;22PM

Every Thanksgiving since I was a little girl, we’ve had a Ziploc bag with my mom’s name on it lying on the counter. It wouldn’t last long, in fact it rarely made it to Christmas, and it’s what we eat any time we are all together.


He turned his batches into Dick’s Deluxe Peanut Brittle—a side business that made many people very happy around the holidays. Over the last five years he’s passed his brittle-making torch to various family members, including me. How thankful I am that so many of us will be stirring and watching and checking and freezing in his honor. At his service, the pastor related his brittle to family: You need enough sugar to hold all of the nuts together. In many ways Dick was that sugar holding us all together.

Dick and Memaw - Peanut Brittle

Family Man

The thing I loved most about Dick—above this humor, his wit, his brittle, his soft voice—was his love for my grandparents. With Memaw he was another brother, with Pops, a best friend. They were always together and he loved them so fully and so well.

with Dick and Pops

When Pops had his stroke, Dick would come down to Houston to do anything to make their lives easier, from minor repairs to concocting a structure that would hold his arm up and help him build strength. He had always been their great protector, but never more so than then.

Dick - pops

with dick and bev 1

with dickie

Dick - pops golf BW

with Dick and pops 1

I could never thank him enough for the love, friendship, joy and support he freely gave them in the many decades they were together (in Memaw’s case, over 83 years).

Here they are singing a favorite childhood song just a few weeks ago. (Sorry for cutting off the start of the song!)

He meant the world to them, so he means the world to me.

The Funeral

Family came from all over the country to pay their respects to Dick. Pam and his two sons spoke beautifully about what it meant to have someone like him in their lives, no matter how long. His pastor from Texas led a touching service before Dick received his military honors at the grave site. It was a sad day, no doubt about it, but it was made easier with these folks.

Funeral group

Especially her…


…who ordered orange flowers to be placed at Pops’ ‘next door’ grave “to break up all that OU red.” Zingers til the very end.


No one ever loved Dickie as much as these two ladies.


I’ll be thinking of them a lot as we move forward.


There hasn’t been a time in my life when Dick wasn’t there, until now. And that is the saddest of realities.



On my way back home I was struck by a song’s lyrics about family: “Always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name.” We have a lot of family tree branches to be thankful for, but his will always be special.

We’ll miss you so much, Dickie. See you down the road.

Friday Five: A Week

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

I was going to write a Friday Five about my Uncle Dick, but so many of the things I would write about are things I’ll share in a larger post, one more heavy than a list. This has been a week, hasn’t it? A drag-your-feet week that has me happy it’s Friday. So instead of a sentimental post that I just can’t write yet, you get a random list of what’s been happening. Spoiler alert: It isn’t that fun.

5. Bella

I haven’t talked about it yet on the blog, but the day after I got back from Texas Bella was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, meaning she has no feeling on the left side of her head and face. We’re going on almost two weeks and there hasn’t been any significant improvements. Luckily it’s not making her gloomy or act out of character, but she does appear a little drunk at times due to the double vision from her eyelid pulling down. It’s a sad, sad business watching your dog grow old.

4. Joe

Joe’s been in Vegas all week with his pep band for the conference basketball tournament. He’s about one hour away from walking in that door and I literally could not be happier. Especially since I have to leave early tomorrow morning for a few days. We’re two ships passing in the night these days and it’s getting old.

3. Sick

I almost made it through the winter unscathed, but this week almost knocked me down with serious cold/sinus issues. When it started I went out to buy three boxes of kleenex….I made a pretty good dent in them before I heard about Dick and then I went through them even faster. Then to make myself feel better I watched a marathon of Downton Abbey and cried my way through the last five episodes, so, yeah, that’s the long way to tell you I’m out of kleenex. But also feeling like the cold is on its way out the door.

2. Birdman

My only outing this week was to watch Birdman. Who has seen this? And what did you think? Was that really the Best Picture of the year?!

1. Home

I leave tomorrow for Dick’s funeral, which makes me happy that I can see my Dad & Co. and finally see their renovated house, eat Tex Mex, see Ica, and love on these faces as we say our final goodbyes to one of the greatest men ever.



Sorry, more (and better) posts as soon as I pull through the fog.

# texas trip: the goodbye

After a wonderful time on the farm, I packed up the rental car booked it to Dallas during the week’s only 6-hour stint of good weather. A whole gaggle of us were converging in Carrollton to visit my Uncle Dick (well, great great uncle) and Aunt Bev and there was another massive ice storm on its way.

It was so good to see his smiling face, with cat Pepper.


The weather kept us from all really getting together for the first two days, but I enjoyed getting iced in with these two and Bev.



We did puzzles, looked through old recipes, told stories and jokes, and ate like king and queens.

Then, on my last night, the ice had thawed just enough for everyone to get together for dinner and cake. We sat around the table and listened to Dick and Memaw sing songs from their childhood and saw just how well Dick could make a rhyme out of anything.

God, I love this photo. Two of the best people ever.




I kissed him twice that night and told him I loved him very much. He told me he loved me and really loved Joe. (He always did love him best.)

There was so much love and laughter around that table. In my heart I didn’t want it to end, but I knew it was probably my last hoorah with Dick.



And it was.

Dick passed away tonight, just eleven days after our  weekend together. Eleven days. It’s a blink of the eye and I’m in shock that it happened so fast. I’ll need some time to collect my thoughts on the man I called my “Hot Uncle Dickie,” for there are many and they are wonderful.

Tonight my heart is heavy with grief, my world a little dimmer, but at the same time I’m so overwhelmingly grateful for those three days and the lifetime of memories he leaves behind.

We love you, Dick.

Friday Five: Etsy Anniversary

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

Hey, guys…guess what?


My Etsy Shop turned one last week!

Can you believe it? I can’t. (Where are the cupcakes?)

It’s been quite a year since I made that first announcement.  I went into it with pretty low expectations. I knew that with a full-time job I wouldn’t have the hours dedicated to make this my top priority, so other than putting up my prints on pinterest, I haven’t done much to market the site. And yet, to me, it’s done pretty well. I’ve had over 60 individual print orders, 7,000 views, orders shipped across the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia, and hundreds of “likes” on the page. It’s been hard work at times to juggle everything, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Let’s celebrate with a promotion, shall we? Happy shopping!

Order by March, 13, 2015 and receive 20% off using the promo code PEAS1!

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

5.  Julia Child’s Estate is No Joke

Apparently Julia Child’s estate owns everything she ever said. I learned this when an attorney contacted me asking that I remove my Julia Child quote print from my site before any legal action was required. Uh, ok, you don’t need to say anything else. It’s too bad, because she had some beautiful quotes that everyone should have on their walls. (My sites’s offending quote? “A party without cake is just a meeting”… all rights reserved for the Julia Child Estate.)

4. I Need to be Creative

When I was still working at USU, this shop was my special place. I would come home, make prints and feel inspired and fulfilled. Especially after looking at spreadsheets all day. Now that I’m back with NWS, I’m around creative people and projects all day, but it’s still fun for me to dive into this in the evenings a few times a week.

3. New Friends are Good Friends

Etsy is a community and I’ve met so many great people (and repeat buyers) through this entire process. It’s fabulous. We’ve shared travel stories, become Facebook friends, and emailed back-and-forth for days. These are good people and I’m happy to be part of this online hub.

2. People Love Themselves Some Star Wars

My top selling print? This Star Wars nursery print. I had to print them in bulk because I had so many people order them. Not complaining, but….really?

1.  This shop…

This is proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks. This is the kick in the pants I needed to do something for me. This makes me want to be creative all day. This allows me to look at prints in magazines or online and say “I can do that too.” This makes me want to dream up new prints and make them a reality. This makes me wish I had an extra 10 hours each day. This makes me think of my grandpa and his business. This makes me wish I understood more about graphic design. This makes me happy. This makes me hesitant to do our taxes. This makes me want to learn more and more. This is…wonderful.

Thank you for being part of the Pea Patch with me. <Insert all the feelings.>

# texas trip: the farm

I didn’t plan on it taking me this long to blog about Texas, but sickness has draped my house from corner to corner this week. First (and ongoing) Bella, then Joe and, as of last night, now me. I thought we’d come out of this wintry season of germs unscathed, but no such luck it seems.

But, tissues and tea aside, I really want to tell you how wonderful and special my trip was, so I’m going to break it down into more manageable parts. Starting first with The Farm, which is appropriate since my grandparents, “Mimi and Gramps,” are celebrating their 66th wedding anniversary TODAY! This has always been one of my very favorite photos of them.


You’d think that flying to Texas would mean warmer temperatures for this Utah girl, but you’d be wrong. The night I landed in Dallas a huge ice storm was near, causing me to rework my plans and drive directly across the metroplex to my grandparent’s house before the worst of the weather would strike. They had no idea I was coming and by the time I arrived that night they were ready for bed and absolutely stunned to see me waltz through the door just when the weather was turning very sour. Luckily my dad was already there and helped me pull off the surprise so I wasn’t sitting outside a locked house for the night!

We spent the next few days iced in for the most part, playing a lot of games, telling stories, looking at old photos, laughing, and taking care of some four-legged farmmates. My grandparent’s house…I don’t know where to begin. It holds a very special place in my heart as it’s the last place I have from my childhood to call home. The final relic left untouched through the decades. They’ve lived there for over 50 years and so much of it is exactly the same as I remember from when I was itty bitty. It’s comforting to know it’s ready to welcome me back whenever I’m there. Its walls, adorned with family photos, form a time capsule preserving my very happy childhood—a reminder of when life was easier and my greatest concern was not putting on enough sunscreen or tracking manure into the house after playing outside. I left my childhood home when I was 17, so I’ve never known that feeling of truly coming home-home as an adult, but this is as close as I’ll ever get and I can attest to its power and comfort.


There were plenty of non-human welcomes, too. There are three horses and a slew of llamas making a home in the pasture, and they love to be close to you and search your hands for food. The first day we went out in the ice (that’s not snow!) to feed them. Lucy, a red-haired, blue-eyed beauty, instantly became my best friend and relentless companion. Oh, you’ll see…







The next day was a lot less icy and a lot more muddy. How many times have I watched him open this shop door?



Baby llamas were not having it!


I’ve always been a bit of a spectacle.


Oh, hello!




Helping Gramps with his daily exercises. Fact: A peanut butter jar serves as a pretty good free-weight in a pinch.




Let’s talk games. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been playing card and domino games with my grandparents. We hit the ground running and I think I’ve lost my touch! I only won ONE GAME the entire time I was there. Don’t let those sweet faces fool you, they mean business!


It was a thrill to be in the kitchen with Mimi, who is basically responsible for everyone’s love of cooking. We made a birthday cake—a classic chocolate sheath cake—for my Aunt Connie. Sheath cake is the same as sheet cake. I’m sure you’ve heard of Texas Sheet Cake? (Cue the drools.)


Instead of the classic frosting of chocolate and nuts, she showed me how to make my great-grandmother’s boiled icing.




They called her “Grandmother,” so I guess calling it “Grandmother’s Boiled Icing” works for both her and me! Here’s the how-to: Place 2 cups sugar and 1 cup milk in a cast iron skillet, cooking on medium low heat and stirring constantly until sugar dissolves, mixture thickens and bubbles, and comes to a soft ball. (Test in a cup of cold water.) Let cool just slightly before adding two pats of butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Poke holes in cake and pour over slowly, using a spoon to cover evenly and fill the holes. Let cool completely before serving.

Happy Birthday, Connie! It was so fun to celebrate with you and your family!



On my last day there I spent some time saying goodbye to my furry friends. Here’s our last huddle-up of the trip. #goteam




Just call me Dr. Doolittle. They’d follow me anywhere.


Lucy would follow me the closest.


Sometimes just a little *too* close.


No shoulders were harmed during this trip.


One final goodbye nudge from my new best friend.



My goodbyes to the places around the farm I know and love.



And, most importantly, the two that I love so much and who gave me the most wonderful visit. I wish we could do this way more often.


On my way out of town I had to stop at the landmark my family knows so well…the “put your shoes on” spot of our family roadtrips. The perfect ending to a perfect stay.